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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels postpone Kisangani meeting
A joint meeting between the three Congolese rebel groups, plus Rwanda and Uganda, scheduled for 4 February in Kisangani, has been postponed until further notice. "The Kisangani meeting will not take place on the 4th, because the leadership of both RCD- Goma and RCD-Kisangani is attending meetings in the US," Andrew Wamba, the cabinet director in the foreign relations department of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML) told IRIN on Tuesday. "It is a clash of the calendar that is all."
On 6 January, the three rebel leaders - Ernest Wamba dia Wamba of RCD-ML, Emile Ilunga of RCD-Goma and Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) - met in Kabale, southwestern Uganda. The talks were facilitated by Uganda and Rwanda as a follow-up to a comprehensive agreement signed on 22 December last year. The agreement calls for setting up a leaders' forum and a joint political and military commission. The role of the military commission would be the formation of the new Congolese army, defining its composition and mission, and the merger of all four Congoelese armies fighting in the country. The role of the political commission would be to develop common positions to be presented at the inter-Congolese national dialogue.
Meanwhile Gabonese radio reported that Etienne Tshisekedi, the main opposition leader in the DRC, had held contacts with various rebel groups. "The objective of this move is to prevent the war from continuing and to favour peace through negotiations," the radio quoted a statement from Tshisekedi's Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS) as saying.
DRC: RCD-ML admits Ituri peace prospects distant
The RCD-ML, which controls northeastern DRC, said it was continuing efforts to resolve the Hema-Lendu ethnic conflict in the Ituri region, although it admitted the peace process was "far, far, far" from being complete. Spokesman Jacques Depelchin told IRIN on Tuesday that the long-running reconciliation effort he chairs was "promising". "We are doing all we can to prevent attacks and promote peace", Depelchin said, claiming recent reports portraying the Hema tribe as the main victim in the conflict were false.
Depelchin estimates a maximum of 2,000 people have been killed in the six month ethnically-charged war (humanitarian sources have suggested 5-7,000 dead), and says the victims are "more or less balanced" between the Hema and Lendu groups. "A small minority want to continue the war for political and financial purposes", he added.
Asked why the RCD-ML and Ugandan forces were accused of doing little to stop the killings, he replied the terrain was tough to patrol, and a political, not military solution to the crisis, was the only route to peace. Without a common dialogue, "you can put 100 Mandelas in front of the Lendu and Hema and fighting will not stop", he said. The war had many roots such as misrule by previous regimes, conflicts over land and "revenge feeding on revenge", he added.
RWANDA: Genocide trial flops due to absence of witnesses
The Rwandan authorities have reacted with dismay to reports that the trial of genocide suspect Ignace Bagilishema has been put on hold for a week at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) because prosecutors could not produce witnesses on time. "We have offered to help the prosecutors in any way, to make sure witnesses appear in Arusha," Rwandan Prosecutor General Gerald Gahima told IRIN on Tuesday. The Hirondelle news agency on Tuesday reported that the presiding judge, Erik Mose of Norway, urged the prosecution to make every possible effort to ensure that witnesses would be in court in a week's time for the continuation of the hearings.
RWANDA: Genocide suspect arrested in Belgium
A former Rwandan general, Augustin Ndindiliyimana, wanted on genocide charges, has been arrested in Belgium at the request of the ICTR, news organisations reported. He was in charge of the military police under the regime of former president Juvenal Habyarimana and fled to Belgium after the 1994 genocide. "At least his arrest is better than nothing given the time it has taken," Gerald Gahima told IRIN.
Meanwhile, the Tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte is reported to be visiting London for talks with the British government. The BBC said it was not clear whether the visit was related to the presence of Colonel Tharcisse Muvunyi, a genocide suspect being sought by both the Rwandan government and the ICTR.
RWANDA: New defence team ordered for Barayagwiza
The ICTR Appeals Court has ordered the assignment of a new defence team to genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, the Hirondelle news agency reported on Tuesday. The ICTR registry and president had turned down his request for a new defence lawyer after Barayagwiza accused his counsel, Justry Nyaberi, of fraud. The order comes ahead of a crucial hearing on 22 February to rule on whether to reverse the Appeals Court's decision to drop charges against Barayagwiza on technical grounds.
UGANDA: Runaway students say Rwandan leaders "dictators"
A group of Rwandan students seeking asylum in Uganda have accused Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame and Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) Secretary-General Charles Murigande of "dictatorship", the semi-official Ugandan 'New Vision' reported on Monday. At least 40 students fled Rwanda in December due to a dispute over bilingual teaching in Rwandan institutions. They claimed they were being persecuted by the authorities. "Evidence is surfacing every day that soldiers are fleeing the country, students are fleeing and the speaker of parliament has fled," the students told the newspaper. They alleged Kagame and Murigande were "complicating things" in Rwanda. "The secretary general is the political leader and the vice-president is the military leader," they said.
UGANDA: ADF recruiting Congolese "by force"
The Ugandan authorities have said rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are abducting Congolese civilians and forcing them to join their ranks. "In the past some Congolese civilians used to join the ADF willingly, but now after establishing that the group has no future they are no longer keen to join and that is why the ADF is forcing them to join, which is not sustainable," Captain Shaban Batarinza, the Ugandan army spokesman in western Uganda told IRIN on Tuesday. The independent 'Monitor' daily quoted intelligence sources who said 14 DRC parishes along the border had been attacked by the ADF, and the rebels had abducted at least 200 civilians. "The abductees are said to be undergoing military training, reportedly to replace the increasingly big number killed by the Ugandan army," the 'Monitor' reported. Local leaders on both sides of the border have held a series of meetings to address the issue.
BURUNDI: Zambians charged with sending arms to rebels
Zambian press reports at the weekend said two Zambian senior security officers have been charged with illegally handling arms and ammunition, allegedly destined for Burundi rebels of the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD). The independent 'Post' daily said three other Zambians and three Congolese were jointly charged with the officers. The case has been adjourned to 7 February. "The eight are believed to have been importing firearms and exporting them to Burundi through Kigoma port in Tanzania and were apprehended while transporting the arms to Burundi," the newspaper wrote. The private Burundian news agency Netpress recalled that an FDD delegation had been in Zimbabwe, which may be supplying the weapons. Netpress quoted Burundian Energy Minister Bernard Barandereka as saying FDD troops "are regularly received" at military training camps in the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo. "Burundi is on the way to becoming the regional hub for genocidal terrorists," Netpress observed. Regional observers also believe the Tanzanian government is losing control over local officials in western Tanzania, particularly the busy Kigoma port.
AFRICA: UN wraps up month of Africa
The UN Security Council on Monday ended its month-long series of meetings devoted to Africa. According to a UN report, the Council president Richard Holbrooke of the US, said one of the goals of the month was to highlight pertinent issues and reject the idea that Africa did not matter. He hoped that his successors as Council presidents would continue the efforts now underway. Addressing the final session, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba said he hoped the interest shown by the UN and US would translate into practical measures. Among the major achievements of the month, he counted the "renewed commitment" to the Lusaka peace accord for the DRC. Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette told the meeting that solutions could only be found on the continent and not in the Council chamber. The international community's commitment was worth nothing unless words were matched with deeds, she was quoted as saying. African leaders had to show statesmanship and real political will, she added.
Nairobi, 1 February 2000, 14:00 gmt
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