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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Call for calm in Kisangani
Both Uganda and Rwanda say they have no interest in fomenting a crisis that may result in their troops clashing in the DRC town of Kisangani, eight months after a fierce battle there that led to the deaths of hundreds of troops and civilians. "We have called on the Ugandans to manage their side," Major Emmanuel Ndahiro, spokesman for the acting Rwandan president and defence minister Paul Kagame told IRIN on Wednesday. His comments follow a statement issued on Sunday by the Rwanda-backed rebel RCD- Goma accusing Uganda of building up troops in Kisangani "in a manner reminiscent of what preceded the fighting of August 1999" between Ugandan and Rwandan forces.
"We are of the view that both the Ugandan army commander and the Rwandan chief of staff should travel to Kisangani and take charge of the situation, because they did a lot to improve the situation after last year's clashes," Ndahiro said. "What is worrying us is that the new Ugandan commanders in Kisangani, within a few days of taking charge, are trying to reverse what was agreed upon at a high level - they have set up more road blocks, increased troop deployment in city suburbs and suspended their involvement in joint patrols and meetings." The Ugandan army recently reshuffled its top commanders in DRC.
Uganda denied there was any tension in Kisangani. "There is nothing that can be described as tension in Kisangani, we are in regular contact with our people on the ground and life is going on normally," Lieutenant-Colonel Noble Mayombo, the deputy head of Ugandan military intelligence told IRIN. "As far as the Uganda People's Defence Force is concerned there is no cause for alarm. If a meeting is to take place with our colleagues from Rwanda and RCD-Goma, it should be aimed at assuring them that we have no intention of fighting them in Kisangani or anywhere else."
DRC: Serious fighting in spite of leaders' pledges
Although regional leaders involved in
the DRC conflict pledged to respect the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, serious
fighting continued in parts of the country, the UN Security Council was
told on Tuesday. In a closed-door briefing on his recent tour of the region,
UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet said
the parties were "demonstrably not adhering to the ceasefire",
according to UN spokesman Fred Eckhard. He cited the recent outbreak of
serious fighting in Kasai. In a press statement issued after the briefing,
the Council president expressed
"serious concern" about the ceasefire violations and demanded once again that all parties immediately stop hostilities.
DRC: South Africa ready to send troops
South African President Thabo Mbeki says the South African National Defence Force is prepared and already planning for a peacekeeping mission to the DRC. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on Wednesday cited Mbeki as saying planning was underway "in the event that the necessary decisions were taken at the United Nations". South Africa would be ready to move quickly to carry out the Congo peacekeeping missions. Mbeki said he was impressed with the work of the South African National Defence Force, and that the army engineers were "very ready" to deal with disasters.
DRC: Parliamentarians push peace plan implementation
Individual members of parliament from 17 countries, including those directly involved in the DRC conflict, have vowed to carry out their "legislative and oversight responsibilities" to support implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. At a workshop organised by the independent organisation Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) in the Zambian capital Lusaka last week, the legislators said they had a "significant role" to play in peace-building, particularly in the DRC. They resolved to work to ensure that all signatories of the Lusaka accord fully honoured their commitments and were "severely sanctioned" in the event of non-compliance. In a plan of action, the politicians said they would seek, over the next year, to have resolutions passed in their respective parliaments in support of the Lusaka plan and would carefully oversee budgetary provisions presented for approval "to better monitor military expenditures".
GREAT LAKES: Inclusive national dialogues needed
The parliamentarians' action plan, received by IRIN on Wednesday, stated that they would seek to involve representatives of the Congolese people "who are unjustly suffering as a consequence of a war that they did not provoke". The DRC, which has no functioning parliament, was represented at the Lusaka workshop by leaders of two Congolese civil society groups. The action plan also resolved to strengthen national dialogues in the region to address security concerns of affected states "through inclusive internal processes which aim to create more open and tolerant societies within the Great Lakes Region, while expanding opportunities for the exercise of political power". Meanwhile, the meeting's final declaration called on the international community to curb the supply and movement of arms to and within the region.
RWANDA: Former speaker leaves for US
Former Rwandan parliamentary speaker Joseph Sebarenzi, who has been hiding in Uganda since he fled Rwanda last month, has reportedly gone to the US. The Rwandan authorities confirmed he went to Europe from Uganda, and then on to the US. "The Americans informed us about the Sebarenzi's move to the US, which is professional," defence ministry spokesman Major Emmanuel Ndahiro told IRIN on Wednesday. President Yoweri Museveni told 'The EastAfrican' newspaper in an interview on 13 March that Uganda had asked Sebarenzi to leave for a third country, rather than return him to Rwanda.
RWANDA: UN memorandum on 1994 plane crash found
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard says the organisation has found a "three-page internal memorandum" on the shooting down of a plane in 1994 in which the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were both killed. He told a news briefing there was no report as such, as alleged in an article by the Canadian 'National Post' newspaper. The article, issued earlier this month, said the UN document contained allegations of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) complicity in the downing of the plane. "That memo was drafted by Michael Hourigan, who had been an investigative team leader for the Tribunal Prosecutor's Office in Rwanda that was investigating the 1994 genocide in that country," Eckhard said. "He subsequently was engaged on a short-term contract with the [Office for] Internal Oversight Services here in New York, at which time he drafted this internal memo." The memorandum has been transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) which will determine whether or not to make it available to lawyers for clients facing prosecution. Eckhard stressed that the memo was the product of an individual who "committed to paper his thoughts, as well as information conveyed to him", and which subsequently "got buried in a file".
RWANDA: Concern over religious sects
The Rwandan authorities have expressed concern over the number of religious sects in the country and have vowed to keep a close watch on them. Speaking in connection with the deaths of members of a doomsday cult in neighbouring Uganda, Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo said there had been "so many court wrangles" in Rwanda between sect leaders over property and finances. "Unless steps are taken to prevent this, we could easily have the same problem as the Ugandans have had," he warned, according to the Rwanda News Agency (RNA). "Those sects without registration should not be allowed to operate because they propagate dubious teachings based on personal material gain," he said. He stressed that local officials would survey the activities of religious sects in the country's prefectures and communes. RNA quoted an official from the Presbyterian church as saying there was already a "myriad of religious sects" in Rwanda which "prevent their followers from holding identification documents and doing any gainful work".
BURUNDI: Mandela criticises Buyoya
Nelson Mandela, the facilitator of the Burundi peace talks, has sharply criticised President Pierre Buyoya for jailing opponents and keeping people in regroupment camps. "That is a situation that is totally unacceptable to a person such as me who has spent 27 years in jail," Mandela said on Tuesday during the negotiations in Arusha, Tanzania. However, according to the Arusha-based Internews service, he expressed confidence that Buyoya would have the "courage and strength of character to bite the bullet and to create conditions so that all of us can feel that we are indeed on the verge of a breakthrough". Buyoya replied there was no problem in dismantling the regroupment camps, but the security situation must first return to normal. He told a news conference both he and his government were "an important ally" in completing the peace process. "Everyone has recognised that at this stage of the peace process, the government has a responsibility which other parties do not have," Buyoya said. On the issue of prisoners, it was necessary to determine who was a political detainee and who was a criminal, he added.
BURUNDI: Mandela visit on the cards
Mandela also criticised the negotiating sides in Arusha, accusing them of self-interest "with no idea of the value of teamwork". Referring to his recent talks in South Africa with top Burundian military officials and armed rebel factions, he told delegates that "the minister of defence and the senior military officers appeared far ahead of the thinking of political parties here". "They stand head and shoulders above all of you here put together because of what they said to me," he added, according to the Hirondelle news agency. "The same with the rebel groups." He said both sides supported the Arusha process and "favour an early resolution of the conflict". Mandela announced he would be visiting Burundi soon for further talks with the army.
Meanwhile, an evaluation mission will be undertaken this week to 11 regroupment camps in Bujumbura Rural which should have been dismantled under phase one of the government's dismantling programme, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Wednesday. A further nine are to be closed down under phase two, but this has not yet started, according to the sources.
UGANDA: Secret UNITA flights "impossible"
Uganda has again rejected claims that it violated UN sanctions against the Angolan rebel UNITA movement. In a letter to the president of UN Security Council last Friday, Permanent Secretary Ralph Ochan said a recent UN report on violations of sanctions had made "unfounded allegations" that planes had sometimes refuelled at Entebbe on their way to and from Andulo in Angola. Uganda had only one international airport at Entebbe and it was "impossible to conduct secret flights, let alone refuelling exercises, without being noticed", the letter stated. The inclusion of the allegation in the UN report "brings into question the seriousness of the whole exercise", it said.
DRC: Action against Hunger correction
The NGO Action against Hunger says it erroneously stated in a press release (cited by IRIN on Tuesday) that it had shipped seeds from Burundi across Lake Tanganyika to Uvira. Action against Hunger would like to clarify that the seeds arrived in Uvira by road from Bukavu and were then dispatched by boat southwards to Nundu and Baraka.
Nairobi, 29 March 2000, 14:00 gmt
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