Rwanda + 3 more

IRIN Update 880 for the Great Lakes

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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa
Tel: +254 2 622147
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e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org

RWANDA: Government denies busting UNITA sanctions

The government on Sunday categorically denied media reports that it had violated UN sanctions against the Angolan UNITA rebel movement by allowing its leaders into the country to arrange diamond sales and arms deals. A leaked report commissioned by the UN Security Council accuses Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame of allowing the rebels "to operate more or less freely" in purchasing diamonds and meeting weapons brokers in the Rwandan capital Kigali, the BBC reported. Officials in DRC, Republic of Congo, Gabon and South Africa, as well as the governments of Togo and Burkina Faso, are also accused of breaking the sanctions. Rwanda denied the allegations and reserved "the right to address them squarely when the report is officially presented to the Security Council", a government press release stated. The statement said Rwanda had always respected the sanctions and continued to do so, and concluded that the media were trying to tarnish the government, Radio Rwanda added. The Angola Sanctions Committee of the Security Council, chaired by Canadian ambassador to the UN Robert Fowler, is due to present the report on Wednesday.

RWANDA: Law setting up national police passed

The Rwandan parliament last week passed a law setting up the national police force, following the appointment of former army deputy chief of staff, Colonel Frank Mugabagye, as head of the new police force. Police work was previously carried out by the gendarmerie and the communal police, and in some cases the military police. According to Radio Rwanda, the new law "excludes the national gendarmerie and the communal police which have been replaced".

RWANDA: Cyangugu sweep targets illegal arms

Army, police and local defence forces on Thursday carried out a joint crackdown on illegally held arms in the southwest Cyangugu prefecture as a result of recent incidents of insecurity, Radio Rwanda reported on Friday. Anti-tank rockets, rifles, grenades and military uniforms were seized, and local people were warned that anyone assisting "bad elements" such as bandits and drug dealers would face punitive measures, the report stated. An ultimatum was also issued that anyone holding illegal weapons should hand them in by Sunday (12 March), it added.

RWANDA: Museveni confirms ex-speaker has gone to third country

President Yoweri Museveni has said Uganda did not hand back the former Rwandan parliamentary speaker, Joseph Kabuye Sebarenzi who fled to Kampala, because it was not his country's policy. The ex-speaker fled to Uganda earlier this year after the Rwandan authorities accused him of sedition. In an interview with the 'EastAfrican', published on Monday, Museveni said that unless it was a criminal case, Uganda normally asked such people to move to a third country. He confirmed that this had been the case with Sebarenzi, who is now believed to be in North America. Museveni added that there were no problems in relations with Rwanda, despite last year's fighting between the two countries' armies in the DRC town of Kisangani.

RWANDA: Tanzania explains why it returned fugitives

The Interior Ministry of Tanzania has explained that it recently returned two Rwandan citizens - Bertain Murera, a member of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), and Benjamin Rutabana, a musician and demobilised RPA member - to the authorities in Kigali because the Rwandan police had asked for assistance, claiming the two were robbery suspects. The two had entered Tanzania illegally after allegedly killing a businessman in Kigali and robbing him of US $30,000, Radio Tanzania reported. The government statement made it clear that while Tanzania would continue to respect the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, it would not be a safe haven for fugitives from justice, the radio added. Amnesty International has expressed concern for the fate of Murera and Rutabana, who were allegedly involved in helping the former Rwandan parliamentary speaker, Joseph Sebarenzi to flee to Uganda.

RWANDA: EC gives access to private sector investment fund

The European Commission (EC) has invited Rwanda to join other countries of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group to apply for funding from a private sector investment facility worth 2.2 billion ECU (roughly the same sum in dollars). The facility is to be drawn down over two years, and the sooner the Rwandan private sector begins preparing to access this funding the better because "it will be operated along the lines of first-come first-served", said EC Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Poul Nielson, in Kigali on Friday. This private sector support was in addition to the 110 ECU grant announced by Nielson alongside the restoration of normal development links with Rwanda on Thursday, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. While the Rwandan public sector must create "an enabling environment" and EC funding could be a catalyst, the strategy and execution of economic growth had to be done by the private sector, said Nielson. "Microcredit should be linked to the informal sector because it is the people here are the very actors that have need for funding," he added.

TANZANIA: EU promises to sustain its share of refugee costs

The EC meanwhile called on Tanzania "to continue acting as a moral leader and as a guarantor of refugee rights" in the Great Lakes region. It stressed that the world had not abandoned Tanzania to cope with the problem alone, the Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily reported. Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Poul Nielsen told regional authorities and humanitarian agencies at Lukole refugee camp in Ngara District, Kigera Region, northwestern Tanzania, that "any return of refugees must be peaceful and voluntary in accordance with international standards". In this respect, Tanzania was "an island of hope in a troubled region". Nielsen accepted that the international community was asking a lot of Tanzania, and that the scale of the refugee population had created difficulties for it, but promised that the EC would "sustain its share" by supporting social, environmental and infrastructural projects to help the country cope. The EC would also continue its involvement in the peace processes of Burundi and DRC, from which most of the refugees in Tanzania originated, Nielsen added.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Miyet meets Kabila

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet on Friday held talks with DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila as part of the UN's efforts to explain its plans to deploy an observer mission. "A preliminary read-out of the meeting indicated that the discussions were positive," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told journalists in New York. "Miyet is seeking the full support essential to deploy the more than 5,500-strong force," he said, adding that the reconnaissance missions to the four sectoral headquarters of the newly approved UN observer mission had been planned for as early as next week.

DRC: Refugees continue to cross into ROC

Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo are continuing to cross into an area of neighbouring Republic of Congo (ROC), which can only be reached by boat and where relief operations are "extremely difficult", UNHCR said on Friday. "An estimated 25,000 refugees have settled in villages on the Republic of Congo side, stretching some 500 km from Betou in the north to Njoundou in the south," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told journalists in Geneva. He said they were fleeing fighting between rebels and government troops. "A continuing shortage of fuel and general insecurity in the area make UNHCR's relief operation extremely difficult," he added. "So far, we've managed to reach 13,500 refugees in 17 villages in the northern sector of Impfondo [with] plastic sheeting, fishing nets and soap." Many of the refugees are fishermen and get their food from the river, according to UNHCR. The authorities in Brazzaville have reportedly said they would prefer that the refugees be settled in camps away from the border, citing insecurity and the risk of infiltration by armed elements.

DRC: Religious leaders end Kinshasa meeting

The national consultation convened by religious leaders in Kinshasa as a "preparatory meeting" for the national debate, stipulated in the Lusaka agreements, ended on Saturday. Participants issued a communique in which they reiterated that the Congolese people were sovereign and aspired to live in peace, DRC state television reported. They condemned the "war of aggression and invasion of our national territory". They also condemned the "massive killing of Congolese, the looting of natural resources and the destruction of our economic and social infrastructure, and the destruction of our environment". They appealed to the unarmed opposition to remain tolerant and work towards reconciliation and stop boycotting consultations. Participants also called on civil society members to "fully play their catalyst role of advisers, cultural and socio-economic actors". "We therefore call on our brothers and sisters of the armed opposition to have a sense of patriotism, to immediately lay down their arms, and to dissociate themselves from the enemies of our people," the statement said. "We call on the government to take into consideration the yearnings of the Congolese people as expressed during the national consultations, and to create a conducive environment for the holding of the national
debate."

BURUNDI: Museveni backs Mandela mediation attempts

Last week's meeting in Uganda between President Yoweri Museveni and his Burundian counterpart Pierre Buyoya was aimed at strengthening the ongoing Arusha peace process facilitated by former South African president Nelson Mandela, Ugandan officials said. "President Museveni hosted the meeting as chairman of the regional initiative on Burundi to re-affirm his support for the facilitator, and no positions were taken on issues that are under discussion in Arusha because it is the work of the Burundi parties to the negotiations," Amama Mbabazi, Uganda's Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of regional cooperation told IRIN on Monday. Major issues under negotiation include army reform and the formation of a transitional government.

Ugandan radio quoted Museveni as saying he had "fruitful consultations" with President Buyoya. On the progress of the Arusha talks, Museveni said any delay was "understandable", because the process "is aimed at solving a very serious problem".

BURUNDI-RWANDA: Plans to build direct rail link to Dar

Burundi and Rwanda are planning to build a direct railway link to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam as an alternative route to the sea, the 'EastAfrican' daily reported. The two land-locked central African countries rely on Kenya's Mombasa port for imports and exports through Uganda. Although the two countries are yet to secure funds for the railway project, feasibility studies indicate that Burundi plans to extend the existing railway terminal at Rusumo on the border with Tanzania to Bujumbura and other towns such as Musogati in Gitega province. Rwanda plans to link the capital Kigali with Isaka terminal on the border with Tanzania. The two countries are seeking alternative routes in order to reduce transport costs.

Nairobi, 13 March 2000, 14:15 gmt

[ENDS]

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