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RWANDA: Vice-president temporarily in charge
Following Thursday's resignation of Hutu President Pasteur Bizimungu, the running of the country has temporarily been taken over by Vice-President Paul Kagame until an interim president is named, the country's Chief Justice Simeon Rwagasore told IRIN on Friday. He stressed that Kagame was acting in his capacity as vice-president and was not the country's new president as reported by some news organisations. Rwagasore explained that an interim president would be named shortly, and the process of electing the permanent incumbent would probably be completed within a month. The Rwandan Patriotic Front would put forward two names and the president would be chosen jointly by the government and national assembly. The Supreme Court would meet to set the process in motion and sort out the legal side of the succession, Rwagasore said.
The RPF political bureau began meeting on Friday to decide on the two nominees for the presidency, as stipulated in the 1993 Arusha accord. The names will then be forwarded to the joint session of parliament and cabinet for a secret ballot. According Charles Onyango-Obbo, editor of the independent Uganda daily 'The Monitor' and a regional analyst, Kagame "who wields real power in Rwanda" is in a strong position to assume the presidency. "At this stage, you cannot rule out the possibility of Kagame becoming president because there is no credible Hutu in the RPF to take Bizimungu's place," he said.
RWANDA: Ugandan government ready to "help"
The Ugandan government has expressed willingness to help in the political developments in Rwanda. "I hope the RPF will sort out its differences amicably," Uganda's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs told the semi-official 'New Vision'. "If Uganda is approached we will be ready to help. These are comrades." Uganda was the main backer of the RPF during the four-year war that brought the movement to power after the 1994 genocide.
A senior Ugandan military officer said DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila may try to take advantage of the events in Rwanda "to carry out manoeuvres on the ground". "To avoid a backlash, we are going to deploy more troops in the DRC," he told IRIN on Friday. Uganda and Rwanda are backing rival rebel groups fighting the Congolese government.
RWANDA: DRC denounces "emergence of autocratic government"
The DRC government for its part denounced "the emergence of an autocratic and monoethnic government in the Great lakes region". "The fact of being a victim of genocide is used as a license to commit any kind of atrocity, and I think it is especially what motivated Pasteur Bizimungu's resignation," Human Rights Minister Leonard She Okitundu said, according to DRC television on Thursday.
UGANDA: No winners in DRC war - Museveni
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday told journalists in Kampala that none of the parties involved in the DRC conflict could win. "There is nobody who will win that war in Congo by military means and get a solution," the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper quoted him as saying. "The solution is to resolve the political issues in Congo and address the concerns of its neighbours," he said. Museveni reiterated his country's commitment to the Lusaka Peace Agreement, adding that Uganda had not started any fighting since the accord was signed last July. "If others have started [fighting], that will be handled by the Joint Military Commission (JMC) and the Political Committee," he said. "The peace process in Congo will in the end triumph because there is no other way."
UGANDA: Museveni disagrees with donors over DRC
Meanwhile, Museveni has disagreed with donors over his country's involvement in the DRC. The independent 'Monitor' newspaper said the disagreement was sparked off by an EU statement which said Uganda's involvement in the DRC was the "single most pressing problem" for Kampala. Museveni disagreed and said donors were imposing policies that were not in Uganda's interests.
"I think Uganda should collect enough taxes to solve our problems so that we can stop begging," he told the donors at the five-day Consultative Group (CG) meeting in Kampala this week. "There is no way you can link our poverty to our involvement in Congo... in fact, our involvement in Congo is part of poverty eradication," he said. However, according to the 'Monitor', he promised the donors that Uganda would keep within the budgeted Ush 177 billion for defence, but noted that defence spending "is difficult to predict". "Insurgents do not wait for the next budget speech of the next CG," he said.
DRC: Desperate humanitarian conditions reported in Ituri
The situation of people in parts of the northeast Ituri district, which is subject to sporadic but serious clashes between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups, is "close to catastrophic", according to relief workers operating in the northeast of the country. Aid agencies, who have been denied access to many parts of Ituri in recent months due to the Hema-Lendu conflict, found during an assessment mission from 15-19 March that "a very significant number of people" had already died, and more would die in the coming days, due to the forced suspension of humanitarian aid. The clashes themselves resulted in the deaths of some 4,000-7,000 and have displaced an estimated 150,000 people.
The situation was particularly bad in Fataki and Rethy, where the vulnerable people identified were "possibly the most at-risk group currently accessible" in eastern DRC, aid sources told IRIN. More than 3,000 displaced were located in three different sites in Fataki and signs of malnutrition were evident in almost every person, with one small pot of leaves all a family of six could hope to eat for two to three days, they said. Malnutrition was also evident in Rethy, alongside dramatic problems of hygiene and skin disease, and a lack of drinking water. Throughout the area, there was a rising incidence of malaria, measles, respiratory infections and the plague. Yet, it was "highly likely that other areas of equal need exist in Ituri district", particularly among those displaced people who remain in hiding in the forests. The humanitarian community is currently mobilising resources - with essential drugs, therapeutic milk, food and plastic sheeting among the priorities - and negotiating enhanced access to areas in need.
[for IRIN's Special Reports on the Ituri clashes, go to: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/cea/countrystories/drc/20000303.htm]
DRC: Combatants criticised for return to battle
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the DRC, Kamel Morjane, has deplored the recent hostilities in the DRC, and notably in Kasai, calling them "a disquieting violation of the ceasefire entered into on 1 March". The military actions were unacceptable and a rebuff to the spirit and terms of the Lusaka agreement "so recently reconfirmed", Morjane said in a statement. They were also a blow to the efforts of the UN to deploy troops and risked worsening the humanitarian problems prevailing in the country, he added.
The OAU meanwhile said the "return to armed conflict" in the DRC was a threat to the whole Great Lakes region, and the OAU was greatly concerned by the development, a statement by Algeria, which currently chairs the OAU, stated on Thursday. The OAU renewed its call for the belligerents to be more prudent, to respect the ceasefire, and to cooperate with the UN and the Joint Military Committee (JMC) seeking to implement the Lusaka peace agreement.
DRC: Masire claims Kinshasa blocking his role
The facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue proposed in the Lusaka agreement, former Botswana President Ketumile Masire, said on Thursday that the Kinshasa government's refusal to clear his travel to rebel-held areas was a "clear attempt to frustrate his efforts to bring peace". According to a statement by Masire, the government had also tried, unsuccessfully, to block him from even entering the country at Kinshasa. Congolese Foreign Minister Yerodia Ndombasi defended the government's actions, saying that Masire had informed it of his travel plans belatedly. Although Masire's mandate as OAU-appointed facilitator of the proposed dialogue grants him freedom of movement throughout government- and rebel-controlled areas, Ndombasi said it was inadmissible that Masire should determine his itinerary in the DRC without consulting the government.
DRC: Proposed dialogue "undermined"
Contrary to the provisions of Lusaka, President Laurent-Desire Kabila has started his national debate "only on issues of his choosing, and not the 'national dialogue' provided for in the agreements", the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in DRC, Roberto Garreton, stated in his latest report. While the peace accord envisaged the participation of delegates from opinion groups, Congolese political parties, civil organisations and the rebel groups, Garreton had been told by Kabila that the national debate would suffice. Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Ndombasi stated, "in clear contradiction of Lusaka", that there would be no dialogue until the political parties, NGOs and rebels reached an agreement, Garreton said. He added that the government and rebels alike were antagonistic towards any form of independent civil or political organisation, including NGOs, and the political aspects of Lusaka were no more advanced than the military ones.
DRC: Annan renews calls for focus on child soldiers
The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration
into society of armed forces in conflict situations was essential to the
success of any peace agreement, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the
UN Security Council on Thursday. He also said the UN needed "to build
on its current role by strengthening its focus on the needs of child soldiers",
as it had done by including child protection advisers in the recent expansion
of MONUC. During the Security Council debate, Egyptian delegate Ahmed About
Gheit noted that disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) needed
the agreement of the parties involved in the conflict, but that armed groups
which were not party to the Lusaka agreement were a source of
destabilisation in eastern DRC. No peacekeeping operation would be complete without "a wide programme to disarm those groups", he added.
BURUNDI: UPRONA casts doubt on FDD's promise
The ruling UPRONA party on Wednesday expressed doubt over the recent promise by the leader of the rebel Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD), Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, that his party would join the ongoing Arusha peace process. Burundi radio quoted a statement from UPRONA as saying this was not the first time Ndayikengurukiye had made such a promise. "What is important is not to make promises but to keep them," UPRONA stated. It said the preconditions put forward by the FDD clearly showed "he is looking for pretexts not to be at the table of negotiations". Ndayikengurukiye has called for the dismantling of regroupment camps in Burundi and the release of "political prisoners".
TANZANIA: Significant drop in refugee arrivals
Numbers of new refugee arrivals into western Tanzania has "significantly dwindled", a UNHCR official confirmed to IRIN. He said latest figures showed that by 15 March, the population of Karago camp had reached 43,460, slightly up from 41,172 in February. "Some 2,288 refugees were received in the camp during that period and this is quite low, compared to what it was like in December and January," he said. "But we are continuing to monitor the situation." The Tanzanian 'Guardian' quoted some of the refugees as saying the number of new arrivals had gone down "because those who wanted to flee, have already fled and the remnants in the troubled areas only flee when there is turbulence or they sense danger". They also said there was not so much fighting between the government and rebel groups in neighbouring Burundi.
Nairobi, 24 March 2000, 14:00 gmt
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