UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
U N I T E D N A T I O N S
Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
Tel: +254 2 441125
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This is number 14 in a series of weekly reports from IRIN on general developments in the Great Lakes region. Sources for the information below include UN, NGO, ICRC and other international organizations and media reports. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.
WEEKLY ROUND UP OF MAIN EVENTS IN THE GREAT LAKES
15 - 22 June 1996
# Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa has convened a regional summit in Arusha, Tanzania for 25 June to discuss the escalating violence in Burundi and review peace initiatives with other Heads of State for the Great Lakes region. Ethiopia's president, Meles Zenawi, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, who has been mediating talks between Burundi's political parties, and OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim, will also attend. Mkapa is reported to have called the summit ahead of the OAU's annual heads of state meeting in Yaounde in July so that regional leaders "can have a clear mind about events in Burundi". It is believed that a resolution will be proposed for the Yaounde summit urging Africa to use any possible means to avert a bloodbath in Burundi.
The Arusha summit comes in the wake of increased international pressure for foreign military intervention in Burundi. The OAU said last week that it would support military intervention in Burundi if the situation worsens and the mission had clear objectives and UN backing. Nyerere has also said that military intervention may be necessary but that the only long-lasting solution to the Great Lakes crisis is a political federation of Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
# Officials of the 14 Burundian political parties who attended talks in Mwanza on Monday and Tuesday, said that they were hopeful that progress was being made. Nyerere called for the two day meeting after earlier talks failed when UPRONA and FRODEBU - the two main parties in Burundi's coalition government - could not agree on a text condemning ethnic violence. UPRONA had wanted FRODEBU to condemn the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD), while FRODEBU leaders were prepared only to condemn its armed wing, the FDD. Although the heads of UPRONA and FRODEBU did not attend the latest talks, Burundi's Prime Minister Antoine Nduwayo said after the talks that he had noted a softening of positions between the political parties. There were hopeful signs that an accord could be reached, said Nduwayo.
Charles Mukasi, president of UPRONA and blamed by Nyerere for blocking the talks, said on Friday that he wanted neutral observers to attend the next round of talks, scheduled for 2 July. Mukasi, who has indirectly accused Nyerere of siding with FRODEBU, expressed reservations about the way the talks were being handled. Mukasi told a news conference in Rome that Burundi was in a very worrying cycle of violence and that steps needed to be taken against "racism, tribalism and genocide".
Burundian President, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya on Thursday again condemned the idea of partitioning the country between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority as the ultimate solution to the ethnic crisis in the country. "The seriousness of the problems we are facing often leads us to try idealistic but mainly anachronistic solutions," the president said while meeting officials of public and private media.
# The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, is reported this week to have expressed concerns about the international community's preparedness to deal with another major human tragedy in the region. The High Commissioner, speaking to the International Rescue Committee, a private relief organisation, is reported to have said that she was extremely worried that little planning had been done to prepare for a possible tragedy "that could flare up at any moment" if Burundi turned into total chaos.
The UN this week presented the outline of its contingency plan for Burundi to donors attending a meeting on Burundi. The meeting called by the Canadian government on 17 and 18 June in Geneva emphasized that the international community should speak with one voice on Burundi and that any action taken must fully support efforts already underway and in particular those of Nyerere. The Canadian-organized meeting was one of three top level meetings held in Geneva this week in connection with the Great Lakes region (see below).
# In a press release on 20 June, the European Union reiterated its increasing concern about the situation in Burundi and said that it was helping the UN and the OAU in attempts to organise a peace conference to resolve "the deep seated causes of the crisis". US President Bill Clinton also announced on Monday the nomination of former congressman and Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on African Affairs Howard Wolpe as special US envoy for Burundi's peace negotiations. Mr. Wolpe will work closely with Richard Bogosian, the US special coordinator for Rwanda and Burundi.
# The Burundian Army has strongly denied charges of involvement in an alleged massacre last week of 71 civilians in Gitega province. Survivors said that soldiers arrived in trucks in Kibimba and began killing people in hills around the town. The Army denies that any military operations took place.
Investigations are continuing into a grenade attack during a food distribution in a refugee camp for Rwandans in northern Burundi last week. Almost 50 people were wounded in the attack at Rukuramigabo camp. As a result of the attack and other security incidents, WFP and UNHCR have agreed to alter food distribution cycles in all four Rwandan refugee camps.
# Although the situation in Masisi, Eastern Zaire is reported to be stable, the security situation remains tense in and around Goma. Zairian Camp Security Contingent soldiers found two mines in the north corridor, some 8 kms south of Kibumba camp. UNHCR has subsequently postponed its planned census in Goma refugee camps to August. Following the prolonged calm in the Masisi region, many Hunde families who fled the region are reported to be returning in large numbers in military escorted convoys.
Seven Rwandan military officials visited Uganda this week to assess the influx of Zairian refugees into Uganda. More than 2,000 Zairian refuges of Tutsi origin who fled Masisi and Rutshuru regions are reported to be camped at Kyakabande in Kisoro district. Discussions last week between Zaire and Uganda over repatriation of the refugees broke down and the border crossing point is reported to be closed.
# UN human rights monitors are investigating reports that armed men killed 18 survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, eight of them children, in Rwanda on Tuesday. Witnesses told Radio Rwanda that the armed men crossed Lake Kivu by boat from Zaire on Tuesday night and attacked a village established by 40 survivors at Bunyamanza, some 100 kilometers west of Kigali in Kibuye Prefecture. Two more children were seriously injured and hospitalized following the attack. A second armed group reportedly guarded the boat, while a third ambushed an army patrol, killing one soldier. Reports from other sources give slightly different figures for the numbers killed. Some estimates are that as many as 252,000 Tutsis were slaughtered in Kibuye prefecture during the 1994 genocide.
The UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) earlier this month reported that 61 genocide survivors were attacked and 48 killed between January and May 1996. Ex-FAR soldiers and infiltrators from Zaire are thought to have been behind at least 53 of the 61 attacks. Security sources for the UN International Tribunal and officials from HRFOR have expressed concern for the safety of potential witnesses in genocide trials. IBUKA, a Rwandan association of genocide survivors, has requested the Government of Rwanda to put in place measures to protect survivors and for governments harbouring Ex-FAR and Interahamwe to hand them over to courts of law.
HRFOR also expressed concern this week about the number of reported attacks on local government officials in recent months. >From January to May 1996, HRFOR has received reports of 41 attacks, including 34 killings, four attempted killings and one disappearance. Most of the reported cases were from prefectures bordering Zaire.
# Rwanda's Vice-President and Minister of Defence, Paul Kagame, called on Rwandan refugees suspected of genocide to "return home and defend themselves in a court of law". The call came in a speech on Thursday to mark African Refugee Day one day after the Rwandan National Assembly rejected a bill that would have facilitated the start of genocide trials in Rwanda. After three days of debate, the Assembly voted to reject the bill. This means that trials for more than 75,000 detainees held in overcrowded prisons and places of detention will be delayed for at least three more months. The main sticking point appeared to be the plan to divide responsibility for the genocide into four categories with descending penalties and plea bargaining. Only the organizers of genocide would have faced a mandatory death penalty. Under normal Rwandan law, all convicted murderers face capital punishment. The defeat of the bill came as Rwandan government officials were in Geneva to ask the international donors for US$ 830 million to rebuild the country (see below). One legal source in Rwanda has been quoted as saying that "we're back to square one".
# The Rwandan Government has agreed to release some 400 child prisoners to a juvenile re-education centre at Gitega, 40 kilometers south of Kigali, UNICEF announced this week. The children were all under 15 years of age at the time of the 1994 genocide and therefore not considered criminally responsible under Rwandan law. Two hundred child prisoners were transferred to Gitega one year ago.
# Donors and the Government of Rwanda met in Geneva on 20 and 21 June to assess achievements stemming from earlier post- conflict assistance and to set new goals and priorities. The Round Table, organised by the Rwandan government and UNDP, follows an earlier Conference in Geneva in February 1995 in which US$ 1.4 billion worth of assistance was pledged. During the two day meeting, pledges amounting to some US$ 617 million were announced out of the US$ 830 million requested by the Government of Rwanda for 1996-1998. However, some of this total is loans or money already announced.
In his introductory speech, the Prime Minister paid tribute to the international community for its generous support to the Rwandan people since the 1995 Round Table Conference. He highlighted the main objectives of the Government's 1996-1998 programme to be: strengthening national security; rehabilitating the judicial system; restoration of property rights; repatriation of refugees; consolidation of the democratization process; capacity building and national reconciliation. The programme envisaged the transition from humanitarian assistance to sustainable development. This would entail support to rehabilitate socioeconomic infrastructure facilities and foster agricultural and industrial production.
# "The world's errors in Cambodia 20 years ago, when lavish aid to refugees in Thailand helped sustain the murderous Khmer Rouge, must not be repeated in Rwanda", Richard McCall of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said during the Geneva Round Table Meeting. McCall also accused Zaire of "providing an unfettered corridor for arms shipment" to Hutu refugees in camps on its territory.
At the meeting, the US delegation presented a strategy for repatriation in which they called for expanded support for returnees in home communes; relocation of refugees who won't return to camps further from border areas; camp closures according to pre-established schedules and application of the exclusion clause of Geneva and OAU conventions for those "refugees" involved in the 1994 genocide and massacres. The Rwandan Government also called for more international assistance in separating out from refugee camps intimidators and former government leaders and for the steady reduction of food and other material assistance to refugees. NGOs called on donors at the meeting to pledge and disburse funds that were sufficient and appropriate to support Rwanda in its transition from the post-conflict emergency phase to longer term sustainable development.
# The Kenyan Government closed the Rwandan Embassy in Nairobi this week and deported an Embassy official who had been held in police custody in connection with the attempted assassination of Rwanda's former Minister of Interior Seth Sendashonga. Relations between Kenya and Rwanda have been increasingly strained following the arrest of the official, Francis Mugabo on 26 February. The Rwandan Government had refused to waive Mugabo's diplomatic immunity and claimed he was framed by the Kenyan authorities. The Kenyan government said that although it had ordered the Rwandan Embassy closed from Thursday, the closure did not amount to severance of diplomatic relations. Travellers from Kenya needing visas for Rwanda have been told that they can receive them at Kigali airport or from the Rwandan Embassy in Kampala, Uganda.
# Rwanda has begun to issue new passports to deal a blow to extremists in exile by rendering their old passports invalid. Rwanda's deputy Interior Minister said that as a security measure old passports would be invalid after 30 September 1996. The change of passports will affect many former Rwandan government officials living openly in European and African countries. Governments have been informed of the change which will make genocide suspects with invalid passports illegal in host countries and hence liable to possible deportation. Last month, Rwanda began issuing new identity cards in an attempt to catch Hutu infiltrators in border areas and genocide suspects hiding in the country. As a result, arrests soared with 4,800 people arrested in May: almost double that of April.
# Ugandan troops are reported to have seized an important rebel base without a fight. More than 200 Lord's Resistance Army rebels are reported to have fled the base on Friday as government forces raided a string of LRA camps in the Kilak hills near Gulu, some 345 kilometers north of Kampala. The capture of the rebel camps was the biggest victory for the Uganda army against the LRA. Uganda's newly appointed commander in the war against the LRA announced a new offensive last week aimed at bringing an end to the eight year conflict.
# Zaire's State prosecutor has asked for two-year jail sentences and fines for the two Russian pilots whose plane crashed into a Kinshasa market killing more than 300 people in January 1996. The two pilots both plead not guilty to manslaughter charges.
# Over 250 Burundian refugees were granted Tanzanian citizenship out of 1,020 who applied for citizenship between 1992 and last year. Deputy minister for Home Affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Mwambulukutu, said the Ministry of Home Affairs authorized 1,020 refugees to be granted citizenship on payment of 3,000 Tanzanian shillings each but the majority failed to raise the money.
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From: Christopher Hurd <email@example.com> Date: Mon, 24 Jun 1996 18:56:17 +0300 (GMT+0300) Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up #14: 15-22 June (96.06.24) Message-Id: <Pine.LNX.3.91.960624185147.7372Bfirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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