Great Lakes: IRIN Update 214, 7/18/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 214, 7/18/97


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

Tel: +254 2 622147

Fax: +254 2 622129


IRIN Emergency Update No. 214 on the Great Lakes (Friday 18 July 1997)

* About 5,000 people are held in Burundi on suspicion of involvement in massacres or supporting the armed Hutu rebels, the UN Secretary-General reports. Trials held in 1996 resulted in 133 death sentences, 54 life sentences and 36 acquittals. Following the establishment of a project to support the judicial process in Burundi by the UN, which helps provide legal representation for the accused, trials held in 1997 are showing a "remarkable reduction" in the sentencing and a "more calm and dispassionate" atmosphere. The report, dated 15 July, regards the trial of 79 military officers on charges relating to the 1993 coup as "largely symbolic", but an "important first step".

The UN Secretary-General's latest report to the Security Council on Burundi claims that three key political forces in Burundi, the Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), the Union for National Progress (UPRONA) and the rebel National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) are "factionalized" or internally divided. It also draws attention to "increased faction fighting among the Hutu rebels" - between the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People (PALIPEHUTU) and the CNDD.

The Security Council yesterday voiced its continued concern over the violence in Burundi, but expressed hope for all-inclusive political dialogue through the on-going peace process under the regional mediation efforts of former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere. However, UN Security Council president Peter Osvald said the members of the council reiterated their concern over the government's involuntary resettlement policy and called for a rapid dismantling of the regroupment camps. More than 576,000 people - out of a total population of 5,980,000 - are currently displaced from their homes and living in over 250 sites in Burundi, according to the latest estimates from DHA Burundi. About 256,000 of these are categorized as regrouped.

* Regroupement is not a deliberate government policy but a reflex reaction of civilians fleeing the threat of massacre, Burundian government spokesman Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye told Agence Burundaise de Presse, Wednesday. He was reacting to an Amnesty International report this week which accused the government of a policy of forced regroupement applied almost exclusively to Hutus in which "hundreds of men, women and children have been extrajudicially executed". Ndayicariye however said people from all ethnic groups fleeing rebel activity were spontaneously settling in peaceful areas and seeking the assistance of the local administration and the protection of the army. Ndayicariye, who is also the minister of communications, condemned international organisations that he said "would like to see the same people remain in the forests and marshes to die there". * Hutu rebels killed 51 people, mainly women and children, and abducted as many more in southern Burundi near the border with Tanzania, military sources alleged yesterday. AFP reports that the 51 villagers from Nyanza-Lac in Makamba province were buried in a mass grave after their homes were set on fire, the sources said. A total of 55 more were abducted "but four were found later under circumstances which were not clear" the agency added. Fighting between the predominantly Tutsi army and Hutu rebels in the Makamba and Bururi provinces has resulted in an influx of refugees across the border - some across the lake - which the UNHCR estimates at a rate of between 100 to 200 a day. A military official Col Isaie Nibizi, told Radio Bujumbura yesterday that those figures are "blown out of proportion" and that pamphlets in the southern part of the country are calling on people to flee to Tanzania. "Some people positively responded to the pamphlets, but not in hundreds," Nibizi said.

UNHCR spokesman in Nairobi, Peter Kessler, described the situation as a "silent emergency". Around 8,800 refugees crossed into Tanzania's western Kigoma region in June, but down on the 17,000 figure in May. A total of 215,450 Burundian refugees are sheltering in Kigoma. Refugee camps have been opened for them in Kasulu district at Ntabila (65,000 refugees) and Muyovosi (41,000). Kibondo district in the Kigoma region has four other refugee camps for the Burundians at Mtendeli, where 66,000 are being housed, Kanembwa (19,560), Nduta (22,450) and Mkugwa (1,322). The figures do not include Burundians in Ngara region. [For background on the refugee situation in Tanzania, refer to IRIN's Refugee Situation Report, 18 April 1997.]

* Kenyan police arrested seven Rwandans today including Jean Kambanda, the former prime minister of the hardline Hutu interim government during the civil war in 1994. The arrested persons were immediately transferred to the detention facility of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Arusha, northern Tanzania. If found guilty of crimes against humanity they could face life imprisonment. Those apprehended include Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, a former minister under the late President Juvenal Habyarimana and in the interim government, and her son Arsene Shalom Ntahobali. They are the only ones of the seven apprehended already indicted. The rest of those arrested are: Hassan Ngeze, a senior journalist who is believed to have played a pivotal role in "the propaganda of genocide"; Gratien Kabiligi, a former colonel in the FAR General Staff; Aloys Ntabakuze who commanded the para-commando battalion; and Sylvian Nsabimana, the prefect of Butare between April and July 1994.

The arrests, formally at the request of the International Criminal Tribunal, come two days after a visit to Nairobi by Rwandan Vice President and Defence Minister Paul Kagame. The visit was seen as patching up strained relations between the two countries. According to one analyst, Kagame's meeting with President Daniel arap Moi was an important step in Kenya's bid to reclaim its influential role in the region following its isolation in regional re-alignments. Rwanda also said it had won Nairobi's backing for its long-delayed acceptance into the East African Cooperation.

* The Rwandan government has denied accusations by a US-based rights group that as many as 3,000 civilians may have died in counter-insurgency campaigns by the army over the past three months. The report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said that according to testimonies it had collected, "killings of refugees and Congolese villagers, as well as civilians in western Rwanda, continue to this day." AFP quoted Vice President Paul Kagame as declaring: "the only thing we plan is to kill more of those who cause problems. They have arms they use to kill our people". Kagame, visiting Nairobi Wednesday, added "sometimes it is easy to identify who is armed and who is not. Sometimes it is difficult," and suggested that civilian deaths should be viewed in that context.

Emmanuel Gasana, a spokesman for Kagame, said Thursday that PHR's figures were "an absolute exaggeration". He noted "there have been some skirmishes within which our armed forces have killed a number of armed gangs. But even with these, one is talking about hundreds." The UN and most other international organisations suspended or scaled down activities in much of western Rwanda following the killing of three Spanish aid workers in January and four UN human rights officers in February.

* African Airlines will begin twice weekly flights between Nairobi and Bujumbura beginning July 19. According to Air Burundi, the company's agent in Bujumbura, flights will leave Tuesdays and Saturdays. Round-trip airfare has initially been set at US $375. The flights will be the first commercial air link between Kenya and Burundi since sanctions were imposed last summer. Well-placed sources say that Kenyan authorities have "decided to remove sanctions involving air transport to Burundi."

* The UN must avoid compromising the quality and independence of investigations into gross human rights violations in the DRC to placate Kinshasa, Amnesty International says. A statement by the rights group Wednesday alleges "that while member states of the UN are publicly expressing concern about massacres of thousands of Rwandese refugees and other unarmed civilians, they are asking the UN behind the scenes to compromise its own human rights principles by acceding to the demands of the DRC." The UN Secretary-General last week replaced the Joint Investigation Mission - set up by the Commission on Human Rights in April 1997 - with his own mission. Amnesty stresses that "obstacles still remain in the way of carrying out a full, competent, independent and impartial investigation".

Amnesty says the DRC authorities have reportedly "rejected the inclusion of UN security officers in the UN investigation team and has insisted on the right to reject members of the mission appointed by the UN." "Amnesty International is concerned about the implication that the new government would like to evade responsibility for bringing to justice members of the Alliance des forces democratiques pour la liberation du Congo-Zaire, AFDL, who committed abuses before 17 May", and urges UN member states to "support the organisation and exert pressure on the DRC to ensure that effective and impartial investigations are undertaken."

* The Great Lakes region and specifically the DRC illustrates the UN Secretary-General's reform proposal for a unified and holistic peacebuilding approach, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard explained at a press briefing yesterday. A UN task force to coordinate the UN contribution, chaired by UNDP Administrator James Gustave Speth, brings together the various elements of the UN system in cooperation with the World Bank and is "working on the full range of potential cooperation" between the government of the DRC and the UN, "including such areas as relief, reconstruction, capacity-building and political questions", Eckhard said.

* Around 1,100 Rwandese refugees are in Gabon with a further 100 at Pointe Noire, Congo-Brazzaville, UNHCR reports.

* Humanitarian sources estimate the displaced population in western Uganda's Bundibugyo district at 43,000, with 20,000 sheltering in the town and 15,000 people believed to be at the trading centre of Nyahuka. A further 10,000 are believed to be in a string of towns in Kabarole district. The security situation in the area is described as "fluid" with rebels scattered over the mountainous terrain. There are reports of rebels slitting the throats of civilians and cutting off body parts, adding to the climate of fear in the area.

* The pro-government South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF) of Riak Machar retook the town of Ayod in southern Sudan's Jongolei state after three days of fierce fighting with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), AFP reports today. Government officials have announced recently that government forces and the SSDF have recaptured a number of towns from the SPLA. However the SPLA is still holding some major centres, including Rumbek and Shambi in Al Buhayrat state, and other towns in the Bahr el Ghazal region, which it seized in an offensive in April. Most of the West Equatoria region remains under its control.

* Kenya's opposition groups have reacted with scepticism to a government announcement yesterday of new political reforms. The National Executive Council of the ruling KANU party said it would recommend a bill for enactment by the current parliament for the establishment of a commission to review the constitution and make proposals on the amendment or repeal of 11 contentious laws. However, according to the Daily Nation newspaper today, pro-reform groups will push ahead with mass action plans to force the government to overhaul the constitution before elections due later this year. Meanwhile, several hundred mourners gathered in a Nairobi park Friday for a funeral service for one of 13 demonstrators killed when riot police dispersed rallies in the Kenyan capital and several other towns. Although the meeting was unlicensed, the police did not this time intervene.

Nairobi, 18 July 1997, 14:20 GMT [ENDS]

[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts from this report should include attribution to the original sources mentioned, not simply "DHA".]

Date: Fri, 18 Jul 1997 19:20:57 -0300 (GMT+3) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 214 for 18 July 1997 97.7.18 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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