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This is number 26 in a series of weekly reports from IRIN on general developments in the Great Lakes region. Sources for the information below include UN agencies, NGOs, other international organisations 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 Roundup of Main Events in the Great Lakes region
9 - 15 September 1996
# Major Pierre Buyoya, leader of Burundi's governing regime, agreed to unban political parties and reinstitute the suspended National Assembly according to a Radio Burundi broadcast on Thursday. The statement, read by Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, the Minister of Communications, said the decision was made by the Council of Ministers in a meeting on Thursday afternoon. The meeting decided that "the national assembly is restored within the legal framework of the transitional institutional system" and that "political parties and associations of a political nature are authorised to resume their activities within the context of the law."
The move was welcomed by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, as "extremely positive", while Marc Faguy, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Burundi described it as "a step in the right direction and an excellent response". However, the major Hutu political and military movements were less enthusiastic. FRODEBU described the decision as a "totally unacceptable masquerade" and said Major Buyoya was "making fun of the Burundi people and the international community". The CNDD described the move as "a positive step but insufficient", a statement that surprised some observers by the moderation of its tone.
The decision was condemned by a FRODEBU MP, Joseph Ntakarutimana, speaking on behalf of other exiled politicians. "Parliament cannot function while most of the MPs of the majority party, FRODEBU, have been forced to go into exile and others assassinated by the army or Tutsi militias while their killers enjoy total impunity," he said.
An increasing number of FRODEBU MPs in exile are switching their allegiance to the CNDD. A group of 16 FRODEBU deputies living as exiles in Uvira, Zaire, announced their `unconditional support' for the CNDD and its armed campaign in Burundi in a statement released on Tuesday in Nairobi. On Tuesday 2 September, 22 FRODEBU parliamentarians in Tanzania had announced their support for the CNDD, joining three FRODEBU parliamentarians in Kenya.
Regional Governments who imposed the sanctions on Burundi have yet to respond to the decision. The move meets two of the three conditions for the suspension of sanctions laid down by the Arusha II summit on 31 July, but not the condition that the regime undertake `immediate and unconditional talks with all groups within and outside the country', a clear reference to Hutu rebel groups who have been fighting the army within the country and from bases in Zaire.
# The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Burundi, Joachim Ruhuna, was still missing at the end of last week and believed to have been murdered after the discovery of his burnt car last Tuesday. His vehicle was found in a valley near Bugendana town in Gitega province, with traces of blood and burnt clothing beside it. A nun travelling with him was missing, but the body of another woman was found. The Burundian army confirmed on Thursday church reports that four other people travelling with the archbishop had survived the attack, the archbishop's driver, a woman accountant and two schoolgirls. The army had previously stated that only the driver had survived.
The army reported a deacon as saying that he had discovered the burning car on Monday shortly after the attack, with the bodies of the archbishop and a nun burning inside. The deacon had reportedly pulled the bodies out of the car and gone to seek help, but found the archbishop's body missing by the time he returned.
The army blames Hutu rebels for the archbishop's death. However, the CNDD's spokesman, Jerome Ndiho, on Wednesday denied that Hutu rebels carried out the killing and claimed the army were responsible. Monsignor Ruhuna, a Tutsi, was regarded as a force for moderation in Burundi and had been an outspoken critic of violence by all parties to the conflict. His killing has been condemned by political leaders around the world and the Pope, who expressed his "deep pain" at the murder.
# UN officials have welcomed the decision by the Regional Sanctions Coordinating Committee to exempt certain classes of relief items from the sanctions on Burundi. The decision on Friday 6 September followed concerns from humanitarian agencies that the sweeping sanctions would bring the whole emergency relief effort in Burundi to a halt. The full Sanctions Committee statement, which includes details of which relief items have been exempted, is available from IRIN.
# Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de L'Homme (FIDH) called on Monday for the creation of an ad hoc international tribunal to prosecute those charged with `massive human rights violations in Burundi'. The human rights organizations condemned as `shocking' the conclusion of the UN Commission of Inquiry for Burundi report that `[t]o make the suppression of impunity a precondition for the solution of the crisis is completely unrealistic'. They also argued that this conclusion contradicts Security Council Resolution 1012 of August 1995 which established the Commission to `recommend legal, political and adminstrative measures to bring to justice those responsible for the acts'. HRW/FIDH said that `[t]o turn away from such clear evidence of guilt would... invite continuing violence not only in Burundi, but also elsewhere in the world.'
# Reports from Uvira in South Kivu, Zaire, indicate growing tension and conflict between local authorities, local people, Zairean soldiers and Banyamulenge, Zairean Tutsis of Rwandan expression. On Monday local people declared Uvira town a "dead city", demonstrating against Banyamulenge and attacking their property. This prompted large numbers of Tutsis to seek refuge at UNHCR in Uvira. Some 220 people have since been arrested and taken to Luberizi military camp, while at least three Tutsis and four Zairean soldiers have been killed in the past week. Some 50 people were expelled to Rwanda by the Zairean authorities on Saturday, most of whom were Banyamulenge. An estimated 30 Zairean Tutsis and three Zairean soldiers are reported to have died in fighting in the area during the week beginning Monday 2 September.
The Zairean army is conducting a military operation in the hills around Uvira town, and more troops have been despatched from Goma, Bukavu, Shaba and Kinshasa. Zairean army chief of staff Major General Eluki Monga is reported to have arrived in Uvira to supervise the operation, which the authorities claim is designed to counter Tutsis seeking to "destabilize eastern Zaire". They also claim that the Rwandese Patriotic Army has been training the Banyamulenge and that Burundi has been providing them with rear bases. The Governor has declared the area between Uvira and Fizi closed to foreign aid organizations.
Both Rwanda and Burundi have categorically rejected these charges, while local Tutsis have claimed that Rwanda's Former Government Army and the Interahamwe are targetting the Tutsis alongside the local authorities and army. They say that, as in the case of Masisi, regional political tensions are being used as a pretext for targetting Tutsis simply in order to take their property and cattle. The Tutsis from Masisi were forced to flee from Zaire to Rwanda earlier this year when they were targetted by the local authorities and the army. There is substantial evidence that Hutu extremists from the refugee camps played a leading role in this process.
# Zaire's military pledged its support on Monday to the institutions governing the country's democratic transition, following rumours of a military coup in the absence of President Mobutu. The President is out of the country, recovering from a prostate operation in Switzerland. A military statement broadcast on state radio said that the military high command rejoiced at the success of the operation and affirmed its support for the electoral calender leading to elections next year.
# Uganda and Sudan announced on Tuesday their decision to normalise diplomatic relations and not to support rebel forces operating from the territories of each other's country. The decision, brokered by Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, commits both parties to a series of measures including: to stop immediately official propaganda campaigns against the other party; to prevent any elements hostile to the other party from using its territory against the other; to end direct or indirect assistance to hostile elements, and to move all refugees and all elements hostile to the other party from the border to an area not less than 100 km inside the border.
Uganda severed diplomatic ties with Sudan in April 1995, accusing the Khartoum Government of supporting Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the north of the country. Sudan, for its part, accused Uganda of supporting the Sudan People's Liberation Army in its war to end domination of the south by the north. The LRA said on Wednesday that the decision would not affect its armed campaign in northern Uganda.
# Pierre Celestin Rwigema, Prime Minister of Rwanda, announced on Tuesday the resignation of Justice Minister Martha Mukamurenzi, following the disclosure that she had misappropriated public funds. According to Information Minister, Jean-Pierre Bizimana, Ms Mukamurenzi misappropriated 27 million Rwandan francs ($90,000), most of which she spent on "her personal needs". The former Justice Minister will not be prosecuted as she has received a presidential pardon. "She was taking money, and then putting it back. She has replaced almost everything she stole. She has asked for forgiveness, so we are not going to prosecute her," Bizimana said.
# The International Tribunal for Rwanda will start the trial of three suspects being held in Tanzania on 26 September. The three are accused of genocide and crimes against humanity during the genocide which claimed an estimated 800,000 lives between April and June 1994. Proceedings against Jean Paul Akayesu, who is accused of killing 2,000 Tutsis in Taba, will open the hearings in Arusha.
# The arms embargo against the Rwandese Government was totally lifted on 1 September, such that the Government is no longer required to report on arms that it is importing. The announcement was made last week by the Chairman of the UN Security Council Committee established by resolution 918 (1994) to monitor the arms embargo. The full arms embargo will still apply in relation to non-governmental forces in Rwanda and `to persons in the States neighbouring Rwanda if such sale or supply is for the purpose of the use of such arms or material within Rwanda.'
# The Tanzanian and Iranian Governments have agreed to strengthen trade and technical ties between their countries, after a large delegation headed by Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani visited Tanzania last week. The two countries agreed to cooperate further in trade, agriculture, education, health and communications during talks held on Monday. The visit by the Iranian delegation was part of an African tour which also included visits to Kenya and Uganda.
[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network.
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From: UN DHA IRIN <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Tue, 17 Sep 1996 11:49:13 +0300 (GMT+0300) Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round Up #26 9-15 Sept 1996 96.9.16 Message-Id: <Pine.LNX.3.91.960917113514.8486Qemail@example.com>
Editor: Ali Dinar, firstname.lastname@example.org