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IRIN Update No. 431 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 5 June 1998)
BURUNDI: Parliament approves transitional constitution
The national assembly yesterday (Thursday) approved a transitional constitution that would bring about institutional changes. According to Reuters, Speaker Leonce Ngendakumana said the move was an important step towards peace and reconciliation. The new constitution - described as a merger between the 1992 constitution and President Pierre Buyoya's decree law adopted in 1996 - provides for replacing the prime minister's post with two vice-presidents, reducing the government and increasing parliament from 81 to 121 members. A BBC report described the parliamentary session as stormy, with many opposition FRODEBU members uneasy about the changes. The transitional constitution will provide a legal basis for Burundi until the new parliament votes into law a fresh constitution, but MPs, quoted by Reuters, said this was at least a year away. The current five-year parliamentary term ends later this month, after peace talks scheduled for 15 June in Arusha, Tanzania.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: New TV director arrested
The newly-appointed director of national television has been arrested, only a fortnight after his appointment, Radio France Internationale reported. It said he was accused of "sabotage and negligence" and for having omitted to broadcast a government ceremony. His predecessor was dismissed and arrested for broadcasting shots of alleged massacre sites in eastern DRC.
Kabila urged to "go beyond" appointment of human rights minister
Human Rights Watch, while hailing President Laurent-Desire Kabila's recent appointment of a human rights minister, has urged the DRC leader to "go beyond this symbolic gesture". In a letter to Kabila yesterday, the organisation called for the immediate release of political detainees and an end to the harassment of opposition activists, without which the creation of a human rights ministry would be "cosmetic".
EU rules out immediate resumption of development aid
An EU delegation touring the Great Lakes region is now in Kinshasa. According to Reuters, the mission said the EU would fulfil pledges to help reconstruct the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but ruled out resumption of long-suspended development aid for the time being.
OAU: Rwandan, US officials to brief session on Horn conflict
The OAU Council of Ministers session opened in Burkina Faso yesterday with a call on Eritrea and Ethiopia to "give peace a chance". Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim urged the two countries, currently embroiled in a border row, to exercise restraint. Fighting is continuing in disputed border areas, despite Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi's acceptance yesterday of a Rwanda/US-brokered peace settlement. Reports today (Friday) said Ethiopian planes bombed a military base in the Eritrean capital Asmara, adjoining the international airport. A US and a Rwandan official meanwhile today left Asmara for Burkina Faso to report on the conflict. PANA news agency pointed out this was just one of the trouble spots to be discussed by the OAU meeting, with issues in countries such as Burundi, Somalia and Angola still to be resolved.
SUDAN: British controversy over disaster response and coverage
The current food crisis in parts of southern Sudan and how aid agencies and the media are responding to it has sparked off controversy, particularly among British NGOs and media. The UK's International Development Minister, Clare Short, this week criticised NGOs for a recent fund-raising appeal, saying "money was not the problem". Short told a media conference in London on Wednesday that "there was no need to fund-raise", as the British government made generous donations in times of crisis. She also said the "true message" of the need for peace and development was overshadowed by negative reporting.
A spokesperson for the UK NGO umbrella group, Disasters Emergency Committee, told IRIN today that Short's comments were "ironic", as some NGOs had come in for criticism in the British media for not appealing early enough. Aid agencies in general have also been criticised for trying to unduly influence media coverage. The DEC appeal has raised over US $7 million from the British public in two weeks.
RWANDA: Thousands in northwest urgently need agicultural inputs, FAO says
FAO, in connection with other UN agencies, is closely monitoring the food and crop situation in northwest Rwanda. An FAO official told IRIN tens of thousands of internally displaced people are in urgent need of agricultural inputs to relaunch production activities, halted by a recent upsurge in rebel activity. FAO says it has just approved the emergency supply of seeds and hoes to about 10,000 vulnerable households in Gisenyi prefecture.
CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: First anniversary of civil war
The people of Congo today mark the first anniversary of the beginning of the civil war which brought Denis Sassou Nguesso back to power, AFP reported. Prayers are to take place throughout the country in memory of over 4,000 victims of the five-month conflict which ousted Pascal Lissouba as president. Sassou Nguesso is due to address a rally in Brazzaville.
Nairobi, 5 June 1998, 14:00 gmt
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Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 17:05:03 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 431 for 5 June 98.6.5 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.980605170411.16444Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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