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IRIN Update No. 495 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 4 September 1998)
RWANDA: ICTR sentences Kambanda to life for genocide crimes
Former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda was today (Friday) sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes of genocide by the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). A statement from the Tribunal, received by IRIN, recalled that Kambanda had already pleaded guilty to six counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. Kambanda's defence lawyers had called for a lenient sentence of two years' imprisonment in view of the fact he had cooperated with the Tribunal, while the prosecution had urged the maximum life sentence. Judge Nevanenthem Pillay from South Africa has asked how could a two-year sentence help national reconciliation in Rwanda. The ICTR statement noted that in his plea agreement, Kambanda declared he had resolved to plead guilty even before his arrest in Kenya, motivated by a "profound desire" to tell the truth.
The court, however, stated that the sentence must reflect "proportionality between the gravity of the crime and the degree of responsibility of the offender". According to the statement, the chamber was of the opinion that "the aggravating circumstances surrounding the crimes committed by Jean Kambanda negate the mitigating circumstances, especially since Jean Kambanda occupied a high ministerial post at the time he committed the said crimes".
Sentence welcomed by Rwanda
Rwanda hailed the decision, according to Reuters. It cited Justice Minister Faustin Nteziryayo as telling Rwandan radio that "at last, the tribunal has come out with an indictment against one of the prominent ringleaders of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda." The ICTR on Wednesday found former mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu guilty of genocide. He has yet to be sentenced. According to AFP, Nteziryayo said Rwanda had requested that all genocide convicts be jailed in Kigali.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels conditionally agree to talks
Rebel leaders have agreed to take part in talks between all parties to the conflict, proposed by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. The chairman of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) Ernest Wamba dia Wamba told journalists however they had not yet received a formal invitation. Furthermore, the talks must be held in a "neutral country, under a neutral mediator," he said. The rebels do not consider Zimbabwe to be neutral territory. It is expected the meeting will be held next week.
FAO warns of looming food crisis
FAO has expressed concern about the current food and humanitarian situation in the DRC, noting that an escalation of conflict in the east would have "serious consequences" for the population. An FAO Special Alert issued yesterday (Thursday) said the renewed population displacement and interruption of farming activities resulting from intensified conflict in eastern DRC would aggravate the already precarious situation in the area and create severe food shortages in the coming months. It could also have a "devastating" impact on the food supply for the whole Great Lakes region, the alert added. FAO has called on the international community and concerned governments to put in place contingency plans to help avoid a major humanitarian crisis.
International community should learn from its mistakes - Amnesty Amnesty International today warned the international community to learn from mistakes that had led to "unacceptable levels of human rights abuses in the DRC and the central Africa region as a whole". "Parties to the conflict, governments and inter-governmental organisations should urgently institute mechanisms to prevent an escalation of atrocities, particularly against unarmed civilians," it said in a report. The report expressed concern over the "link" between human rights abuses and arms trafficking in the Great Lakes region.
SUDAN: WFP sends food to flood-affected Kassala
WFP is today transporting 166 mt of food from Gedarif to Kassala in northeastern Sudan to provide one-month emergency rations to about 8,000 people most affected by flooding in the area. Heavy rains led to flooding of the Gash river in August. An assessment team from WFP and the Sudan Red Crescent reported that at least 70,000 people have been affected in and around Kassala town, of which 8,000 have lost their homes and possessions and have sought refuge in nearby schools and under trees. WFP reports that the number of flood-affected people could rise because it is still raining in the area.
GREAT LAKES: UNHCR Great Lakes director killed in Swiss Air tragedy
Pierce Gerety, UNHCR's Director of Operations for the Great Lakes Region, was among the 229 passengers and crew killed in the crash of SwissAir Flight 111. A US national, Gerety, 57, had worked for UNHCR for the last 16 years in several parts of the world, most recently in the Great Lakes region. Another UNHCR staffer who had worked in Rwanda, Catherine Calvet-Mazy, was also on board the ill-fated New York to Geneva flight. A French national, Calvet-Mazy, 37, was also a mother of one child. High Commissioner Sadako Ogata expressed shock and sadness at the deaths of the two UNHCR workers as well as several other UN staffers who were on the same flight. "UNHCR has lost two fine professionals and two wonderful people who were counted among the best in the organisation. Both Pierce and Catherine devoted their entire professional lives to helping other people, often under extremely difficult circumstances," she said in an official statement.
Nairobi, 4 September 1998, 14:30 gmt
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Date: Fri, 4 Sep 1998 17:50:50 +0300 (GMT+0300)
From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar, email@example.com