IRIN Update 553 for 25 Nov 1998

IRIN Update 553 for 25 Nov 1998

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa

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IRIN Update No. 553 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 25 November 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila to attend Paris summit as "acting" president

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila will attend tomorrow's (Thursday) Franco-African summit as "acting" head of state, AFP quoted French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine as saying today (Wednesday). Vedrine was addressing a Senate committee when he used the "acting" epithet. Meanwhile, Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu said he would be prepared to meet Kabila at the summit and "reach out the hand of peace", AFP reported.

Kabila pledges legalisation of political parties in two months

In a separate development, Kabila said in Brussels yesterday (Tuesday) that political parties in the DRC would be legalised in two months' time. Speaking shortly after his arrival on a two-day visit, dogged by charges of human rights abuse, he said the government favoured free and fair elections and "if we lose, we will cede power," AFP reported. Ahead of his arrival, two civil suits were filed against Kabila in Belgium accusing him of crimes against humanity. The Belgian authorities said the DRC leader has diplomatic immunity. In France, where he is to arrive tomorrow on the final leg of a European tour, two human rights groups have approached prosecutors to open similar human rights proceedings against him.

Vatican urges dialogue

A statement issued by the Vatican yesterday, following Kabila's meeting with the Pope in Rome, said the talks focused on the conflict "which has bathed the country in blood". The Pope called for international and national dialogue to resolve the issue and to "safeguard the principles of territorial integrity and national sovereignty".

Zimbabwe says eastern offensive begun

Weekend air raids by Zimbabwean war planes on rebel positions in the Lake Tanganyika area have signalled the beginning of the allies' "long-awaited" eastern offensive, according to a Zimbabwean government statement. Security sources in Harare told IRIN it was not certain the offensive had started, but the Zimbabwean strategy would be to strike from Kalemie northwards, keeping to the high ground with the lake on their right flank. Zimbabwean troops would be at full battle strength of 9,000-10,000 men, the sources said. There have also been unconfirmed reports that Harare has taken delivery of Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships to improve their forces' mobility and firepower.

Rebels acknowledge Kalemie bombing

Meanwhile, rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) have acknowledged that Zimbabwean planes bombed Kalemie yesterday, but denied there were any casualties, news organisations reported. DRC state radio said allied aircraft had hit a rebel transport plane at the airport. The RCD has however denied claims by Kinshasa that 600 rebels died at the weekend when Zimbabwean planes strafed and sank barges ferrying troops between Kalemie and Moba.

Investor confidence eroded

Investor enthusiasm in DRC's vast mineral wealth is waning amid concerns over the longevity of Kabila's government and its lack of accountability in the awarding of mining licenses, media reports allege. According to yesterday's 'Financial Times', a beleaguered and increasingly unpredictable Kabila is undermining business confidence. The London-based specialist publication 'Metal Bulletin' said in a 12 November commentary that the appointment of Zimbabwean Billy Rautenbach - better known as a vehicle distributor - to head the state mining company Gecaimines raised eyebrows in mining circles. He took over this month from Kawaya Mbaka who had been at the centre of a dispute over increasing Zimbabwean control of Gecaimines' operations, the journal said.

The 'Financial Times' noted that Gecaimines is reputed to have made a spate of "shady deals" with Zimbabwean businessmen, widely seen as a payoff by Kinshasa for Harare's military support. "It really is all to do with the vested interests of a tiny Zimbabwean elite in the Congo," a Zimbabwean mining analyst told IRIN. "It is not going to benefit Zimbabwe."

North Kivu population at risk

The local population in North Kivu, whose needs were already considered significant before August 1998, are now facing an even more dramatic situation because of the disruptions and dislocations caused by the war, humanitarian sources told IRIN today. They stressed that the assessment of humanitarian needs was incomplete due to lack of access in many areas of the province on security grounds. An inter-agency mission which visited Goma recently reported that the most urgent needs were assistance to 80,000 displaced, support to the health sector and the reopening of schools. Six international NGOs are currently operational in Goma.

UGANDA: Museveni visits Rwanda for talks with Kagame

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni paid a flying visit to Rwanda on Sunday for talks with Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, the independent 'Monitor' daily reported yesterday. It said Museveni "shocked his security team when he unexpectedly changed his helicopter flight to Rwakitura [southwest Uganda] and instead flew to Rwanda first". The paper cited its sources as saying top DRC rebel commanders also attended the meeting, as well as Ugandan officers.

TANZANIA: 28 Congolese soldiers detained

Police in the Rukwa region of western Tanzania are holding 28 Congolese soldiers although it is not clear whether they are on the government or rebel side, Tanzanian radio reported yesterday. It said they were found in possession of various weaponry. The Rukwa regional commissioner urged the population living in areas housing refugees to strengthen security.

RWANDA: Former Rwandan officer gets death sentence for genocide

A former Rwandan officer has been sentenced to death for genocide and rape in 1994 by the Kigali military tribunal, the Rwanda News Agency reported. The man, warrant officer Anaclet Rwahama, was accused of leading attacks by Interahamwe militias at Kicukiro in Kigali and raping several women, including a 13 year-old girl. He has 15 days to file an appeal. The defendant pleaded guilty, but the court did not take the confession into account because it was made to the tribunal and not at the start of the proceedings against him.

BURUNDI: Parties meet in Bujumbura to discuss Arusha process

Inter-party talks took place in Bujumbura last week aimed at allowing an exchange of views between the sides, within Burundi, who are represented at the Arusha peace process. In a statement, received by IRIN today, 17 sides - including the government, national assembly and main FRODEBU and URPONA parties - reviewed the results of the previous three sessions and discussed the next round of Arusha talks due in January. They agreed that the combination of continuing violence and sanctions constituted a major obstacle to the talks and called on the international community to resume cooperation with Burundi to ease the suffering of its people.

Nairobi, 25 November 1998, 15:30 gmt


Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998 18:25:55 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 553 for 25 Nov 1998.11.25

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

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