IRIN Update 603 for 5 Feb 1999

IRIN Update 603 for 5 Feb 1999

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. 603 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 5 February 1999)


DRC security agents have arrested a UPDS spokesman, but freed five journalists detained this week. New agencies reported today (Friday) that it was unclear why Joseph Kapika was picked up. But the UPDS had protested the terms of the government's repeal of a ban on party politics. Meanwhile, 'Le Potentiel' confirmed that its editor, deputy editor, and three journalists arrested on Wednesday were freed yesterday (Thursday).

Rwanda, Uganda walk out of peace talks

Rwandan and Ugandan officials walked out of peace talks in Lusaka yesterday, news agencies reported. The head of the Rwandan delegation, Emmanuel Gasana, told the BBC that Rwanda had been unable to persuade the other delegations to allow the Congolese rebels to take part. The Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) rebels have repeatedly said that any deal would be meaningless without their participation. In an interview yesterday on Radio France Internationale, DRC communications minister Francoise Ibovi said the government would not negotiate with "terrorists." He stressed talks could only be possible "with those that renounce violence."

Meanwhile, Rwanda and DRC rebels on Wednesday reopened the Kabuhanga border on the foot of the Nyiragongo Volcano, official sources in Gisenyi told the private Rwanda News Agency.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Sassou-Nguesso rejects talks

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has reiterated his refusal to talk to the rebel opposition. "They would now like to force negotiation on us by violent means," he told the French daily 'Liberation'. "We will not negotiate with people who have destroyed the country and have knives in their teeth." In the interview published on Monday, Sassou-Nguesso denied Cuban troops were fighting alongside his forces. He also said Angolan detachments have "practically left", with units remaining only in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire and Dolisie. On the reports of indiscipline and human rights abuses among his soldiers, he said a "mind set we are attempting to alter has set in in this country".

Sassou-Nguesso defended the eight-month record of his government. He noted his administration was burdened with the previous government's debts, lack of donor help, and struggling with the fall in oil prices - all compounded by the continuing hostilities. He called again on his political rivals in exile to return "and run the opposition parties". Meanwhile, Central African Republic President Ange-Felix Patasse said in Brazzaville on Wednesday he would be willing to mediate in the conflict, Radio France Internationale, monitored by the BBC, reported.

RWANDA: Serushago sentenced to 15 years' jail

Ex-Interahamwe militia leader Omar Serushago was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment today by the Arusha tribunal. Serushago, who controlled the militia in Rwanda's northwestern Gisenyi region, was found responsible for 37 murders including four he committed himself. Serushago had pleaded guilty, and asked forgiveness for his crimes.

Local elections announced

Rwanda is to hold local "no-party" elections this year, state radio reported yesterday. Meetings are planned with local residents to explain the electoral process, and the polls could take place within the next three months. There will be no campaigning for the "cell" to sectoral level elections, the radio said. Sectors would then replace communes as the basic administrative unit for development.

TANZANIA: EU refuses funding for Zanzibar port

The EU has decided not to finance rehabilitation work in the port of Zanzibar. An EU statement sent to IRIN said the decision is in line with donor policy to suspend development assistance to Zanzibar because of serious concerns over the failure to reach a political settlement and human right breaches. A western diplomat told IRIN the 15-month imprisonment of 18 opposition politicians without charge, and the stalemate over the Commonwealth's peace initiative was: "Old water that has never been cleared."

UGANDA: Referendum boycott planned

Multiparty advocates are planning a national forum to boycott next year's referendum on political pluralism, the semi-official 'New Vision' reported. At a meeting on Wednesday in Kampala, they said freedom of association was a basic human right which superceded the verdict of a referendum. Meanwhile, Uganda's ambassador to Germany has quit the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and returned to his former party, the Uganda Patriotic Movement. "This corruption among the top leadership of the NRM really bothers me," he told the private 'Monitor' newspaper.

Nairobi, 5 February 1999, 14:00 GMT


Date: Fri, 5 Feb 1999 17:13:32 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 603 for 5 Feb 1999.2.5 updates]

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,