IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 23 1999 [19990612]

IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 23 1999 [19990612]

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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Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 23 covering the period 5-11 June

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: US concerned over "growing Libyan involvement"

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice has said recent developments in the DRC crisis suggest a shift towards a negotiated, rather than a military, solution to the conflict. In a briefing to a Senate subcommittee on African affairs this week, she took note of the recent Sirte accord, the withdrawal of Chadian troops and a "general avoidance" of fighting by Uganda, along with Rwanda's unilateral ceasefire declaration. Speaking ahead of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Lusaka later this month, she said Zambian President Frederick Chiluba and the SADC initiative had become the "accepted vehicle" for ending the conflict. With regard to US interests however, she expressed concern over "growing Libyan involvement" in the DRC, as well as Sudan "using the cover of its support for the Congo to provide additional aid to insurgent groups in Uganda".

Reiterating support for SADC and OAU regional initiatives, she said the solution would ultimately have to be found by Africans themselves. All those involved in the DRC crisis were at a "perilous crossroads", and must decide "whether to continue on the present violent path...or work in concert to find a viable diplomatic solution".

Possible merger of peace processes

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources told IRIN on Thursday there may be moves to merge the Lusaka and Sirte peace processes. Rwanda has previously stated it only recognises the Lusaka peace initiative of Frederick Chiluba, but the sources pointed out that countries such as Angola question Chiluba's neutrality. For this reason, there may be attempts to encourage Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania to take a higher profile in the mediation.

Meanwhile, rival rebel groups in the DRC and their backers met in the southwestern Ugandan town of Kabale to try and reconcile their differences. A leading official of the Goma-based Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Bizima Karaha, told IRIN on Wednesday consultations were underway between the different groups on "harmonising their positions" ahead of wider negotiations for a peaceful settlement to the DRC crisis.

"The process of bringing peace is long," said Karaha, who heads the RCD's intelligence and security department. "The warring parties [rebels and government forces] have to agree on a unilateral or bilateral ceasefire, then cease hostilities. They have to negotiate peace between the military and political entities, and negotiate on the political course. They have to identify a neutral country to mediate, negotiate on security matters, then the opponents can talk of peace having come." Karaha maintained that without systematically addressing these issues, the quest for peace may be

in vain. "This meeting is for us to discuss and harmonise certain issues, all within the framework of the Lusaka peace process," he added. He would not be drawn on whether there had been any progress, but said the meeting was continuing.

The RCD faction based in Kisangani is represented in Kabale by its leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba whereas the third rebel group, Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), is represented by its head Jean-Pierre Bemba. The rebels' backers Uganda and Rwanda are also represented, while Tanzania is attending as a neutral party. Ahead of the meeting Bemba said he as in favour of a united front, but not of having the MLC absorbed

Khartoum denies Bumba, Businga bombings

Sudanese army spokesman, General Mohamed Osman Yassin, has denied Congolese rebel claims that Sudanese planes bombed two towns in the north of the DRC, and insisted that Khartoum did not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, Reuters reported on Wednesday. Jean-Pierre Bemba, who heads the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), said on Tuesday that two Russian-built Antonov planes of the Sudanese air force had bombed Bumba and Businga towns on Monday, killing one civilian and wounding 20.

Different agendas challenge war solution

A Brussels-based think tank has pointed out the greatest challenge to resolving the DRC war is that six separate disputes are being waged on Congolese territory, and the internal conflict in DRC is inseparably linked to the internal problems facing the other countries involved. The International Crisis Group (ICG), in its latest report on the DRC conflict, recalls that in addition to the war between Kinshasa and the DRC rebels, there are the conflicts between Rwanda and the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, Uganda and its own rebels as well as Sudan, Burundi and the FDD, Angola and UNITA, Congo-Brazzaville and rebel militias. "The war has not yet produced any winners or losers," the report says. "If the war does produce a victor, the field will be free for the imposition of another dictatorship and the culture of violence will become even more deeply ingrained in Congo."

The report stresses that the stakes for all those involved are very high. "The [DRC] rebels are today divided between those seeking to overthrow Kabila by exercising the military option, who are supported by the Rwandans, and those who would prefer a negotiated settlement and an end to hostilities. The latter group are willing to accept Kabila as president of a transitional government." [report available on]

RWANDA: Transition period extended

Rwanda's transition period, due to end on 19 July, has been extended by four years to the year 2003, the Rwanda News Agency reported. The eight political parties making up parliament and the coalition government took the decision at the end of a meeting in Kigali on Tuesday. During the various debates, all parties were agreed that the transition should be extended but differed on the time limit, with some calling for two years and others for five. The discussions centred on the fact that the government still had some objectives to meet before general elections could be held.

New ICTR president

The UN has appointed South African judge Navanethem Pillay as president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for a period of two years, according to a press release from the Tribunal. She replaces outgoing president Judge Laity Kama of Senegal whose mandate has expired. Judge Pillay has been working at the Tribunal since May 1995.

ICTR signs memorandum of understanding with Rwanda

Meanwhile, the ICTR signed a memorandum of understanding with the Rwandan government setting out a "clear, legal basis" for UN activities in Rwanda, the UN Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs Hans Correll said. The Hirondelle news agency quoted him as saying this included the protection of visiting judges and prosecutors, functional and diplomatic immunity and protection of UN premises. He described the move as a "positive development" in relations with Kigali. Hirondelle recalled that ICTR prosecutors have been based in Kigali since 1995 and the UN has been negotiating the memorandum since then. Correll said the signing of the memorandum represented a "change of attitude" on the part of the Rwandan government.

ICTR Chief Prosecutor steps down

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (and for former Yugoslavia), Louise Arbour, is to resign in order to take up a post with the Canadian Supreme Court, the Hirondelle news agency reported on Friday. She is due to leave the Tribunal on 15 September. The announcement follows a recent decision by an appeal court at the ICTR clearing the way for joint trials, which Arbour hoped would speed up procedures. The ICTR has been criticised for its slow progress.

BURUNDI: Rebels kill 13 in southwest

Rebels have attacked Mutambara sector in Rumonge, southwest Burundi, killing 13 civilians and wounding two, the Burundi news agency ABP reported on Wednesday. Many houses were set ablaze during the attack after which the rebels ambushed an NGO vehicle, injuring its occupant, the news agency said.

Meanwhile, reports from Ruziba zone, some 10 km south of Bujumbura, say rebels attempted to attack a military post, but no damage was reported, ABP said. Some of the rebels retreated towards the hills above the Imbo plain as others mingled with the local population. ABP reported on Tuesday that security forces and the local administration, assisted by residents, had regrouped in the surrounding hills to "protect the population against rebel atrocities".

Buyoya again stresses neutrality in DRC war

President Pierre Buyoya, recently returned from visits to Libya, Chad and Gabon, has reiterated Burundi's non-involvement in the DRC war. Speaking to reporters in Bujumbura on Tuesday, he said there was sometimes "confusion" about Burundi's role. "We reaffirmed our position of neutrality in that conflict", he stressed, in comments broadcast by Burundi radio. However, Burundi remained concerned about the effect of the war on its security. Regional analysts told IRIN that Burundian troops sometimes clash with rebels of the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) on DRC territory, but are unlikely to be involved in the war itself.

Opposition reacts to government's transition plan

Opposition groups have been reacting to the government's proposed "period of stabilisation", which envisages a 10-year transition. Exiled FRODEBU president Jean Minani told the BBC Kirundi service that the issues would have to be debated by the 18 sides represented at the Arusha talks. "The views supported by Burundians will have to come from Arusha," he said. However analysts told IRIN that an issue as serious as the future of the country and its transition would also have to be discussed within Burundi, as part of the internal peace process. A spokesman for the rebel CNDD faction of Leonard Nyangoma, meanwhile, said the war would continue until the army was reformed. "People should have an army made up of all ethnic groups," he said. "This is our position."

Cholera in Rumonge kills four

WHO says four people have died from an outbreak of cholera in the southern Rumonge area, with a total of 73 cases reported. Sixty-five percent of the cases were concentrated in Rumonge town's Swahili district. In a report sent to IRIN on Wednesday, WHO pointed out there were no cases among the 760 DRC refugees in Rumonge. The disease, which broke out on 24 May, is caused by people drinking water from nearby Lake Tanganyika.

UGANDA: Over 30 arrested in connection with bomb blasts

More than 30 people have been arrested in the last two months in connection with a series of bomb blasts, mostly in Kampala. Quoting State Minister for Security Muruli Mukasa, the semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper said most of the detainees were believed to be rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The independent 'Monitor' newspaper further said most of those arrested were Muslims.

Museveni urges rebels to accept amnesty

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday urged rebels in the country to accept his recent amnesty offer, warning them that if more people died despite the concession "then you will see our true colours". Addressing the nation over Ugandan radio on the 10th anniversary of Heroes' Day, Museveni added: "I can assure you that from our side we shall honour our pledge not to do any damage to these criminals if they come back, since we have already given our word." he said. "But if they don't, then we shall solve this problem the way we have solved all other problems before."

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: French embassy asked to hand over "mercenaries"

Authorities in the Republic of Congo have called on the French embassy in Brazzaville to hand over three European "mercenaries" who took refuge there, Radio France Internationale reported on Tuesday. It said the police were still cordoning off the streets leading to the French embassy and that about 300 people demonstrated near the embassy on Tuesday. The demonstrators, mainly young people, set ablaze the French flag and demanded that the three be handed over. The three - a Frenchman, an Italian and a Croatian - are accused of plotting to kill President Denis Sassou Nguesso. They escaped from jail and sought sanctuary at the embassy.

SUDAN: Child refugees cross into Kenya, Uganda

Humanitarian agencies on Thursday said the numbers of Sudanese refugees crossing over into Uganda and Kenya to flee fighting in south Sudan are not as alarming as originally reported in the press.

An official from Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) acknowledged to IRIN that hundreds of mainly children had crossed from the Chukudum area, but that the figure of 150-200 per day was too high. A joint UNHCR/Uganda government mission to assess the situation in the Kotido district of northern Uganda confirmed the presence of 345 people, mostly unaccompanied children, who had crossed the post of Kawalakol.

UNHCR said the movement had started last month and the refugees had been cared for by the local authorities and Red Cross. The refugees told UNHCR they were fleeing "ongoing inter-tribal fighting".

KENYA: Unrest on Ethiopian border "under control"

Insecurity and unrest along the Kenyan-Ethiopian border, attributed by Kenya to incursions by the Ethiopian rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), are now "under control" and "anybody can travel to Moyale", the site of armed clashes and landmine explosions in recent weeks, a Kenyan internal security spokesman told IRIN on Wednesday.

He said one of Kenya's main concerns at a meeting on security issues between Nairobi and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia earlier this week was how to halt the insecurity, "caused by the OLF", as well as banditry and stealing of livestock. Ethiopian incursions into Kenyan territory in pursuit of the OLF were another issue at the security talks, with Kenya seeking to "sort out respect for boundaries", the spokesman told IRIN.

ZANZIBAR: Reconciliation pact signed

The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) in Zanzibar on Wednesday signed a reconciliation pact to end protracted political feuding that has lasted nearly four years.

In a ceremony attended by Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who also brokered the negotiation process, representatives of both parties from the twin islands of Zanzibar and Pemba signed the accord.

A press release from the Commonwealth Secretariat said the key provisions of the agreement include reform of the Zanzibar electoral commission, a review of the constitutional and electoral laws, and compensation for property destroyed during the political crisis. The agreement also provides for the appointment of two new members to the Zanzibar House of Representatives from the opposition CUF.

Nairobi, 11 June 1999, 13:30 GMT


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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

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