IRIN Update 614 for 22 Feb 1999

IRIN Update 614 for 22 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

Tel: +254 2 622147 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail:

IRIN Update No. 614 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 22 February 1999)

RWANDA: "Big-fish tribunal" nets one suspect, awaits another

Ignace Bagilishema, former mayor of a Rwandan town, arrived on Saturday in Arusha, where he has been charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and violating the Geneva Convention, Kingsley Moghalu, spokesman of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR) told IRIN today (Monday).

Bagilishema was transferred to Arusha after being arrested in South Africa. ICTR prosecutors ''had been tracking him down for three years through various countries," Moghalu told IRIN. "He had been quite slippery but we managed to catch up with him in the end," he added.

Another genocide suspect, former Rwandan health minister Casimir Bizimungu, was also expected in Arusha after being arrested on 11 February in Nairobi. Arrangements for his transfer "are at an advanced stage," said Moghalu, who is also a legal adviser to the ICTR. "The tribunal has been very successful in arresting those deemed to have been at the commanding heights of the genocide in Rwanda and bringing them to trial," said Moghalu.

About 35 people accused of being involved in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda are in the custody of the tribunal, most of them former cabinet members, top military leaders, senior media personalities and senior administrators. "This tribunal is a big-fish tribunal," Moghalu explained. "We still hope to arrest another 30 to 40 more by the time this tribunal has finished its work," he added

SUDAN: Khartoum broaches secession issue

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said he is prepared to accept a separate state in southern Sudan if that will end the country's 15-year-old civil war. Speaking during an interview on Saturday with the Jezira Satellite Channel, a Qatari TV station, al Bashir also noted that the 1997 Sudan Peace Agreement acknowledges Southerners' right to self-determination.

The agreement provides for a referendum on self-determination for the south.

"The government supports and works for the alternative of the unity of Sudan, but if the people of southern Sudan decide to secede through the agreed-upon referendum, the government will respect their decision," al Bashir said.

"The government's position is that peace and unity should come through the ballot rather than the bullet," al Mansour Bolad, an official of the Sudan embassy in Nairobi, told IRIN today, quoting al Bashir. He said besides the 1997 peace agreement, there have been consultations between the government and SPLA rebels and "all will depend on the will of the people of southern Sudan".

However, SPLA spokesman John Luc said there was nothing new to al Bashir's offer. "One week after taking over leadership in June 1989, al Bashir had said the same thing, offering the southerners a right to secede. It was the very reason he came to power, saying he wanted to restore peace in Sudan, but nothing happened," Luc said.

"This statement will be tested mid-next month at the Sudan peace talks in Nairobi," he added. "If Bashir is serious then let his delegation come with the proposal at the talks. In the meantime, we are waiting to see."


Congolese President Laurent-Desire Kabila has dissolved his cabinet. Announcing the move at the weekend, Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi, permanent secretary to the DRC head of state, said, however, that the government will continue to run the country's day-to-day affairs pending the formation of a new cabinet.

A decree on the dissolution of the cabinet, read out on state TV by Yerodia, linked the move to "the constraints imposed by the war of aggression confronting the country since 2 August 1998" and the "need to reaffirm the national cohesion of the entire people around the government".

The move also responds to "the need to pursue and implement the timetable of the continuing democratic process and national reconstruction since it is understood that there is the need to adapt the government of the republic to the state of war with a view to achieving peace...," according to the decree.

Mixed reactions to Z'ahidi resignation

Last week's decision by Arthur Z'ahidi Ngoma to resign as deputy chairman of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) has drawn contrasting reactions from Congo's belligerents.

Kabila said on Friday on his return to Kinshasa after a five-day informal visit to Saudi Arabia that he was "pleased if Z'ahidi Ngoma has come to his senses". Congolese TV also quoted him as saying the former rebel leader was now "free to come (to Kinshasa) if he so wishes".

Rebel leaders, on the other hand, were less than happy at his defection. Rebel-controlled 'Radio Bukavu' quoted Jean-Pierre Ondekane, commander of the RCD's armed wing, as describing Z'ahidi Ngoma as a "coward". Alexis Tambwe Mwamba, a member of the movement's executive council, said the former deputy chairman's departure changed nothing in the struggle to free Congo, according to 'Radio Bukavu'.

Z'ahidi Ngoma himself told RFI on Friday that his main reasons for quitting the RCD were that it had refused to become a rally for Congolese and to work towards achieving democracy. He said an RCD victory would merely lead to a third war since the movement's leaders "are only petty puppets" and "will do nothing different from what the AFDL has done".

Detained Tutsis transferred from military camp

Some 150 detainees at the Kokolo military camp in Kinshasa have been moved to another site with "more adequate" conditions, an ICRC spokesman told IRIN today. He said the transfer of the detainees took place some 10 days ago following a decision by government authorities. The new site is under the management of the Ministry of Human Rights, with security provided by the Congolese police. ICRC has access to the site and is providing the detainees with food as well as non-food and health assistance, he said.

Human rights groups had expressed concern about the situation of the mainly ethnic Tutsis, including women and children, who were rounded up and placed in the Kokolo camp after the outbreak of the conflict in August 1998. A spokesman for the Ministry of Human Rights told IRIN today that the living conditions at the new site, located on the grounds of a recreational centre on the outskirts of the city, were much better. "As these people were not prisoners, we could not continue to keep them in a military camp," the spokesman said, adding that the Tutsis were initially placed at Kokolo "for their own security."

Meanwhile, Canada has initiated a programme to facilitate the resettlement of Tutsis under detention and others at risk in Kinshasa, a spokesman for the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa told IRIN today. Their resettlement applications will be considered in conformity with standard Canadian immigration rules but they will benefit from an "accelerated process for humanitarian reasons," he said.

GREAT LAKES: British envoy begins peace mission

British Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd was scheduled to begin a five-day visit to countries in the region today to promote a peaceful resolution to the DRC conflict, a Foreign Office statement said. In addition to the DRC, Lloyd will visit five countries directly involved in the conflict - Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Uganda and Rwanda - as well as Zambia and South Africa, which are participating in mediation efforts, the statement said. As special envoy of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Lloyd may also visit Addis Ababa to discuss the conflict with the OAU Secretary-General, the statement added.

Meanwhile, EU Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Aldo Ajello, met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala on Saturday to discuss peace efforts in the DRC, Ugandan radio reported.

UGANDA: Interahamwe accused of attacking border town

Interahamwe militiamen attacked the southwest Ugandan border town of Ishasha on the evening of 17 February, killing two people, 'The New Vision' newspaper in Uganda reported on Friday. The report quotes Ugandan security officials as saying the attackers numbered 50 to 100 and that many of them were armed with AK-47 rifles. Ishasha is located just north of the Congolese town of Rutshuru, where, according to humanitarian officials, attacks by the Interahamwe and Mayi Mayi have been reported in recent weeks.

Kabalagala death toll reaches six

The number of casualties from the 14 February bomb explosions in Kampala has risen to six people killed with 35 others injured, the 'Sunday Vision' reported yesterday (Sunday). It said nine people, including an Austrian businessman and several Ethiopians, were arrested and held for interrogation in connection with the bomb attacks, but seven of them were later released on police bond. Two other people were arrested on Friday, it said. The bombs exploded five minutes from each other at a nightclub and a restaurant in Kampala's Kabalagala dis'The New Vision' newspaper in Uganda reported on Friday. Thlistic experts visited the bomb sites on Friday, the 'Sunday Vision' added.

Correction: GREAT LAKES REGION: WFP approves massive food aid programme

Please note that line two of the above item in IRIN Update No. 613 for Central and East Africa dated 19 February should read as follows:

The operation, which will start in August, will supply a total of 422,000 mt of food over a two-year period to a monthly average of 1.25 million war-affected persons in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, WFP said today in a press release.

Nairobi, 22 February 1999, 1645 GMT


Date: Mon, 22 Feb 1999 20:00:48 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 614 for 22 Feb 1999.2.22

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,