UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS IN BURUNDI
INFORMATION BULLETIN, 1-15 JUNE 1999
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)General
Government outlines transition period
The Burundi Government has unveiled a "plan for societyo/oo, detailing the country's future institutions which will oversee the transition period, referred to as the "period of stabilisationo/oo, according to Netpress news agency. During a 10 year transition period, President Buyoya will remain in power for 5 years, before handing over power to a Hutu leader for the next 5 years. The plan further envisages a democracy "based on consensuso/oo, while the national assembly will be enlarged to include all groups taking part in the Arusha peace process. There will also be a senate whose composition will be "ethnically and regionally balanced.o/oo Buyoya said that although the Government's plan was likely to give rise to objections in Arusha, it would be welcomed by the Diaspora, because, he added, "they had to understand the initiatives of their brothers residing in the country.o/oo Buyoya further said that a communal police force would be set up and that the gendarmerie and the army would fall under one body to be created for the security of all ethnic groups. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the CNDD-FDD said the war would continue until the army was reformed to include all ethnic groups.
Uvira bombed again
The town of Uvira on the shore of Lake Tanganyika was bombed for the second time in three weeks. On 3 June, a DRC government aeroplane dropped three bombs on the city. The explosions, which were clearly audible in Bujumbura, wounded three people, while causing damage to buildings. Uvira is situated just 20 kilometres across Lake Tanganyika from Bujumbura.
Tanzania rejects cross border operations by Burundi army
The Tanzanian Government turned down a request that the Burundian army be allowed to cross into Tanzania in order to track down rebels. The request was reportedly made by the Burundian Defence Minister during talks with his Tanzanian counterpart, Mr. Maokola-Majogo. Maokola-Majogo reportedly conceded that it was possible that some rebels were hiding in the forest after crossing the border. He assured his Burundian counterpart that the Tanzanian government always organised special operations to pursue them. Maokola-Majogo further denied Burundian allegations that his country was training rebels.
New Governor for Bujumbura Rural
On 3 June, President Buyoya appointed Major Balthazar Ntamahungiro as new Governor to Bujumbura Rural province, replacing Dr. Stanislas Ntahobari who occupied the post since 1994. Prior to his appointment, Major Ntamahungiro was district commander of Karuzi province. Major Ntamahungiro originates from Bujumbura Rural province where he was its district commander from 1993 to 1996.
Upsurge in insecurity
The first two weeks of June have seen a significant increase in rebels attacks, particularly in Bujumbura Rural, Bururi and Makamba. Security incidents were also reported in Rutana and Muramvya provinces. A number of ambushes have taken place on the main roads in Bujumbura Rural, Bururi and Bubanza (Route Nationales (RN) 1, 3, 5 and 7). On 8 June, a vehicle of the NGO CARE was shot at and hit 6 times, while driving on the RN 3 near Gatete just south of Rumonge. One person was wounded in the incident.
President Buyoya visits Libya and Gabon
President Buyoya visited Libya on 5 June 1999 in order to brief President Gaddafi on Burundi's views on the conflict in the DRC and the Sirte agreement initiated by the Libyan President. President Buyoya discussed the same issues with his Gabonese counterpart Omar Bongo.
President Buyoya stresses neutrality in DRC conflict
Upon his return from visits to Libya, Chad and Gabon, President Pierre Buyoya, reiterated Burundi's non-involvement in the DRC war. Speaking to reporters in Bujumbura on 8 June, he said there was sometimes "confusiono/oo about Burundi's role. "We reaffirmed our position of neutrality in the conflict,o/oo he stressed on Burundi radio. However, Burundi remained concerned about the effects of the war on its national security.
Reform of penal code
After a heated debate, the Burundian parliament passed a law defining a new penal code for the country. According to the Agence Burundaise de Presse, Burundi Justice Minister Terence Sinunguruza described the new law as 'revolutionary', forming a compromise between the fair hearing of cases and the urgent need to protect peoples rights and liberties. One novelty is that from now on a lawyer will be allowed to intervene at the initial stage of the proceedings, prior to the suspect appearing before the State prosecutor. Another aspect is a control on torture and arbitrary and lengthy detentions.
Nyerere to open office
Netpress agency reported that the Mediator in the Burundian conflict will soon open an office in Bujumbura.
Burundi peace seminar in Denmark
The International Peace College (IPC), in close collaboration with Burundian Diaspora, the Burundian Embassy covering Scandinavia and other institutes organised a peace seminar from 30 May to 6 June. The seminar brought together 10 Burundians, representing Government, national assembly and civil society as well as 30 Burundian exiles, with the aim to discuss issues such as security, refugees, the role of Burundian exiles in Scandinavia and the role of the international community in resolving the crisis.
Burundian refugees return from Mbuji-Mayi
UNHCR has repatriated 107 Burundian refugees from Mbuji-Mayi in the DRC to Burundi on 16 June. The refugees arrived at Bujumbura airport with an aeroplane specially chartered for the operation. Upon arrival, the refugees were welcomed by Government officials in a special ceremony to mark their return. The refugees have been transferred to the Rugombo transit site in Cibitoke province, from where they will be transported to their home provinces. Upon their return home, they will receive kitchen sets, plastic sheeting and tools from UNHCR, while WFP will provide food rations covering three months. It is the second time that Burundian refugees are repatriated by aeroplane from Mbuji-Mayi. On 30 May, UNHCR organised a trial repatriation flight with 7 Burundians, marking the first officially sanctioned humanitarian flight between the DRC and Burundi since the conflict that erupted in 1998. The operation was made possible thanks to an extremely close cooperation among UNHCR, DRC and Burundian government officials both at central and local levels. Among the returning refugees were Burundians who fled in 1972, as well as those who left the country in 1991 and 1993 due to civil strife. Due to the rebellion that erupted in the DRC late 1996, the refugees had to flee their long-term settlements and camps in the eastern Kivu region of the DRC. They walked some 1,000 kms to Mbuji-Mayi, where they arrived extremely malnourished and sick. More than 530 Burundian refugees are sheltered at Mbuji-Mayi, out of some 20,000 Burundian refugees still believed to be living among local villages across the DRC. UNHCR expects to organise more repatriation flights in the near future.
Congolese Refugees leave Rumonge
Almost all of the Burundian refugees who arrived last month in the town of Rumonge, on the shore of lake Tanganyika, have left Burundi and returned to the DRC. Although the Burundian authorities and UNHCR offered to transfer the refugees to the Rugombo transit site in Cibitoke province, the bulk of them decided to return to Baraka. Only 8 refugees were transferred to Rugombo site. Following the arrival of the refugees, the DRC Minister for Human rights, Leonard She Okitundu, accused Burundi of seizing more than 700 civilians on Lake Tanganyika and holding them prisoner. He claimed that they had been intercepted by Burundian forces on Lake Tanganyika and that their conditions were inhumane. During their stay in Burundi the refugees were assisted by UNHCR and the NGOs Austrian help Programme (AHP) and Concern.
Cholera in Rumonge under control
The cholera epidemic in Rumonge in Bururi province has been brought under control by the health authorities. Since the epidemic broke out, 4 people have died. In total, 89 cholera cases were reported, most of them in the Swahili district of Rumonge town. The disease, which broke out on 24 May, is caused by a lack of potable water. Rumonge town has a structural shortage of drinking water and people have no option than to drink water from Lake Tanganyika. The Austrian Help Programme (AHP) continues to distribute drinking water to the affected communities.
The vaccination campaign carried out by UNICEF and its partner organisations is underway Bubanza and Cibitoke province. The campaign, which targets children under one year of age, covers diphtheria, whooping-cough, measles, polio, tetanus end tuberculosis. In Bubanza province Children's Aid Direct is running the operation, while Concern is in charge in Cibitoke. Similar operations will be undertaken by GVC in Bujumbura Rural and by Memisa in Bururi and Makamba. The operation is partly financed by ECHO, while the executing NGOs are covering part of the costs as well.
As part of its Judiciary Assistance Program, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi (OHCHRB), provided judiciary report to 60% percent of all 407 trial conducted by the criminal tribunals of Ngozi, Gitega and Bujumbura between 12 April and 12 May. The criminals tribunals sentenced 22 to death and handed down 23 life sentences, while 12 people received sentences between 5 and 20 years. The remaining trials were reported to the next session or required further investigation. OHCHRB signals that 16 people were acquitted, which shows a positive trend.
According to OHCHRB, this can be interpreted as progress towards the respect of the legal procedure. This bulletin is prepared by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Bujumbura, Burundi. It is compiled from input received from humanitarian organisations working in Burundi. Tel: (257) 218034 or 219157/8 Fax: (257) 218035 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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