IRIN Update 631 for 3/17/99

IRIN Update 631 for 3/17/99

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. 631 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 17 March 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila calls for national debate

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila has proposed a national debate with all political parties, including his rebel rivals. Kabila said in a press conference broadcast live yesterday (Tuesday) that the debate would cover three themes: The legitimacy of power, constitutional proposals and the liberalisation of political parties. He suggested the meeting could take place in Italy, mediated by the Sant'Egidio Roman Catholic community. The Sant'Egidio mediated the 1992 Mozambique peace agreement. There has as yet been no comment from DRC's main rebel group, the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD). A regional analyst told IRIN today (Wednesday) that the ball was now in their court. "It's a big development," he said. "It's very tricky for the rebels. There is no pretext for them to say we have to continue the war if Kabila is serious." The analyst added that Kabila could succeed in taking advantage of disunity within rebel ranks.

Meanwhile, Kabila told state TV yesterday that he expected his new foreign minister, Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi, to expose the "hypocrisy" of western policy towards DRC. Kabila said western governments made aid to Kinshasa conditional on democracy, but did not hold neighbouring countries to the same standards, Reuters reported.

Rebels deny massacre allegations

RCD rebels yesterday denied allegations by the missionary news service MISNA that their troops massacred civilians in a string of villages in South Kivu earlier this month. Rebel commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane told AFP that clashes had taken place in the Kamituga region, but against Mayi-Mayi forces and Rwandan rebels. "I checked, and there were no civilian victims," he said. On Monday, Kinshasa called on the United Nations to investigate the 5 March incidents.

Bemba launches radio station

Sources in contact with Kisangani said that Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has recently set up his own radio station, called 'La Radio de la Liberte', that broadcasts from the military base of Ugandan troops in the city. The radio is said to preach multi-partyism and unity among all Congolese, the sources said.

UGANDA/RWANDA: Museveni in talks with Rwandan allies

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni held talks with his Rwandan allies during a two-day visit aimed at examining the course of the DRC conflict. Museveni, who arrived in the country on Monday, was slated to meet high ranking officials with unconfirmed reports saying he would also hold talks with RCD rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. "This visit is part of an ongoing process, looking at bilateral issues and looking at progress on both military operations and political developments in the DRC, " Reuters quoted Rwandan defence ministry spokesman Emmanuel Ndahiro as saying.

RWANDA: Belgium seeks extradition of accused in Arusha

The prosecution in the case against Bernard Ntuyahaga at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) yesterday applied to have the indictment against the accused withdrawn in favour of a trial in Belgium. Ntuyahaga, a former Rwandan army officer, surrendered to the tribunal last year. He faces one count of crimes against humanity. However, the Belgian authorities seek to prosecute Ntuyahaga, who headed Kigali barracks, for the death of 10 Belgian UN peacekeepers and the former Rwandan prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana. An international arrest warrant issued by a Belgian magistrate in 1995 for the accused remains outstanding. According to an ICTR statement, Brussels would support a direct transfer of Ntuyahaga to Belgium. If that were not possible, he should be handed over to the Tanzanian authorities for extradition. Ntuyahaga's defence council opposed the move, arguing that if the prosecution was unable to pursue the charges, the tribunal should acquit his client.

BURUNDI: Nyerere urges speedier peace talks

Burundi peace mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, has urged delegates to the Arusha peace talks to speed up their work, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. Speaking yesterday at the end of the current round of talks, which were held in committees, he said he would be "less than honest" if he said he was happy with the progress. "I don't think I am the only one who had hoped that, once we were into the committee stage, we would be able to go more speedily," he added. Burundi's Peace Process Minister Ambroise Niyonsaba also expressed concern over the slow rate of the talks. There should be "something concrete" by June, he told Hirondelle. The talks are divided into four committees, with the committee looking into the origin of the conflict due to meet again on 11 April and 10 May.

Nairobi, 17 March 1999, 14:15 GMT


Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999 17:40:00 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 631 for 17 March (fwd)

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

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