IRIN Update 632 for 3/18/99

IRIN Update 632 for 3/18/99

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. 632 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 18 March 1999)

UGANDA: Government challenged to confront human rights violations

Amnesty International today (Thursday) challenged the government of Uganda to confront its own "largely hidden" pattern of human rights violations to break the vicious circle of violence in the country's northern war zone. In a news release, the organisation said that over the last three years it had documented scores of killings of unarmed civilians including children, dozens of rapes and hundreds of beatings by government forces. While some soldiers have been arrested for these crimes, few have been brought to court as weaknesses in the criminal justice system delay trials of soldiers almost indefinitely.

"The extreme violence of the [rebel] Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has so far been allowed to obscure the government's failure to prevent its own soldiers from committing serious human rights violations," director of Amnesty International's Africa programme Maina Kiai told the press in Kampala. "We therefore urge President Yoweri Museveni to make human rights protection in northern Uganda a national priority."

In the last three years, approximately 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in this area. In Gulu, 80 percent of the rural population live in displaced persons' camps, and are dependent on humanitarian aid. Once in camps they are vulnerable to ill-disciplined government soldiers, who sometimes suspect them of being LRA supporters. For its part, the LRA has attacked camps to abduct children and loot food, the report says.

Human rights violations have taken place in the context of combat too. The report cites an incident on 30 March 1998 when 30 children, who had been abducted by the LRA, were shot dead by government soldiers at Ogole in Kitgum district. There has been no investigation and the army has denied that the children were killed, Amnesty says.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila's enemies "allergic to democracy"

President Laurent-Desire Kabila has sent three of his ministers to the US-Africa ministerial conference in Washington to explain the DRC's position and the "indignation of our people". Addressing a news conference in Kinshasa earlier this week, he accused the US of "hypocrisy" towards his country for supporting Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda "which are allergic to democracy".

He said he was "more than ready" to talk to the rebels fighting his government. However, he dismissed the idea of a roundtable conference "because it is not representative of the Congolese people", and reiterated he was in favour of a "national debate".

BURUNDI: UPRONA accuses Hutu parties of stalling Arusha talks

The ruling UPRONA party has blamed Hutu-dominated parties for the slow pace of the Arusha peace talks. Speaking over Burundi radio, Libere Bararunyeretse, UPRONA's representative at the commission dealing with the origin of the conflict - which has been accused of dragging its feet - said agreement had been reached on the nature of the conflict. The sides had reportedly agreed that inter-ethnic conflict did not exist in pre-colonial times, but according to Bararunyeretse, the CNDD, FRODEBU, PALIPEHUTU and FROLINA representatives had reneged on this. "If you don't keep your word, there can be no progress," he commented.

The second vice-president of the National Assembly, Augustin Nzojibwami, believed the slow pace was due to organisational problems. "Eighteen parties have been asked to negotiate directly during proceedings of the commissions, which is not easy," he said. Agreement could be reached in June "as long as Burundians are prepared to enter into genuine negotiations".

TANZANIA: Border with Burundi to be redefined

Tanzania has announced it will increase the number of markers denoting the border with Burundi to "remove confusion" over the frontier, Tanzanian radio reported. Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Gideon Cheyo told a news conference yesterday (Wednesday) the existing markers served no purpose as they were too far apart and posed problems for residents along the common border. He said the task of placing more markers would be carried out by cartographers from both countries.

RWANDA: ICTR frees genocide suspect

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) today freed genocide suspect Bernard Ntuyahaga for lack of evidence, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The former major in charge of logistics at the Kigali military camp was accused of the murder of former prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana as well as her escort of 10 Belgian UN peacekeepers. He was however returned to the ICTR's detention facilities "for his own protection". According to an agreement between the ICTR and Tanzania, freed prisoners benefit from two weeks' immunity.

Both Belgium and Rwanda have been seeking his extradition. "If the ICTR has no evidence, it should hand him over, as we do have proof," Rwandan Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo said, according to Rwandan radio. Belgium's representative in Arusha Eric David said it was possible the Tanzanian authorities could now hand Ntuyahaga over to Brussels, as the two countries have an extradition agreement.

Nairobi, 18 March 1999, 14:45 gmt


Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:47:43 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 632 for 18 March [19990318]

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

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