IRIN Update 639 for 3/29/99

IRIN Update 639 for 3/29/99

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. 639 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 29 March 1999)

RWANDA: First post-genocide elections held

Rwandans went to the polls today (Monday) to elect local officials at the lowest level of the country's administration. Officials will be elected at "cellule" level today, and "secteur" level on Wednesday. Rwandan authorities said foreigners were also eligible to vote, but could not be elected. The Rwandan government urged voters to elect "capable" officials, and not to vote along ethnic or regional lines. Rwandan radio said many voters turned out, although the voting process was affected by heavy rain in the capital Kigali. If these polls are a success, they may ultimately culminate in general elections. [For more details see separate IRIN item 517, entitled "Rwandans prepare for first post-genocide elections"].

Genocide suspect freed in Dar es Salaam by ICTR

Genocide suspect, Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, was today released by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), after charges against him were dropped. According to an ICTR press release, he was freed in Dar es Salaam. He had filed for a stay of execution, allowing him to remain at the Tribunal's detention facilities while he prepared an appeal against the decision not to acquit him, but the court ruled that the request was inadmissable. As far as the ICTR is concerned, Ntuyahaga's case is now closed, but Belgium and Rwanda have both called for his extradition. Ntuyahaga is accused of the murder of former Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers.

A source close to defence lawyers in Arusha told IRIN that the "highly discretionary" manner of appointing defence lawyers at the ICTR would be a "fundamental" part of appeals being filed by former mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu and former premier Jean Kambanda at The Hague. Ntuyahaga was among those defendents not represented by the lawyer of his choice, the source said. Describing Ntuyahaga's case as a "hot potato", the defence source said that his lawyer might be "beholden" to the tribunal and as the case was "squeezed between jurisdictions", political factors seemed to be coming into play.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila organises national debate

President Laurent-Desire Kabila has scheduled a national debate to discuss the country's political future, Reuters reported, citing state television. The meeting is due to be held next month in a foreign country, said Bertin Banza, vice-president of a government reform commission. The agenda will include discussion on a draft constitution, legitimisation of power and liberalising political activity.

1998 "deplorable year" for human rights

The main Congolese human rights organisation, ASADHO, has described 1998 as a "deplorable year" for human rights in the DRC. According to ASADHO's annual report, violations of basic freedoms have increased. Speaking over Radio France Internationale, ASADHO's president Guillaume Ngefa said both the rebels and Kabila's regime were responsible for this situation.

Food-producing provinces under strain

Three provinces that traditionally provide Kinshasa with its food supplies are being overexploited due to the impact of the war and there is a risk that stocks will run out, an FAO report said. The latest FAO food security update, received by IRIN, said food production in Equateur province had diminished, while insecurity and other factors had limited the transportation of goods from there to the capital. Similarly, the war disrupted the 1998/99 A season in Bas-Congo province and exports of locally-produced goods to Brazzaville have increased. Bandundu, the only source of food for Kinshasa's population that remained in full agricultural production, was now also meeting requests from the Kasais, and it is unclear how long the province will be able to send significant quantities to the capital, the report said.

The situation may lead farmers in the food-producing provinces to sell all their supplies without keeping the necessary quantities for their own consumption or sufficient seeds for use in the next harvest, the report said. Meanwhile, the presence of imported goods on Kinshasa markets had diminished since the recent introduction of foreign currency regulations, which has negatively impacted the food security level of the population, it added.

No access to north Katanga displaced

A UN mission to Lubumbashi, Katanga province, on 12-13 March reported the presence of some 1,000 displaced persons at two sites in the town, the latest edition of OCHA News said. It said the OCHA/UNDP mission concluded that support to the health sector was required but it did not identify any emergency requirements. Access remained restricted for humanitarian workers attempting to travel outside Lubumbashi where the humanitarian needs of some 18,000 displaced persons in the north of Katanga remained of high concern, it said.

Meanwhile, the impact of the war has altered normal food marketing systems in the DRC's southwestern provinces, FAO said. In its latest food security update, FAO said food imports into Katanga province from Zambia and South Africa had gone down, as had local agricultural production levels particularly in conflict-affected areas. At the same time, consumption requirements in the province had increased due to a large military presence. As a result, agricultural produce from neighbouring Kasai Oriental is being called on to meet needs in Katanga.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Refugee-hosting families in distress

The situation of DRC refugees hosted by local families in the CAR capital, Bangui, is deteriorating as the resources of the local population will soon be exhausted, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said. In an update received by IRIN, IFRC said tensions are rising in Bangui and the situation will be aggravated by the presidential election campaign expected to start soon. Some 7,500 refugees crossed the river to CAR following the outbreak of fighting in Equateur province in December 1998/January 1999. Some were sheltered in a UNHCR-assisted transit camp in Bangui, while some 2,500 were accommodated with friends and relatives in the city.

The Bangui transit camp was closed in February and some 300 refugees have so far been transferred to a new camp at Boubou, some 300 km from Bangui, where they have been allocated plots of land to promote self-sufficiency, the report said. Living conditions for the refugees are more favourable at Boubou than in Bangui, it said. The local Red Cross Society urgently requires additional funds for its refugee assistance efforts, the report added.

UGANDA: Troops kill Interahamwe rebels

Ugandan troops have killed 18 Rwandan Interahamwe rebels in eastern DRC and captured four, news reports said today. A senior military official, Colonel Benon Biraaro, was quoted as saying one of the captured rebels admitted to taking part in the killing of eight foreign tourists in southwest Uganda earlier this month. The rebels were reportedly killed during clashes in the Virunga National Park, just north of Goma.

Alleged army smuggling racket between Kisangani and Entebbe

The 'Sunday Vision' yesterday reported a "smuggling racket" by members of the Ugandan army between Kisangani and Entebbe ariport. It quoted its sources as saying the illegal trade between the two cities was "monopolised by senior army officers who mostly deal in salt, matchboxes, soap, cigarettes, beer, sugar, electronics and alcohol, but sometimes outrageously bulky merchandise like timber is also airlifted through the airport". State Minister of Defence Steven Kavuma denied malpractices by Ugandan soldiers. He said the army was in DRC for security reasons, and if any member was found smuggling he would be subjected to "serious disciplinary action".

BURUNDI: Spokesman reassures foreigners on security

Government spokesman Luc Rukingama has sought to reassure foreigners in Burundi that the country is basically secure. Responding to a US directive to its citizens to curb travel in the Great Lakes region, Rukingama said: "We do not want to see incidents occurring in other territories being associated with Burundian internal politics". According to Burundi radio, he said that while there were still sporadic rebel attacks, particularly in Bujumbura-Rural province, "there is no objective factor undermining the free movement of people". "We also wish that in the subregion, the international community could focus more on and denounce the terrorists bent on genocide," he added.

Nairobi, 29 March 1999, 14:30 gmt


Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 17:55:46 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 639 for 29 March

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

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