IRIN Update 641 for 3/31/99

IRIN Update 641 for 3/31/99

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. 641 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 31 March 1999)

RWANDA: Elections open and transparent, UN says

The local election process, which began on Monday, was judged a success by UN observers of the poll. UNDP Resident Representative Stephen Browne told IRIN today (Wednesday) the observers were free to go where they wanted, and that the elections were open and transparent.

He said the observers covered six prefectures, namely Ruhengeri, Butare, Kibungo, Cyangugu, Kigali-ville and Kigali-rural, and noted that the "spontaneity" of the poll meant cases of intimidation could not really occur. Expressing enthusiasm over the process, he said that after initial scepticism, he believed the queuing system of voting, at this stage and this level, was the best way to mobilise a huge number of people. Not only did Rwandans participate directly, they were also "witnessing the democratic process", he told IRIN. The UN would now help the Rwandan authorities consolidate the process, Browne added.

Rwandans are today voting to elect officials at "secteur" level, following two days of polling for officials at the lowest "cellule" level in the first post-genocide elections.

Belgium urged to drop extradition request

Rwanda has again called for the extradition of genocide suspect Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, following his rearrest by the Tanzanian authorities on Monday. Ntuyahaga, who is accused of murdering former Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers, was earlier freed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Both Belgium and Rwanda are now seeking his extradition.

Rwandan Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo told the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) his country had sent a high-level delegation to Tanzania to secure Ntuyahaga's extradition to Kigali, rather than to Brussels.

Foreign Minister Amri Sued Ismail said Rwanda had approached the Belgian government to withdraw its extradition request "but nothing indicates the Belgians will stand down". If Ntuyahaga were tried in Rwanda, Belgium could be involved in the case, he added.

New report again stresses world inaction towards genocide

A report by two human rights organisations, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, has reiterated that the 1994 genocide could have been stopped with tougher international action. The report, released today ahead of the fifth anniversary of the genocide next week, traces the history and reasons for the massacres. It notes the genocide was not an uncontrollable outburst of rage by people consumed by ancient tribal hatreds, but resulted from the "deliberate choice of a modern elite to foster hatred and fear to keep itself in power". The introduction to the report states it "establishes that the international community, so anxious to absent itself from the scene, was in fact present at the genocide".

In a press statement, one of the researchers, Alison des Forges, said it was hoped that "this history will make us all smarter about how genocide works and how to disrupt it more effectively".

Security Council approves UN probe into genocide

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has approved a proposal by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to conduct an independent enquiry into the genocide. Earlier this month, he said the purpose of the probe would be to establish the facts and draw conclusions regarding the UN's response to the tragedy.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Chronic problems combined with war emergencies

The current humanitarian situation in the DRC is characterised by chronic low-intensity problems related to the country's long-term socio-economic decline, compounded by acute localised humanitarian emergencies arising directly from the war, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Darioush Bayandor told IRIN today.

The chronic problems, such as food insecurity and poor water and hygiene conditions, need to be addressed through the regular programmes of the UN agencies and their partners, he said. For war-related acute emergencies, such as population displacements, refugee movements, pockets of food shortages and epidemics, the UN country team is considering establishing an inter-agency structure to support rapid humanitarian interventions through information collection, needs assessment and "spot delivery of assistance" to populations in need. Other major concerns in the country include the precarious situation of groups at risk in Kinshasa and other government areas, and reports of successive civilian massacres in rebel-held areas, Bayandor added.

Almost half a million displaced persons

There are now an estimated 467,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) reported in the DRC, the latest monthly update from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator said. In Katanga province, an estimated 40,000 IDPs were believed to be scattered west of Manono, while some 50,000 residents of the Tchuapa and Ubangi districts in Equateur province fled renewed hostilities in the last days of March and were believed to be hiding in nearby forests. About 20,000 displaced people were staying with host families in the Kabare/Kalehe zones of South Kivu, while military activity has resulted in continued population displacement in the Walungu-Mwenga-Shabunda axis of the province. Many displaced people were reportedly arriving at Idjwi, according to the report, received by IRIN today.

In North Kivu, people from the Masisi district were reported to be returning to their home communities after eight months of displacement. Increased banditry and frequent raids by Interahamwe militia, however, continued to displace a considerable number of people in rural areas of Rutshuru-Kanyabayonga. Other recent population displacements were reported in Maniema and in Kasai Oriental provinces.

High tension in South Kivu Plateau area

A team of humanitarian organisations, which visited the Uvira and Fizi areas of South Kivu earlier this month, found that tension was high between the local population and Banyamulenge in the haut and moyen Plateau. Security on the Ruzizi Plains was "acceptable", while the Fizi zone was still subject to Mayi-Mayi/RCD confrontations, the mission report said. It warned that humanitarian action could only be undertaken "following the evaluation of security risks".

Tshisekedi hails national debate plan

DRC's veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi has welcomed a proposal by President Laurent-Desire Kabila to hold a national debate on the future of the country, the Belgian daily 'La Libre Belgique' reported. He said he was ready to take part in the debate, but stressed that "any serious, credible political dialogue ... will have to rally the country's main political forces". This would include the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and Mouvement de Liberation congolais (MLC). Such talks should be held under the auspices of the UN, OAU, EU and SADC, he added.

Rebel MLC leader distances himself from RCD

In an interview with 'La Libre Belgique' published this weekend, rebel MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba stressed he was not the "RCD representative in Equateur province". "I am not a member of the RCD," he said. "We have nothing to do with them." He declined to answer questions about his group's military plans, saying only that his troops were advancing towards Gemena, Gbadolite and Mbandaka.

Togo mediation sought

Meanwhile, DRC Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia went to Lome yesterday (Tuesday) to seek the mediation of Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema in the DRC conflict. He gave no further details, according to Reuters.

Nairobi, 31 March 1999, 14:25 gmt


Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 17:50:21 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 641 for 31 March

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

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