IRIN Update 646 for 4/9/99

IRIN Update 646 for 4/9/99

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. 646 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 9 April 1999)

BURUNDI: Rebels attacking south, defence minister says

Defence Minister Colonel Alfred Nkurunziza has said Interahamwe militia and Burundian rebels of the Forces de defense pour la democratie (FDD) are launching surprise cross-border attacks from Tanzania. He told Burundi radio on Thursday, during a tour of southern Makamba province which has suffered several attacks lately, that "rapid intervention" by the security forces had "brought the situation under control". Nkurunziza said the Burundian authorities were trying to talk to their Tanzanian counterparts to prevent Tanzania being used as a rear base by the attackers.

Over 1,000 displaced by attacks

MSF told IRIN five people had been killed in an attack on the market in Makamba town earlier this week. This follows a weekend attack by rebels in nearby Kayogoro in which 11 civilians were killed. There were about 200 displaced people in Makamba itself who were lodged by the local community, but just north of the town, some 1,500 people had arrived in Nyange after fleeing their homes. MSF described their situation as "precarious". It said it had access to these people, but general insecurity in the province meant it was currently unable to reach many areas.

Nyerere wants refugees to join peace talks

Meanwhile, Burundi peace mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, has said Burundian refugees in Tanzania should be represented at the ongoing Arusha peace process. According to local press reports, he told refugees during a visit to Tanzania's Kigoma region on Thursday that peace could only come through dialogue and the participation of everyone involved the conflict. He urged Burundians to "abandon antiquated tribalism".

RWANDA: Ex-government officials plead not guilty at ICTR

Five former Rwandan government officials pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha on Thursday. According to the independent Hirondelle news agency, one of them - former education minister Andre Rwamakuba - burst into tears as he entered his plea. Co-charged with him are former interior minister Edouard Karemera, the former mayor of Mukingo commune Juvenal Kajelijeli, former director-general for foreign affairs Mathieu Ngirumpatse and former parliament speaker Joseph Nzirorera.

In a related development, Karemera's Belgian lawyer Emmanuel Leclerc, withdrew from the case over a difference of opinion with his client. In a letter to the ICTR on Wednesday, Leclerc said that as far as he was concerned the only correct definition of the 1994 events was genocide. "Mr Karemera holds a different opinion," he said. "As we do not define the 1994 events in the same terms, it would seem to me very difficult to continue defending my client without doing him a disservice."

More Rwandans expected to return from DRC

OCHA-Rwanda's humanitarian update for March notes that some 5,300 Rwandans have returned to the country from the Masisi and Rutshuru areas of North Kivu since mid-February. Most of them had supported or joined the Interahamwe and had left Rwanda between mid-1997 and mid-1998, the report noted. It was expected that 10,000-15,000 more refugees would return in the coming months, due to insecurity and poor economic and social conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Displaced people's camps in the northwest Ruhengeri and Gisenyi prefectures have been dismantled and most of the formerly displaced population now resides at new settlement sites, the report said. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator noted that while the displaced population may be largely resettled, this did not imply the crisis in the northwest was over.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ceasefire talks scheduled for Lusaka

The presidents of Angola, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe on Thursday signed a collective defence pact in Luanda committing themselves to a joint response if any one of their countries is attacked. The immediate focus of the Luanda agreement was the DRC, where Angolan, Namibian and Zimbabwean troops are supporting President Laurent-Desire Kabila against the rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), regional analysts told IRIN. The allied leaders on Thursday reaffirmed their backing for Kabila ahead of the next round of ceasefire talks in Lusaka, Zambia, scheduled to take place soon after the Luanda summit. [For full story see separate IRIN item, no.579]

More fighting reported in Katanga

The rebel RCD meanwhile said there had been heavy fighting in Katanga province around the town of Kakuyu. RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba told news organisations that forces loyal to Kabila had fled the area, leaving behind substantial amounts of war materiel.

Nairobi, 9 April 1999, 13:30 gmt


Date: Fri, 9 Apr 1999 16:33:08 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 646 for 9 April [19990409]

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

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