IRIN Update 647 for 4/12/99

IRIN Update 647 for 4/12/99

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. 647 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 12 April 1999)

RWANDA: MDR tries to shed its past

The Mouvement democratique republicain (MDR), part of Rwanda's coalition government, has urged forgiveness for the "divisive ideology" of some of its leaders who incited the 1994 genocide. Rwandan radio said the party leader, Prime Minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigema, made the appeal on behalf of his party in a statement delivered on Saturday. The statement noted that some MDR members "transformed themselves into MDR-Power and led the 1994 genocide and massacres". It stressed that this genocide ideology was contrary to the MDR's principles of democracy and republicanism.

Stating it wanted to bury the past, the MDR also announced sweeping changes with a different statute and new flag, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported. The new red and green colours symbolise respectively the blood shed by Rwandans and the hope for a new, unified Rwanda. Rwigema explained that hardline party MPs had been expelled from parliament and further purges could be expected within the party. At the time of the genocide, the party was split into extremists and moderates, with Rwigema a member of the latter. He has rejected allegations of his involvement in the genocide as "political character assassination".

British minister apologises for world's failure

British Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short, who arrived in Rwanda on Sunday, again stressed that the international community had failed in its humanitarian duty by simply watching as the genocide unfolded. Apologising for this failure, she stressed that Britain's policy was to support the Rwandan government in rebuilding the country. The British minister was due to meet Vice-President Paul Kagame on Monday and sign an aid protocol.

Interahamwe chief testifies at ICTR

At the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), a former leader of the Interahamwe, Georges Rutaganda, said the militia had no organised structure and began as a "forum of intellectuals" from the now-defunct MRND party of ex-president Juvenal Habyarimana. Presenting his own defence before the Tribunal on Friday, the militia's former second vice-president said the Interahamwe did not start off as a youth organisation, the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. "That only came about later," he told the court. Rutaganda's testimony, due to continue on Monday, was postponed due to the defendant's ill health.

Genocide suspect on trial in Switzerland

Meanwhile, in Lausanne, Switzerland, a former Rwandan mayor has gone on trial for war crimes, Hirondelle reported. The trial of Fulgence Niyonteze, ex-mayor of Mushubati commune in Gitarama prefecture, began on Monday and is due to last until the end of the month. This is the first time a country, other than Rwanda, has judged a genocide suspect, the news agency pointed out. The ICTR has not called for Mushubati's extradition. He arrived in Switzerland in October 1994 and asked for political asylum.

Release of genocide suspects postponed

Officials in Rwanda's western Kibuye prefecture have postponed the release of over 1,000 genocide suspects, who have no case files, for their own safety, Rwandan radio reported on Friday. The officials said they believed the public had not been "sensitised enough to receive the suspects peacefully". The inmates were due to have been released on Monday.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels "pushing on to Kinshasa"

Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) say they have repelled a counter-offensive by troops loyal to President Laurent-Desire Kabila and are pushing on to Kinshasa, AP reported. It quoted rebel commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane as saying the objective "remains the liberation of the whole country". He was speaking in the Katangese town of Kakuyu which fell to the rebels last Wednesday. Kakuyu is a strategic town en route to the diamond-rich centre of Mbuji-Mayi, and some 920 km east of Kinshasa.

Kabila visits Kenya, Tanzania

Kabila himself recently returned to Lubumbashi following visits to Kenya and Tanzania, news organisations said. He was reportedly seeking backing for negotiations to end the eight-month rebellion, according to AP.

BURUNDI: Discussions resume in Arusha

Eighteen Burundian delegations on Monday resumed discussions on the nature of the country's conflict in Arusha, Tanzania, as part of the ongoing peace process, Fondation Hirondelle reported. The talks are due to last until 22 April, after which the discussion committee will put forward proposals. Participants will examine the question of "ethnic discrimination" and make suggestions on promoting national reconciliation.

UGANDA: Two killed in bomb blast

Two people were killed and 13 others injured when a bomb exploded in Kampala on Sunday. According to the semi-official 'New Vision', the device went off in the city centre at the old taxi park, 400 metres from the scene of a blast on Saturday night which injured four people. A senior police officer, Godfrey Bangirana, said some leads were being followed, and a security source, cited by the newspaper, blamed "terrorists" for the attacks. The source urged vigilance as the perpetrators could strike again.

Thousands of Sudanese refugees expected from DRC

The first few hundred of an anticipated influx of thousands of Sudanese refugees have crossed into Uganda from northeastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, joining other Sudanese refugees in camps and settlements in the Ugandan district of Arua, according to WFP's latest weekly report.

With insecurity having dispersed many of an estimated 30,000-35,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern DRC, aid agencies are preparing for up to 10,000 of them to enter Uganda. On arrival there, the refugees are being screened by UNHCR and provided with food rations by WFP, which is pre-positioning food stocks in order to cope.

TANZANIA: WFP aid programme hampered

A combination of resourcing shortfalls and delays in food arrivals is continuing to hamper WFP's programme to assist 340,000 refugees and over one million drought-affected people, according to the organisation's weekly report.

To date, only 70 percent of the 20,000 mt of food needed for its drought relief programme has been resourced. WFP is also using cash contributions to purchase some of the food required locally.

Nairobi, 12 April 1999, 14:30 gmt


Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 17:31:01 +0300 (EAT) Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 647 for 12 April [19990412]

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

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