IRIN Update 667 for 5/10/99

IRIN Update 667 for 5/10/99

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. 667 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 10 May 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Interahamwe disarmament key to settlement - Ajello

The search for a negotiated settlement to the DRC conflict is "still a long process", although some progress has been achieved, EU special envoy for the Great Lakes region Aldo Ajello told IRIN on Monday. Ajello said one of the "most sensitive" issues was the disarmament of ex-FAR and Interahamwe forces remaining in the DRC. "The point has been accepted, but there are serious differences over who should do it and when - before or after the withdrawal of foreign troops," Ajello said. One possible solution would be for the DRC government to take charge of their disarmament before the deployment of a full international force, which would then have more of a non-combat observer role, he said.

A "temporary solution" would then have to be found for those disarmed militia implicated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Ajello said, adding that Rwanda was in the process of speeding up its justice system to deal with genocide cases. Ajello said, however, that not all the estimated 15,000-20,000 ex-FAR/Interahamwe combatants in the DRC were involved in the Rwandan genocide. Many were part of a "new generation", recruited from the former refugee camps in eastern DRC, and this group could be resettled. Rwanda had indicated that these militia "would not face justice for what they have done as combatants in the Kivus", he added.

Regarding a DRC ceasefire, Ajello said the parties had largely agreed on the elements of a plan, but "big differences" remained regarding the implementation, sequence and timing.

Rebel authorities cooperating over Watsa epidemic

Reports from the ground in the northeastern Watsa area, where an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever has been identified, describe the security situation as quiet. A medical team - including MSF, WHO and Congolese doctors - says cooperation from the rebel authorities in the area has been good. In a report received by IRIN, the team noted that most of the victims in nearby Durba, were male adults between 30 and 50 years of age, most of them working illegally at the local goldmines. The report noted that most of these workers, known as "orpailleurs", are exploiting mines that have been abandoned. They live in primitive and unsanitary surroundings, and their working conditions are very often unhygienic. The majority of them travel to Uganda to sell their gold and the areas they transit will have to be investigated, the report stated. So far, around 60 people have died. Tests conducted on five samples in South Africa last week revealed one case of the Marburg virus.

First flight between Kinshasa and rebel territory since August

A humanitarian flight bringing medical personnel and equipment from Kinshasa landed in Watsa on Saturday, after a refuelling stop in Goma, according to a statement from the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the DRC capital. The direct flight, facilitated by UNHCR, carried a team of Congolese and WHO epidemiologists. This was the first direct flight between Kinshasa and rebel-held territory since the war broke out last August.

Meanwhile, several cases resembling the "Durba syndrome", as the disease is known, have been observed in the Bumba area of Province Equateur, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Monday.

Nairobi talks postponed until June

Kenya has formally announced the postponement of DRC peace talks, Kenyan television reported. A statement from the foreign ministry said the talks, slated to start 15 May, will now be held in early June "to allow for consultations with participants". This will also give extra time to work out "a more comprehensive logistical support base", the statement added. The talks have been beset with problems, with leading members of civil society as well as the rebels refusing to attend.

Kabila visits Libya

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila arrived in Libya on Saturday for talks with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan radio reported. On Sunday, the two sides signed the minutes of an economic, trade and investment cooperation accord. A Libyan envoy, meanwhile, is touring the Great Lakes region in connection with the Sirte accord, signed recently by Kabila and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

UGANDA: Government "ready" to pull out of DRC

The Ugandan government is "ready" to pull out of the DRC so long as it can find a "neutral" force to safeguard its security concerns, government officials confirmed to IRIN on Monday. They said once security of the country was guaranteed, Uganda would withdraw from DRC soil.

"The position of the government of Uganda is very clear, our concern is security," State Minister in charge of presidency Rukahana Rugunda told IRIN. He said once the country was certain foreign troops had pulled out to allow for a comprehensive ceasefire, "we will have no business being in that country. We will leave DRC to solve its on problems".

"If we get any neutral force that can take charge of our military concerns we will pull out soonest," a defence ministry source added. He told IRIN the presence of Ugandan soldiers in the DRC was legitimate and in line with a previous agreement between the two countries. Analysts say donors are pressuring Uganda to disengage from DRC.

Uganda trains Congolese soldiers "in preparation for withdrawal"

A first batch of Congolese rebel soldiers trained by Uganda "graduated" on Saturday, the semi-official daily 'New Vision' reported at the weekend. The paper said 1,550 rebels of the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), which is led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, were trained in the northern DRC town of Lisala and were "ready to fight." The troops are being trained in preparation for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops, the 'New Vision' said.

BURUNDI: "Some disagreement" between Buyoya and Nyerere

President Pierre Buyoya on Sunday held talks with the Burundi peace process mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, in a meeting described as "successful". Burundi's Senior Presidential Adviser Apollinaire Gahungu told IRIN however there were "some issues of disagreement". He added it was difficult to speak of progress in the Arusha peace process when rebel attacks were still being launched from Tanzanian territory. According to a Burundi government statement sent to IRIN on Monday, Buyoya's visit to Tanzania enabled him to discuss with both Nyerere and Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa the security problems along the two countries' common border. Nyerere said the both countries must find a solution to this problem which risked "inflaming" bilateral ties.

Nyerere and Buyoya expressed the hope that the Arusha process would be speeded up. According to the statement, Nyerere said he would invite the rebel Forces democratiques pour la democratie (FDD) to the talks, from which they have so far been excluded. However Gahungu clarified to IRIN that Nyerere stressed they could not come "under the banner of CNDD", which is represented by Leonard Nyangoma. The CNDD-FDD faction opposes Nyangoma.

Meanwhile, the Burundi government expressed concern over a recent meeting in Moshi, Tanzania, between seven Hutu-dominated parties, reportedly facilitated by the Nyerere Foundation. Gahungu said the aim of the meeting - which included the exiled faction of FRODEBU and CNDD - was for the parties to find a common platform to be presented at the Arusha talks. The Arusha process resumed on Monday. According to the government statement, public opinion in Burundi believes the Moshi meeting was aimed at the "ethnic bipolarisation of the inter-Burundi talks".

RWANDA: UN appoints head of genocide probe

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday appointed former Swedish prime minister Ingvar Carlsson to head an investigation into the role of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide, a move hailed by Human Rights Watch. "The UN can never right the wrong it did in abandoning the people of Rwanda, but at least it can tell the truth about its failure," HRW said in a press release. "This enquiry should also shed light on the shameful behaviour of individual countries as the massacre unfolded," it added.

Nairobi, 10 May 1999, 15:30 gmt


Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 18:42:10 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 667 for 10 May [19990510]

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

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