CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 672 for 17 May [19990517]

CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 672 for 17 May [19990517]

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. 672 for Central and Eastern Africa (Monday 17 May 1999)

BURUNDI: Five sentenced to death in Ndadaye murder trial

The Supreme Court has sentenced five people to death for their involvement in the 1993 assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye, BBC Kirundi service reported. They were named as Paul Kamana - an officer who is in exile and regarded as the ringleader -, Laurent Nzeyimana, Juvenal Gahungu, Sylvere Nduwumukama and Emmanuel Ndayizeye. They are among a total of 79 people sentenced by the court. The others received sentences ranging from 20 years to one year. Another 38 people were acquitted including high-ranking officials such as the former army chief of staff Colonel Jean Bikomagu, the former defence minister Colonel Charles Ntakije and Colonel Isaie Nibizi who was charged with the president's security.

Burundi analyst, Jan van Eck of the Centre for Conflict Resolution in South Africa, told IRIN on Monday the long-running trial - begun under Ndadaye's successor Sylvestre Ntibantunganya - had been controversial from the beginning. He said it was courageous of President Pierre Buyoya to continue the trial as he risked alienating his own supporters, but the real ringleaders were outside the country and it was doubtful whether those who wanted real justice for Ndadaye's murder would be satisfied. "This trial raises the whole issue that Burundians are battling with," Van Eck said. "Do you conclude a trial like this before a peace agreement is in place which would make the institutions more legitimate?" While the trial did not undermine the peace process as it demonstrated an attempt to end impunity in the region, it was a question of perception in that the institutions would be regarded as biased.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Government ready to talk to rebels

The DRC is ready to hold "direct talks" with rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), according to a statement issued in Sirte, Libya on Saturday. The statement, reported by Libyan television, followed a meeting attended by Presidents Laurent-Desire Kabila of DRC, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso [current chairman of OAU], Idriss Deby of Chad, Ange Felix Patasse of Central African Republic, Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea, Yahiah Jammeh of Gambia, Rwandan Vice President Paul Kagame, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, former Algerian president Ahmed Ben Ben Bella and the UN Secretary-General's special envoy for DRC Mustapha Niasse. According to the television report, the sides involved in the conflict "narrowed their points of view".

However, Rwandan officials denied Rwanda had put its name to the statement. News organisations quoted officials as saying "no accord was signed in Sirte. Rwanda cannot sign anything until guarantees on its concerns, particularly regarding our security, have been taken into account". The BBC quoted Kagame as having reminded Libya that "former Hutu militiamen and soldiers based in Congo pose a serious threat to Rwanda and regional stability ... and have to be dealt with before a meaningful peaceful settlement emerges".

RCD meets allies in Goma

Meanwhile, a four-party meeting between the RCD and Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania began in Goma on Sunday, rebel-held Radio Bukavu reported. It said the meeting would look at ways of ending the war peacefully.

Wamba reportedly ousted as RCD leader

According to Rwandan radio, the RCD on Monday dissolved its leadership, ousting Ernest Wamba dia Wamba as the chairman. The new leaders would be announced soon, it added. Wamba has been at odds with Goma-based members of the RCD and last month he left the rebel stronghold to be based in Kisangani. Wamba, who was in Goma over the weekend to attend the four-party meeting, had earlier addressed problems of divisions within the RCD, noting there were "differences of background, differences of objectives", Rwandan radio said.

DRC reinforces war front

The DRC government has reportedly sent reinforcements to the war front, according to Gabonese radio on Saturday. Its correspondent in Kinshasa said soldiers, "mostly young men with red bands around their heads", were heading for the international airport. "They are new units being sent to the war front with heavy-duty weapons." The radio said it appeared that after the air attacks on Goma and Uvira, the allied forces "are determined to strike hard". Noting the diplomatic moves currently underway in Libya, the radio commented it seemed that President Laurent-Desire Kabila wanted to negotiate peace from a position of force.

RWANDA: Ntuyahaga hearing again postponed

A Tanzanian court has again postponed hearing the extradition case of genocide suspect, Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, the Hirondelle news agency reported on Monday. The defendant - wanted by both Belgium and Rwanda in connection with the murder of ex- Rwandan premier Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers - is requesting a bilingual defence lawyer. The Tanzanian authorities have agreed to extradite him to Rwanda, but this has to be ratified by the court. The hearing is now scheduled for Wednesday.

UGANDA: Defence spending to be cut

The government is planning to cut defence expenditure by 22 percent in the next financial year, the semi-official 'Sunday Vision' reported. It said the move was aimed at funding other priorities such as education, poverty alleviation and paying depositers in the collapsed Greenland Bank. The government also intends to save money by postponing the issuing of national identity cards, the census and a new jet for the president. Defence expenditure this financial year is expected to top 213 billion shillings, and the government wants to cut it drastically to 170 billion, the newspaper said. Donors have expressed growing concern about the rise in defence expenditure.

Rebel group warns of further attacks

The rebel National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU) has claimed responsibility for a string of bomb blasts in Kampala that have killed 13 people this year, news organisations reported. In a statement sent to 'The Monitor', signed by NALU's chairman Jafari Salimy, the group warned of more bomb attacks and said Ugandans should avoid the company of westerners or government officials. NALU, which is linked to the Ruwenzori-based rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), is reportedly targeting the west for its support of President Yoweri Museveni. Analysts have dismissed the "capability" of NALU, arguing it is a "mouthpiece" rather than an organised group.

Nairobi, 17 May 1999, 14:45 gmt


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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

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