BURUNDI: OCHA Burundi Information Bulletin 16-31 May [19990607]

BURUNDI: OCHA Burundi Information Bulletin 16-31 May [19990607]

Humanitarian Operations in Burundi

Information Bulletin, 16-31 May 1999

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs


DRC threatens to attack Bujumbura On 24 May, DRC army chief Faustin Munene threatened to "attack Bujumbura" in retaliation for what he described as the "active role of Burundian forces in the war". DRC state television reported him as claiming Burundian military helicopters had been flying over Baraka, near Fizi. It said Munene "warns that Congo, having thus been placed in a position of collective and legitimate self-defence, will not hesitate to attack Bujumbura which, incidentally, is only a few kilometres away from Uvira". Burundi reiterated it was not involved in the DRC conflict, but said it had taken "legitimate measures" to protect its borders. A government statement stressed that Burundi had no territorial claims on DRC. "However terrorist groups are spreading insecurity along the common border and infiltrating Burundi from the DRC," the statement said. It added that hundreds of Congolese refugees had been arriving in Burundi. "The government of Burundi appeals to the DRC to be calm and to stop intimidatory manoeuvres."

Arusha Talks The four committees which met in Arusha from 11-22 May as part of the Burundi peace process achieved "appreciable" progress, according to the Nyerere Foundation which is facilitating the talks. Former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere urged delegates "to continue in the same spirit" during the next session, due in July. The EU Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, Aldo Ajello appeared to be less confident. He told the 'East African' that "there is no promise in terms of substance of the talks". The 18 parties participating in the talks have divided themselves into three groups along Hutu-Tutsi lines, Hirondelle news agency reported on Thursday. The "Moshi group" is made of predominantly Hutu parties, the "Group of Eight" brings together eight small, mainly Tutsi parties, while the "Partnership Group" is made up of representatives of the government, National Assembly, the ruling UPRONA party and the internal faction of the main opposition FRODEBU party. UPRONA representative Libere Bararunyeretse told Hirondelle there was a risk the negotiations would turn into an "ethnic confrontation". "When people from the same ethnic group join together, it's the most extreme person who takes control," he warned. However, the leader of the exiled FRODEBU faction, Jean Minani, emphasised that the three groups allowed people with the same ideas to present their views jointly. Burundi Peace Process Minister Ambroise Niyonsaba acknowledged that compromise and consensus may now be possible.

Proposal for transitional Government According to the 'East African', President Buyoya has proposed the setting up of a transitional government to run the country for the next ten years, during which the head of state would be assisted by two vice presidents of different political parties. The main parties would then exchange the leadership positions within the ten year period. In addition, President Buyoya reportedly proposed to expand the existing parliament to accommodate leaders who now live outside the country.

Ndadaye murder trial On 14 May 1999, the Supreme court of Burundi sentenced five people to death for their involvement in the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye in 1993. They are among a total of 79 people sentenced by the court. The others received prison sentences ranging from 1 to 20 years. Another 38 people, including high ranking officials, were acquitted.

Burundian Franc drops in value The 'black market' rate of the Burundian Frank (FBu) has dropped sharply recently. According to the 'Agence Burundaise de Presse' (ABP), the First Governor of Banque de la RÈpublique du Burundi (BRB), declared that the recent fluctuation where one US dollar stands at FBu 840 is related to insufficient foreign exchange reserves. He add that the bulk of Burundi's foreign exchange reserve normally comes in through bilateral and multilateral development cooperation, which is largely suspended. The drop in the FBu will negatively affect the purchasing power of the Burundi's population.

President Buyoya participates in COMESA meeting President Buyoya participated in a meeting of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) held 24-25 May 1999 in Nairobi. COMESA aims to create a common market among its members by 31 October 2000.

Donor support for Arusha talks Donors have contributed more than USD 6 million towards the facilitation of the Burundi peace talks, a press release from the Nyerere Foundation said. About 21 countries and aid agencies have been contributing since 1996.

Contributions to UNDP umbrella programme On 18 May 1999, the Government of Japan announced that it would contribute USD 1 million to UNDP's Umbrella programme. Earlier that month, the Netherlands contributed USD 2 million. UNDP awaits confirmation on other funds promised. For the interim, the USD 600,000 provided by UNDP will cover the operational costs of the project. The Umbrella programme is designed to assist the reinstallation and social integration of returnees and internally displaced persons and the communities where they return.

IFAD The International Fond for Agricultural Development has approved a USD 20 million credit to finance a multi-sectoral rural development programme. The programme, which will be executed Kayanza, Gitega, Karuzi, Cibitoke, Burundi and Ruyigi provinces, has a duration of 7 years

Humanitarian activities

Congolese Refugees arrive in Rumonge Rumonge, in Bururi province, has experienced an influx of over 800 Congolese refugees, who crossed the lake Tanganyika in boats from Baraka in the DRC between 17 and 19 May. The refugees fled the area around Baraka, because of clashes between Mayi-Mayi and the RDC rebels. The Congolese refugees, who only came to buy fuel on their way to Tanzania, were not permitted to continue their voyage by the authorities. As the refugees are now on Burundian soil, Burundi must be regarded as their first country of asylum, which constitutes a legal obstacle for their transfer to Tanzania. As the boats in which they arrived were over-loaded, their onward voyage could be risky. The local authorities have moved the refugees into a large building not far from the port. The refugees were from the onset assisted by the Austrian Help Programme (AHP), who provided health care and water assistance, while the Rumonge Muslim Community donated food items. UNHCR and Concern have distributed 7 day food rations. UNHCR and relevant Ministries are currently identifying a solution for these refugees.

Insecurity in Makamba continues The security situation in the southern part of Makamba province remains volatile, notably in Kayogoro commune. The area around Nyantakara and Gatwe shows visible signs of insecurity such as burnt-out houses and stores. About 12,000 IDPs have sought refuge at three IDP sites in Nyantakara (population 6,000), Gatwe (population 2,500) and Mugeni (population 3,000). Humanitarian agencies are providing assistance although insecurity does often hamper access to the IDPs. Since 7 May, IRC, along with MSF have distributed about 1,800 plastic sheetings at the Nyantakara and Mugeni sites. IRC also repaired water systems at the Gatwe and Mugeni sites. At Nyantakara, which does not have access to potable water a 20,000 litre bladder was installed, while 1,140 jerrycans were distributed. IRC brings in water by truck twice daily. Memisa's mobile clinics provide health care.

Insecurity in Rutana province On 28 May a group of rebels attacked a sugar factory and surrounding area in Bukemba commune in Rutana province, which is bordering the volatile Kayogoro commune in Makamba province. During the attack 11 people were killed, while 8 were wounded. In addition, 142 houses were burned to the ground, while 25 cows and 271 goats were stolen. A UNICEF team did an assessment and will cover emergency non food item needs of the affected populations in collaboration with IFRC.

Refugee school children take part in exams On 26 May, about 1,500 Burundian primary school students in Tanzanian refugee camps took part in the Burundian national admission exams for the secondary school education. This has been made possible through a joint effort of UNHCR and UNICEF. The objective is to allow the pupils to reintegrate in the Burundian school system once they repatriate.

Survey of war affected communities in Ruyigi Following the recent cross border incursions by Burundian rebels into Kininya commune, Oxfam-GB, in collaboration with Action Aid, the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and a consultant, is undertaking a participatory evaluation of the impact of the destruction. The main objective of the evaluation is to assist the community in identifying ways on how to recover from the damage done. During the attack 629 houses were burned, while many people had all of their possessions destroyed or looted.

CRS activities On 31 May 1999 Catholic Relief Services (CRS) completed a community reintegration project, with the completion of 379 houses and 222 latrines in Rutana and Muramvya province. In July CRS hopes to start with the construction of another 1,720 houses in the dioceses of Gitega, Muramvya, Muyinga and Ruyigi. During the month of May CRS distributed 2,778, plastic sheeting, 2.094 blankets, 11, 679 pieces of soap, 1,073 jerrycans, 5,668 pieces of used clothes and other non-food-items to about 23,000 beneficiaries in Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural, Ngozi and Makamba provinces as part of its emergency response activities.

DRA activities The Dutch Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (DRA) is active in Burundi since August 1998, when it started with the implementation of its Peace Reconciliation and Development Programme. DRA's activities, which cover a wide range of activities, target the Kinama, Kamenge and Cibitoke zones of Bujumbura town. An overview of DRA activities to date: provision of agricultural assistance (seeds, tools and training) to 11,000 households; skills training of 430 people; provision of education fees to 606 students; construction of 90 houses for female heads of households; targeting 14,000 people by a dialogue and reconciliation programme. DRA emphasises that its programme is a Burundian-driven initiative, encouraging people to rely on their own capabilities and innate knowledge.

This bulletin is prepared by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Bujumbura, Burundi. It is compiled from input received from humanitarian organisations working in Burundi. Tel: (257) 218034 or 219157/8 Fax: (257) 218035 E-mail:

Item: irin-extra-176

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

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