IRIN Update 688 for 8 June [19990608]

IRIN Update 688 for 8 June [19990608]

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. 688 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 8 June 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebel groups agree to discuss united front

The three rebel factions fighting the government of President Laurent Desire Kabila on Tuesday agreed to meet each other and their Rwandan and Ugandan backers in the southwestern Ugandan town of Kabale in an effort to form a united front ahead of ceasefire talks planned for Lusaka later this month, the Associated Press reported. It said Bizima Karaha, a leader of the mainstream Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), backed by Rwanda, had shifted from his refusal on Monday to talk with the two other factions: the splinter group backing ousted RCD leader, Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, and the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba. He initially did not accept they had equal standing with his group.

Bemba favours "common front", not absorption of MLC

Jean-Pierre Bemba said he was in favour of a united front but not of having the MLC absorbed, according to news reports. "I think I would prefer not to be part of the RCD, but to be a common front where we could talk the same language. I am ready to work for liberating the country with anyone who has a clear mind, who is democratic and who wants to install justice and respect for human rights", Bemba said.

Different agendas challenge war solution

A Brussels-based think tank has pointed out the greatest challenge to resolving the DRC war is that six separate disputes are being waged on Congolese territory, and the internal conflict in DRC is inseparably linked to the internal problems facing the other countries involved. The International Crisis Group (ICG), in its latest report on the DRC conflict, recalls that in addition to the war between Kinshasa and the DRC rebels, there are the conflicts between Rwanda and the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, Uganda and its own rebels as well as Sudan, Burundi and the FDD, Angola and UNITA, Congo-Brazzaville and rebel militias. "The war has not yet produced any winners or losers," the report says. "If the war does produce a victor, the field will be free for the imposition of another dictatorship and the culture of violence will become even more deeply ingrained in Congo."

The report stresses that the stakes for all those involved are very high. "The [DRC] rebels are today divided between those seeking to overthrow Kabila by exercising the military option, who are supported by the Rwandans, and those who would prefer a negotiated settlement and an end to hostilities. The latter group are willing to accept Kabila as president of a transitional government." [report available on]

Government meets Ugandan delegation to discuss Sirte deal

A meeting has taken place in Kinshasa between officials of President Kabila's government and a Ugandan delegation on the modalities for the implementation of the Sirte peace accord, according to DRC radio reports on Monday. The DRC minister of national reconstruction, Kalume Numbi, said he had convened the preparatory meeting in order to discuss strategies, the definition of essential tasks and the distribution of these tasks. "The coming negotiations are so important that we need to prepare for them seriously", Numbi added.

Mugabe says Rwanda blocking peace efforts

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe said on Monday that Rwanda's unilateral ceasefire declaration was "false and deceptive", and that Kigali remained the main stumbling block to peace. Speaking after a meeting in Harare of Kabila's allies - attended by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Namibian President Sam Nujoma and, in Kabila's place, the foreign affairs and justice ministers of the DRC, Yerodia Ndombasi and Mwenze Kongolo - Mugabe said Uganda had been making efforts towards peace since the Sirte accord in Libya "but the same could not be said of Rwanda".

Rebels "in full control" of Kabila's home town

RCD rebels and allied Rwandan soldiers were on Monday "in full control" of Manono, the home town in Katanga region of President Kabila, according to an AFP journalist who visited the town. Kinshasa on Saturday denied that the town had fallen to the rebels. Manono was like a ghost town, the streets and houses deserted by residents fearing reprisals, AFP reported. About 500 Zimbabwean soldiers who had been defending the airport at Manono had now withdrawn to Ankoro, 40 miles to the north, AFP quoted Colonel Songolo Nura, rebel leader for Katanga region, as saying.

RCD sets its eyes on Lubumbashi

Nura told AFP, meanwhile, that the rebels' next objective was Malemba Nkula, 60 miles to the southwest of Manono, as a stepping-stone to Lubumbashi, DRC's second city, where around 30,000 Congolese government troops and allied Zimbabwean, Angolan and Namibian troops are reported to be based. Manono "will serve as a hub to supply our troops heading for Mbuji Mayi in eastern Kasai province and Lubumbashi", Nura said. AFP also reported that Rwandan troops backing the RCD were very much in evidence in Katanga region.

RWANDA: Call to extend transition period

Eight political parties represented in parliament have called for extending the transition period by two to five years, the Rwanda News Agency reported on Monday. The five-year transition is due to end next month, but the leader of the Parti social democrate (PSD), Charles Ntakirutinka, also the minister of social affairs, pointed out the government's objectives had not yet been achieved. He noted there should be laws in place to ensure good governance, political parties, the electoral process and the constitution. His comments were echoed by Parti liberal (PL) leader, Pie Mugabo. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) agreed the transition should be extended, but said a time limit should not be imposed. Its secretary-general, Charles Murigande, said Rwanda was a special case and there were still challenges to be met.

ICTR assessing potential prison spaces for convicts

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is still holding talks with several countries in Africa and Europe to see if they are prepared to provide prison space for genocide convicts. A spokesman, quoted by the BBC, said the Tribunal had signed a deal with Mali, that similar deals with Zambia and Benin were imminent, and that it was assessing the adequacy of facilities in several other countries which had expressed their willingness to accept prisoners.

It was not expected that convicts of the ICTR would be mixed in the same cells as national prisoners, and the Tribunal would ensure that minimum UN standards were respected in the service of sentences, according to a Tribunal statement on Monday. Five convicted prisoners are currently being held at the court in Arusha, northern Tanzania, pending appeal.

New Tribunal president "to increase pace of trials"

The newly-elected president of the ICTR, Judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, on Monday said her priority will be "to increase the pace of trials with a view to completing the Tribunal's task within its current mandate period" of four years. "There has to be a limit to the number of suspects we are able to pursue, otherwise we will not be able to finish the cases within the period of our mandate", ICTR spokesman Kingley Moghalu added.

Government plans cost-saving rail route to Tanzania

The Rwandan government is to set up a 480 km railway link between Kigali and Isaka in northern Tanzania in order to reduce the cost of commodity imports, according to Rwandan Transport Minister Vincent Biruta, quoted by the Rwandan News Agency on Monday. The railway line has been planned to ease the burden to the Rwandan economy of transporting goods by road from Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, Biruta said. In a related development, the Tanzanian government has agreed to remove a tax imposed earlier this year on goods, especially sugar, in transit through the country to Rwanda, Biruta told RNA.

TANZANIA: Government rejects Burundi request to hunt rebels

Tanzania has rejected a request by Burundi that it be allowed cross the border into Tanzania and arrest rebels, or that Tanzania conduct a crackdown against rebels who flee into the country after military clashes in Burundi, the Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily has reported. The newspaper quoted Defence Minister Edgar Maokola-Majogo as saying that rebels who crossed the border into Tanzania were regarded as "normal refugees" under UN rules and regulations, and that Burundian troops giving chase into Tanzania would cause "chaos and confusion" along the border. If refugees were trouble-makers or endangered other people's lives, they would normally be repatriated, Maokola-Majogo added. The minister also denied allegations that Tanzania was training Burundi rebels, the 'Guardian' reported.

UGANDA: Rebels threaten to bomb eight towns

Rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are planning to bomb eight towns in Uganda, the independent 'Sunday Monitor' newspaper reported. The threat, contained in an ADF document, was handed over to the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) at Kamwenge by a former ADF commander, Mugisha Ali, who defected last month. The document also contained names of the people given the responsibility to bomb the towns of Mbarara, Ntungamo, Hoima and Masindi in the west, Masaka and Kampala in central Uganda, and Iganga in the east.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ninjas deny massacre report

The Ninja Self-Defence Force (FAN), loyal to ousted premier Bernard Kolelas, on Sunday denied press reports that it had attacked civilian vehicles, killing at least 60 people travelling between Pool and Brazzaville. In a statement received by IRIN on Tuesday, it acknowledged there had been an attack "but against three military vehicles carrying soldiers coming from Kinkala". The militia stressed there were currently no civilian vehicles travelling between the Pool region and Brazzaville.

Nguesso marks second anniversary

The Republic of Congo on Saturday marked the second anniversary of the civil war that brought incumbent President Denis Sassou Nguesso to power. News organisations termed it a "morose" celebration as insecurity had led to the suspension of railway transport, causing massive food shortages, with the country embroiled in deep economic crisis.

Nairobi, 8 June 1999, 15:15 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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