IRIN Update 694 for 16 June [19990616]

IRIN Update 694 for 16 June [19990616]

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. 694 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 16 June 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Belligerents to meet Thursday

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, chief SADC mediator in the DRC conflict, will chair a meeting of regional leaders on Thursday in South Africa to discuss peace efforts, news agencies said. The Pretoria meeting will bring together leaders from the 14 SADC member countries as well as Rwanda, Uganda, Libya and Kenya, who are all in South Africa for the inauguration of President Thabo Mbeki. "I have prepared an extensive briefing for my colleagues for Thursday's meeting. We are on course to sign the ceasefire on June 25," Reuters quoted Chiluba as saying on Tuesday. It was unclear whether DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila would attend the Pretoria meeting. Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) would not attend Thursday's talks but would consult separately with South Africa, Chiluba and other leaders, Reuters reported.

Chiluba confirmed earlier on Tuesday that the rebels would participate directly in a meeting of SADC foreign and defence ministers and a summit, both scheduled for next week in Lusaka, to try to put an end to the 11-month conflict, news agencies reported.

Mugabe sees end to conflict

Kabila's chief SADC military ally, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, told reporters in Pretoria on Tuesday that he expected the conflict would end before the end of the year. "I think all of us have learnt our lesson in the Congo," Reuters quoted him as saying. Meanwhile, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was quoted by news agencies as saying on Wednesday that his country could provide peacekeepers for the DRC under the "right conditions."

Rebels give five "conditions" for ceasefire

The RCD-Goma group has spelled out its conditions for agreeing to a cease-fire and entering into negotiations with the Kabila government, news agencies said on Tuesday. The rebels' five conditions are that Kabila stops bombing rebel-held towns, frees political prisoners, allows political parties to operate freely, disarms Kinshasa-allied rebels from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, and stops attacks on ethnic Tutsis in the Congo, agencies reported. Rebel spokesman Kin-Kiey Mulumba told the Associated Press that Kabila "has seven days to reply. In the meantime, we're continuing to fight."

St. Egidio and Francophonie facilitate debate preparations

Officials from the Roman Catholic St. Egidio Community and the Francophonie organisation said in Kinshasa on Monday that they planned on setting up an all-inclusive committee to organise the proposed Congolese national debate, news agencies reported. Quoting a statement issued by the two officials, Reuters said the committee would include rebels, opposition groups and the Kabila government. It said the facilitators had begun their consultations last month with Congolese exiles in Europe and had arrived in Kinshasa last week. "The facilitators will continue their efforts to smooth the difficulties faced and to give every chance for the inter-Congolese debate to take place," the statement said.

Rebel split affecting Kisangani population

The "political and military confusion" prevailing in Kisangani as a result of the split in the rebel movement last month has raised tensions and insecurity in the town and reduced chances for a durable peace, a local human rights group said. In a report received by IRIN on Wednesday, the Christian Groupe Justice et Liberation (GLC) said the presence in Kisangani of both the RCD-Goma and RCD-Kisangani factions had divided the city, prompted fresh attempts at inciting ethnic hatred and led to increased arrests and intimidation of people on the basis of their political opinions. Kisangani residents were being "held hostage" by the rebel factions, and there was concern that "what is now happening on the ground could be the start of the balkanisation of the country," the report said.

ICRC not approached over "exchange" of prisoners

ICRC on Wednesday said it had not been approached by the Ugandan or Chadian governments on their intentions to "exchange" prisoners of war (POWs) captured in the DRC. Ugandan media had reported that the two countries would exchange POWs under the supervision of ICRC. "We have not been approached by any of the parties involved about the exchange," ICRC spokesman Juan Martinez told IRIN. He said ICRC had recently visited 27 POWs in Chad "but all were Congolese."

Meanwhile, RCD rebels in Lusambo, Kasai Oriental province, were holding 43 prisoners of war, including 35 Congolese, six Namibians and two Zimbabweans, AFP said on Wednesday. Other allied soldiers were killed or wounded when the rebels captured the town last week, it said.

DRC/BURUNDI: UNHCR repatriates Burundian refugees

UNHCR on Wednesday repatriated 107 Burundian refugees from the DRC to Bujumbura, and additional repatriations are planned for the coming days. In a statement received by IRIN, UNHCR said the operation was the first major repatriation of Burundian refugees in the DRC in almost a year. They included Burundians who had fled civil strife in their home country in 1972, 1991 and 1993. The refugees had subsequently fled the Kivu region in late 1996 due to conflict and had walked some 1,000 km to Mbuji-Mayi, the statement said.

Some 20,000 Burundian refugees are believed to be living in villages across the DRC, the statement said. In a trial repatriation on 30 May, seven Burundian refugees were repatriated from Mbuji-Mayi on a UNHCR-chartered aircraft, the first officially-sanctioned humanitarian flight between the DRC and Burundi since the start of the current conflict in August 1998, the statement added.

BURUNDI: Red Cross to supply 125,000 with household basics

Some 125,000 people are to benefit over the next three months from the distribution of food and household goods such as soap, blankets and jerrycans as part of a Red Cross rehabilitation programme, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Wednesday. In a statement received by IRIN, IFRC said funding for the items will be provided by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO). The IFRC is also to provide nails, windows and tools to help resettle returning refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country. In addition to returning refugees, Burundi has some 500,000 IDPs in need of assistance, the statement added.

RWANDA: Prosecutors seek life sentence for former militia leader

Prosecutors at the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday asked for the maximum life sentence for former Interahamwe vice-president Georges Rutaganda, the independent Hirondelle news agency said. "Without the participation of Georges Rutaganda, the murderous spiral of the Rwandan genocide would not have functioned the way it did," Canadian prosecutor James Stewart told the court during closing arguments in the two-year trial. Rutaganda is charged with eight counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with massacres committed in Kigali and in Masango commune, Gitarama prefecture, where at least 2,000 Tutsis were slaughtered in 1994, Hirondelle reported.

One life sentence for genocide, 31 suspects acquitted

Meanwhile, a man convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Nyamata court, the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported on Wednesday. Eighteen others received sentences of between seven and 20 years while 31 suspects were released from detention. The trial started on 19 April. RNA quoted Nyamata prosecutor James Sevagamba as saying some of the 31 suspects were acquitted because of lack of evidence, while others were found to be not guilty.

$10 million from US to speed up justice

Rwandan radio reported on Tuesday that the United States was to provide US$ 10 million to support the Rwandan judiciary. The donation was announced by US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, David Scheffer. "I'm here to talk with government officials and with the office of the prosecutor of the Arusha Tribunal in Kigali about how to keep moving forward on bringing justice from the 1994 genocide," Scheffer said. The US official said his government would provide the funding in support of Rwanda's domestic justice initiatives - including the possible use of traditional 'Gacaca Law', though its use has yet to be passed by parliament - to speed up the justice process.

UGANDA: Opposition "too broke" to challenge multi-partyism referendum

'The Monitor' newspaper reported on Wednesday that the opposition Democratic Party (DP) was "too broke" to challenge the government's proposed referendum on multi-party politics in the Constitutional Court. While the opposition opposed the referendum, saying it implied the principle of democracy was up for debate, the paper quoted party president Dr Paul Ssemogerere as saying it did not have enough resources to pursue the case. An Electoral Commission member, Robert Kitariko, on Wednesday announced that campaigning for the referendum would start on 3 July, after a Referendum Act is put in place later this month, the newspaper reported.

Nairobi, 16 June 1999, 16:00 gmt


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Item: irin-english-1044

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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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