IRIN-CEA Update 703 for 29 June

IRIN-CEA Update 703 for 29 June

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-CEA Update No. 703 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 29 June 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Lusaka talks creaking badly

Representatives of the countries and rebel groups involved in the DRC conflict met again in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on Tuesday amid growing fears that too many differences remained and too few implementation details had been pinned down for any sustainable peace agreement to emerge. "It looks like it's breaking down...I'd say it's dead in the water", one analyst monitoring the talks told IRIN on Tuesday.

While DRC Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia felt the parties were "working towards an acceptable agreement", Kinshasa was concerned at what was meant in the draft accord by "an integrated army" and the formation of verification committees to oversee the peace process. It also objected to clauses that would enable rebels to administer areas they currently occupy after a troop standstill, Reuters reported.

Single rebel signature foreseen

The Congolese rebel groups were prepared to sign up to a ceasefire on Tuesday, an informed source told IRIN. If an agreement can be pushed through, to come into effect on 3 July, the signatories would be the DRC, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the Congolese rebels - with just one representative signing for the three rebel groups: the two factions of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), and the Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), according to the sixth revision of the draft agreement, seen by IRIN.

Vagueness of draft ceasefire raises concern

A particular difficulty noted by observers was the extreme vagueness - in lack of implementation details, modalities and mechanisms - of the text. The draft agreement referred, for instance, to "a mechanism for the verification and monitoring of the ceasefire" and said foreign forces should withdraw "after the effective deployment of a peacekeeping operation" without detailing what would occur on the ground and at what point, one regional security analyst told IRIN.

No "contradiction" in UN organ actions

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Monday that the action of the UN Security Council on the DRC issue was not in "contradiction" with that of the International Court of Justice, which last week took up a complaint filed by the DRC against Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. "They are two separate things," Eckhard said in New York in response to a journalist's query. "The Council was discussing not the legal side of it, but the security side," he said. "Both are doing their job as laid out in the [UN] Charter."

Tutsi evacuation praised

A Banyamulenge group, the Forces republicaines et federalistes (FRF), has hailed the release of some 360 mainly Congolese Tutsis in Katanga province. In a statement sent to IRIN, the FRF said it now awaited the release of "hundreds of others" in Kinshasa and other places. The FRF also accused the RCD of "having neither the means, nor clear political ideas", and said this had reinforced tensions between different communities in the Kivu region.

Meanwhile, an ICRC spokesman told IRIN on Tuesday that another 100 civilian internees were scheduled to be flown from Kinshasa to Kigali on Sunday. He said the DRC government had agreed to the evacuation operation following an ICRC request that civilian internees be released in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

RWANDA: Economic discipline likely to bring IMF reward

The IMF has begun a detailed analysis of Rwanda's economy and debt and expects Rwanda to benefit from substantial debt relief under the expanded Highly-Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative agreed by the G-7 richest countries last week, an IMF spokesman told IRIN on Monday. The Rwandan economy has performed well for the past two years despite the difficult legacy of the 1994 genocide and its involvement in the DRC conflict, and it was expected to receive debt relief next year, coming into effect in the year 2001, as a reward for its good economic performance, the spokesman said. The IMF did not quantify the potential scale of debt relief but the international campaigning group Jubilee 2000 has estimated a saving in debt-service payments of between a half and two-thirds when Rwanda joins the HIPC scheme.

Rwanda's planned replacement of damaging trade taxes with a value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services would have significant economic impact by boosting badly-needed government revenue while reducing tax evasion and corruption, the spokesman said. All in all, he added, Rwanda had "resisted the temptation to let its budget run out of control to finance the war effort in DRC" and, despite some problems, its economic growth, low inflation, sustained social spending and compliance with agreed IMF/World Bank economic targets was "impressive."

Genocide trial ends

Genocide suspect Alfred Musema should be found not guilty because he was not at the scene of the crimes, defence lawyers told the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday. "The defence is one of alibi," the independent Hirondelle news agency quoted defence counsel Steven Kay as saying during the trial's closing arguments. Musema, a former tea factory director, is accused of ordering and participating in massacres in the Bisesero region of Kibuye during the 1994 genocide. He is also accused of rape.

Over the course of the five-month trial, Musema's defence team showed the court various documents, including letters and bills, as proof that Musema was not in Kibuye prefecture at the time he is accused of committing the crimes, Hirondelle said. Prosecutors contested the alibi defence, saying the accused had "covered his tracks." ICTR presiding judge Lennart Aspegren was quoted as saying as the trial ended on Monday: "I can tell you we will need a few months" for a judgement to be delivered.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Amnesty offer reiterated

The Congo has repeated its offer to give amnesty to "all young men who have taken up arms within Congo provided they give up violence and surrender," government spokesman Francois Ibovi said on Radio Congo on Thursday. Ibovi also said those outside the country could "come back home without being bothered" if they gave up fighting, the radio reported.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Former minister to run in presidential polls

The chairman of the Democratic Forum for Liberty, Charles Massi, has announced his intention to contest this year's presidential election. Massi, a former agriculture minister, was appointed by his party following an extraordinary assembly in the capital, Bangui, on Monday, Gabonese radio reported. President Ange-Felix Patasse, chairman of the ruling Central African People's Liberation Movement, has also said he will be standing for reelection.

Meanwhile, Patasse, in an interview with RFI last week, indicated that the presidential elections would be held before the constitutional deadline at the end of August.

Nairobi, 29 June 1999, 16:00 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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