IRIN-CEA Update 715 for 15 July [19990716]

IRIN-CEA Update 715 for 15 July [19990716]

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. 715 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 15 July 1999)

RWANDA: Top judicial officials replaced

Rwanda's erstwhile general prosecutor Simeon Rwagasore has been appointed the new president of the country's supreme court, the Hirondelle news agency reported. Five vice-presidents were also approved and appointed by parliament on Monday. The agency recalled that all the court's former officials had been asked to resign. It said the functioning of the court had become more and more paralysed, and Rwagasore's predecessor, Jean Mutsinzi had complained to the Rwandan authorities that magistrates from the former regime had not been replaced and were "sabotaging" the institution. He said they had refused to carry out his orders and accused them of "insubordination". In particular, the ex-president of the State Council, Alype Nkundiyaremye, had described the country's genocide law of 1996 as "unconstitutional".

Hirondelle said the stagnation of the court had severe consequences for the judicial system, with numerous tribunals unable to function as there was no coordination. Many genocide cases were pending as a result. There was also corruption within the court as many of its employees had not been paid for months. Hirondelle cited analysts as saying the new appointments were all "government-approved".

Category One list amended

Before his new appointment, Rwagasore - in his capacity as general prosecutor - announced he had put his signature to a new list of "first category" genocide suspects. At least 800 names were withdrawn from the old list and replaced by 900 new suspects. Hirondelle noted that the first list, comprising some 1,946 names, had come under criticism for "imprecisions and repetition of names". Some of the people on the list had died before 1994, or were even victims of the genocide. Others were found to be innocent. Now, the list has been "corrected", Rwagasore said.

Gorilla park reopens

The Virunga national park, home to several of the world's remaining mountain gorillas, reopened to tourists on Thursday, news organisations reported. Reuters quoted a Rwandan tourism official, Jean Bizimana, as saying the first group of tourists had gone into the park, near the northwestern town of Ruhengeri, accompanied by guards and guides equipped with guns and communications equipment. The security situation in northwest Rwanda has improved significantly since the authorities pursued the Interahamwe militia - who had been terrorising the area since the 1994 genocide - into eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There has also been a successful campaign to persuade Interahamwe to leave the bush, lay down their arms and undergo "re-education", officials in Rwanda and eastern DRC told IRIN.

21,000 return from DRC

Over 21,000 Rwandans have returned from the DRC since the start of the year fleeing conflict, the latest OCHA monthly report said, citing UNHCR figures. It said another 30,000 returnees may arrive from the DRC in the next few months. The report, received by IRIN, said there was concern that among the returnee population, there could be "active members of the Interahamwe who may cause disruptions again within the country". However, the report noted that the security environment in June and previous months had been "relatively stable and incident-free".

Less people attending feeding centres

Meanwhile, several NGOs are reducing their involvement in health and nutrition programmes in the northwest in view of improvements in the situation of resettled displaced populations, the OCHA report said. "Caseloads in most therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres are fairly low and many services will soon be under the full stewardship of the Region Sanitaire," the report said. It warned, however, that the population's health status was linked to the country's food supply and agricultural situation, which "could become increasingly precarious". Aid agencies have noted a "great need" for seeds and tools as people prepare for the next planting season.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels reject amnesty offer

Rebels of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) have turned down President Laurent-Desire Kabila's amnesty offer, arguing that they are not "criminals to seek amnesty". "I think Kabila is the one who deserves to be offered an amnesty," RCD Vice-President Moise Nyarugabo said. Reuters quoted RCD leader, Emile Ilunga, who rejected claims by Kabila that the rebels had launched attacks on several fronts in the northeast and southeast of DRC. "Kabila and his allies proceeded on a well-known method of making accusations because that is the best attack," he said.

Allied forces hand over 20 prisoners

The allied forces of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) on Monday handed over 20 POWs to the Congolese Armed Forces, DRC state television reported. The report said most of the prisoners - 17 Congolese and three Angolan UNITA members - were captured in various operational areas. Some of them surrendered as they fled the "intrigues and atrocities meted out to them by Rwandans".

Annan to send team to Lusaka

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was due to send a three-person team to Lusaka on Thursday to "liaise" with Zambian President Frederick Chiluba who is trying to convince the rebels to sign the ceasefire accord, a UN statement said. "The Secretary-General is still prepared to send a full-fledged technical survey team to the DRC upon the full signing of the agreement," the statement added.

Algeria "accepts" to head intervention force

Meanwhile, the Algerian government has "accepted" to provide its commander in chief to head the intervention force in the DRC, DRC state television reported on Wednesday. "A meeting is scheduled to take place in Lusaka on 19 July in this regard." It said the meeting would be attended by the foreign and defence ministers of all the countries implicated in the war.

TANZANIA: Refugee increase in wake of truce accord

The number of people fleeing into Tanzania from eastern DRC has risen since the signing of the ceasefire agreement last week, a UNHCR spokesman told IRIN on Thursday. The refugee influx "has been steadily increasing, from about 100 people on 9 July to almost 500 on the 12th", the spokesman said. The new arrivals said the area was tense, with fighting between rebels and groups opposed to them reported around several South Kivu villages, including Talama and Sele. "There was also apparently some kind of clash at Makobola" on 7 July, the spokesman added. Some 90,000 DRC refugees have crossed to western Tanzania since August 1998.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Thousands flee DRC conflict

Thousands of people, including many child soldiers fleeing conflict in DRC's Equateur province, have arrived in the Mobaye and Bangassou areas of the CAR since last week, UNHCR said on Thursday. "We have counted at least 5,000 armed persons," a UNHCR regional spokesman told IRIN. "Some appear to be [DRC] government soldiers, but a significant number are children who were taken from schools and armed," he said. The influx began after Gbadolite and Yakoma were taken by Congolese rebel forces. UNHCR was currently undertaking a "status determination" exercise of the new arrivals, the spokesman said. Meanwhile, Reuters quoted a government spokesman as saying the arriving soldiers had been disarmed by CAR forces.

UNHCR has not yet been able to verify press reports that some 6,000 civilians had also arrived in Mobaye and Bangassou from the DRC. "This is a huge area...We may have to send in more staff," the UNHCR spokesman said. He added that another 100 people had arrived at Bangui from the Zongo area of Equateur.

Bangui denies bombing role

The CAR government on Tuesday "categorically" denied claims, made by the rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), that a Sudanese aircraft had flown from Bangui to bomb Gbadolite airport on Sunday, Gabon's Africa Number 1 radio reported. It quoted a government spokesman as saying Sudan "cannot violate CAR air space to bomb DRC territory". He added that "it is not in our country's interest to have such events disrupting or compromising the smooth organisation of the [upcoming presidential] elections."

BURUNDI: Arusha process "risks disintegrating"

Independent analysts have expressed scepticism over the Arusha peace process, which is at risk of disintegrating. One analyst told IRIN the sides have resumed their "tough" negotiating stances to maximise their own positions. "Trust is disappearing, the process has become personalised," the analyst said. Another analyst said the external process could not progress without the inclusion of the armed factions, and the government and rebels would "probably go ahead with face-to-face negotiations anyway". Both the government of President Pierre Buyoya and the leader of CNDD-FDD rebel faction, Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, have called for direct talks, but the Nyerere Foundation which is facilitating the Arusha process, has so far opposed including the rebel armed groups, such as FDD and FNL. According to the Burundian authorities, ex-Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere argues that the rebellion will be marginalised by the international community and its power base weakened, but a Burundian government official pointed out to IRIN recently: "Look what happened with the Interahamwe".

AFRICA: US hopes to "do better"

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, admitting the US has been more active in Europe than Africa, has said the lessons of Kosovo should help Washington "do better" in Africa. Addressing the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in New York on Tuesday, she said Africa was "being pulled in two ways". Noting the democratisation process underway in some countries, she also stressed the continuing wars that were ravaging the continent. "The world must come together with Africa, not to compete for influence but to cooperate for peace, development and law." She urged the international community to back "strong, democratic leaders in their fight against corruption". She also stressed the need to halt the "uncontrolled flow of guns and other weapons into Africa...which feed conflict and crime". Albright concluded by hoping for progress "against an even deadlier threat" to Africa, HIV/AIDS.

Nairobi, 15 July 1999, 14:30 gmt


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Item: irin-english-1235

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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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