IRIN-CEA Update No. 739 for 19 Aug [19990819]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 739 for 19 Aug [19990819]

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. 739 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 19 August 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: SADC adopts positive tone on peace prospects

The heads of state at a summit meeting of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in Mozambique on Wednesday adopted an optimistic tone on the prospects for peace when they said they had received new commitments from the Ugandan and Rwandan governments - in the wake of this week's clashes in Kisangani between troops from the two countries - that they will observe the terms of the Lusaka ceasefire. SADC had invited Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu to brief them on the fighting in Kisangani, eastern DRC, even though they were not official members of the community.

Museveni says fighting resulted from "confusion"

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told journalists in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, that the clashes in Kisangani in eastern DRC were due to "confusion" and that both governments had launched investigations, news organisations reported. "We want to find out what caused it," the South African News Agency (SAPA) quoted Museveni as saying. He said the situation was "very quiet" since the two countries had signed a ceasefire on Tuesday.

New army officers assigned to Kisangani

Ugandan Army Commander Major General Jeje Odong and his Rwandan counterpart Brigadier Kayumba have been assigned to Kisangani, taking over from Ugandan Chief of Staff James Kazini and Rwandan Brigadier James Kabarebe, "with express orders to take control and oversee the implementation of the ceasefire", the Ugandan 'Monitor' newspaper reported. The two were jointly charged with reviewing the circumstances that led to the clashes and devising clear recommendations on how the crisis should be resolved, media sources reported.

The Ugandan military has also denied Rwandan claims on Tuesday that they had captured Major Reuben Ikondere, security chief for Wamba dia Wamba, leader of the RCD-Kisangani faction that it supports, claiming instead that he was safe with Ugandan colleagues in Kisangani, news agencies reported.

Human Rights Watch bemoans "callous disregard" for civilians

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch on Wednesday expressed grave concern at the widespread shelling and fierce fighting which had turned the streets of Kisangani, eastern DRC, into battlefields. It expressed particular concern that, with the headquarters of the RCD-Kisangani faction is at the Hotel Wagenia, in the centre of town, residents in this heavily populated area had been placed in a deadly crossfire zone. Dozens of civilians were reported dead and many more injured, in addition to the heavy military casualties, before Tuesday's truce was agreed.

"The war had already reduced the population in Kisangani to grinding poverty, said Suliman Baldo, the Congo researcher at the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "The parties to the current fighting are placing civilians in mortal danger - with food, medical supplies and other essentials reaching dangerously low levels." The organisation condemned what it called the callous disregard for civilian life

shown by Rwandan and Ugandan forces in Kisangani. "International humanitarian law provides for the protection of civilians and materials essential to their survival, including electric power, foodstuffs and drinking water," Baldo noted. He also urged the international community and humanitarian agencies to intervene more forcefully to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population in Kisangani.

Civil society groups call for rapid deployment of peace-keepers

In Kinshasa, the situation in Kisangani led to a coalition of 12 broad-based civil associations calling for a special session of the UN Security Council, and for it to "accelerate the dispatch of a buffer source to keep the peace", Reuters news agency reported. The Congolese groups also called on the EU and US to play a more direct role in the DRC peace process.

UGANDA: Government denies pillaging minerals in the DRC

The Ugandan government on Wednesday denied claims of pillaging minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda's semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Eriya Kategaya dismissed allegations that Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) was in the DRC for "mineral extraction", telling parliament that the President could not deploy forces "merely to loot minerals." Kategaya said Uganda's involvement was to secure "a stable DRC to make sure no one uses the territory against Uganda," adding that his country would stay there "until the mission is achieved."

DRC fighting brings government under pressure in parliament

The nature and seriousness of the clashes between Ugandan and Rwandan troops in Kisangani drew heavy criticism in parliament and questions as to whether the government was, in the circumstances, considering the legality of its armed presence in DRC or a withdrawal of its troops. Members of parliament wondered at what human cost Uganda was prepared to remain in DRC and demanded to know casualty figures from the Kisangani trouble, the 'Monitor' newspaper reported.

The 'New Vision' also reported that a parliamentary committee on Tuesday asked State Minister for Defence Steven Kavuma "to prevail on" President Yoweri Museveni to give a "state of the nation address" on the DRC situation while legislators vowed not the pass the "huge defence budget" if Kavuma did not specify what the money was going to be spent on. Kavuma had reportedly requested 177 billion Ugandan shillings.

BURUNDI: Army dismisses Amnesty "lies" about civilian killings

The Burundian government on Wednesday dismissed as "lies" an Amnesty International report which condemned the country's army and rebels for killing some 600 people between last November and March this year. "This is not the first time that Amnesty International lie about Burundi or exaggerated reports based on a small issue," Burundian military spokesman Mamert Sinarinzi was quoted by the BBC as saying. "The report is based on lies because they do not have any investigator in Burundi", he added.

Government temporarily releases 169 suspects

Meanwhile, Burundi's State Prosecutor's office has "temporarily" released some 169 people accused of minor offences, Burundi news agency ABP said.

Quoting the State Prosecutor Gerard Ngendabanka, it said these people had been in "preventive detention" for more than two years and that they would appear before the courts while living at home. The release follows the conclusion of investigations launched recently launched by the justice ministry which said that some of the detainees had committed minor offences while others had incomplete files. More than 75 percent of 10,000 people in Burundian jails were preventive detention cases, and it was hoped to deal with at least 50 percent of these people before 1 September 1999, the report stated.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Women sexually abused as displaced people suffer violence

Many of the women among more than 20,000 people who have returned to Brazzaville in recent weeks have been victims of violence and over 300 were reported to have been raped, sometimes repeatedly, according to a humanitarian report received by IRIN on Thursday. Relief agencies belied the real number to be significantly higher, it added. Most of the returnees - from 200,000 people who fled the capital in December - were also in "extremely precarious health" and, in response, MSF, Action Contre la Faim and Caritas have established supplementary and therapeutic feeding centres to address the 40 percent global and 20 percent severe malnutrition rates among children and, more unusually, equally malnourished adults, the report stated.

In a related development, around 13,000 refugees fleeing fighting were identified in the Gabonese border province of Nyanga by an evaluation mission to the region. A significant influx of Congolese refugees has also been reported in Haut-Ogooue, Gabon, a country to which an estimated 20,000 refugees from the Republic of Congo have fled, the report added.

RWANDA: Court sentences two to death

A court in Rwanda's southwestern Cyangugu Prefecture on Tuesday sentenced two people to death for their involvement in the 1994 genocide, Rwandan News Agency reported on Wednesday. The two were part of a group of 16 accused of hunting down and massacring Tutsis in Kamembe commune, which borders the DRC, tried in the court. Five more of the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment, four to 20-year jail terms, one to 11 years imprisonment and four were acquitted, RNA said.

Defence opposes motion to hold joint trial of "Butare group"

Defence lawyers for six genocide suspects known as the 'Butare group' on Friday argued strongly against a motion to try their clients' jointly before the International Criminal tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the independent Hirondelle news agency reported. The six defendants (comprising former Minister for Women's Development and Family Welfare Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, her son and former militia leader Arsene Ntahobali, former mayor of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi, former mayor of Muganza Elie Ndayambaje, and two former prefects of Butare, Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo) stand accused of "planning" and "implementing" attacks on Tutsis in the Butare region of southwestern Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

"All the accused were involved in a common transaction", Hirondelle quoted the Nigerian prosecutor Ibukun Olu Babagide as saying. "The accused have acted jointly and severally in pursuit of a common scheme. It is therefore proper that they should be joined together in a common trial." Defence lawyers argued that there was no case for joinder since this would go against the rights of the accused. "The joinder motion has no legal basis," Hirondelle quoted the Canadian counsel for Nyiramasuhuko, Nicole Bergevin as saying. "The prosecutor has not produced a single element of proof that the accused acted together. There is nothing in the prosecutor's memorandum that shows a link between Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and others, except for her son, with whom she is already jointly charged", Bergevin added.

Nairobi, 19 August 1999 16:00 GMT


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

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