IRIN-CEA Update No. 759 [19990916]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 759 [19990916]

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. 759 for Central and Eastern Africa (Thursday 16 September 1999)

BURUNDI: December deadline for peace accord

Mediators and donor envoys involved in the Arusha peace process have set December as a deadline for reaching a peace accord, the head of the pro-Tutsi PARENA party, Remy Nkengurutse, told the Internews agency on Thursday. The deadline appears to have caused some consternation, with regional analysts commenting that any agreement reached under pressure will be meaningless. According to Internews, some delegates commented the deadline was imposed to please the donors who are growing impatient with the slow rate of progress at the talks. They suggested it was not the time, but the "inclination" that mattered. "I think if there were the will we could have an agreement by December," former president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya was quoted as saying.

Government rejects preconditions to talks

The Burundi government has rejected any preconditions to the negotiations, the Hirondelle news agency reported. Public Works Minister Denis Nshimirimana, who is leading the government delegation, was reacting to a demand by smaller pro-Tutsi parties that ceasefire discussions should top the agenda. In an interview with the agency, the minister also cautioned against signing a "meaningless" accord. "The belligerents cannot be sidelined even if the international community is ready to neutralise them, as this would not be automatic," he said. "That's why we have chosen negotiations and compromise." The minister criticised the formation of "ethnic blocs" at the talks, saying discussions within blocs would not achieve rapid results.

Bishops appeal for peace

Burundian bishops have urged all sides in the Burundi conflict to "follow reason" and bring about peace. In a recent statement, received by IRIN, the bishops said divisions among the country's parties had seriously hindered the progress achieved both within and outside Burundi. The armed wings of the rebel CNDD-FDD and Palipehutu groups were still excluded from the Arusha process which meant the attacks against civilians continued. The bishops also believed religious organisations should be represented in Arusha. The statement criticised the international community's condition that the resumption of aid would depend on the signing of an accord in Arusha. "This is pure and simply punishing the Burundian people who have a right, like all the people of the world, to the solidarity of the international community," the statement said.

RWANDA: Bishop's trial continues

The trial of Bishop Augustin Misago, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, continued in Kigali on Wednesday with the defendant justifying claims made against him. Rwandan radio said he told the court there was nothing abnormal about his attendance at meetings organised by senior government officials in April and May 1994 in his diocese of Gikongoro. As a Christian leader, he was eligible to meet anybody, he told the court. According to the radio, the judges told him to leave religion out of his defence. The trial was then postponed until 23 September.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: National debate to take place in 30 days

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Wednesday announced his government was planning to hold the country's national debate - a condition of the Lusaka accord - in Kinshasa in 30 days' time, state television reported. He said it could only be held in Kinshasa because "we have the necessary facilities". He assured rebel groups of their safety in the city, saying the government had already made the "pledge" by offering the rebels an amnesty. Furthermore, they were free to express any opinions. "This is a pledge, a pledge in the face of our people, but also a pledge in the face of the international community," he said.

However, according to the BBC, the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Goma faction has refused to take part in the debate. Spokesman Paul Musafiri was reported as saying the group had turned down Kabila's proposal because the country did not belong to him.

Government freezes increase on house rents

The DRC government has ordered a freeze on house rental prices "until further notice", in a bid to curb increasing prices, news organisations reported on Wednesday. Reuters news agency quoted Environment Minister Yagi Sitolo as saying rents would be based on the official exchange rate of the Congolese franc to the dollar and that a special police unit was being set up to enforce the order.

Army denounces Ugandan move to Gbadolite

The Forces armees congolaises (FAC) on Wednesday expressed "indignation" over the fact that the Ugandan army had moved its headquarters from Kisangani to Gbadolite, DRC state television reported. "Such an attitude not only constitutes scorn for the Democratic Republic of Congo, but is also an insult to the international community which involved itself in the preparation and signing of the Lusaka ceasefire," the army said in a statement. Although the rebels and their allies had signed the Lusaka ceasefire agreement on 31 August, they "continue to reinforce their positions in the field with the intention of making new conquests", it added.

UGANDA: Army captures rebel commander in west

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) recently captured a rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) commander, named as Sesanga Semanobe, at Kamango in the Ruwenzori mountains, Ugandan radio reported on Wednesday. The captured rebel reportedly told the UPDF most ADF fighters "want to surrender but were being threatened with death". A UPDF official said Semanobe will "assist them in the final war against the ADF rebels".

TANZANIA: Arrest warrants issued for 10 opposition leaders

Zanzibar's Attorney-General Ali Mohamed Omar has issued arrest warrants for 10 top opposition leaders of the Civic United Front (CUF), including the party's vice-chairman Sharrif Hamad, Tanzanian news organisations reported on Thursday. Omar told journalists that investigations into the 10 linked them to an alleged coup attempt to overthrow Zanzibar's President Salmin Amour. They will face treason charges along with 17 other people. "You can't arrest the lieutenants and leave the generals," 'The Guardian' newspaper quoted him as saying.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Preparations complete for Sunday's poll

Electioneering campaigns have resumed in the CAR amid a relatively calm political situation, humanitarian sources reported. The UN Security Council has expressed concern over the week-long postponement of the presidential poll and urged all political parties to adhere to the electoral schedule. The delayed poll is due to be held on 19 September. In a press release sent to IRIN, the electoral commission [CEMI], foreign partners and the UN mission MINURCA said the postponement had enabled preparations for the poll to be finalised. Ballot papers were now available throughout the country, the release said. Failure to print and deliver voting papers had been one of the reasons for postponing the elections. According to the press release, the technical preparations were now in place to enable the poll to go ahead on Sunday.

UN: Oxfam notes "radical" report on protecting civilians in armed conflict

Oxfam has described a UN report on protecting civilians in armed conflict as a "radical challenge" to the Security Council to be better prepared and more willing to intervene in conflicts. The report by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due to be presented to the Security Council on Thursday. "If accepted, the report's recommendations could shape the future of international responses to conflict and lead to more decisive actions in countries like East Timor and the DRC," Oxfam said in a press release issued on Wednesday. It noted the report urged the Security Council "to learn the lessons of past failure".

Nairobi, 16 September 1999, 14:25 gmt


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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

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