IRIN-CEA Update No. 760 [19990917]

IRIN-CEA Update No. 760 [19990917]

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. 760 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 17 September 1999)

RWANDA: ICTR allows amendment to indictment

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Friday granted a prosecution request to amend the indictment against former mayor Igance Bagilishema, who goes on trial next month, the Hirondelle news agency reported. The prosecution had, the previous day, asked permission to amend the indictment against the former mayor of Mabanza in western Rwanda following "witness testimonies gathered in July". The prosecution intended to reduce the number of charges from 13 to six by "merging some and adding new ones". The new charges include "causing outrages upon the personal dignity of Tutsi women".

Bagilishema's defence lawyer Francois Roux had opposed the motion, saying it would constitute a "grave injustice". Roux maintained the prosecution had no evidence against Bagilishema himself and was "trying to judge him as responsible for acts committed by others".

Kisangani clashes report "fair"

Rwanda's Director of Information Wilson Rutayisire termed the report on the recent clashes between the Rwandan and Ugandan armies in Kisangani as "fair" and "castigated some Ugandan officials who are denouncing its findings", Uganda's semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Thursday. "From that methodology of interviewing every person mentioned during the investigations, whether civilian or an army officer or privates, Congolese, Ugandan or Rwandese, I would say the team fairly did its work," he said. Media organisations say the report - which has not been made public - places the bulk of the blame for the clashes on the Ugandan soldiers. Rutayisire said the report should be made available to the public in Rwanda and Uganda.

UGANDA: Fresh inquiry into Kisangani clashes

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) high command has set up a new committee to probe the cause of the Kisangani clashes, the 'New Vision' said. The five-member committee, chaired by State Minister for Defence Stephen Kavuma, began work on Tuesday, a day after the army high command rejected the joint Rwandan-Ugandan report.

Museveni suggests firing squads for rapists

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has mooted the idea of military courts and firing squads for rapists. He told journalists recently that if the rate of rape and defilement increases, the government could "resort to military courts and putting culprits on a firing squad", the 'New Vision' reported. "If the situation becomes serious and if the law allows, the quick way is to use military courts," he said. "That's what I would suggest if the human rights and all these groups agree, because we are ruled by human rights groups." He said however that the police and the courts were not doing their job effectively, and a "protracted struggle" was underway to free the judiciary from corruption.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebels claim 30 militiamen killed

Rebels of the Rassamblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD)-Goma killed some 30 allied militiamen who attempted to close in on their positions at Bitare, Muresa and Kitutu in eastern DRC early this week, Reuters quoted the governor of Sud Kivu, Norbert Katintima, as saying. Five civilians reportedly died in the fighting in Kitutu, although the militias reportedly killed at least nine other civilians in several recent attacks elsewhere, according to the governor. The RCD blamed the attack on local Mayi Mayi warriors, Hutu militiamen and rebels from neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi.

Group calls for "Chapter VII" force

The eastern DRC civil society group, Heritiers de la Justice, on Thursday urged the UN Security Council to take similar actions for the DRC as in East Timor, and provide the proposed UN peacekeeping force in the DRC with enforcement powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. "Heritiers de la Justice applauds the Security Council's courage and hopes that it will pay the same attention to the Congolese crisis when the time will come to deploy a multinational force," the group said in a statement. "While many have expressed the view that the situation in the Congo would be too risky for such an operation, the Council this week authorised the East Timor force under Chapter VII in spite of threats made by militia groups against UN personnel there."

Remaining Rwandan refugees

While the number of Rwandan asylum seekers in the DRC remained uncertain, most sources assumed the figure at between 30,000-40,000 at the end of 1998, the US Committee for Refugees (USCR) said in its latest annual 'World Refugee Survey'. "Many preferred for security reasons to live on their own, integrated into the local Congolese population in different areas of the country," the report said. UNHCR and government officials have been unable to conduct official interviews to determine which Rwandans had legitimate refugee claims, and which were disqualified from refugee status because of participation in the 1994 Rwandan genocide or current activity as combatants. UNHCR reported that it was assisting about 4,000, the report said. More than 200,000 Rwandans fled west from eastern DRC's refugee camps at the start of the 1996 civil war. Thousands were believed to have died of disease, malnutrition and massacres allegedly by Rwandan and Congolese soldiers.

Kabila government one of "most repressive"

The media watchdog, Reporters sans frontieres (RSF), says more than 80 journalists have so far been locked up in the DRC for varying lengths of time, "often without any explanation and usually without being tried". In a recent report, RSF said at least three journalists were still in prison. "Others have been subjected to whipping and ill-treatment. Publications have been seized, radio stations suspended, premises set on fire and ransacked," RSF said. "Violations of press freedom have become even more common than during the last years of Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko's dictatorship." It described President Laurent-Desire Kabila's government as one of the most repressive in sub-Saharan Africa.

BURUNDI: Ex-president warns of Rwanda-type situation

Burundi's former president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya on Thursday warned that his country could see a genocide as in Rwanda, if "security were allowed to degenerate unchecked", news organisations reported. "There are lots of similarities to the point that the Burundians who want peace, the region and the international community should be vigilant today," he was quoted as saying in Arusha, where the Burundi peace talks are being held. "I am worried when I see that the government is now reviving what it calls civil self-defence groups saying it can control them. But we know such groups can never be controlled. The case of East Timor is a good demonstration," he said.

Nairobi, 17 September 1999, 14:20 gmt


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

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