IRIN-CEA Update 785 [19991022]

IRIN-CEA Update 785 [19991022]

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 785 for the Great Lakes (Friday 22 October 1999)


BURUNDI: Army denies evicting people from camps BURUNDI: Civilian camp population tops 300,000 BURUNDI: At least 30 killed by rebels BURUNDI: US concerned over hold-up in Arusha process DRC: Mercenary activity still prevalent DRC: Slow UN response "eroding confidence" DRC: Tanzanian concern over resources for peacekeepers DRC: France considering renewal of cooperation GREAT LAKES: France suggests regional peace conference

BURUNDI: Army denies evicting people from camps

The Burundian army has denied evicting thousands of people from two displaced people's camps in Bujumbura, saying the move had been envisaged for a long time. Army spokesman Colonel Longin Minani told IRIN on Friday the army was carrying out the government's programme, according to which displaced people should return to their homes when security conditions permitted. Press reports on Thursday said several thousands people had been evicted from the Johnson and Legentil camps in Bujumbura. Colonel Minani said it was important to draw a distinction between displaced people in the capital and those in Bujumbura Rural, where the situation was still insecure and people had to remain in the protection sites. "People cannot stay in camps forever," he said. "Those in Johnson and Legentil knew they had to go home." He said the majority were from areas of Bujumbura such as Kamenge and Gihosha where their houses were intact and from where they could cultivate their fields. They were safer there than in the Johnson and Legentil camps which were infiltrated by the rebels, he added.

Humanitarian sources told IRIN the last 4,000 civilians were ordered out of Johnson's camp on Thursday, bringing to around 12,000 people the number moved in the past fortnight. The army encircled the camp in the early hours of Thursday morning, ordering everyone to leave by midday, which they did, the sources confirmed.

BURUNDI: Civilian camp population tops 300,000

The number of civilians in 53 regroupment camps in Bujumbura Rural, guarded by the military, has now passed 300,000 and relief agencies are increasingly concerned for the welfare of camp residents, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Friday. "It's quite worrying to think about, but we're sitting here with our hands tied. We just can't afford to take any chances in the current climate," said an aid worker in Bujumbura, referring to last week's killing of two humanitarian workers which have effectively confined UN agencies and NGOs to the capital since. While lack of food and drinking water, coupled with continuing rains, were a real problem in the camps, the most worrying prospect was of epidemics sweeping through, the sources said.

A UN security team that has been assessing the situation inside Burundi since the killings was due to finish its work on Friday, with a security meeting scheduled for Bujumbura in the evening. Meanwhile, the situation continued to be confusing and frustrating for relief workers. "The needs are still there, and probably greater than ever," one relief worker told IRIN.

BURUNDI: At least 30 killed by rebels

Army spokesman Colonel Longin Minani on Friday told IRIN Hutu rebels attacked a village in Muramvya province early Thursday morning, killing between 30-40 people with guns and machetes. He said they were groups of rebels who had managed to flee the army operations in Bujumbura Rural, and who then headed towards Muramvya and Kayanza. The army was in pursuit of them, he added.

BURUNDI: US concerned over hold-up in Arusha process

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has expressed concern that the Arusha peace process could be held up due to the death of facilitator Julius Nyerere, news agencies reported. US officials quoted her as telling Burundi President Pierre Buyoya in Dar es Salaam, where the two were attending Nyerere's state funeral on Thursday, that the talks should go ahead even without a replacement. Burundi has called for a facilitator from outside the sub-region, citing a preference for South Africa.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Mercenary activity still prevalent

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Use of Mercenaries, Enrique Bernales-Ballesteros, has said Africa remains the continent where mercenaries are most active, with the DRC one of the most-affected countries. According to his latest report on mercenary activities, armed conflict continued in the DRC despite the Lusaka ceasefire accord. "In this connection, it has been reported that mercenary combatants are present on all fronts and in the forces of all the parties," the report stated. It said the mercenaries' primary interest appeared to be the diamond centre of Mbuji-Mayi in Kasai Oriental. The international security company, Defence Systems Limited, is said to be working with mercenaries to protect mining and petroleum facilities, the report added. It noted that countries such as DRC, where there was chronic political instability combined with a wealth of natural resources, gave rise to armed conflict which sooner or later attracted mercenaries.

DRC: Slow UN response "eroding confidence in Lusaka peace deal"

The UN Security Council's failure to act quickly in support of the Lusaka peace deal has led to "a breakdown in the confidence aroused by the ceasefire agreement", Zambian representative Peter Kasanda told the UN General Assembly on Thursday. It was one thing to hear about these situations in reports but "quite another to summon up the political will to do something about them", said Kasanda. He complained that proposals submitted in September by Zambian President Zambia Frederick Chiluba - chief mediator in the DRC peace process - were still sitting on the Council's table. The Council should "move quickly to erase the impression of double standards by according equal treatment to all crisis situations in the world", a UN statement quoted Kasanda as saying.

DRC: Tanzanian concern over resources for peacekeepers

Meanwhile, Tanzanian official Musinga Bandora told a review of UN peacekeeping operations that with recent UN missions to Rwanda and the Republic of Congo having been undermined by a lack of logistical and financial resources, it was feared the same fate would befall the planned mission in the DRC. For the most part, planning and financing for peacekeeping missions remained slow and uncertain, particularly where Africa was concerned, and this was an issue that needed to be addressed, Bandora said in a statement released by the UN on Thursday.

DRC: France considering renewal of cooperation

France announced on Friday that it planned to renew "real cooperation" with the DRC, which had been "subject to a de facto embargo for almost 10 years". Cooperation Minister Charles Josselin, quoted by AFP news agency, said that while appropriate conditions were "not yet completely in place, the time has come - in order to avoid irremediably sacrificing a whole generation which would pay the price of things it has not done - to once again find the road for real cooperation with the DRC". France, in common with most other donors to the DRC, cut back support in the early 1990s in an attempt to force democracy on the dictatorial president of what was then Zaire, Mobutu Sese-Seko.

The minister also announced that France had contributed FF 4 million (about US $666,000) to the establishment of the Joint Military Commission (JMC), which he described as "one of the key elements stipulated in the Lusaka Agreement to enable military observation in the conflict zones". Josselin said France's contribution, the largest so far to the JMC, reflected its belief that if there was a chance of attaining peace, it was by implementing the Lusaka agreement.

GREAT LAKES: France suggests regional peace conference

France has again mooted the idea of a Great Lakes conference, envisaged during the Africa-France summit last December, which "should be able to examine all the key issues for peace, the security of borders, democracy and development". Josselin, currently on a tour of the Great Lakes region to underline his country's commitment to the Lusaka peace process, said he was convinced a Great Lakes conference would take place because the need had been confirmed by all who had studied the issue. He was hopeful it could take place, possibly in Nairobi, "within a reasonable time frame", a press release received by IRIN on Friday stated. While there had been a consensus in favour of such a conference at the December summit, and it had the support of other European countries and the US, the final decision was up to Africans themselves, Josselin added.

Nairobi, 22 October 1999, 13:10 gmt


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

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