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IRIN Emergency Update No.79 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday 15 January 1997)
# Church officials in Burundi claimed other massacres occurred last month, in the northern province of Kayanza. Eyewitnesses reportedly told the bishop of Ngozi that soldiers killed some 3,000 people in the Gatara, Rango and Butaganzwa areas between December 2 and 30. However, military commander Cyrille Ndayirukiye, quoted by AFP, dismissed the figure as exaggerated although he admitted about 30 people had been killed. Both rebel and military attacks were said to be on the rise in northern Kayanza, and the increase in ethnic tension was making it difficult for humanitarian organisations to operate. News of the alleged massacre came through as the US State Department condemned the killing of some 120 refugees who were returned to Burundi from Tanzania on Friday. "This massacre is only part of a pattern of violence in Burundi which must cease," State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said yesterday. He also called for all-party talks and a ceasefire in Burundi.
Seventeen people were sentenced to death in Burundi last year for offences linked to ethnic massacres which broke out after the assassination of president Melchior Ndadaye in October 1993. The president of the appeal court, Domitille Barancira, said the death sentences were confirmed out of 45 appeal cases that had been heard so far. A total of 139 cases have been appealed. Barancira told AFP that those tried had been accused of murder, assassination, offences against state security, membership of armed bands and armed robbery. She added that no executions had been carried out since cases of cannibalism were punished about 15 years ago.
Relief organisations report that large numbers of newly displaced persons continue to arrive at the hospital in Bubanza, northern Burundi, with 250 people registered on one day alone. Many of them showed signs of acute malnutrition. The new arrivals speak of continued instability in the hills north of the town. A new centre is being built in the hospital grounds to cope with the overwhelming requirements of malnourished people.
# Burundi's Defence Minister Firmin Sinzoyiheba kicked off a campaign to lift regional economic sanctions against his country by holding talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the Kenyan 'Daily Nation' reported today. He is expected to meet other regional leaders in the next few weeks. According to Museveni's press secretary, Sinzoyiheba explained the detrimental effect of sanctions on the country but Museveni insisted any decision to lift the embargo would be have to be made collectively. Uganda stressed Burundi must abide by the conditions set by regional leaders when sanctions were imposed last year. These include a dialogue with Hutu rebels. Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, during a visit to Cyangugu prefecture last week, said regional leaders were looking into how the economic embargo against Burundi could be lifted. He expressed hope that common ground would be found. While in Cyangugu, he held talks with the director of the Bugarama cement factory to discuss increasing production for future export to neighbouring Zaire and Burundi, Rwandan radio said.
# A court in Kigali will hand down a verdict on January 20 on a Burundian accused of involvement in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The prosecution yesterday demanded the death penalty against 50 year-old Leonidas Ndikumwami who had refused to plead, saying his lawyer had no time to prepare his defence. The court refused the request for an adjournment, despite granting a similar request the same day by another defendant, former politician Froduald Karamira who is allegedly one of the architects of the genocide. Ndikumwami is accused of crimes against humanity, genocide and leading a group which carried out murders in the Kigali area. Meanwhile, 30 public prosecutors were sworn in by Prime Minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigyema on Monday. The premier described the swearing-in ceremony as a big step towards the reconciliation process in the country, Rwandan radio reported.
# The controversial issue of providing adequate shelter for new and old caseload returnees in Rwanda is posing a major challenge to aid agencies and the Rwandan government, with the latter estimating that some 200,000 new houses are required. Various concerns have been raised including the lack of an integrated national shelter strategy, construction of centralised as opposed to decentralised communities, poor location selection and lack of supporting infrastructure. UN sources note that the process to move old caseload returnees into new housing has created an immediate demand for some 160,000 homes. The problem is exacerbated by some of the current residents refusing to vacate the houses for the returning owners.
# A WFP plane which landed in Amisi, near Lubutu in eastern Zaire, yesterday was surrounded by Zairean soldiers and refugees and temporarily detained. As a result, WFP has suspended flights to the area as of today and says the Zairean government has prohibited all flights for three days. WFP says it was supplying 80 percent of food needs to the camp, 50 percent of which was by air. It will now continue to truck food in by road but points out that the operation will be greatly hampered by poor roads, limited truck availability and general insecurity. Sources say renewed fighting has broken out between Walikale and Amisi with Zairean troops attempting to flee the area. The front is reported to be moving closer to Amisi, and refugees are also preparing to flee, possibly to Tingi-Tingi.
# Requests for repatriation appear to be on the increase. UNHCR reported yesterday that the number of refugees gathered on the hills behind Bukavu had grown to over 11,000 in the last few days. They are grouped in two places: at Bunyakiri along the road to Walikale and at Shaminunu some 60kms northwest of Bukavu. However, access to these areas is very difficult and UNHCR has requested permission to establish a temporary transit centre on the road between Bunyakiri, Shaminunu and Bukavu where the refugees could assemble. The rebel military authorities on the ground have yet to accede to the request.
# In an interview with Zairean daily "Le Soft" (9 January), the governor of the Bank of Zaire, Patrice Djamboleka L'Oma Okitongono, explained measures taken by the bank to limit the speculation-driven inflationary impact of the new bank notes. One of the reasons given for the introduction of the new notes was that years of hyperinflation had rendered the net value of some of the smaller bank notes, such as 10,000NZ, less then their production cost, 6.6 cents US. In order to prevent speculation and contain the inflation impact of the new bills, the Bank of Zaire claims to have injected 2 million dollars US into the banking system, limited the release of new bills to 250 billion daily for the month of January, restricted their release to bank, and requested that all payments to the state over 200,000 NZ (just over $1 US) be made by cheque. The aim is to limit the number of new bills in circulation, maintaining as many small notes in circulation as possible.
There is speculation that President Mobutu's visit to France was unplanned but was necessitated by a relapse. The introduction of the new bank notes coinciding with Mobutu's departure from Zaire has made many Kinshasa residents uneasy. According to one businessman, tensions and anti-government sentiments are so strong that any incident could ignite a riot.
# Zairean-based Ugandan rebels claim to have killed nearly 500 Ugandan soldiers since they launched their assault on the country in November. In a statement issued Monday, the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) said 491 soldiers had been killed, six military installations had been overrun and over 600 guns captured. The statement added that up to 90 rebels had lost their lives and it accused the Ugandan government of inflating casualty figures. However military sources yesterday denied the claims, AFP reported.
# UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata will visit the Great Lakes region next month, a UNHCR spokeswoman announced yesterday. Her 10-day visit is due to begin on February 6 during which she will travel to Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zaire.
Nairobi, 15 December 1997, 15:30 gmt [ENDS]
[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 1997 18:41:24 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <email@example.com> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 79 for 15 Jan 1997 97.1.15 Message-Id: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970115182458.11847Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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