IRIN-CEA Update 798 [19991110]

IRIN-CEA Update 798 [19991110]

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 798 for the Great Lakes (Wednesday 10 November 1999)


RWANDA: "Laying foundations for democratic society" - UN RWANDA: ICTR prosecutor to investigate Barayagwiza case DRC: Fighting reported in Equateur province DRC: Rebels warn they will take Kinshasa DRC: Bemba reportedly backs down DRC: Gemena "fairly stable" DRC: Need for eastern Equatoria assessment DRC: UN envoy meets Kabila TANZANIA-BURUNDI: Refugee influx increases

RWANDA: "Laying foundations for democratic society" - UN

The UN Human Rights Commission's special representative for Rwanda has said the country is stepping out of the shadow of genocide and laying the foundations for a democratic society. In a report, to be discussed by a General Assembly committee this week, he noted positive developments in social and human rights over the past year such as successful local elections, the establishment of a human rights commission and a unity and reconciliation commission and the proposal to use traditional justice systems (gacaca) to speed up genocide trials. However, in spite of the progress there was not yet a culture of human rights in Rwanda, the report said. Prisons continued to absorb four percent of the country's entire budget and conditions, while improving, were still "unacceptable". The special representative expressed support for the gacaca system as the "only viable alternative" to ease overcrowding in jails and promote reconciliation.

The report also called for a free press, saying it had a crucial role to play in Rwanda's transition. "The media has still not recovered from the perception that it aided and abetted the genocide," the report observed. The press had to be able to operate in a climate free from fear and intimidation, but had to remain responsible. The report said this would require legal safeguards, financial viability and quality training in professional reporting.

Finally, it took note of the improved security situation in the country, especially northwest Rwanda. One Rwandan official was quoted as saying the threat to security was no longer sufficiently serious to stand in the way of the transition. The report said the authorities should now be able to tackle other major issues such as the return of refugees, private ownership of land, freedom of movement, choice and expression, releases from jail - "all of which have been held hostage to security considerations".

RWANDA: ICTR prosecutor to investigate Barayagwiza case

The new Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Carla del Ponte, has said she is taking recent criticism of the prosecutor's office "most seriously and with much regret". Referring to the dismissal of the case against genocide suspect, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, due to procedural deficiencies, she said in a press release that she would do all she could to ensure that prosecutions of other cases "are conducted with proper dispatch in future". She added that she was due to pay her first visit to Rwanda this month and would stay as long as necessary to examine the circumstances of the case.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Fighting reported in Equateur province

Both sides in the DRC conflict have claimed there is fighting underway at Bekili, 80 km from Bokungu in Equateur province. The second vice-president of the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), Moise Nyarugabo, told the BBC Kinyarwanda service that fighting had been underway for the last five days after DRC government troops reportedly launched an attack. He said about 100 civilians had lost their lives. Meanwhile, DRC state radio said allied forces of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) "repulsed an attack by rebels and their allies" on Bekili last week and claimed two rebels were killed.

DRC: Rebels warn they will take Kinshasa

In a separate interview with rebel-controlled Goma radio on Wednesday, Moise Nyarugabo warned that if there was another attack on rebel positions by the forces of President Laurent-Desire Kabila "we will work towards the final objective, that is of capturing the city of Kinshasa". "Enough is enough," he said. "We have been patient...we have respected these Lusaka agreements." He said pressure should be exerted on Kabila to prevent a resumption of the war.

DRC: Bemba reportedly backs down

Jean-Pierre Bemba, who leads the rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC) in Equateur province, has reportedly backed down from declaring the Lusaka ceasefire accord "null and void". According to the Ugandan 'New Vision' daily on Wednesday, Bemba said he was "back in the peace process". He warned however that his troops would not stand by if Kabila's forces "attacked again". Meanwhile, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Kabila was acting alone. The 'New Vision' quoted him as telling reporters in Kabale that "this time, Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia are all strictly following the ceasefire".

DRC: Gemena "fairly stable"

A humanitarian mission to Gemena in Equateur province on 4 November found that the overall situation in the MLC-held town appeared to be fairly stable and that reports of widespread destruction due to air raids by Kinshasa's allies had been "gravely exaggerated". An OCHA mission report received by IRIN on Wednesday said the town's market was very busy and goods were abundant. "Prices for basic food and non-food items were considerably lower than elsewhere in war-affected areas of the DRC," the report said. Increased trade with neighbouring Central African Republic had compensated for severed supply links with Kinshasa and Kisangani. "No signs of any significant devastation were observed," it added.

DRC: Need for eastern Equateur assessment

The OCHA mission was told that departing Chadian soldiers in Gemena had looted "half of the town", but recent essential drug deliveries by the Belgian NGO MEMISA and the European Humanitarian Community Office (ECHO) had addressed the area's major outstanding humanitarian need, it said. Local health personnel said the area had experienced only one air strike, at the end of January, resulting in 30 civilian casualties. While northern Equateur was relatively stable, there was a need to assess eastern parts of the province, where it was feared the humanitarian situation could be critical on account of conflict and sustained population displacement, the report added.

DRC: UN envoy meets Kabila

The UN Special Envoy for the DRC Peace Process, Moustapha Niasse, has held talks with President Kabila in Kinshasa. Sources in Kinshasa told IRIN the DRC president said he was afraid that if a plane of the UN observer mission, MONUC, left for rebel-held areas it would return to Kinshasa as a "trojan horse". Kabila said a third country would therefore have to be involved. He again refused to allow MONUC personnel to be deployed in government-held areas. Further meetings between the two men were planned for late Tuesday.

TANZANIA-BURUNDI: Refugee influx increases

More than 400 people a day are now arriving in western Tanzania after fleeing violence and forced displacement in southern Burundi, UNHCR said on Tuesday. Between 1-8 November, UNHCR registered 4,150 new arrivals in Kigoma, Kasulu, Kibondo and Ngara, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said. More than 7,000 Burundi refugees crossed to the same areas during October, he said. Refugees are arriving from the provinces of Makamba, Rutana, Gitega and Kirundo and report continuing fighting between rebels and government forces. They have also told UNHCR staff that the government had stepped up efforts to regroup civilians in makeshift sites without adequate shelter or supplies, Janowski added. Tanzania currently hosts around 275,000 Burundi refugees.

Nairobi, 10 November 1999, 14:30 gmt


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

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