IRIN-CEA Update 801 [19991115]

IRIN-CEA Update 801 [19991115]

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 801 for the Great Lakes (Monday 15 November 1999)


DRC: Rebel army to move to Kalemie DRC: Ugandan commander killed in Beni clashes DRC: RCD-ML maintains ceasefire, Wamba says DRC: Potential end to Hema-Lendu conflict DRC: Kazini replaced on JMC DRC: Government imposes curfew BURUNDI: Security Council urges swift appointment of mediator BURUNDI: Political partnership "under threat" BURUNDI: FDD, Interahamwe moving towards Tanzania, Burundi BURUNDI: Regional summit to choose new mediator BURUNDI: All regroupment sites accessible, government says

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Rebel army to move to Kalemie

The rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) is poised to move its army headquarters from Goma to Kalemie in Katanga province. The RCD head of security and intelligence, Bizima Karaha, told IRIN on Monday the move had no "big significance" and it made no difference where the group's military headquarters were situated. "Kalemie is closer to where there are many of our soldiers," he said. On Saturday, the chief of staff of the RCD's Armee nationale congolaise (ANC), Commander Ilondo Igo, said the move was prompted by the "quiet and serene atmosphere" in Kalemie, rebel-controlled Goma radio reported. He added that Kalemie had the advantage of being away from "political interference" and "other political manoeuvres that are prejudicial to the clear minded and efficient performance of men in uniform."

DRC: Ugandan commander killed in Beni clashes

The leader of the Bunia-based rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML), Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, has confirmed media reports that Ugandan commander Major Reuben Ikondere was killed on Sunday during an attack by Mayi-Mayi militia on Beni in North Kivu. "The major was killed plus two of his bodyguards, but the attackers were repulsed and about 60 of them were killed," he told IRIN on Monday. Radio Uganda on Sunday quoted a statement from Ugandan Chief of Staff Brigadier James Kazini which said further information on the motive of the attack was being obtained from captured fighters. "One of the problems is that under the term Mayi-Mayi, so many people are now included, even armed bandits," Wamba told IRIN. "Were these Mayi-Mayi allied to [DRC President Laurent-Desire] Kabila, Mayi-Mayi acting on their own, or Mayi-Mayi said to be sympathetic to the Goma group?"

DRC: RCD-ML maintains ceasefire, Wamba says

Wamba also said his group was abiding by the ceasefire under the terms of the Lusaka agreement. "We are still respecting the accord," he told IRIN. "But if attacked, we have the right to repulse it." On the implementation of the Lusaka agreement, Wamba said it was important for the Joint Military Commission (JMC) to receive more resources so it could monitor alleged ceasefire violations in the country. "The posture of the international community should be to support those who support peace, and to make it impossible for others to destroy it," he said. "Kabila has no interest in making it succeed because he knows democratisation would not be in his favour. But he should not be given the chance to make the accord useless, because nobody will gain by the resumption of war," Wamba told IRIN.

DRC: Potential end to Hema-Lendu conflict

Meanwhile, the conflict between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups in the Djugu area of Ituri had recently subsided and displaced people had started coming out of the bush, Wamba said. He told IRIN on Monday that a commission led by senior RCD-ML official Jacques Depelchin had initiated reconciliation efforts between the two groups. "I can't say everything is cleared up but the indications are that the war there will be stopped," Wamba told IRIN. [For more details, refer to separate IRIN report of 15 November headlined: "IRIN Focus on Hema-Lendu conflict"]

DRC: Kazini replaced on JMC

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has replaced Brigadier Kazini as Uganda's representative to the Joint Military Commission (JMC), the 'New Vision' newspaper reported on Saturday. It said Museveni appointed his private secretary in charge of defence, Captain James Mugira, to "step in" for Kazini with immediate effect. A Ugandan military source told IRIN on Monday the move was taken so that Kazini can concentrate on the western front, where the military is conducting operations against the Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

Meanwhile, Uganda's Minister of State for Regional Cooperation Amama Mbabazi on Saturday "confirmed" that government forces in the DRC had launched an offensive on rebel positions in the northwest Equateur province, the independent 'Monitor' newspaper reported. "It is true that these attacks took place on three fronts," he was quoted as saying.

DRC: Government imposes curfew

The government on Saturday imposed a general curfew in Kinshasa and all territories under its control, news agencies reported. DRC state television quoted a statement from government spokesman Didier Mumengi as saying decision was taken in response to new threats against Kinshasa. "Faced with its sacred responsibility of safeguarding the Congolese and its duty of making peace and order prevail, the public salvation government is imposing as of today, until further notice, a general curfew beginning 20:00-0500 GMT throughout the free territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo," the statement said. "Any movement of boats, canoes or vessels on the River Congo is strictly prohibited from 17:00 GMT," it added.

BURUNDI: Security Council urges swift appointment of mediator

The UN Security Council on Friday called for an end to violence in Burundi and the continuation of peace talks. In a statement, it said the Arusha process offered the best hope for peace and should be the "foundation for all party-talks leading to peace agreement". It urged regional countries to act quickly to appoint a new mediation team, acceptable to all sides, to succeed the late Julius Nyerere. It also called on all parties to ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance and said it recognised the important role of all regional states, "particularly Tanzania which was host to thousands of Burundi refugees and home to the Julius Nyerere foundation".

The Council urged regional states to ensure the neutrality and civilian status of refugee camps and prevent their use by armed insurgents. It also called on the Burundi government to allow people in regroupment camps to go home.

BURUNDI: Political partnership "under threat"

A Council debate, ahead of the statement, noted the precarious situation in Burundi and stressed that the UN must take steps to see the Arusha process continued. According to a UN press release, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahima Fall, said the survival of Burundi's political partnership was under threat. Positions had hardened, and the various sides were no longer "on the same wavelength" regarding the Arusha process. He also said the health situation in Burundi was one of the worst in Africa. "The uncertain security situation must be remedied, so that humanitarian personnel can bring help to the people of Burundi," he added. Speakers stressed that the Lusaka ceasefire agreement for the DRC must be implemented, as peace in Burundi was dependent on regional stability. At the same time, social and economic development were also key factors to a peaceful future in Burundi and the support of the international community was crucial.

BURUNDI: FDD, Interahamwe moving towards Tanzania, Burundi

Burundi's UN representative, Marc Nteturuye, pointed out if the international community was not careful, the DRC conflict could affect the entire region. Burundian rebels, in collusion with the Rwandan Interahamwe militia and ex-FAR, had begun to move towards Burundi again, having acquired an arsenal of weapons, he said. Burundi analyst Jan van Eck of the South Africa-based Centre for Conflict Resolution agreed that Rwandan and Burundi rebels were moving towards the Tanzanian refugee camps and warned that Tanzania may increasingly be used as a rear base with the possibility for all-out war between Burundi and Tanzania. He told IRIN that Rwanda, too, would be increasingly concerned about the movement of Interahamwe and ex-FAR towards Tanzania, which was a possible explanation for the relocation of the RCD army to Kalemie. Burundi would then be able to withdraw its troops from Kalemie and concentrate on its own territory.

On the Burundi peace talks, Van Eck told IRIN that violence and impasse over the appointment of a new mediator were undermining the peace process. In the region, there was a feeling of the "inevitability of war" unless the Lusaka accord was implemented to bring about peace in neighbouring DRC and people were preparing themselves "psychologically" for war. Van Eck warned of the possibility of a regional war, played out in all the Great Lakes countries and not just DRC.

BURUNDI: Regional summit to choose new mediator

Meanwhile, a summit of regional leaders is due to convene in Arusha, Tanzania, on 29 November to appoint a new mediator, Burundi radio reported on Friday. It cited EU special envoy to the Great Lakes Aldo Ajello as saying there were "several possibilities" for the new mediator. Ajello, speaking at the end of a four-day visit to Burundi, said the new incumbent should have "great political and moral prestige". "He should be in a position to firmly steer the process into its final phase, which is the most delicate and crucial phase," he said.

The private Burundi news agency Azania quoted diplomatic sources in Bujumbura as saying Kampala was keen to play a major role in the selection of a mediator. Observers told IRIN the presidents of Uganda and Burundi differed on the appointee, with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni favouring someone from the sub-region, and Burundian President Pierre Buyoya supporting South African mediation.

BURUNDI: All regroupment sites accessible, government says

The Burundi government has condemned the "untrue and defamatory propaganda" which seeks to accuse the authorities of "rampant criminality" in establishing the protection sites. In a statement, sent to IRIN on Monday, the government said it had to ensure the security of citizens faced by a rebellion which "has no respect for life" as long as it destabilised the government and public opinion. The statement reiterated it had taken the "extreme and painful measure" to regroup people in Bujumbura Rural to stop the "noose" of the rebellion from tightening around them and to lessen the danger of military operations in the province. "There was no other choice," the statement said, noting the "spectre of somalisation" hanging over the nation. The government said all the sites, even the most remote, were accessible to humanitarian organisations and emphasised that every security measure would be taken to ensure the safe distribution of humanitarian assistance.

Burundi analyst Jan van Eck said it was not helpful to debate whether the camps were "good or bad". "Nobody wants the camps, but they are preferable to civilians dying massively," he told IRIN. The government had no other option, but it was important that conditions in some of the camps were improved and security stepped up.

Nairobi, 15 November 1999, 15:00 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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