IRIN-CEA Update 808 [19991124]

IRIN-CEA Update 808 [19991124]

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 808 for the Great Lakes (Wednesday 24 November 1999)


DRC: Possible hitch in rebel meeting DRC: Bemba confirms attendance DRC: Mayi-Mayi attack Butembo airport DRC: UN technical team completes first leg DRC: More UN military officers fielded DRC: Government denies buying Scud missiles from Iran DRC: Government warns of "presence of UNITA rebels" DRC: Thousands malnourished in Kinshasa BURUNDI: Agricultural projects to begin RWANDA: Request for Barayagwiza review welcomed RWANDA: Kigali demands ICTR assurances before renewing cooperation RWANDA: Barayagwiza review application "politically-motivated" RWANDA: Genocide suspect refuses to enter plea

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Possible hitch in rebel meeting

A planned meeting next week between the three rebel groups in the DRC faces a possible hitch after the leader of the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML) Ernest Wamba dia Wamba said he would not attend. Wamba told IRIN on Wednesday he was not involved at the consultation level and was "not aware" of the meeting. "You cannot call a consultation meeting without first discussing it with those concerned," he said.

The Ugandan daily 'The Monitor' on Wednesday quoted the rival RCD-Goma faction leader, Emile Ilunga, as saying the three rebel groups would meet next week in an effort to resolve their differences. "We want to see if we can't bury our differences and harmonise our point of view, so we can have the same political vision against [President Laurent-Desire] Kabila," he was quoted as saying in Kigali.

However Wamba said that "if they were genuine they would have contacted us". He added that unity would not come from either Rwanda or Uganda who have been trying to reconcile the rebel groups. "You cannot bring groups together from the outside," he said. "Each of the rebel groups must have a link with the population and we must create conditions for political stability through peace and dialogue."

DRC: Bemba confirms attendance

Leader of the rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC), Jean-Pierre Bemba, meanwhile confirmed to IRIN he would attend the meeting. "We are trying to come together and forge a united front," Bemba said. "We have had different strategies and beliefs, but I would like to attend this meeting and listen to my colleagues to know the way forward." "I think we are on the right path," he added. Bemba said he was fighting to restore democracy, justice, respect for human rights and government transparency in the DRC. "I am fighting to rejuvenate the economy so that our people can get their basic needs," he said.

DRC: Mayi-Mayi attack Butembo airport

Mayi-Mayi fighters early on Tuesday attacked Butembo in northeastern DRC and briefly occupied the airport, RCD-ML leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba told IRIN on Wednesday. He said about 30 assailants were killed and a number wounded, while a further 20 escaped following the attack which lasted 10 minutes. According to Wamba, the DRC government promised the assailants US $10,000 each if they captured the airport, after which President Kabila would send reinforcements. "But how can people control an airport with machetes?" Wamba said. "These people are so hungry they can fall for any lie and go ahead and lose their lives for no reason."

DRC: UN technical team completes first leg

A UN technical survey team on Friday successfully completed its first round of field visits and is set to continue to other locations in the coming weeks to help determine "what is logistically possible within the DRC", the UN Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said on Monday. In a statement, MONUC said the team had been "warmly welcomed" by local authorities at the five locations visited on the first leg - Gbadolite, Goma, Kisangani, Bukavu and Kananga. The team would next visit areas where the real military headquarters of the warring parties are based, and its findings would provide "essential practical information" to plan options for the second stage of the UN's peacekeeping mission in the country, the statement said.

DRC: More UN military officers fielded

Recent deployment of new UN Military Liaison Officers (MLOs) has brought MONUC's strength to about 70 military personnel, out of a total of 90 approved by the UN Security Council under the first phase of the UN's involvement, the statement continued. Over the next few days, UN MLO teams will travel to Goma and Kisangani to begin their work, and two other teams will then be fielded to Gbadolite and Kananga. Their main role will be to build mutual trust and to bear witness to the faithful implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, it said. All parties had shown "close cooperation", and last week's appointment of Kamel Morjane as the UN Special Representative to the DRC was the "culmination of a series of recent positive developments", MONUC stated.

Meanwhile, the UN has provided an aircraft to transport OAU verifiers to regional Joint Military Commissions (JMCs) to be set up at Boende, Lisala and Kabalo to help monitor compliance with the Lusaka accord. Last Thursday, 12 OAU verifiers were deployed to Kabinda, the site of the fourth regional JMC, the MONUC statement added.

DRC: Government denies buying Scud missiles from Iran

DRC Information Minister Didier Mumengi on Tuesday expressed the government's "greatest indignation" over a "misinformation campaign" alleging it had purchased Scud missiles from Iran. According to DRC state radio, Mumengi said the campaign was "just preparing international opinion for the future supplying of arms to Rwanda's Vice President Paul Kagame". He blamed a section of the foreign media "diffusing false reports".

DRC: Government warns of "presence of UNITA rebels"

The DRC government recently alerted southern African countries to the "presence of UNITA rebels" in the country, state television reported on Monday. Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo Kabila warned of the "massive presence of UNITA rebels on Congolese soil who want to destabilise our country after their heavy losses in Angola". Kongolo was on a visit to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Angola and South Africa.

Meanwhile, DRC's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi also delivered a message from Kabila to his West African counterparts. His message dealt with "dramatic developments in the situation of aggression" in the DRC, the television said. He met leaders of the Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

DRC: Thousands malnourished in Kinshasa

A large number of children in Kinshasa are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, particularly in semi-rural areas on the outskirts of the city, a nutrition survey has found. The survey, conducted by Action contre la faim (ACF-USA) and the government in October, measured some 3,600 children under five years old in two urban and two semi-rural communes of Kinshasa. It found that 8.7 percent and 7.9 percent of children in the two semi-urban communes were acutely malnourished, of whom almost three percent were severely malnourished. The global malnutrition rates in the two urban areas surveyed were 3.5 and 4.7 percent. The survey report, received by IRIN, said population displacements and the deep economic crisis resulting from the war had aggravated people's precarious food security status, particularly in cities. Only a small percentage of malnourished children in Kinshasa were receiving assistance in nutritional centres, it said. The survey results showed that further nutritional and food security interventions in Kinshasa "appear indispensable", the report added.

BURUNDI: Agricultural projects to begin

The director general in Burundi's ministry of planning, Pierre-Claver Rurakamvye, has said agricultural projects financed by the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will start in a month's time. Speaking over Burundi radio on Tuesday, he named the beneficiary provinces as Gitega, Karuzi, Kayanza and Cibitoke. Implementation would be carried out in several phases, including community development, farm production, territorial development and local initiatives. IFAD and the Burundi government signed a loan agreement worth US $20 million in May to support the Rural Recovery and Development Programme in Burundi. According to an IFAD press release, the programme seeks to increase individual household food supplies and income through production-oriented activities.

RWANDA: Request for Barayagwiza review welcomed

The Rwandan government on Tuesday welcomed the decision by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Carla Del Ponte, to request a review of the decision to release genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza. "We welcome any attempt to ensure that the people responsible for genocide and massacres in this country are brought to justice, so we welcome the proposal of the Prosecutor to apply for a review of the Barayagwiza decision," Prosecutor-General Gerald Gahima stated on Radio Rwanda.

However, there was no softening of Rwanda's stance that del Ponte would be denied an entry visa while the Barayagwiza decision stood. "As long as it is not reversed, we are not open to discussion. Their incompetence should not be at the expense of justice for the Rwandese," the Internews agency quoted foreign affairs spokesman Seth Kamanzi as saying.

RWANDA: Kigali demands ICTR assurances before renewing cooperation

Gahima also said Rwanda wanted assurances that people in ICTR custody under similar circumstances to Barayagwiza would not be released. "If we have assurances that the Tribunal is committed to bringing these people to justice, that there will be no attempts to release them through technicalities, yes, we shall resume our full cooperation with the Tribunal," Gahima added.

RWANDA: Barayagwiza review application "politically-motivated"

Defence counsel for Barayagwiza, Justry Nyaberi, said on Wednesday that del Ponte's application for a review of the decision was both "politically motivated" and "the last kick of a dying horse", the Hirondelle news agency reported. Nyaberi said del Ponte was attempting "to reopen the matter without any legal basis" as a political expedient to please the Rwandan government.

Nyaberi also said Rwanda's offer to waive the death penalty if Barayagwiza was sent for trial in Rwanda was an attempt to "hoodwink the defence". He claimed that once Barayagwiza was in Rwanda, the authorities would insist on having to apply the law and he "would never get a fair trial", Hirondelle reported.

RWANDA: Genocide suspect refuses to enter plea

Genocide suspect Mika Muhimana on Wednesday refused to enter a plea during his initial appearance at the ICTR, saying he had not discussed the charges with his Tanzanian lawyer, the Hirondelle news agency reported. "I will not plead guilty or not guilty for charges that I don't understand," Muhimana said, requesting a lawyer of his choice. Judge George Williams subsequently entered a plea of not guilty for Muhimana, in accordance with ICTR regulations, Hirondelle said. Muhimana, former town councillor of Gishyita in Kibuye prefecture, is charged with seven counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. He was arrested in Dar es Salaam on 8 November.

Nairobi, 24 November 1999, 15:00 gmt


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

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