Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 297, 11/21/97

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 297, 11/21/97

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Department of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa

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IRIN Update No. 297 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 21 November 1997)

TANZANIA: UN envoy hits out at arms embargo proposal

Tanzania's UN representative has lashed out at a proposal to impose an arms embargo upon the Great Lakes region. Musinga Bandora described the suggestion by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burundi as an attempt to infringe on the sovereignty of countries of the region. The Special Rapporteur's report, presented to a UN committee earlier this week, created an "erroneous impression that the problems of Burundi, which were purely internal, emanated from the region," the envoy stated. He added his delegation had been "appalled" by the "misinterpretation of facts and malicious assertions" that regional economic sanctions on Burundi were a violation of human rights. Sanctions were for the "limited objective of peace", he claimed. In his report, the Special Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro called for the embargo to be eased, saying it was having negative effects on the Burundian people.

BURUNDI: Minister says education situation "catastrophic"

Sectors such as education and healthcare have been particularly hard hit by the embargo, according to humanitarian workers. They point out the government has funnelled its limited resources into keeping the basic fabric of society functioning, such as fuel supplies, the military and civil servants' salaries, so there is little left for other areas. Primary Education Minister Joseph Ndayisaba told IRIN the situation for his ministry was "catastrophic", with educational facilities and manpower already depleted by four years of war. He said the education system in the troubled provinces of Cibitoke and Bubanza had "totally collapsed". A recent report by the UN Human Rights Operation in Burundi stressed the education plight of children in displaced and regroupment camps was particularly dire.

Bank to restrict issue of hard currency

Faced with the effects of war and sanctions, Burundi's central bank took measures this week to restrict the release of the country's dwindling hard currency reserves, Reuters reported. It cited a statement issued by the bank on Monday as saying hard currency would only be available for importing "essential" products such as raw materials, equipment and spare parts. GDP had fallen by seven percent in 1996, compared to a positive growth in real terms of 3.7 percent between 1987 and 1992, the statement said. Money for official trips and other expenditures abroad would only be released for priority cases, it added, blaming a lack of foreign aid, drop in export revenues and increase in import prices for the current situation. Businessmen said the move would prompt them to turn to the black market for hard currency.

Buyoya again denies involvement in coup plot

Burundian head of state Pierre Buyoya yesterday (Thursday) reiterated he played no role in the attempted military coup of 1993 in which the then-president Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated and which sparked the current civil war in the country. Speaking over the BBC's Kirundi service, he said his name had never been mentioned by any commission of enquiry into the incident. He stressed he would be the first person to appear in court to answer charges if summoned to do so.

Tanzanian troops accused of harassing border crossers

The Agence burundaise de presse (ABP) accused Tanzanian security forces of trying to "sever the century-old friendly ties" between people living along the Burundi-Tanzania border. Its correspondent in southern Rutana province cited local residents as saying nationals of either country trying to cross the border were often beaten up or robbed by Tanzanian soldiers. ABP said although border tension remained high, Tanzanians and Burundians still crossed into each other's countries for trading purposes or to visit their families. Bujumbura accuses Tanzania of harbouring rebels who use the refugee camps as rear bases for launching attacks on Burundi. Regional analysts say however that the rebel Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD) has splintered into as many as five factions, and the Burundi army appears to have the upper hand with security re-established in most provinces. Bubanza/Cibitoke in the north and Bururi/Makamba in the south remain volatile.

RWANDA: Meles urges new probe into 1994 genocide to prevent recurrence

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi yesterday called for an investigation by eminent personalities into the 1994 genocide to probe why it was allowed to happen, in a bid to "come out of the cycle of violence" in the Great Lakes region. In comments to a session of the OAU conflict resolution committee in Addis Ababa, Meles said such a probe might "hold the clue" to preventing further tragedies. The investigation by a "panel of internationally renowned personalities" should look into "where the OAU failed, what the UN did and did not do". The current relative calm in the Great Lakes region was "deceptive", Meles warned. "We obviously cannot play a meaningful role in preventing a slide into the abyss unless we know what might have gone wrong in April 1994," he stated. "There is probably no greater issue that warrants the urgent attention of the OAU".

Genocide survivors protest against release of suspects

A two-day demonstration by genocide survivors against the release of some genocide suspects ended on Wednesday after the authorities reversed the decision. The protest in Gikongoro was triggered by the release of 10 suspects, in accordance with a government decision to free those who are old, seriously ill or aged under 14. The 10 were "redetained temporarily pending a firmer decision", Rwandan radio said. A total of 150 will be redetained throughout the prefecture, it added. The demonstrators argued that the elderly suspects had been "killing since 1959 when Tutsi harassment began in Rwanda", while those who were ill should have their trials speeded up.

Former editor pleads not guilty at ICTR

A former editor of the Hutu extremist 'Kangura' newspaper pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha yesterday. The indictment against Hassan Ngeze includes allegations he used his newspaper to prepare the genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Ngeze was arrested in Nairobi earlier this year and extradited to Arusha.

Soldiers jailed for killing commander

Four soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) were sentenced to life imprisonment yesterday for killing the commander of the gendarmerie in Gitarama/Kibuye region. Four other suspects - all officers - were acquitted by the Gitarama military court, Rwandan radio reported. Captain Theoneste Hategekimana, who belonged to the former Forces Armees Rwandaises (FAR), and his bodyguard were shot dead last month as they left their office. Military prosecutor Captain Joseph Nzabamwita told AFP he had asked for the death penalty. "This is the first time in this country that an RPA officer is killed by his own soldiers," he said. "This shocked not only the army but the entire population."

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Amnesty condemns refugee expulsion

The human rights organisation Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned the expulsion of Burundian and Rwandan refugees from eastern DRC. It claimed the refugees were "systematically sought out" by Burundian and Rwandan soldiers with the help of the DRC authorities in the South Kivu region earlier this month. Unconfirmed reports suggested similar operations were taking place in other parts of the country, including the Fizi area, Amnesty said. It noted the refugees were accused of belonging to the DRC Mai Mai militia or the Rwandan Interahamwe.

Kabila warns journalists to respect press law

President Laurent-Desire Kabila warned journalists in the country to report "responsibly" or face disciplinary action. He told a news conference on Wednesday the country's press law must be respected by all media workers. The state was "obliged to defend itself against a section of the media which is always quick to demand its rights, but quite unconcerned about accomplishing its duty," he said. He claimed that since the country's liberation, articles in the media "often reveal marketing in bad taste".

Kabila asks Mandela to extradite pro-Mobutuists

Voice of the People radio, broadcasting from Bunia, said today (Friday) Kabila had urged his South African counterpart Nelson Mandela to extradite supporters of ex-president Mobutu Sese Seko residing in his country. According to the radio, 13 pro-Mobutu figures were reportedly plotting to topple the new Kinshasa leadership.

SUDAN: Ugandan officials confirm poison gas factory in Wau

Ugandan security officials have confirmed the existence of a mustard gas factory at Wau in southwest Sudan, the state-owned Ugandan 'New Vision' reported today. The report was carried by the British 'Sunday Times', which claimed the factory was a joint venture between Sudanese President Omar al Bashir and his Iraqi counterpart Saddam Hussein. Production reportedly began in 1995 and the gas had twice been used against the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the 'Sunday Times' said.

Opposition begins military operation on Port Sudan-Khartoum road

The Sudanese opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) says it has launched a military operation to cut off the Port Sudan-Khartoum road. It claimed its forces battled government troops on the Kassala-Butana bridge in northeast Sudan earlier this week, killing five Khartoum soldiers, destroying one vehicle and capturing another. Opposition Voice of Sudan radio said there were no NDA casualties.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Assistance urgently needed

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies today said over 370,000 Congolese people were in urgent need of food, shelter and medical care. In a statement issued in Nairobi, it appealed for around US$ four million to assist vulnerable people in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. The NGO consortium, Action by Churches Together, described the devastation of Brazzaville as "terrifying" and said security had still not returned. The need for humanitarian assistance was urgent, it stressed in a report following a visit to the city. Residents of Dolisie in the south described the entry into the town last month by military leader General Sassou-Nguesso's Cobra militia as "terrifying". People were killed and everything was looted, they said, adding that Angolan tanks had arrived in the town to support the Cobras. Early this month, residents were fleeing Dolisie due to "insecurity and famine".

Sixty-five Rwandan refugees, including 15 unaccompanied children, were repatriated from Brazzaville to Kigali yesterday, UNHCR said. A further 170 Rwandans had indicated their willingness to return home.

Nairobi, 21 November 1997, 13:45 gmt


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Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 16:47:47 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 297 97.11.21 Message-ID: <>

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

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