Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 309, 12/9/97

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 309, 12/9/97

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IRIN Update No. 309 for Central and Eastern Africa (Tuesday 9 December 1997)

BURUNDI: Human Rights Watch accuses arms suppliers of fuelling civil war

Human Rights Watch has accused a list of countries, including the world's major arms suppliers, of fuelling Burundi's civil war by providing weapons to the government and/or rebels. In a report released yesterday (Monday) in Brussels, the rights group said "China, France, North Korea, the Russian Federation, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, the United States and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) have directly provided military support to abusive Burundi forces." According to AFP, the report alleges that Angola, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and DRC have allowed the transit of weapons through their territories - in defiance of a regional embargo - or the establishment of bases by Hutu rebels.

China rejects report

Beijing today (Tuesday) rejected the report's accusations. "To say China is involved in Burundi's internal affairs is baseless," AFP reported Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tang Guoqiang as saying in Beijing.

Eritrea stops support for sanctions

Eritrea has withdrawn its support for sanctions against Bujumbura, state-owned Burundi radio reported yesterday. Sanctions only hurt innocent people and were counter-productive to the peace process, Eritrean Foreign Minister Haile Woldetensae said on an official visit to Burundi. According to the radio, Woldetensae called for internal solutions to internal problems.

Government lifts ban on FRODEBU

The Burundian government has lifted a short-lived ban on the opposition Front pour la democratie au Burundi (FRODEBU). An AFP dispatch said the government instead decided late yesterday to ask the courts to deal with a FRODEBU party declaration on Saturday that its Tanzanian-based chairman had been re-elected. In announcing the ban earlier on Monday, the government accused Frodebu leader Jean Minani of "open rebellion against Burundi". The predominantly Hutu FRODEBU is the majority party in the National Assembly. Bujumbura claims Minani backs the four-year-old Hutu rebellion.

In an interview with the BBC Kirundi service, Minani struck back at the government of Major Pierre Buyoya which came to power through a coup last year. "People who took over power cannot suspend a party which was legally set up and won elections." He accused the government of trying to stop the work of the National Assembly.

RWANDA: Kigali hits back at Robinson

Kigali has accused UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson of "gross misrepresentation of facts on the situation in the country" following her criticism of the government's human rights performance. A statement, issued late on Monday by Presidential Spokesman Joseph Bideri, claimed Robinson had made "deliberate omissions and blatant distortions" in her account of meetings with government officials, news agencies reported. Robinson described the human rights situation in the country as "bleak" on Sunday at the end of a fact-finding mission.

Rwanda-Tanzania discuss forced repatriation

A meeting of senior Rwandan and Tanzanian officials on Sunday agreed to create a joint commission to address the issue of forced repatriation of Rwandans from Tanzania. According to Rwandan radio, Tanzania's Internal Affairs Minister Ali Ahmed Mohammed said people of Rwandan origin with Tanzanian citizenship would be allowed to stay in the country and spouses of Tanzanian citizens wrongly expelled allowed to return. The meeting, in Tanzania's northern district of Ngara, was the second between the two countries on the expulsions.

Army lays siege to cave complex

According to Rwanda's army spokesman, a network of caves discovered recently in northwest Rwanda is "probably" still occupied by Hutu rebels, and is under constant surveillance. Conducting reporters and human rights observers on a visit to the site in the volcanic hills of Gisenyi, Richard Sezibera said the caves had probably been used since early 1995 by members of the Hutu Interahamwe militia. He said he could not estimate their size.


Relations between the DRC and France are on the mend, DRC Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha told Radio France Internationale. He said France adopted a positive attitude at last week's DRC donor conference. He also downplayed the recent tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats. "Having differences does not mean that our relations are bad. We even say relations are better between France and the DRC because we talk to each other very frankly," Karaha said. On Monday, Karaha met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala to discuss "regional issues", AFP reported. He also briefed Museveni on the Brussels donor meeting.

Returnees welcomed by government

DRC officials led by Rehabilitation Minister Etienne Mbaya and a Tanzanian and UNHCR delegation today welcomed home the latest group of 613 voluntary repatriants who had arrived in Uvira from Kigoma overnight. Since 1 September, 9,420 Congolese have been transported in 16 "convoys" across the lake by UNHCR under a tripartite agreement. The large majority of returnees are going to the Fizi and Uvira zones of South Kivu. Greeting the cheering returnees, Congolese officials urged them to reject tribalism and work for the reconstruction of the country. A returnee, interviewed by IRIN, acknowledged continuing tensions between Babembe and Banyamulenge communities in South Kivu, but said returnees were coming back peacefully to re-build their lives after about a year in the refugee camps.

ANGOLA: Annan says UNITA stalling peace process

The UN Secretary-General on Monday criticised former Angolan rebels for stalling the peace process, despite the imposition of UN sanctions five weeks ago. In a report to the UN Security Council, Kofi Annan said "the peace process continues to be slow, with intermittent surges of UNITA cooperation and long periods of stagnation following one another," AFP reported. "It is imperative for UNITA to complete, without further delay, the crucial tasks of demilitarisation and extension of state administration throughout the country," he said. "Both parties, but in particular UNITA, are responsible for this unsatisfactory state of affairs," Annan noted.

UGANDA/KENYA: Governments promise flood relief

President Yoweri Museveni has assured flood victims in western Mbale district of government relief. State-owned 'New Vision' said Museveni, who toured a camp for the displaced in the area, cautioned against the indiscriminate felling of trees in the hilly region which had exacerbated the problem of landslides following torrential rains. Meanwhile, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi yesterday ordered the immediate supply of food and medicine to the flood-hit northwestern districts of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit and Moyale, KBC radio reported.

Nairobi, 9 December 1997 14:45 gmt


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Date: Tue, 9 Dec 1997 18:29:33 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 309 97.12.9 Message-ID: <>

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

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