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[The weekly roundup is based on IRIN daily updates and other relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.]
Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 18-98 covering the period 24-30 Apr 1998
RWANDA: Rwanda executes 22 people convicted of genocide
Rwandan army firing squads last Friday publicly executed 22 people sentenced to death for taking part in the country's 1994 genocide. State radio reported at 12:20 p.m. local time the executions were carried out as planned in five locations across the country. Correspondents from international news organisations reported a Rwandan firing squad executed three men and a woman at a soccer ground in Kigali in front of a crowd of more than 100,000 people. The dead included a vice-president of the Mouvement Democratique republicain, Froduald Karamira, regarded by the Rwandan authorities as the main ideologist of the Hutu extremist faction known as "Hutu Power" which incited the genocide.
The executions were widely condemned internationally by the UN, USA, the Pope and human rights organisations. However Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana said the executions would serve to "eradicate the culture of impunity which has been going on for more than three decades". Addressing the diplomatic corps this week, he criticised those who simply stood by and watched as the genocide unfolded and who were now calling for the killers to be pardoned, Rwandan radio reported. Judicial sources, quoted by AFP on Saturday, said the executions had encouraged other suspects to cooperate with the authorities by entering into plea-bargaining arrangements to avoid the death penalty.
Kambanda pleads guilty at ICTR
The most prominent defendant held by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha today (Friday 1 May) pleaded guilty to six charges of genocide. On Wednesday, a defence lawyer at the Tribunal told IRIN it was "widely assumed" former Rwandan premier Jean Kambanda would plead guilty to some or all of the six genocide-related charges against him.
ICTR slams Amnesty report
The ICTR on Thursday strongly condemned criticism of its operations by the human rights group Amnesty International. In a report also released on Thursday, Amnesty accused the tribunal of "weaknesses" and shortcomings". The ICTR statement expressed regret that Amnesty had "joined the bandwagon" of those who "find it fashionable" to denigrate the court. Regarding the detention of Jean Kambanda, who has not been held at the ICTR detention facilities, the statement pointed out the ICTR statute provides for holding detainees in safe houses if necessary. The statement rejected Amnesty's claims that a "dangerous precedent" had been set for "overlooking international standards", and accused the organisation of "armchair allegations that have no basis".
4,000 displaced due to insecurity in Gitarama
Officials in central Gitarama prefecture say 4,000 people have fled their homes due to insecurity and harassment by suspected Hutu militias, the Rwanda News Agency reported on Wednesday. Particularly affected were the communes of Buringa, Nyakabanda, Nyabikenke and Rutobwe. RNA said the internally displaced people were receiving assistance from organisations such as Concern, the ICRC, the IBUKA genocide survivors' group and the social welfare ministry. Meanwhile, in Mushubati commune, seven people including six children were hacked to death on Tuesday by machete-wielding attackers, RNA reported.
WFP to implement food projects
WFP on Friday said Kigali had given it the go-ahead to implement several new projects to help feed thousands of Rwandans facing severe food shortages. In a news release, the agency estimated over 200,000 Rwandans were finding it more and more difficult to find food due to a combination of erratic rainfall and heavy flooding over the past few months. Particularly affected are the prefectures of Butare, Gikongoro, Kibuye, Ruhengeri, Gisenyi, Kibungo and Gitarama, whose inhabitants will need food aid to carry them through to the next harvest in July. WFP intends to increase its assistance from 3,500 mt for 160,000 people to over 5,000 mt for some 360,000 people.
SUDAN: "Sheer desperation" in Bahr al-Ghazal, WFP says
WFP described the humanitarian situation in southern Bahr al-Ghazal state as one of "sheer desperation". A WFP spokeswoman, who last week visited Majakaliet county, told IRIN only 30 percent of some 25,000 people who came to the UN food distribution centre there could be fed. She described the scene as "all hell breaking loose" when the food distribution began, saying people had been "reduced to ripping each other apart" for food. "They have been reduced to choosing who lives and who dies," she added, pointing out that people trekked for four days just to receive a cup of maize and beans.
OLS hails clearance of second aircraft
Operation Lifeline Sudan on Saturday hailed a move by the Sudanese government to grant clearance for a second aircraft to operate in south Sudan. However OLS Southern Sector Coordinator Carl Tinstman warned that a third C-130 aircraft was essential, for which flight clearance and funding were being sought. [Save the Children Fund told a press briefing in Nairobi today (Friday 1 May) the situation in south Sudan had not reached famine proportions but a "forseeable crisis" was developing due to a weakened food economy affected by huge population displacements. In Bahr al-Ghazal, some 350,000 people or about 25 percent of the population, were in "extreme distress" unable to meet their food needs for the next five-six months until the harvesting season].
WFP barge convoy sets off along Nile
Meanwhile, a WFP barge convoy left the southern Sudan port of Malakal earlier this week at the start of a six-week voyage to drop off food supplies to villages along the Nile. Seven barges are carrying 2,040 mt of cereals and pulses, a WFP press release said on Thursday. The trip will end in Juba, and WFP estimates a total of 377,350 in government and rebel-held areas will be be provided with food.
Peace talks postponed
Peace talks in Nairobi between the Khartoum government and SPLA rebels were postponed from 30 April to 4 May, the Kenyan 'Daily Nation' reported on Monday, citing SUNA news agency. The talks are being held under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). No reasons were given for the postponement.
BURUNDI: Gatumba transit site to be shut
In its weekly report, WFP said the Gatumba transit site outside Bujumbura is to be closed and its occupants, mostly returnees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be transferred to their home areas. According to WFP, some 1,577 people are registered at the site, a third of whom have no home or land to return to. The authorities are seeking a new location for this group. In addition, the Burundi authorities held talks with WFP to discuss the possible reinstallation of some 100,000 displaced people. The report added that despite a precarious security situation in eastern DRC, refugees from Burundi were still attempting to cross the border. An estimated 9,000 Burundians had arrived in the Uvira region since January, but there are no plans to settle them in camps and many are being returned to Burundi.
Think tank says sanctions not working
A Brussels-based think tank has added its voice to calls for lifting regional sanctions against Burundi. The International Crisis Group, in a report entitled "Burundi Under Siege", said the embargo had made the poor poorer and the rich richer "by creating opportunities for extortion rackets, corruption and highly-profitable black market economic activities". The sanctions had also played a part in "radicalising certain elements within the army and the minority Tutsi community by adding to their sense of persecution and vulnerability," the report added. The current regional peace process was seen as too partisan and had "evolved into a personal vendetta between the former Tanzanian president [mediator Julius Nyerere] and the president of Uganda on the one hand and [Burundi President] Buyoya on the other".
Foreign minister calls for team of neutral mediators
Burundi's Foreign Minister Luc Rukingama, interviewed in Nairobi on Friday, called for a "team of neutral mediators", representing different regions of Africa. Thus, Nyerere could represent east Africa with other representatives for other areas. On the transition, the minister said the authorities initially set a three-year time frame but with the imposition of sanctions this had proved unrealistic. He said the transition was being "rediscussed" with political partners and that "within a reasonable period" peace and stability would be restored leading to democracy.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Banyamulenge soldiers sentenced to death for "mutiny"
Bukavu radio this week announced the handing down of a number of death sentences following a court martial in the town. They include several Banyamulenge soldiers sentenced for involvement in an army mutiny earlier this year. A total of 27 Banyamulenge soldiers were on trial, 10 of whom were sentenced to five years imprisonment for "creating an informal group in Uvira", the radio said.
Prominent jailbreaker still on the run
Opposition politician Joseph Olenghakoy is still on the run after his recent escape from a high-security jail near Lubumbashi, Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo told a news conference on Saturday. He said however it was "certain" Olenghakoy would be recaptured. Meanwhile, two other prominent detainees who escaped with him and were later caught appeared on state television at the weekend, the Agence congolaise de presse reported. Opposition politician Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma and former military commander Masasu Nindaga said they were being well treated.
UGANDA: Government may negotiate with LRA
The Ugandan government told IRIN on Thursday it may consider holding peace talks with the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, even though it had not received a formal request. Minister of State for Political Affairs Amama Mbabazi reiterated the government's desire for peaceful negotiations in resolving political issues and said they must be held "within the constitutional framework." He however warned that Uganda would "find it difficult to negotiate" the LRA's support for the Sudanese government. Mbabazi stated he was not aware of the rebels' demands but warned the LRA's denouncement of "its crime against humanity" would be a prerequisite for negotiations. Meanwhile nine LRA rebels were killed and two others captured on Saturday in a clash with the Ugandan army in Kitgum, the state-owned 'New Vision' reported on Wednesday.
CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Government team to assess quake damage
A government team was due to fly to northern Congo on Thursday to assess the situation following a powerful earthquake in the remote Likouala region. The quake, whose epicentre was the town of Epena with some 7,000 residents, struck the region on Sunday, but so far there have been no details of damage or casualties. UNICEF has provided the government team with emergency supplies.
GABON: Central African ministers open security meeting
Defence and interior ministers of 10 central African countries opened a meeting in Libreville on Tuesday, under UN auspices, to discuss security in the region. The countries represented are Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. The 11th country, Rwanda, although invited, did not attend the opening session. Gabonese Defence Minister Idriss Ngari, quoted by AFP, stressed the three-day meeting should result in the adoption of "concrete measures" in the struggle against insecurity, arms proliferation and drugs trafficking. The meeting's discussion paper noted that armed conflicts in Africa had caused 3,500,000 deaths between 1990 and 1995. It also pointed out that 14 African countries were at war in 1996.
ANGOLA: UN approves extension of peacekeepers' mandate
The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a two-month extension of the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA). The Council endorsed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation to completely withdraw most UN personnel by no later than 1 July 1998. Annan had called on the Council to withdraw 595 of MONUA's 1,045 troops between late April and 1 July and suggested that the remaining 450 soldiers - including 90 military observers - stay in Angola until late 1998.
AFRICA: UN Secretary-General begins visit
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan began an eight-country tour of Africa on Wednesday, kicking off in Ethiopia where he was due to attend the 40th anniversary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa and meet Ethiopian leaders. A UN spokesman said his visit then takes him to Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Eritrea. He is due to return to New York on 11 May.
Nairobi, 1 May 1998
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Date: Fri, 1 May 1998 13:50:53 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 18-98 24-30 Apr 98.5.1 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.980501134906.32359Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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