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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 30-98 covering the period 17-23 July 1998
BURUNDI: 2,000-3,000 displaced by fighting
The governor of Bujumbura Rural province, Stanislas Ntahobari, said 3,000 people had been displaced this week as a result of clashes between the army and rebels just south of Bujumbura. News reports quoted local residents in Mutambu commune as saying 20 people had been killed. The rebels reportedly belong to the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL), the armed wing of PALIPEHUTU, and according to Ntahobari "they are trying to destabilise to make their presence known while the negotiations are underway in Arusha". He said the same thing had happened during the first round of negotiations in June. The displaced people have gathered in government-protected areas while the fighting continues.
Humanitarian sources told IRIN on Thursday they had reports some 2,000 people fled after a rebel attack in Mutambu commune the previous night. Three or four FNL groups are said to be carrying out attacks in the area.
Arusha peace process resumes
The resumed Burundi peace process got off to a shaky start in the Tanzanian town of Arusha on Monday, with the plenary session delayed by a day. Wranglings over the agenda continued throughout the week. Burundi radio on Wednesday said there had been no progress. The government delegation wants discussions to be held in committees, while the opposition FRODEBU prefers plenary talks. Meanwhile, smaller parties expressed unhappiness at their level of representation, which was limited to two each. According to the radio, these smaller parties - PALIPEHUTU, ANADDE, PP, AV Intwari and PSD - had grouped together in a new alliance. [For further information see IRIN Background Brief to the Arusha talks (2) of 7 July 1998]
Burundian Peace Process Minister Ambroise Niyonsaba called for direct talks with rebel groups about a proposed ceasefire in the country, according to news reports. Niyonsaba, who is attending the Arusha talks, said: "We have army officers in the government delegation and we want to discuss the ceasefire directly with the rebels."
Majority of Cibitoke displaced back in their homes
OCHA-Burundi says nearly 100,000 displaced people have been able to return to their homes in Cibitoke province over the last two months due to improved security. Only seven sites (out of a former total of 34) with about 13,600 displaced people now remain. OCHA said the provincial governor had indicated everyone would be back in their places of origin by the end of the month. Meanwhile MSF is to withdraw from Kirundo and Ngozi areas by the end of August, OCHA-Burundi said. MSF says the situation there has moved into the pre-development phase and an agency more specialised in development activities should take over support to the health sector.
RWANDA: UN human rights chief regrets lack of deal on Rwandan presence
The UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement last Thursday it regretted no agreement had been reached during recent discussions with the government on the establishment of a new UN human rights presence in Rwanda. "Such a new operation could have built upon the work of the Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (HRFOR) on the basis of a joint strategy with the government of Rwanda designed to protect human rights by strengthening the rule of the law," the statement noted, after the UN announced it was withdrawing its human rights observers from the country.
AFP quoted Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana as saying Rwanda remained open to more talks, but indicated he would not make concessions on the question of monitoring. "White men in big cars send the wrong message to the Rwandan people," he was quoted as saying.
ICTR judge resigns
A Swedish judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Lennart Aspegren, on Monday announced his resignation from the court, citing "administrative incompetence", Reuters reported. Aspegren said he believed the tribunal "is a very good idea ... but the support administration is just not competent enough". "Judgements cannot be given in a timely fashion and this is not good for general world opinion or for the victims in Rwanda who are getting very impatient," he added, speaking from his home in Sweden. He said there was a "lack of commitment all round". ICTR Prosector Louise Arbour, speaking during a visit to Kigali on Monday, acknowledged there had been delays but said the pace was now "picking up".
Paris Club creditors write off 67 percent of debt
The Paris Club of creditor nations has agreed to restructure Rwanda's external debt, writing off 67 percent of its debts, according to media reports. A statement issued by the group on Wednesday said the decision had taken into account "the very low income per inhabitant and the very high debt burden". Conditions in Rwanda "justify major adjustment efforts and exceptional treatment of the debt", the statement added. Creditor nations also opened the way for converting bilateral debts, totalling 20 percent, into investment, aid and environmental protection schemes.
A UN newsletter meanwhile said a "demobilisation and reintegration programme" for 1998-2000, totalling US $8 million, was signed in June between the Rwandan government and UNDP. The programme will facilitate the demobilisation and reintegration of 40,000 ex-FAR members.
Belgian missionaries abducted by rebels
Two Belgian missionaries, belonging to the White Fathers, have been kidnapped by rebels in northwest Rwanda, according to news reports. They were abducted from Rwaza parish in Ruhengeri prefecture, but local church leaders said they did not fear for their safety, believing the recent spate of kidnapping religious workers is a ploy to gain publicity. "They (rebels) talk with them, put them up, treat them well during the day and move with them at night," AFP quoted Abbot Modeste of the Rwandan Episcopal Conference as saying.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Nine sentenced to death for trying to "change regime"
A self-proclaimed king from Bas-Congo province was jailed for 20 years and nine of his supporters sentenced to death on charges of trying to "change the established regime", news reports said. "King" Bernard Mizele, who has been calling for the secession of the Bas-Congo, Bandundu and Kinshasa provinces, was arrested at his home in Muanda, Bas-Congo, earlier this month. He had earlier fled Kinshasa after clashes broke out between his militia and government forces, in which eight people were killed.
Assembly to sit on 15 August
DRC's new constituent and legislative assembly will be inaugurated on 15 August, according to Minister of State for the Interior Gaetan Kakudji. The Agence congolaise de presse said he reiterated at a news conference that political activity would only resume six months before general elections, but he reassured assembly members of the government's commitment to democracy. One of the assembly's tasks will be to adopt the country's draft constitution.
Ministers donate to reconstruction fund
Meanwhile, government ministers on Monday kicked off a "solidarity fund" for national reconstruction by each donating 10 percent of their monthly salary, ACP reported. The fund was set up "in the absence of concrete international assistance", the agency said.
WFP resumes food distributions outside Bukavu, Goma
WFP has resumed food distributions to 45,000 displaced people in the Bukavu and Goma areas after the local authorities lifted measures restricting aid agencies from working outside the towns. In its latest weekly report, WFP said the displaced people were in dire need of food assistance. In the southern part of the country, some 30,000 Angolan refugees have arrived in the village of Kisenge, Katanga province, fleeing ongoing fighting between the Angolan government and UNITA forces. WFP said an assessment mission earlier this month by WFP, UNHCR and the government found the refugees' health and nutritional situation was not bad but could worsen unless proper shelter and food assistance were received.
UGANDA: UNHCR plans to mainstream assistance to Sudanese refugees
UNHCR and the Ugandan government have agreed to press ahead with plans to integrate services for Sudanese refugees with those offered to local populations, UNHCR Country Representative Johannes Thoolen told IRIN on Thursday. The government met UNHCR representatives on Wednesday to discuss refugee policy in northwestern Uganda, in a meeting also attended by donors, representatives of the World Bank and other UN agencies. Thoolen stressed the refugees affected by the policy of mainstreaming assistance were already in settlements as opposed to camps and living alongside local populations. He said the policy which aims to standardise services, such as health and education, received by both groups would help "contribute to development in the north" and facilitate the eventual return of the refugees. Thoolen said Uganda currently had a total refugee population of some 178,000 of which about 150,000 were from Sudan.
More refugees DRC repatriated
UNHCR in Kampala told IRIN on Monday it had now repatriated some 7,900 DRC refugees from Uganda. Spokesperson Niino Tomoko said most of those had come from Kyaka II refugee camp in western Uganda and had voluntarily returned to Kamango, situated in an enclave between Uganda and the Virunga park in North Kivu, in eastern DRC. She said there remained about 1,000 others who remained to be repatriated "probably at the end of this month or early in August".
Rwanda refugees removed from contentious land
Some 1,800 Rwandan refugees have been removed from land claimed by locals in Mbarara district for safety reasons, the state-owned 'New Vision' reported. The government has decided to make land at Kyabishaho in Bukanga county available to the refugees, but humanitarian sources told IRIN that local residents are claiming it because it is very fertile. 'New Vision' said conflict over the contentious land flared up last month and the Mbarara district security committee has ordered the refugees moved until a solution can be found.
LRA reject peace talks, minister says
A Ugandan minister has said rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rejected an offer of talks by President Yoweri Museveni. According to AP, the minister of state for reconstructing northern Uganda, Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, told a London conference Museveni had sent the LRA a letter offering to hold talks, but he "received no positive response". A London-based organiser of the Acholi community Richard Lanek was quoted as saying the LRA are divided. "They are working against each other as well as against the Ugandan government," he said.
On 10 July, Ugandan Minister of State Security Muruli Mukasa told IRIN representatives of the LRA and the Ugandan government met in Nairobi earlier this month in an attempt to revive peace talks. According to Mukasa, there was a political will on the part of the government to try and end the conflict. "We would like to end the conflict... there is a political will and we are ready to talk if the dissidents show good faith," he said.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan army says it captured 671 LRA rebels during a recent incursion by the rebel group into Uganda from Sudan. The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) also killed 179 LRA rebels and recovered 180 rifles in various clashes between April and June this year, the army's information officer Captain Shaban Bantariza was quoted by the 'New Vision' newspaper as saying.
SUDAN: UNICEF chief shocked by visit to Bahr al-Ghazal
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, back from a visit to south Sudan, said she had witnessed "horrific suffering" in areas of Bahr al-Ghazal province. She told a news conference in Nairobi on Thursday the mortality rate in Ajiep town for children under five was 133 per 10,000 and for adults 70 per 10,000, according to MSF figures. The UNICEF boss, who visited the towns of Wau and Panthou, said she was especially shocked by rows of freshly-dug graves in Wau where 51 people had died only hours earlier. She reiterated that a three-month ceasefire, aimed at allowing humanitarian assistance to go ahead, was a very short time "given that this is a crisis that will last into 1999".
INTERNATIONAL: UN's Annan hails new court
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has hailed the creation of an international court to try war crimes as a "gift of hope". Annan told some 300 delegates and dignatories who attended Saturday's adoption ceremony in Rome that its creation was "a giant step forward in the march towards universal human rights". The court is empowered to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression, but the United States has rejected it and India branded it as "meaningless". The statute of the court has already been signed by 26 states. It must be signed and ratified by 60 nations to come into effect.
Nairobi, 24 July 1998
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Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1998 11:30:00 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 30-98 17-23 July 1998.7.24 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.980724112831.2254Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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