Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 308, 12/8/97

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 308, 12/8/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for Central and Eastern Africa

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IRIN Update No. 308 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Monday 6-8 December 1997)

RWANDA: Robinson criticises government's human rights record

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson described the human rights situation in Rwanda as "bleak" at the end of a fact-finding mission yesterday (Sunday), and criticised as "wholly insufficient" the methods employed by the international community to facilitate an improvement. "There appears to be an absence of a committed policy of reconciliation" by the government and "a number of very serious human rights violations such as arbitary arrests" and "inhumane conditions of detention", she said.

While acknowledging the "dramatically" escalating scale of violence by Hutu rebels, she noted that "arbitary killings" linked to the army "have risen substancially in recent months." She also observed that "participation, political power and decision making have become more and more concentrated." She said HRFOR should be "radically restructured" with the appointment of specialist staff and the building of local capacity in the promotion and protection of human rights. In response to the toughly-worded statement, senior cabinet advisor Emmanuel Gasana said Robinson's findings do "not reflect the truth," AFP reported. During her three-day visit, Robinson met senior government officials and toured detention facilities. She left Kigali for Uganda.

Uganda accused of harbouring rebels

The local authorities in Rwanda's northwestern Ruhengeri prefecture have accused their Ugandan counterparts of giving sanctuary to hardline Hutu rebels. During a joint security meeting last week in Ruhengeri, the Rwandan officials said Hutu rebels were either based across the border in Uganda's Kisoro and Kabale districts or transiting through the region from the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Uganda's state-owned 'New Vision' newspaper, Ugandan officials said the rebels were terrorising residents in the two districts.

BURUNDI: Government suspends FRODEBU for six months The Burundian government on Monday suspended for six months the opposition Front pour la democratie au Burundi (FRODEBU) after the mainly Hutu party declared its exiled chairman its "legal representative," AFP reported. The interior ministry said that Jean Minani, based in Tanzania, was "in open rebellion against Burundi." FRODEBU voted to restore Minani as its legal representative at a party congress on Saturday. Meanwhile, Radio France Internationale said some 5,000-8,000 Hutu rebels are being pursued by the army towards the Kabira forest from the hills overlooking Bujumbura.

Ugandan mercenaries captured

Burundi has captured Ugandan mercenaries fighting alongside rebel forces, the 'New Vision' reported today (Monday). The mercenaries are mostly Ugandan army deserters and include a number of officers. One of them, a captain interviewed by the paper, said he joined the rebels last year after being promised money.

UN special rapporteur on human rights arrives

The UN special rapporteur on human rights, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, arrived in Burundi on Sunday for a two-week visit. He is expected to meet a wide range of people and visit several areas of the country during his stay, AFP said.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN Mission arrives in Mbandaka

The UN mission investigating alleged human rights in DRC finally arrived in Mbandaka today. The team was supposed to have left Kinshasa on Saturday but administrative problems blocked their departure. The 17-strong team, comprising human rights officers and forensic experts, is expected to spend several weeks in the town, the site of an alleged massacre of Hutu refugees.

TV reports that NGOs told to suspend work in North Kivu

The ministry of the interior has asked seven NGOs to suspend their activities in Goma, Kinshasa TV reported over the weekend. The affected organisations are allegedly World Vision, Concern, Merlin, Austrian Help Programme and Coopi, plus two local NGOs. No deadline was given in the TV announcement and no official notification has been received from the government, humanitarian sources said.

Anti-Tutsi incidents reported in Goma

State radio in Goma has reported a rash of security incidents in which Tutsis have been harassed and even beaten to death in North Kivu. In a recent case, the radio blamed ex-FAZ elements in the army for roughing-up several people in Bunagana on the Uganda border merely because they looked like Tutsis. The provincial security committee said on Friday that ex-FAR and Interhamwe militia had "infiltrated" Goma and surrounding areas with the goal of implementing a "macabre plan".

Embezzlers promised freedom if they repay the state

President Laurent-Desire Kabila told 31 detainees accused of embezzlement that they could regain their freedom by repaying the state. Kabila met the detainees on Friday in response to a letter they had sent appealing for provisional liberty after six months in jail without trial. "Pay what you owe the state and you can be free," Reuters reported Kabila as saying. Three of a total of 34 detainees are hospitalised and were unable to attend the meeting. Meanwhile, the trial began on Saturday of General Kikunda Ombala, the former director of the national airline which went bankrupt in 1995. He is accused of embezzling public funds and property.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Government calls for investigation into "genocide"

Congo-Brazzaville has called for an investigation by four international human rights organisations into the country's civil conflicts of 1993 and 1997. Government spokesman Francois Ibovi said that the International Court of Justice, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights should send missions to Brazzaville "to take stock of the extent of the material and human damage". Military ruler Denis Sassou Nguesso has described as "genocide" the 1993 clashes between rival militia over the contested election victory of Pascal Lissouba, and the events surrounding Lissouba's ousting in bloody fighting this year. Sassou Nguesso said the genocide would not go unpunished. According to AFP, the government may be considering legal proceedings against Lissouba and former Brazzaville mayor Bernard Kolelas who are in exile.

"Limited" attendence for national reconciliation conference

On Friday, the government's Radio Liberte, monitored by AFP in Kinshasa, said the authorities would limit attendance to a conference on national reconciliation and unity planned for January to those committed to what it described as "real reconciliation". The government meanwhile has set up two commissions to reconstruct the city and disinter the bodies of people who were hastily buried on the premises of hospitals and schools.

The radio announced the reopening of schools today and appealed to pupils to return despite the difficult conditions. Commercial flights to Brazzaville are also expected to resume today, but the airport would only be open from 06.00 am to 4.00 pm, Radio France Internationale reported.

UGANDA: Albright to visit Gulu

US Secretary of State Madeline Albright is set to visit the northern town of Gulu on Wednesday, the centre of the rebel insurgency in northern Uganda. She will make the trip after talks with President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala. Albright is expected to inspect a refugee centre in Gulu and visit a local hospital. The Secretary of State is making a tour of seven African countries and will leave Uganda for Ethiopia on Thursday, AFP reported. Meanwhile, Khartoum has lashed out at Albright's trip as part of a "US-Israeli ploy to destabilise Sudan."

TANZANIA: Mpaka calls for debt relief

Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa on Sunday urged donors to write off some of the country's debts so that his government could raise more money to fund health and education, AFP reported. "The Tanzanian government is spending 11.5 dollars per capita to service only part of the external debt, while it can afford only two dollars per capita on both health and education," Mkapa said in a statement. Tanzania's external debt stood at 8.1 billion dollars in October. Some 42.2 percent of the debt is owed to bilateral donors, 48.7 to multilateral donor institutions and the rest to commercial banks and private creditors, according to central bank figures.

Nairobi, 8 December 1997, 15:30 gmt


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------ Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 18:43:36 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 308 97.12.8 Message-ID: <>

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

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