Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-up, 8/25/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-up, 8/25/97


Department of Humanitarian Affairs

Integrated Regional Information Network

for the Great Lakes

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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.]

IRIN Weekly Roundup 18-97 of Main Events in the Great Lakes region, covering the period 19-25 August 1997

[Please note today's daily update is incorporated in this report]

Burundi: Government boycotts peace talks

Burundi's all-party peace talks due today in Arusha, Tanzania, were thrown into disarray following a boycott by the Burundian government and UPRONA party. Peace mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, nevertheless said the meeting will go ahead. The Burundian government had Friday asked for a postponment of the Arusha talks because of insufficient preparation. Foreign Minister Luc Rukingama told Radio Burundi that time was also needed "for tempers to cool down". The boycott comes amid the souring of relations between Burundi and Tanzania. Rukingama had singled out Dar-es-Salaam as being responsible for last weekend's recommendation by regional foreign ministers to maintain sanctions against Bujumbura which he told state radio amounted to "irreversibly blocking the peace process and encouraging extremists opposed to dialogue." Nyerere backed the ministers' decision because he said the government of Pierre Buyoya had not satisfied the pro-democracy conditions for lifting the embargo. In a radio interview yesterday, Rukingama accused not only Tanzania of partiality but that Nyerere had demonstrated "openly that he has chosen sides."

Tension has also mounted along the border with Burundi accusing Tanzania of harbouring Hutu rebels and Dar-es-Salaam countering that Bujumbura was preparing a military strike against refugee camps. Tanzanian Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete claimed that Burundi's allegations were meant to disrupt the Arusha talks, Radio Tanzania reported Saturday. He reiterated that Dar-es-Salaam would continue its efforts to seek a solution to the Burundi crisis by peaceful means. Rukingama however stressed that if the Arusha meeting convenes "to embrace the gangs of tribalists and perpetrators of genocide, I do not know if the process could have any chance of going ahead further." Mohamed Sahnoun, UN/OAU Special Representative for the Great Lakes, said in Bujumbura Sunday that he would be studying the "problems" surrounding the negotiations with the Burundian authorities "to ensure that the process of discussions and dialogue remains on track."

Burundi: Regrouped return in Kayanza

Regrouped people in northern Burundi's Kayanza province began returning home under a government-sponsored initiative. The first returnees were from Ruhinga camp, which housed around 10,000 people. The return is being carried out colline by colline according to a government timetable. However, unconfirmed reports said that people were spontaneously leaving the camps for their homes and WFP pointed out that this could pose problems for aid agencies as reinstallation packages are only being handed out in accordance with the authorities' schedule. Aid agencies said it was crucial that all returnees arrive home before the planting season gets underway in September. WFP had reported that malnutrition was a growing problem in the displaced and regroupment camps. Sources also suggested that the local authorities were anxious to revive coffee production in Kayanza. About 256,000 people are categorised as regrouped in Burundi.

Action Contre la Faim (ACF) described the nutritional situation in northwest Burundi as "extremely critical". In Muramvya, Bujumbura Rurale province, some 20 people were dying each week from malnutrition. Since November 1996, ACF's therapeutic feeding centre had been caring for 400 children and adults mostly from the troubled provinces of Bubanza and Cibitoke. Their long trek to Muramvya had rendered them very weak and for some it was too late to save them. ACF said Friday that the situation had deteriorated even further recently with the intensification of battles in the Kibira forest and northwest provinces. The laying of mines meant access was very dangerous. The need for humanitarian aid, ACF pointed out, was more necessary than ever.

Rwanda: Refugee massacre

A massacre of 107 Kinyarwanda-speaking DRC refugees in Gisenyi, northwestern Rwanda, has dramatically underscored the deteriorating security situation in the province, humanitarian sources say. Reports said Hutu rebels armed with guns and machetes attacked the Mudende camp Thursday night. Eighty-seven people are being treated mostly for machete wounds. The private Rwanda News Agency claimed that the raid was "facilitated by some local employees of humanitarian organisations". At least one of the 17 rebels killed by the army during its counter-offensive was carrying the ID card of a foreign NGO, sources reported. Mudende sheltered 8,000 people who had fled the violence in Masisi, eastern DRC. Between 3,000 to 4,000 were still at the camp Saturday.

The attack comes in the wake of a series of reports by international human rights organisations accusing the Rwandan army of killing civilians during its counter-insurgency operations against Hutu rebels in the northwest. Last Monday, responding to the reports, Rwandan Vice President Paul Kagame said the allegations were being made "as if there is no fighting happening. As if it is simply a violation of human rights." In an interview with Rwanda radio he stressed that the army was battling "groups that are bent on causing insecurity" and their "collaborators". He added: "these elements will have to be fought and will have to be defeated." Kagame noted that human rights violations by individual soldiers were being dealt with but needed to be viewed within the context of the ongoing fighting.

Rwanda: Genocide death sentences

A Rwandan court in Gitarama Friday sentenced to death former Kigali deputy prosecutor, Silas Manyagisha, for genocide and other crimes against humanity. Death sentences were also requested for two men out of six accused on genocide charges at Cyangugu court. Rwandan radio said the prosecution asked for life imprisonment for the remaining four. The court's final verdict is expected this Friday. Meanwhile, Namibia is prepared to hand over Andre Rwamakuba, a genocide suspect working in the country, on a formal request by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Namibia has no extradition treaty with Rwanda. The ICTR sitting in Arusha last week extended the detention of five genocide suspects for a further 30 days. The accused are: Sylvian Nsabimana, the former prefect of Butare, Aloys Ntabakuze, the ex-commander of the para-commando battalion, Belgian journalist Georges Ruggiu, Col, Gratien Kabiligi who served on the Rwanda army's General Staff and Hassan Ngeze, the former editor-in-chief of the 'Kangura' newspaper.

Rwanda: Resistance to repatriation

Malawi's Dzaleka refugee camp sheltering 1,200 Rwandan and DRC refugees was torched Wednesday and several hundred Rwandans fled following reports that the government was planning their repatriation. An unnamed Rwandan government official described the refugees as "fugitives of justice". He told the Rwanda News Agency Saturday that "all of them are afraid of facing justice to respond to their role in genocide." The refugees had crossed into Malawi from Tanzania.

Tanzania: Refugee return agreement

Some 74,000 DRC refugees in camps in Tanzania's Kigoma area will be repatriated voluntarily under a new agreement reached Friday between Tanzania, DRC and the UNHCR. The refugee agency reports that more than 10,000 of these Congolese have already returned spontaneously and an additional 12,000 have signed up to go back. Tanzanian Deputy Home Affairs Minister Emmanuel Mwambulukutu told Tanzanian radio that the exercise would begin on 5 September. Humanitarian sources however note that ethnic-based anti-repatriation groups have emerged among the refugees who fear victimisation by government forces and new clashes in the southern part of South Kivu have sparked a fresh exodus of refugees to Tanzania.

Meanwhile, UNHCR reported that the initial result of a registration exercise for refugees in Tanzania's Kigoma region shows an overall reduction of 34 per cent in population figures. As of mid-July, 204,773 people were registered in Kigoma of whom 130,744 are Burundian and 74,029 Congolese compared with an earlier total figure of 311,092. The agency puts the total refugee population in Ngara at 88,195.

Tanzania: 'Serious' food shortages

More than 125,000 people in Tanzania's northeastern Lushoti district are in need of food aid as a result of drought. District Commissioner Elia Mpesa told Radio Tanzania Friday that 100 villages in the district are facing serious food shortages and people are being forced to scavenge. This month WFP warned of famine conditions emerging in parts of Tanzania due to two seasons of poor rains.

DRC: UN investigation underway

A three-member UN investigative mission arrived in Kinshasa on Sunday to start a probe into alleged human rights violations in DRC. A UN spokesman said the mission would be assisted by human rights officers and forensic experts in implementing its mandate to investigate alleged abuses since March 1993. The team, headed by Atsu Kofi-Amega of Togo, would report to the UN Secretary-General by the end of December. The spokesman said Amega had received assurances from the DRC authorities of the "best possible help" in implementing the mandate.

DRC: Security situation 'tense'

Humanitarian sources described the military and political situation in eastern DRC over the last week as rather tense, characterised by increased clashes between soldiers and rebels throughout the Kivu region. In North Kivu, the authorities have tried to curb a growing ethnic conflict in the Masisi region which the provincial governor has described as an "extension of the genocide of 1994".

DRC: Kabila in South Africa

DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila is in South Africa for talks with President Nelson Mandela to discuss the economic reconstruction of the former-Zaire. A South African foreign ministry statement said issues under discussion would include monetary reform, restructuring the central bank, the debt crisis, emerging grants and investment promotion. According to Reuters, the statement added that South Africa believed stability in DRC was important for the whole central Africa region.

Kabila meanwhile signed into a law the creation of a military court covering Kinshasa, the Bas-Congo and Bandundu provinces and "other regions when necessary". Reporting the decree, Congolese television said the court's jurisdiction included offences committed by the 50th brigade, ex-FAZ soldiers and the police as well as "all persons being tried for offences related to the use of arms to attack people and their property".

Kenya: Government questioned over violence

The Kenyan government's commitment to ending the violence in Mombasa is increasingly coming under scrutiny. "We want to know who is responsible," Catholic Archbishop Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki said Saturday. "If they are known they should face the law." The general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, Reverand Mutava Musyimi, noted: "we are constrained to have to conclude that either the government is unwilling to act decisively or is incapable of doing so," AFP reported. Since the attacks began on 13 August, 43 people have died in violence that the opposition claims is being orchestrated by the government ahead of general elections. Leaflets left by the raiders have warned up-country people to leave the area. The general perception is that the settlers are pro-opposition. President Daniel arap Moi, visiting Mombasa Saturday said the government will "deal with the situation decisively". The police Thursday said it had arrested 410 people, and 108 of them had appeared in court to face charges related to the violence. Among those detained are two activists of the ruling party, KANU. The police last Monday shot dead a gang leader who was described as a close ally of one of the detained men. The government has blamed the opposition for the violence.

Meanwhile, negotiations on constitutional reform stalled today after KANU boycotted a meeting called by religious mediators to facilitate dialogue between the authorities and a pro-reform lobby, AFP said. KANU members of parliament chosen to represent the party refused to attend the gathering, saying they would only meet opposition members of parliament and not the umbrella National Convention Executive Council (NCEC). Opposition members of parliament have mandated the NCEC to represent them in negotiations. The setback occurred as Moi met a delegation from the IMF which last month suspended a multi-million dollar loan programme after accusing the government of not doing enough to tackle corruption. The IMF said last week loans would be resumed if "conditions are right". The IMF's aid suspension and the Mombasa violence has sent the shilling falling by more than 20 percent.

Congo-Brazzaville: Fighting widens

Commanders of government troops around Congo-Brazzaville's second city Pointe-Noire appealed for a general mobilization to defend the city against the militia of Denis Sassou Nguesso, AFP reported Sunday. The conflict has widened in recent weeks to include the north of the country and the seizure by forces loyal to President Pascal Lissouba of districts of the capital held by Sassou Nguesso. Approximately 25,000 Congolese refugees have fled across the river to the DRC to avoid the fighting. Of these around 18,000 are living with relatives and friends in Kinshasa and the remainder at the Lokali farm transit centre located near the airport, according to humanitarian sources. As of 20 August, there were a total of 5,500 refugees at the centre. An average of between 200-400 are arriving daily in Kinshasa by canoe, out of which some 100-150 are willing to go to the centre. Meanwhile, peace talks in Gabon were adjourned for a week Wednesday for delegates to study a fresh proposal by President Omar Bongo. The new plan, the fourth so far, tackles the thorny issue of from which party the prime minister in a government of national unity would be drawn, and whether the post entails control of the defence ministry. The DRC authorities Tuesday accused France of adopting a "colonial attitude" by rejecting President Laurent-Desire Kabila's offer to mediate in the conflict. France instead backed Bongo's initiative.

Uganda: Drought and insecurity

WFP reports that the "working caseload" of drought affected persons in Karamoja, eastern Uganda, is 29,925. According to humanitarian sources the Moroto-Mbale road has become insecure and trucks delivering food in parts of Karamoja require armed escorts. Humanitarian sources described the security situation in northern Gulu district as stable, despite the abduction of 16 children by the Lord's Resistance Army last Sunday at Owolo, 16 kms from Gulu town.

Sudan: Mandela's mediation

South African President Nelson Mandela plans to "soon" host direct peace talks between Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir and John Garang, the head of the main rebel group the Sudanese People's Liberation Army. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe would also be present, news agencies reported Tuesday.

Nairobi, 25 August 1997, 16:30 gmt


[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts from this report should include attribution to the original sources mentioned, not simply "DHA".]

Date: Mon, 25 Aug 1997 19:39:59 +0300 (GMT+0300) Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-up 18-97 19-25 August 1997 97.8.25

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

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