Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-Up, 9/26/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-Up, 9/26/97


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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 23-97 of Main Events in the Great Lakes region, covering the period 19-25 September 1997

BURUNDI: Government says ready to talk peace

Under intense regional pressure to resume the peace process, Burundian President Pierre Buyoya announced he was ready to negotiate with Hutu rebel leader Leonard Nyangoma's Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD). He said the government would participate in planned all-party peace talks to be held in Arusha, Tanzania, under the mediation of elder statesman Julius Nyerere. The pro-negotiations stance has split the mainly Tutsi Union pour le progress national (UPRONA) between those hostile to talks with CNDD and a faction in the government which sees dialogue as a chance to "buy time", according to local sources. The government, however, remains sceptical of Nyerere's even-handedness. Along with most of the country's political parties, a government delegation is attending a UNESCO-sponsored meeting on 'Building the Future of Burundi' in Paris due to begin on Friday. Bujumbura described the gathering as a chance for brainstorming rather than negotiations. Regional analysts suggested the government regards such meetings as an opportunity to dilute Nyerere's control over the peace process. However, Tanzania-based FRODEBU leader Jean Minani rejected the Paris meeting. He told BBC Kirundi radio "the talks are not aimed at finding a solution to Burundi's problems, but a solution to Buyoya's problems." Meanwhile, gunmen ambushed FRODEBU secretary-general Augustin Nzojibwami in Bujumbura on Sunday. He was unhurt but the car he was travelling in was shot-up.

Insecurity widespread

Access to many areas of northern Bubanza province is "impossible" due to the widespread use of land mines, according to humanitarian sources. However, more than 30,000 displaced, fleeing fighting between rival Hutu rebel groups CNDD and Palipehutu, have gathered in and around the town. Kayanza province to the east is also receiving a stream of people escaping the violence in northwestern Cibitoke. Some 20 people were killed and at least 30 wounded by armed attackers over the weekend at Gitaza, about 20 kms south of Bujumbura. Six other civilians were killed at Rushubi, also in Bujumbura Rural province.


The European Union said the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) risked losing aid if it did not cooperate with a UN probe into alleged massacres in former Zaire. President Laurent-Desire Kabila on Tuesday lashed out at "plots" against his country by western powers "in the disguise of humanitarian action". An article in the 'Washington Post' said the remains of "tens of thousands" of Rwandan refugees were strewn around the forests of DRC. In many areas, bones had been "hastily exhumed and burned", allegedly by DRC and Rwandan soldiers. The article accused Kabila of "playing cat and mouse" with the UN mission, which has been unable to leave Kinshasa. Negotiations continue with the government on allowing the team into the field. The 'New York Times' said the investigators "fear the witnesses they need will disappear". Non-aligned countries attending the UN General Assembly session on Monday urged the international community to have some understanding for the government in Kinshasa.

Eastern DRC quiet but tense

Eastern DRC was reported as "quieter" but extremely tense. Humanitarian sources said the calm followed a recent peace conference between the Bembe and Banyamulenge peoples in South Kivu. Mai-Mai militia, allied with ex-FAR, Interahamwe and some local anti-Tutsi tribes have been battling DRC and Rwandan army units in the region. Bembe fighters are now reportedly being collectively described as "Mai-Mai". An official "pacification commission" for the Kivus said people were in urgent need of rehabilitation and reintegration assistance. Radio France Internationale claimed on Saturday that Rwandan troops were bolstering the defence of Bukavu threatened by the advance south of Mai-Mai militia. Rwandan helicopter gunships are also reportedly in operation in Masisi. Humanitarian sources said the security situation has improved "a little" in Goma.

Refugees return

Over 2,300 DRC refugees have returned to Uvira across Lake Tanganyika from camps in Tanzania under a voluntary repatriation programme launched at the beginning of the month. UNHCR said it expected the numbers to increase when a second ferry goes into operation in October. More than 650 people from eastern DRC, displaced by the war to Kinshasa, left for Kisangani on three barges on Sunday. They are due to arrive at the weekend. It was the first repatriation of war-displaced organised by the Kinshasa authorities.

RWANDA: Blind eye turned to killings - Amnesty

Amnesty International (AI) claimed at least 6,000 people, the majority unarmed civilians "are reported to have been killed in Rwanda between January and August 1997." The rights group accused the army in particular for the death toll, but acknowledged that civilians are also victims of Hutu rebel atrocities. The AI report condemned the international community for "turning a blind eye to the worsening human rights situation" and advocating the continued repatriation of Rwandan refugees. Meanwhile, in the continued insecurity in Rwanda's northwest region, four children were killed when a rocket slammed into their school in Gisenyi. Local officials blamed Hutu rebels for the attack.

Military spending to be slashed

Rwanda is to slash military spending and demobilise thousands of soldiers. Spending on the army is to be reduced from 34 percent of the national budget to 20 percent by the end of next year. The head of Rwanda's demobilisation committee, Ephraim Kabaija, told AFP it was impossible to maintain the army at present levels. The government is seeking donor funding for the plan costed at US$ 39 million. Francois Nzabahimana, leader of the opposition Rally for Democracy and Return of Refugees (RDR), dismissed the initiative as a ruse by Kigali to fund the army's upkeep. Meanwhile, the defence ministry said Rwandan troops have completed their mission and withdrawn from the DRC. However, a senior advisor to Vice President Paul Kagame suggested there may be an agreement with the DRC for units to stay on. Claude Dusaidi said Rwandan troops could continue to operate in Masisi "if it is necessary and if the Congolese think it is appropriate."

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Displacement and despair

At least 450,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Congo-Brazzaville. WFP this week began distributing food to 60,000 "extremely vulnerable" displaced in Congo's second largest city, Pointe Noire. At least 300,000 people have been made homeless in the southern provinces which includes the port city. Meanwhile, the Kinshasa authorities have partially closed the border, with only three entry points open along the river for refugees crossing from Brazzaville. All refugees have been ordered to register or risk being considered "infiltrators". The forces of President Pascal Lissouba and Denis Sassou Nguesso have ignored repeated ceasefires and fighting has intensified in Brazzaville. Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas said the conflict, which began in June, "could lead to the disappearance of Congo."

UGANDA: No to peace talks with "starving" Kony

Rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony is starving in his hideout in northern Uganda, according to local press reports. Kony, having been forced out of his bases in southern Sudan last month along with 300 followers, is apparently trying to cross into Kenya. The Ugandan government has however rejected church appeals to negotiate with the rebel chieftain. "If we are to talk peace, then we don't need to talk to Kony but his masters in Sudan," a minister of state in the president's office said. The army claimed to have killed 70 LRA rebels since last month. But the army is struggling to contain insecurity in the western region. Rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) launched two raids on the suburbs of Kasese within a week. In the first attack nine people were abducted and in the second, on Wednesday, at least 12 people were killed and an unspecified number of residents kidnapped.

SUDAN: Breakthrough on peace talks

The Khartoum government and rebels of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) agreed to resume peace talks which collapsed in 1994. The breakthrough came at a one-day ministerial meeting in Nairobi within the framework of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The talks are due to be held on 28 October in Nairobi. Sudan's exiled former prime minister however questioned the government's sincerity. "Everything indicates that the (Khartoum) regime is not serious in the search for a complete solution," Sadiq al-Mahdi said in Cairo. The talks announcement followed Khartoum's success in wooing southern rebel faction leader Lam Akol to the government's side. The leader of the Upper Nile-based SPLA-United agreed to join six other former SPLA commanders who had earlier signed a peace agreement with the Islamic government in April.

ANGOLA: Peace forecast bleak

The forecast remains pessimistic over UNITA's willingness to meet a UN Security Council deadline and comply with Angolan peace accords. The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative, Alioune Blondin Beye, said a resumption of civil war cannot be ruled out. UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi warned that the former rebel movement would abandon the peace process if the UN imposed sanctions after the 30 September deadline.

TANZANIA: Refugee crackdown

In a bid to stamp out banditry, the Tanzanian army arrested thousands of "vagrant refugees" in the northwestern town of Kigoma. The round-up involved refugees living outside their camps, but humanitarian sources said non-refugee foreign nationals were also detained. UNHCR said 4,000 people were arrested in the swoop. According to the authorities, they "would either be repatriated or taken to refugee camps". Approximately 1,000 refugees, mainly Burundians, were also arrested in Ngara. Tanzania has blamed banditry in the region on refugees living outside their camps. Nairobi, 26 September, 12:30 gmt


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Date: Fri, 26 Sep 1997 14:43:17 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Weekly Round-Up 23-97 19-25 Sep 1997 97.9.26 Message-ID: <>

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

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