War and Peace
Up to 25,000 civilians who were displaced following days of fighting between rebels and the Burundian army in the southeastern commune of Kabezi, Bujumbura Rural Province, need urgent relief aid, a local official said on 13 April.
"We are appealing humanitarian agencies to come to their rescue," Felicien Ntahombaye, the administrator of Kabezi Commune, said. He said the displaced had sought refuge at Kabezi Primary School, at the Kabezi Health Centre and at the Kabezi Market.
"They fled violent fighting that took place on 10 and 11 April on the hills of Masama, Gitenga and Kivomo," he said. "The children have begun to show signs of malnutrition, we also fear an outbreak of diarrhoea due to the poor hygiene conditions."
The fighting was between the army and Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) rebels loyal to Agathon Rwasa. The faction remains the only rebel group in the country that has refused to sign a ceasefire agreement with the transitional government. [Source: IRIN]
Cote d Ivoire
Rebel forces occupying the north of Cote d'Ivoire have played down suggestions that they may declare a state following the latest setback to implementing a year-old peace agreement. Rebel leader Guillaume Soro told a rally in the rebel capital Bouake on 4
April that his "New Forces" movement had set up it own administration in the north and had got schools functioning again without the help of the government in Abidjan. The rebel authorities, he added, were even ready to pay regular salaries to their fighters for the first time.
“We are asking the international community to be careful. Because if we can pay salaries to our military and other social groups, we should not be asked to go to Abidjan because we no longer need Abidjan. What are we going to do in Abidjan?” Soro said.
“If they [the international community] want Cote d’Ivoire divided in two with (President Laurent) Gbagbo in power, that will be their problem,” he added. Soro's speech was widely taken as a hint that if full implementation of Cote d'Ivoire's January 2003 peace agreement was no longer on the cards, the rebel-held north might go it alone.
The United Nations-led Monitoring Committee that tracks implementation of the French-brokered peace agreement expressed concern at Soro's declaration in a statement on 9 April, saying it cast doubt on Cote d'Ivoire's territorial integrity. There was also a flurry of speculation in the Ivorian media that the north was planning to secede. [Source: IRIN]
A local human rights organisation, Voice of The Voiceless, has claimed that at least 200 people of the Ngbandi ethnic group in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been arrested in connection with a recent attack by ex-soldiers of the nation's former army on several military and civilian installations.
The chairman of the Kinshasa-based NGO, Floribert Chebeya, said on 12 April
that a government investigation into the incident had been "oriented" in a manner in which it seemed that only the Ngbandi people, the ethnic group of the late Congolese president, Mobutu Sese Seko, had been targeted. Ngbandi said the Ngbandi had been "systematically" arrested.
The Mbiya Cultural Association, in which the Ngbandi are represented, has also accused the government of "stoking ethnic hatred" and "exposing an entire people to public vindictiveness".
Senator Ndolela Siki Konde, president of the association, said in a signed communiqué that the ministries of the interior and information had said that the attack was launched from a neighbouring country by members of Mobutu's former Special Presidential Guards Division who were Ngbandi. Konde also denounced what he said was the systematic sidelining of all Ngbandi in their places of work, since Mobutu's fall in 1997, as well as a plan to "exterminate elements of the former Zairean Armed Forces". [Source: IRIN]
The Liberian government has promised to fly home a group of 356 returning Liberian refugees who have been stranded at the Guinea-Mali border since early March. "The Malian government has agreed for the refugees to be airlifted,” Gyude Bryant, the Chairman of Liberia’s transitional government, told reporters on 12 April. "Those are our citizens and our government attaches great concern over their plight" he added.
The refugees are mainly women and children. They had been living in Ghana and were voluntarily returning to Liberia in a 27-vehicle convoy via Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea when the authorities denied them entry to Guinea. Bryant said his government had concluded arrangements with the United Nations to airlift those refugees very soon, but he declined to state exactly when they will be repatriated.
An official of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said that negotiations were taking place between the governments of Burkina Faso and Mali and between the UNHCR offices in Dakar and Monrovia to devise a plan to help those stranded on the Guinean border.
Since the signing of a peace accord in August and the subsequent arrival of a UN multi-national peacekeeping force, many Liberian refugees have voluntarily returned home from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. [Source: IRIN]