War and peace
BurundiA total of 123 Forces pour la defence de la democratie (FDD) rebels and four government soldiers were killed in military offensives launched by the army in central and northern Burundi from 5 May, army spokesman Col Augustin Nzabampema said on May 13. "One hundred FDD rebels of Peter Nkurunziza were killed in heavy clashes at Ndubura and Ruce in Bubanza province [in the north]” Nzabampema said. Ndubura and Ruce are near Kibira forest, which is an FDD stronghold.
"They left Kibira and tried to occupy the two localities [Ndubura and Ruce] but the army repulsed them. On our side, we lost two soldiers and four others were injured," Nzabampema said. "On 11 May, the same rebels attacked Nyabihanga commune in the central province of Mwaro but the army responded strongly and killed 23 rebels. Two government soldiers also died," Nzabampema said.
According to Nzabampema, the FDD "has chosen the way of violence by shelling the civil population", even though it has signed a ceasefire agreement.
However, FDD spokesman Gélase Daniel Ndabirabe dismissed the army's claims, accusing it of intensifying its offensive against FDD positions, especially in Bubanza province.
"We did not lose fighters during the army offensive, only civilians died and they were killed by the army," Ndabirabe said. (Source: IRIN)
Central AfricaA regional ministerial meeting opened on May 13 in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, following a two-day UN seminar to develop a "road map" to eradicate illegal trade in small arms and light weapons in the central African region. Participants at the meeting were expected to review implementation by UN member states of previous recommendations and decisions on the eradication and prevention of illicit trade on small arms and light weapons. They were also to look into ways of strengthening cooperation between the UN and central African states on the issue.
The UN seminar was organised by the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa to develop a plan for the implementation of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UN PoA) in central Africa over the next two years. (Source: IRIN)
CongoRepresentatives of the government of the Republic of Congo and "Ninja" rebels, who recently signed an agreement to end fighting in the Pool region, have held talks with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in the capital Brazzaville to discuss a reintegration programme for the rebels, minister of state for transport, Isidore Mvouba said.
The EU is channelling some US $801,000 through UNDP to launch income-generating activities to help former combatants return to their villages over a six-month period. The rebel fighters have been emerging from the forests of the Pool region since the government and "Ninja" leader Pasteur Frederic Bitsangou, alias Ntoumi, signed an agreement on March 17 to end hostilities.
UNDP acting representative in Brazzaville, Jacques Bandelier, said after the meeting on May 9 that UNDP had already made contact with relevant bodies and he hoped that together they could start activities in Pool "very quickly".
There is no official figure for the number of "Ninja" fighters, but according to sources in the Conseil national de la resistance, the rebels' political wing, about 14,000 young men are enrolled in the militia. (Source: IRIN)
Cote d IvoireCote d'Ivoire's government has lifted the curfew, which it imposed in September at the start of a civil war whose wounds are slowly starting to heal. In another move to reduce tension and reunite the rebel-held north with the government-held south, the first train in eight months ran from Abidjan to the rebel capital of Bouake at the weekend.
The government unexpectedly abolished the curfew, which in recent weeks had applied from midnight until 6.00am, on May 10. On the same day, a test train ran from Abidjan to Bouake, 360 km to the north, raising hopes that normal services will soon be resumed to Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire's landlocked neighbour to the north.
Aziz Thiam, the chief executive of the French-owned railway company SITARAIL, said on May 12 the train would continue on to the Burkinabe frontier before returning to Abidjan on May 13.
But he said that this trial run would not in itself give the "green light" for a resumption of regular freight and passenger services between the two countries. "We still need a mission report on the trial run and some repair work before traffic can resume", Thiam said. (Source: IRIN)
DRCNearly 5,000 people were forced to flee across a river to Burundi to escape a rebel offensive over the weekend in South Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN HighCommissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), reported on May 12.
UNHCR said that 4,860 Congolese swam across the Ruzizi River, pushing belongings on rafts and herding cattle through the water to the village of Nyamintanga in the border commune of Buganda, 35 km north of the Burundian capital Bujumbura, following an offensive by the Congolese rebel group, Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma). Eleven children drowned during the crossing, while a man was seriously injured by a hippopotamus.
"This influx was not really a surprise", UNHCR representative in Burundi, Stefano Severe, said. "Things have remained quite volatile in eastern DRC and there had been rumours recently that there would be more of the usual abuse of the civilian population by different groups."
The refugees told UNHCR that RCD-Goma had warned the inhabitants of three villages, Kiryama, Cimuka and Ntunda, in South Kivu, to leave their homes because it planned a large-scale operation against other rebel groups. The refugees said that 21 people were killed in the three villages, although the UNHCR said it was not clear who was responsible for the deaths. (Source: IRIN)
EritreaEritrea has denied reports of a planned meeting in Libya between President Isayas Afewerki and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir. The Sudanese president visited Tripoli and there were reports in the Sudanese and foreign press that Isayas would meet Bashir and the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qadhafi in a bid to mend strained relations between Khartoum and Asmara. But Eritrea's acting Information Minister Ali Abdu Ahmed on May 13 dismissed any idea of a meeting between the Sudanese and Eritrean presidents.
"There is no meeting, such reports are total fabrication," he said .He claimed the reports had been "deliberately leaked" by the Sudanese media, and that a meeting at this time would be "ridiculous".
Ties between the two countries have become increasingly tense, and their common border remains closed - an act "unilaterally carried out by Sudan", said Ali Abdu. (Source: IRIN)