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Wednesday, May 5, 1999 Published at 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK

World: Africa

East Africa: The week in review

In this week's report compiled by BBC Monitoring:

France accused of backing Comoros coup

The ousted Prime Minister of the Comoro Islands, Abbas Djoussouf, accused France of complicity in 30 April's coup in the former colony. He told the French news agency AFP that "certain minor French functionaries" were "once again manipulating Comoran institutions".

[ image:  ]
Djoussouf, who was speaking at his home in Moroni, the capital of the Indian Ocean state, also called on coup-leader Col Azali Assoumani to restore power to the elected authorities

"We're looking for an honourable way out for him," he said

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret told AFP on Monday that France had "nothing to do with any of this".

"France learned with dismay of the coup d'etat. It condemns the interruption of the normal functioning of the legitimate institutions of the country," Gazeau-Secret said.

At the same time, she added, France "noted" that Azali had publicly stated that he backed an agreement signed in Madagascar on 23 April on granting wider autonomy to each of the three Comoro islands - Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan within one year.

Azali himself told the agency that he aimed to "shorten this period as much as possible". He intended to remain in power until the devolution agreements were implemented and the new Union of Comoran Islands was established.

"I will take the executive until these accords are in place," he said.

Azali spent 1 May receiving representatives of foreign embassies and international organisations to reassure them over his intentions, Radio France Internationale reported.

And he was quoted as telling the radio that he hoped to "cooperate closely" with the Organisation of African Unity in setting up a transitional administration.

Azali also appealed to all Comoro political parties to take part in the transitional government and the leader of the Republican Party of Comoros (PRC), which was in opposition before the coup, said that he was ready for talks.

"A coup d'etat did take place," Mohamed Shangama told Radio France Internationale.

"However, we are ready for dialogue with the military to find a way out of the crisis. What I am telling the military is that they should avoid putting the country, I mean its situation, in danger. They should do everything possible so that some kind of solution is found, and that is the point we are emphasizing."

Doubt on the coup-leader's ability to hold the Comoros together was cast by a senior member of the Democratic Front of the Comoros, Hamad Jafar, who said that Anjouan in particular was out of Azali's control.

"The soldiers cannot solve problems for the civil society," Jafar told Gabonese Africa No 1 radio on Saturday.

"Even if there were problems, as far as we are concerned, the most important thing would have been to have a situation where a civilian government of national unity is in charge of running affairs towards unification.

"This is because the soldiers who have taken power in Grande Comore will have to tackle the issue of national unity, particularly in Anjouan, since they can no longer intervene there militarily, and also because, in some way, it is not a force that could have the support of the entire Comoran population. So, for us, this represents a step backwards..."

Ethiopia claims victories against Eritrea

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that his country's armed forces had scored "resounding victories" in the ongoing war against Eritrea.

"The military capacity of the enemy has been weakened by the destruction of two-thirds of its tank capacity and the heavy losses suffered both in manpower and material resources," he was quoted as saying on Ethiopian TV on 1 May.

He said that following the battle of Badme - an " embarrassing defeat" for the Eritreans, according to Meles - battles fought on the Shenbeqo, Shelalo and Zalambesa-Egala fronts had all been successful.

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Asked about Ethiopian casualties, Meles said no war can be fought without "sacrifices" , but insisted that Ethiopian losses should be measured against those incurred by the other side.

Casualties on the Ethiopian side were insignificant weighed against the "impressive victories" gained in four days of battle and the "heavy military, political and diplomatic losses suffered by the enemy", he said.

Concerning the outcome of the recent visit to Ethiopia by UN special envoy for Africa Mohamed Sahnoun, the prime minister said Ethiopia had "always left her doors open to any party" for mediating a peaceful settlement.

But he added that there was "no alternative to defending the country's sovereignty by force" if a peaceful settlement could not be achieved.

His comments came after the two countries swapped insults over the treatment of each others' nationals within their respective countries.

On Thursday Ethiopia accused Eritrea of increasing human rights violations against Ethiopians inside its territory.

Ethiopian radio said the Eritrean Government had detained hundreds of Ethiopians, and the whereabouts of most of them were unknown.

It said prisoners are often moved from prison to prison, and added that even when the places of detention were known, the prisoners' families were forbidden to bring them food.

"Armed security personnel randomly beat Ethiopian nationals on the street and in their homes," it said, accusing the security forces of carrying out abductions.

Almost 400 people had been detained since the battle of Badme in mid-February, as far as the Ethiopian Government had been able to document, but this was only a fraction of the real figure.

Eritrea hit back at these allegations, saying they were an attempt to detract attention from the peace process and calls for the implementation of the OAU framework agreement.

The Eritrean news agency Erina quoted a Foreign Ministry statement as saying the Red Cross had investigated similar accusations over the past year and dismissed them.

But it turned the allegations made by Ethiopia on their head, condemning the "plight of Eritreans in Ethiopia who have been subject to the very policies Ethiopia wants the world to believe exist in Eritrea" .

"In Ethiopia, Eritrean civilians have and continue to endure arbitrary arrests and detention in brutal camps where many have lost their lives," the statement said.

"While Ethiopian nationals in Eritrea have been given the option to return to Ethiopia voluntarily, in a programme supervised by the ICRC, Eritreans in Ethiopia have been deported by force and en masse to the tune of 56,000, after having property and all means of livelihood confiscated."

"Ethiopians in Eritrea, as everyone knows, have and will continue to enjoy their rights including the right to stay and work, or indeed the right to leave," the ministry said.

Sudanese Government to meet southern rebels

The Sudanese Government agreed to attend peace talks with southern rebels after signing a peace agreement with Eritrea, which it has accused of aiding the Sudanese opposition.

The talks with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) will take place on 10 May in Nairobi, according to a report in the Sudanese daily Al-Ra'y al-Amm.

"The government has begun making preparations and naming members of its official negotiating and advisory teams ... amid optimism for achieving considerable progress in the talks," the daily said.

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Junior Foreign Minister Ali Abd al-Rahman Numayri predicted that the reconciliation agreement signed between Sudan and Eritrea in Qatar on 2 May would "provide a strong push for finding a peaceful solution to the south Sudan problem".

In a speech broadcast by Sudanese TV, Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir said he hoped the agreement would mark a "new beginning for all the states in the region".

"We are confident that now we are agreed on the way forward. The past has been a lesson for our two countries. Both countries suffered and paid a price for these problems," he said.

"Now the two leaderships are fully convinced that we are moving to a new point in our relationship."

Bashir's sentiments were echoed by Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki.

"This agreement is the beginning of a future in which we will work together to restore matters to their normal course," he said after the signing ceremony in the Qatari capital, Doha.

"The ties between the two peoples, which have been adversely affected over the past 10 years will, God willing, be restored to their previous state and even improve."

The following are the key points in the agreement:

  • A return to the status quo ante state of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
  • Respect for laws which regulate peaceful coexistence and good neighbourliness between both countries.
  • Respect for political choices for the two countries and peoples, as well abstention from the exporting of ideologies to each other and seeking ways of imposing them on each other.
  • Abstention from hosting or organizing international or regional conferences with the aim of adopting policies or coordinating activities that target the security and stability of neighbouring countries.
  • Joint efforts to resolve pending differences between the two countries by peaceful means.
  • The formation of joint committees between the two countries to study pending issues, especially security issues, and implementing whatever is agreed in this agreement.

Kenya's Moi tells UN to move refugee camps into Somalia

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to relocate the refugee camps situated along the Kenyan side of the border with Somalia and move them inside Somalia.

[ image: President Moi:
President Moi: "Stern action"
Speaking at "a mammoth public rally" in the northeastern town of Wajir on 3 May, he said the refugees had "abused the generosity of Kenyans" , and brought firearms into the country.

And he said the government would take "stern action" against refugees leaving their camps to commit crimes in the cities, Kenyan radio reported.

People of Northeastern Province and the country in general should cooperate with the security officers, he said, to ensure that illegally-held firearms were recovered.

And he told the warring factions in Somalia to resolve their problems "so that their people may live in peace inside their homeland" .

Moi went on to tell the crowd he had ordered the Northeastern rovincial security committee to strengthen security along the Kenya-Somalia border.

Rwanda hails Swiss jailing of genocide perpetrator

Rwanda welcomed the life sentence handed down by a Swiss military court to Fulgence Niyonteze - the former burgomaster of Mushubati in central Rwanda - for acts of genocide.

Minister of Justice Jean-de-Dieu Mucyo said an "important step" had been taken in the pursuit of people suspected of committing genocide who are still free abroad.

He hailed the "courage of Switzerland" as the first country to take this step.

And he hoped that what had happened there would serve as an example to other countries that had given shelter to those involved in the Rwandan genocide, praising those countries which had already launched legal proceedings against them.

Niyonteze, 35, was a member of the Republican Democratic Movement party and Burgomaster of Mushubati during the 1994 holocaust that claimed more than one million lives.

He sought asylum in Switzerland in 1994 and two years later was arrested.

Niyonteze's sentence came after another suspect in the 1994 genocide was re-arrested only three days after being set free.

Ignace Banyaga, a former subprefect in Kibuye, western Rwanda, was detained after a number of other suspects accused him of being their ring-leader.

His re-arrest followed a demonstration staged after his acquittal, Rwandan radio reported.

Banyaga served as the personal secretary of the former prefect of Kibuye, Clement Kayishema, now being tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.

He was later promoted to the position of a subprefect after the genocide, before being arrested for genocide charges.

Before his acquittal early in the week, the prosecution had called for the death penalty for his alleged role in the genocide.

BBC Monitoring (, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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