UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
DRC: Rebels deny government forces heading east
NAIROBI, 11 August 1998 (IRIN) - The rebellion in eastern DRC has denied claims by the government that its troops are approaching the Kivu region. At the same time, the army in government-held Bunia called for "unity" amid reports that rebels are pushing towards the town.
DRC Information Minister Didier Mumengi claimed government soldiers yesterday occupied the Kahuzi Biega national park, less than 50 km from Bukavu, and were advancing on the town itself. But the claim was strongly denied by South Kivu Vice-Governor Benjamin Serukiza. He told IRIN today government forces were nowhere near Bukavu and described the reports as "lies". Bukavu, he said, was calm and the rebellion was spreading. He added the name of the rebellion would be officially announced at some point.
As rebels reportedly headed towards Bunia, on the border with Uganda, after taking Beni to the south, the 225th battalion based there said "all measures have been taken to render the enemy harmless". In a broadcast over state-owned Bunia radio today, the army accused Uganda of sending troops to the area "to stop our counter-offensive". The statement "urged (officers) to unite". "There will be no objections from the forces of justice or truth when, motivated by sacred anger, we massacre the aggressors," the statement, monitored by the BBC, added.
Meanwhile, humanitarian sources told IRIN rebels captured the western town of Boma today, but stressed the town could be retaken by government forces as many reinforcements were being sent to the area.
The opposition Forces du Futur party appeared to throw its weight behind the rebellion, denying reports in the Belgian daily 'Le Soir' that its president Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma had resigned as coordinator of the rebels. According to the newspaper, Ngoma had returned to France after the party allegedly "disowned" him. But in a press release received by IRIN today, the Forces du Futur said the "struggle led by its president is a national struggle". "It is a struggle for fundamental rights, bringing together all active forces", the statement added.
An OAU team arrived in Kinshasa on Sunday in an attempt to mediate the conflict, and is due in Kigali today before going on to Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Mamadou Ba, who is leading the mission, said the OAU was seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis and "we must listen to everybody". In a memorandum to the OAU delegation, the Congolese government accused the rebellion - by hijacking planes to the western Kitona military base - of trying to "suffocate Kinshasa" in an attempt to seize the vital port of Matadi and the hydro-electric dam at Inga which provides electricity to Kinshasa.
Great Lakes analyst Filip Reyntyens told IRIN today the opening of a western front by the rebels was "extremely risky" but had the potential to "starve" Kinshasa. Capturing the Inga power plant would give rebels the opportunity to "switch off" both Kinshasa and Katanga. He added that the attitude of the so-called Katangese gendarmes - a faction within the "very heterogeneous" army - would be critical to President Laurent-Desire Kabila's survival. "If they turn [against Kabila], he's lost," he said. Reyntyens also believed there had been a "rapprochement" between Kabila and Mayi-Mayi rebels who are opposed to the Banyamulenge.
Rwanda has further accused Kabila's government of training at least 10,000 ex-FAR and Interahamwe militiamen at a training camp in the southern town of Kamina. AP quoted President Pasteur Bizimungu who said his country had "credible evidence" Kabila was planning to use the Hutu forces against Rwanda.
DRC state radio today claimed 18 Rwandan soldiers were killed in a gunbattle with government troops near Kinshasa. It said the clash occurred yesterday at Kasangulu, 40 km west of the capital, and involved an estimated 100 Rwandan soldiers fleeing after failing to incite Congolese soldiers in the capital to join a Tutsi-led revolt. Reuters said there was no independent confirmation of the report.
In Kinshasa, the government is mobilising the youth to fight for the country. Gabonese radio, reporting from Kinshasa, said 5,000 young people had already "volunteered" to enlist in the army. Messages encouraging mobilisation are reportedly broadcast daily on national radio and television.
Nairobi, 11 August 1998, 14:45 gmt
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From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: DRC: Rebels deny government forces heading east 1998.8.11
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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