UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
DRC: Heavy fighting continues in east, casualties reported
NAIROBI, 4 August 1998 (IRIN) - Further fighting was reported in eastern DRC today as heavy shooting was heard in Uvira, which so far had escaped major unrest. Latest reports received by IRIN today also indicate fighting since the early morning in Kisangani, Province Orientale, to the west of the Kivu regions. Some reports suggest the trouble involved Rwandan troops stationed there who were in process of being repatriated.
Aid workers told IRIN there was heavy fighting between Banyamulenge and other troops in the Uvira area, with an unconfirmed death toll of 10 people reported. Some aid agencies have evacuated staff from Baraka and Uvira to Bujumbura.
There were conflicting claims over who controlled the east. Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo told AFP government troops had retaken the town of Bukavu, but humanitarian sources in DRC told IRIN today heavy fighting had been underway in the town since early morning and rebel troops still controlled half of it, including the airport. Significant Rwandan troop movements in or around Bukavu, Goma, Beni, Butembo and Rutshuru have been reported by humanitarian sources in DRC today.
However Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana denied any involvement in the rebellion, claiming it was a "purely internal matter". In a statement, reported by the Rwanda News Agency, he said Rwanda "as a good neighbour" assisted DRC in toppling ex-president Mobutu Sese Seko and it was "happy the Congolese are now liberated". About 500 people have fled Bukavu into the neighbouring Rwandan town of Cyangugu, RNA added.
In Kinshasa, itself reportedly calm, the DRC authorities announced they would use force if necessary to put down the rebellion in the east. A government statement issued after an extraordinary cabinet meeting yesterday said public order had been disrupted by "armed elements claiming to be unhappy over the departure of Rwandan troops". And Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo warned "if there is resistance, we'll use weapons". The statement also cautioned DRC's neighbours "not to be mistaken about what the fight should be, because the DRC... is resolutely committed to building peace, development and concord in Africa".
A police statement, broadcast by state television yesterday, urged residents of Kinshasa to "scrupulously adhere" to the dusk-to-dawn curfew, due to last three days. The statement said the measure had been taken for their own safety and the security forces were in "total control" of the situation in the city. River traffic between Kinshasa and neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville was suspended by the Brazzaville authorities for security reasons.
Aid sources in the country pointed out the confrontation in the Kivus would have a "disastrous impact" on the already-troubled inter-ethnic relations in the region. The sources said Banyamulenge leaders were perceived to have "committed a fatal mistake" by associating themselves with Rwandan forces rather than Congolese society.
As a result, the peaceful return and reintegration of displaced Tutsis back to North Kivu and the Hauts Plateaux is likely to be threatened, along with the physical security of the Banyamulenge community, particularly in urban areas. Refugee repatriation programmes from Tanzania may also be put on hold, while new civilian displacement within DRC is likely.
Nairobi, 4 August 1998, 12:05 gmt
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Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 15:13:52 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: DRC: Heavy fighting continues in east, casualties reported 1998.8.4 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.980804144800.10748Bfirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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