DRC: Kinshasa plunged into darkness as rebels take power plant

DRC: Kinshasa plunged into darkness as rebels take power plant

DRC: Kinshasa plunged into darkness as rebels take power plant

NAIROBI, 14 August 1998 (IRIN) - The rebellion underway in DRC appeared to tighten its hold on the country with the capture of the western Inga power plant yesterday, and foreign governments advised their nationals to leave the capital Kinshasa.

Power was restored to parts of Kinshasa today, after the entire city had been without power or water for 24 hours. The government, which earlier said the power failure was due to a technical hitch, later acknowledged rebels had taken the Inga plant.

Local sources in Brazzaville, across the River Congo, told IRIN today that city - which is supplied by Inga - had also been without power, but electricity was restored in the course of the day with supplies coming from a power station within the Republic of Congo.

Diplomatic sources told IRIN President Laurent-Desire Kabila is in Lubumbashi, and large-scale troop and plane movements were reported overnight in Kinshasa. One of the rebel commanders, Jean-Pierre Ondekane, has accused Zimbabwe and Cuba of providing military back-up to Kabila's army. "Zimbabwe is pretending to be a mediator, while also arming Kabila's forces," Ondekane said, according to Reuters. "They must choose what role they would like to play." Zimbabwean Defence Minister Moven Mahachim has denied the allegations.

In view of the deteriorating situation, several countries, including France, Britain and Germany, today advised their nationals to leave Kinshasa. France was sending a civilian airliner to the city to evacuate its citizens who wanted to leave, AFP reported. Many commercial flights into the city have been cancelled. The UN is making further staff reductions, but a core team will remain.

Belgian Foreign Minister Erik Derycke yesterday accused the international community of "idleness" and "disinterest" in events in Congo. "We (Belgium) are alone in our concern," Reuters quoted him as telling parliament's foreign affairs committee. "Nobody has any ambition to follow this matter anymore." He blamed the current insurrection on the ongoing issues of Banyamulenge status within DRC and armed bands roaming the east of the country, both of which Kabila had failed to address.

The US State Department has expressed alarm over "the growing number of human rights abuses" in DRC. "These credible reports detail how Tutsis and possibly civilians of other ethnicities in Kinshasa are being rounded up, detained, beaten, tortured and killed because of their ethnicity," the State Department statement said. "Similarly, we hold rebel forces and any foreign troops responsible for any human rights violations committed by them or under their authority," the statement added. The US has appointed a new interim ambassador to DRC, William Lacy Swing.

Alongside the persecution of Tutsis in Kinshasa, human rights organisations have also expressed concern over alleged abuses in eastern DRC. According to Human Rights Watch, a number of Katangese soldiers seen as loyal to Kabila, as well as intellectuals and local NGO staff, have reportedly been arrested and taken to an unknown destination. Humanitarian sources noted that aid agencies had to evacuate Goma, Bukavu and Uvira last week partly due to acts of banditry and looting.

The rebels claim they are in control of the airport serving the western town of Matadi. Diplomats in the city, quoted by news agencies, described the situation as tense and some reports said there had been incidents of looting and violence. Rebel sources, contacted by the Rwanda News Agency, said the airport in the DRC's third city, Kisangani, had fallen to the rebellion.

In rebel-held Uvira, an interim territorial administration has been set up, Radio Uvira reported yesterday. It named Bazire Kushebana as territorial administrator and Boniface Budederi as his deputy.

Meanwhile, another opposition party has reportedly joined the rebellion. Representatives of the Forces novatrices pour l'union et la solidarite (FONUS), whose leader Joseph Oleghankoy was jailed earlier this year, said they supported the struggle to remove Kabila, the BBC's Kinyarwanda service reported.

Nairobi, 14 August 1998, 15:30 gmt


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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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