DRC: Zimbabwean, Angolan troops arrive to back Kabila 1998.8.21

DRC: Zimbabwean, Angolan troops arrive to back Kabila 1998.8.21

DRC: Zimbabwean, Angolan troops arrive to back Kabila

NAIROBI, 21 August 1998 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe and Angola appear to have ignored South African calls for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and are mobilising for a direct military intervention to rescue embattled President Laurent-Desire Kabila.

Military technicians and advisers from Zimbabwe have begun to arrive in Kinshasa, news reports say. DRC state TV filmed battle-ready soldiers disembarking from aircraft at Kinshasa's N'djili airport last night. AP quoted a senior DRC official as confirming they were Zimbabweans, but denied they were combat troops.

"They are here to help with logistics and communications," the official said.

Michael Quintan, editor of the Harare-based Africa Defence Journal, told IRIN he believed the soldiers were advance elements of Zimbabwe's elite Special Air Service. Analysts speculated they may have arrived from the southern city of Lubumbashi where they had been working with Kabila's presidential guard.

Reuters reported today eyewitness accounts of more than 100 Angolan commandos, backed by tanks, moving from the Cabinda enclave into western DRC. Media accounts also said there were Portuguese-speaking soldiers among the arriving Zimbabweans in Kinshasa yesterday.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has ignored rebel offers for ceasefire talks and appeals by South Africa for a Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit to discuss the widening conflict.

"No one is compelled within SADC to go into a campaign of assisting a country beset by conflict," Mugabe told Zimbabwean state media. "Those who want to keep out, fine. Let them keep out, but let them be silent about those who want to help."

Regional analysts in Harare say Zimbabwe's strategy is to force a stalemate in the fighting before negotiations, to improve Kabila's bargaining position. Mugabe yesterday directly accused Rwanda of military intervention in support of the rebels.

However, Zimbabwe appears to have lost the key support of Namibia, who along with Angola and Zambia, had earlier this week appeared to back the Harare initiative on military action.

According to a Financial Times report, after talks yesterday in Cape Town with Namibian leader Sam Nujoma, South African President Nelson Mandela said Windhoek had agreed to halt military supplies to Kabila. "That may have been the situation before we met," Mandela suggested, "but I don't think President Nujoma is going to insist on that."

Mandela was upbeat yesterday on the prospects of a peace settlement after he and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki had spoken on the telephone with Kabila. He added that it was "possible" that Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni would make a statement "in which he calls for a ceasefire on the part of the forces that are aiming to overthrow Mr Kabila," the Financial Times reported.


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information or subscriptions. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to Mailing list: irin-cea-weekly]

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[The weekly roundup is based on IRIN daily updates and other relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original sources.]

Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Weekly Round-up 34-98 covering the period 14-20 Aug 1998

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Aid workers confirm abuses against Tutsis in Kinshasa

Catholic aid workers recently evacuated from Kinshasa provided confirmation of human rights abuses against ethnic Tutsis by government forces, according to a CAFOD press release received by IRIN on Thursday. The aid workers said troops had carried out house to house searches and arrested hundreds of Tutsis, some of them children as young as two. One of the aid workers, who was himself arrested on suspicion of being a Tutsi, described the experience as "very tense and frightful". "There is a real potential for an explosion of violence," he added.

Humanitarian sources told IRIN hundreds of people, believed to be Congolese Tutsis, had fled to Goma to escape fighting in the nearby Masisi area. They were reportedly being cared for in the town centre.

International community calls for protecting civilians

The international community has again issued appeals to protect civilians affected by the war. The ICRC on Wednesday warned of "extremely serious effects" on public health if power and water shortages continued in Kinshasa. In a press release, it called on the warring sides to "differentiate between combatants and civilians, emphasisng that the latter must be spared in all circumstances and without distinction". The ICRC further demanded "unrestricted access to all arrested persons".

The EU also issued a statement on Wednesday reiterating its concern over reports of human rights abuses in DRC. It called on all sides in the conflict to allow the ICRC access to detention sites and to provide adequate security for the detainees.

Mandela calls for SADC summit

South African President Nelson Mandela on Thursday called for a ceasefire in the fighting in the DRC and said he planned to hold a summit of Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to discuss a peaceful end to the conflict, Reuters reported. "We have been asked to call a summit of SADC leaders ... I want President Robert Mugabe (of Zimbabwe) to be involved," Mandela said in Cape Town. He also announced that he and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki had spoken to President Laurent-Desire Kabila on the telephone. "I am convinced we are making headway in bringing about a peaceful solution," Mandela added.

Earlier Mugabe had pledged to help Kabila militarily in a move that appeared to split SADC members. He accused Rwanda of "direct involvement" in the rebellion, a charge described by Rwandan government officials as "highly irresponsible and dangerously inflammatory". Pro-government media in Zimbabwe carried inflammatory articles about "Tutsi-empire building" in the region.

Kagame does not want Kivu buffer zone

Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame has rejected the idea of creating a buffer zone in the Kivu region, neither does he want to annex the territory. In an interview with the Belgian newspaper 'Le Soir' published on Wednesday, Kagame said he wanted the authorities in Kinshasa to be "strong enough, representative enough and capable of monitoring security in border regions" He denied Rwanda's involvement in the current DRC rebellion, but admitted he was disappointed by Kabila's government which had been unable to prevent rebel incursions from the east into Rwanda and unable to resolve the Congolese Tutsi nationality issue.

Rebels offer to negotiate

Rebel leaders on Thursday offered to negotiate with President Laurent-Desire Kabila, amid reports they had captured the town of Mbanza Ngungu, some 130 km southwest of Kinshasa and the last major town on the way to the capital. Kabila's erstwhile foreign minister Bizima Karaha told a news conference in Goma that the president was "part of the problem and can therefore be part of the solution". Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, chairman of the newly-announced Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RDC) said Congo's problems were political "and we do not intend to settle them militarily".

Regional analysts told IRIN they believed the offer of talks was a "delaying tactic" by the rebels, coming in the wake of proposed military intervention on Kabila's side by some members of the Southern African Development Community. Earlier in the week, more towns reportedly fell to the rebels including Aru in the northeast.

Kabila in Lubumbashi

Kabila was reported to be in Lubumbashi and members of his government denied reports he had fled. Information Minister Didier Mumengi claimed rebels in the west of the country were "in retreat and disarray". Kinshasa was without power and water for several days, following the rebel capture of the Inga hydroelectric dam, although supplies were restored on Thursday. The government announced that troops were regrouping and a counter-offensive was being prepared.

Rebellion formalised

Meanwhile, the rebellion formally announced itself as the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), whose chairman was Ernest Wamba Dia Wamba (an academic and member of the Bakongo people from the Matadi area), deputy chairman Moise Nyarugabo (a Munyamulenge, formerly in the DRC government) and executive secretary Jacques Depelchin (a Congolese academic who taught in Tanzania and in the US). Former DRC foreign minister Bizima Karaha was named member of an executive council and also charged with foreign affairs.

A Congolese analyst told IRIN the rebellion had changed its strategy. Instead of having a single leader, it had decided on a joint leadership to encompass as many sections of Congolese society as possible, he said. He pointed out the leading members represented well-known politicians and representatives of DRC society from various provinces.

Foreigners evacuated

Foreign nationals continued to evacuate Kinshasa and diplomatic sources told IRIN the Burundian community, which had been holed up in the Burundi ambassador's residence since the start of the conflict, managed to return to Bujumbura by plane over the weekend. People who left Kinshasa spoke of panic in the city, saying young men recruited into the army by Kabila's administration were "spreading fear" and the army itself appeared "disjointed". Sources in the capital told IRIN "nervous soldiers" were patrolling Kinshasa's streets and some government members were preparing to flee.

TANZANIA: Refugees arriving from DRC, Burundi

UNHCR Kigoma told IRIN 180 Congolese had arrived by boat in the western Tanzanian region of Kigoma since the beginning of the DRC war. UNHCR added it was "expecting many more Congolese" based on the accounts of the newly- arrived refugees, most of whom are from Uvira. The refugees will be accommodated in Nyarugusu refugee camp, in Kasulu district, which was built to house some 41,000 Congolese who fled the 1996 war against Mobutu Sese Seko.

UNHCR also said there had been a recent influx of Burundian refugees, with 857 crossing into the Kigoma region between 5 and 17 August. Most of them had fled fighting in the southern Burundi provinces of Rutana, Bururi and Makamba. They were reportedly in a poor condition. According to OCHA, there are some 272,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania, including 160,000 in Kigoma region and 112,000 in Ngara region.

KENYA-TANZANIA: Albright visits bomb sites

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in the region on Tuesday to visit the bomb blast sites in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and meet top leaders. Press reports said that during the one-day visit she would also convey her condolences to some of those injured in the bombings that killed over 250 and left more than 5,000 wounded.

Bomb suspect flown to Nairobi

A suspect in the Nairobi bombing was arrested in Pakistan and flown to Kenya on Sunday after admitting playing a role in the blast, media reports said. The man, described as an Arab national, arrived in Pakistan from Nairobi on forged papers on the day of the bombing and was planning to take a connecting flight to Afghanistan.

The Tanzanian authorities have meanwhile released 10 people held in connection with the blast at the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, AFP said. Two men however remain in custody. The police have not revealed their identities.

RWANDA: 14 killed in "revenge" attack

Fourteen people were murdered on Sunday night at Ruhango trading centre, in Nyamagana sector, 80 km southwest of Kigali, in what has been described as a revenge killing. The Rwanda News Agency said the attackers targeted two families. One of the victims, Emmanual Gasana, had recently been found not guilty of genocide charges by a Gitarama court. Gasana's entire family was hacked to death with traditional weapons, the news agency reported.

BURUNDI: Meeting on reconstruction, development opens in Ottawa

Talks on reconstruction and development in Burundi began in the Canadian city of Ottawa on Thursday, diplomatic sources told IRIN. The meeting, bringing together donors and Burundi government ministers, is also attended by peace process mediator, former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere. A media source told IRIN the meeting was part of an international effort to promote peace in the country. The external Arusha peace process is due to resume in October.

80 killed in past week, press agency says

The Inter Press Service news agency noted that the DRC crisis has overshadowed events in Burundi where, it says, over 80 people have been killed in the past week. Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Isaie Nibizi said there had been fighting between the army and rebels in the northern Bubanza and Kayanza provinces, as well as in Makamba and Muyinga in the south. However, he claimed the rebels preferred to "hit soft targets" such as schools, settlements, old people and children. Alongside FDD and PALIPEHUTU rebels, were Rwandan Interahamwe militia members and ex-FAR troops, Nibizi said.

Speculators bumping up fuel prices

The Agence burundaise de presse says speculators in Gitega are taking advantage of the DRC conflict to boost petrol prices, following a shortage of fuel which had been supplied through Congo. Petrol was reportedly being sold covertly at night by "travelling retailers" supplied by authorised petrol stations, ABP said. "The current chaotic situation" had caused anger among local residents who demanded that the provincial authorities take measures to stop the speculators, the agency added.

SUDAN: Flooding threatens Khartoum

The threat of flooding led to a turnout of soldiers and civilians in Khartoum over the weekend to build sandbag embankments. The regional parliament was suspended for a week to participate in the effort to shore up defences against the rising Nile. Fifteen houses in the Kalaka district of the city collapsed on Saturday, forcing an evacuation of the area, AFP reported. Tuti island, Uzuzab and Fitaihab are also threatened.

WFP planes at disposition of NGOs

A WFP spokeswoman told IRIN on Wednesday that WFP planes would henceforth be at the disposition of NGOs for airdropping food in south Sudan. She described the move as a "positive step forward". It was a "concerted effort" to help NGOs, aimed at maximising use of the WFP fleet, which currently had 14 aircraft available each month. NGOs would be able to book time on WFP aircraft on a cost recovery basis which would considerably reduce their costs, she added.

Displaced children at risk in Panthou, says MSF

Displaced children in the famine-stricken area of Panthou in Bahr el-Ghazal, are at extreme risk of death, according to a press release issued by MSF. A nutritional and mortality survey showed that displaced children in Panthou are almost 17 times more likely to die of starvation or starvation-related illness than resident children of the area. It reports a death rate of 43.8 deaths per 10,000 people per day for displaced children under the age of five versus 2.6 deaths for 10,000 people per day for resident children under the age of five. The overall level of malnutrition among children under the age of five in Panthou is 53.4 percent. "This survey shows just how much more vulnerable displaced people are", the MSF medical coordinator in Panthou declared. MSF is planning to open feeding centres in Ajac and Tieralet in order to prevent further displacement to Panthou.

Nairobi, 21 August 1998


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information or subscriptions. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to Mailing list: irin-cea-weekly]

Date: Fri, 21 Aug 1998 14:00:58 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: DRC: Zimbabwean, Angolan troops arrive to back Kabila 1998.8.21 Message-ID: <>

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

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