UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
DRC: New regional alliances forged over fighting
NAIROBI, 28 August 1998 (IRIN) - A perceived unholy alliance between the Congolese rebels, UNITA and ex-Mobutu generals spurred Angola's military intervention on behalf of the Kinshasa government, regional analysts say.
"There has been a long standing alliance between the Mobutu generals in exile and UNITA," a security specialist told IRIN. Three of the former regime's inner circle, General Kpama Baramoto, General Ngbale Nzimbi and Admiral Mudima Mavua, had been negotiating with UNITA for access to rear bases inside Angola from where they could strike at Kinshasa, the analyst said.
According to the Johannesburg-based 'Mail&Guardian' newspaper today, following their failure earlier this year to raise a South African mercenary army to topple President Laurent-Desire Kabila, they turned to a regional solution from among the armed groups disadvantaged by the fall of Mobutu and governments disillusioned by Kabila's reign.
The paper alleged that Baramoto and his clique of Zairean generals, who had been seeking political asylum in South Africa, have attended security meetings with Rwandan and Ugandan officials. The paper reported eyewitness sources as claiming they had been spotted in Kigali and Kampala in recent weeks.
The London-based newsletter 'Africa Confidential' claims that Baramoto and Nzimbi played a pivotal role in the Congolese rebel capture of the Kitona military base in western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The generals were able to win over the former Zairean troops garrisoned there to the rebel cause.
One analyst, explaining the nature of the anti-Kinshasa front stretching from the DRC's Hauts Plateaux in south Kivu to UNITA's Angolan highlands stronghold, said: "They have mutually compatible interests - getting rid of Kabila." In a message to the Angolan government on Tuesday, a copy of which has been received by IRIN, the leader of the rebel Congolese Democratic Movement Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, denied a connection with Luanda's arch enemies.
"We do not intend now or at any point in the future to approach UNITA. UNITA has created havoc in our country. We are committed to fully support the Angolan government in its efforts to resolve their UNITA-related question," the statement said.
"Our movement is open to all democratic forces in the Congo," it adds. "It does have individuals who worked under Mobutu, but the movement does not have in its ranks Mobutuists ... We have not approached any Mobutuists who are known to have a criminal past."
Dia Wamba also denied a link with ex-FAR soldiers and Interahamwe militia of the former regime in Rwanda, who along with troops of the fallen government in Congo-Brazzaville, are believed to have been hired by UNITA.
"On the contrary it is Mr Kabila who has gone out of his way to recruit and militarily train the Interahamwe to carry out his policies of ethnic hatred, massacres and ethnic cleansing," the message says.
Luanda's military intervention, which could be decisive in propping up Kabila, could also have direct consequences for UNITA and Angola's stumbling peace process, political commentators say.
"Any operation in the DRC will allow for a convenient prepositioning of troops and military hardware along the DRC/Angolan border which not only serves as a buffer against UNITA but ultimately also sets the stage for the launching of an attack on Moxico province", Angola's eastern region overun by UNITA in July, a security source told IRIN.
That strategy stands a better chance of succeeding if the assault is launched jointly from the DRC and Zambia, the analyst said. Earlier this year Angola clearly warned Lusaka it reserved the right to make cross border incursions to attack alleged UNITA bases in Zambia.
Zambia originally backed Zimbabwe's military initiative in the DRC, and then appeared to draw back from intervention. According to the analyst, Lusaka's vacillation is due in part to concern that siding with Kabila would "automatically have to include some implicit allegiance to the stronger partner, Angola."
Meanwhile, the humanitarian community in Zambia is bracing itself for an influx of refugees should the conflict in the DRC worsen. The rebels this week said they had captured Kalemie in Kabila's home region of Katanga. Escalated fighting in the mineral-rich territory bordering Zambia could trigger large scale population movements.
That scenario would have a direct bearing on Lusaka's security interests and force the government to more clearly choose sides.
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Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 15:06:57 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: DRC: New regional alliances forged over fighting 1998.8.28 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.980828150641.28265Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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