UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
DRC: Beni falls to rebels amid claims of Ugandan involvement
NAIROBI, 10 August 1998 (IRIN) - The authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday accused Ugandan troops of entering the country to assist the rebellion as the border town of Beni fell to the rebels.
Information Minister Didier Mumengi claimed a "Ugandan and Rwandan military convoy" which included tanks, trucks and armoured vehicles, was heading towards Oysha and Komanda in the northeast Bunia region.
Uganda flatly denied the accusations, but humanitarian sources told IRIN today the town of Beni, on the Ugandan border south of Bunia, had fallen to rebel forces which were now advancing on Bunia itself. "Ugandan involvement cannot be discounted," the well-placed sources said, adding the biggest fear was of looting by retreating soldiers. The border between Uganda and DRC at Mahagi is closed and Congolese soldiers are preventing anyone from crossing.
A Ugandan army spokesman, in comments to IRIN today, blamed political forces in Kinshasa for "trying to link us" to the alleged Rwandan expedition. "We have our own problems in the border area and they're enough for us," he added. Several weeks ago, the Ugandan army established a base in Ntabi on the DRC side of the border to try and flush out rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Bunia itself is still in government hands. Local radio there on Saturday reportedly broadcast inflammatory messages calling on people to attack Tutsis with "knives and machetes". The Bunia authorities have confiscated communication equipment. "There is a lot of confusion over which army is which," IRIN's sources said.
Three planeloads of government reinforcements have arrived in Kisangani and are attempting to reach Bunia in trucks, although bad roads are hampering progress, the sources added. It was unclear why the troops did not fly directly to Bunia.
In South Kivu, there is a strong military presence in the town of Bukavu, aid sources confirmed to IRIN. Some security incidents have taken place with the looting of aid organisations' premises. Some vehicles have also been commandeered. Last week's heavy fighting was reportedly due to the presence of Mayi-Mayi rebels in the town, and casualties were said to be high.
Most expatriate humanitarian workers have now been evacuated from Bukavu across the Rwandan border to Cyangugu. Bukavu is now calm and movement during the day carries no greater risk than usual, local sources told IRIN.
International aid workers, evacuated from Kisangani, say the town is still under government control. Foreign aid workers also left Goma for Rwanda today.
Meanwhile, the rebellion reiterated its ultimate aim was to capture Kinshasa. In an announcement over Radio Bukavu, monitored by the Rwanda News Agency on Friday, the rebels gave out the names of more of their leaders. These include Maitre Elyse Buyengo, Emmanuel Kamanzi (former liaison officer between the ADFL and UN/NGOs), Musa Nyamwisi, Kalala Shambuyi, Maurice Nyambaga, Ngangura Kasole, Mondja Eyoka and Tambwe Mwamba.
A regional summit meeting in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, over the weekend ended in failure with DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila unable to reach agreement or compromise with his Rwandan and Ugandan counterparts on who was responsible for the fighting. President Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda again denied his country was involved in the rebellion, and demanded that Kabila substantiate the claims. The summit established a four-member committee - made up of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia - to monitor the conflict and try and secure a ceasefire, Rwandan radio reported.
A DRC government statement, broadcast by state television on Saturday, asserted that "the Rwandan Tutsis, who have led our army since independence, know our strong and weak points...and how to exploit them". Replying to concerns raised by humanitarian workers and human rights organisations over the fate of Tutsis in Kinshasa, the statement declared "a Tutsi or any other person found to be an accomplice of the invaders will be made to undergo the rigours of national law". It claimed Tutsis were not being arrested simply because they were Tutsis, and "the invader" should be held responsible for the "fate of any victims".
Amid conflicting claims as to whether the western town of Boma had fallen to the rebels, the pilot of an aircraft hijacked to western DRC at the start of the rebellion has been giving an account of the circumstances. According to Radio France Internationale, the Nigerian pilot, Raymond Gnang, said he was taken by force to the military base of Kitona from Goma. Three planes were taken to Kitona, carrying Rwandan troops, allegedly including former DRC army chief-of-staff James Kabare. The pilot said he flew his plane first to Kigali to refuel. After reaching Kitona, he claimed Kabare ordered him to return to Kigali, but he disobeyed and went first to Lagos and then back to Kinshasa where he recounted his story.
Nairobi, 10 August 1998, 15:20 gmt
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Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 18:16:55 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: DRC: Beni falls to rebels amid claims of Ugandan involvement 1998.8.10 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.980810181517.10410Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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