Kabila back home as allies bomb rebels

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The Independent Online
ON THE back of military assistance from his Angolan and Zimbabwean allies, Congo's embattled President, Laurent Kabila, returned to his capital Kinshasa yesterday and rejected any conciliation or negotiation with the rebel army seeking to depose him.

"The people must be completely mobilised and armed to crush the aggressors," he said on state radio, urging people to take up spears, bows and arrows to kill Tutsis. "The result is certain. They will lose the war everywhere ... Victory belongs to the Congolese people."

Mr Kabila's confidence was presumably lifted by the reports of the arrival of Zimbabwean and Angolan air power. A rebel spokesman, Bizima Karaha, said his forces 50km south-west of Kinshasa were facing a second day of intense attack by MiG fighter jets and helicopter gunships. "Yesterday, our positions were heavily attacked by Angolan and Zimbabwean warplanes and the result was that hundreds of people were killed - mainly men, women and children living in surrounding villages," Mr Karaha said.

He said the aircraft also yesterday bombed Kisangani, the north-eastern city the rebels said they captured on Sunday.

There was no independent confirmation of the reports, but Angola and Zimbabwe have both sent troops to bolster Mr Kabila against the Tutsi- led rebels.

Angolan army units continued to pour into the former Zaire and advance towards rear rebel positions south of Kinshasa. Congolese state radio said the Congo river port of Boma had been retaken from the rebels, sealing off their last line of retreat. "On the western front, the war has taken a decisive turn with the capture by the Congolese armed forces and their allies of the military base at Kitona and the towns of Muanda, Banana and Boma," the morning news report said.

An Angolan government newspaper said more than 940 people were killed in Sunday's battle for Kitona.

Meanwhile, evidence grew that the decades-old Angolan conflict between the government's MPLA forces and the Unita rebel group had found a new battleground in Congo, shattering the fragile 1994 peace accord. Unita said yesterday it had interests to defend in Congo but stopped short of openly acknowledging support for the insurrection against President Kabila.

"Unita cannot accept, for any reason, Angola's military intervention" in Congo, the group said in a statement from its stronghold in Angola's central highlands. "If [the Angolan government] feels it has interests to defend in the region, then let it be known that Unita also has."

A Unita representative in Lisbon, Rui Oliveira, said his movement could not provide military support to the Congolese rebels because it had demobilised all its troops as part of the peace accord.

However, the Angolan government claims that Unita has some 25,000 troops hidden in the bush. The entry of Angola into Congo's civil war may be driven by government concerns that Mr Kabila's departure could usher in a new administration that is sympathetic to Unita. Angola last year helped Mr Kabila oust President Mobutu Sese Seko, the long-time ruler of then Zaire and an ally of Unita's leader, Jonas Savimbi. In return, Mr Kabila agreed to cut off Unita's supply lines across the two countries' border.

Uganda said yesterday that troops it sent to Congo months ago under an agreement with Mr Kabila would remain there because of the breakdown of law and order.

The Foreign Minister, Eriya Kategaya, told parliament in Kampala that Uganda had not taken sides in the conflict. Mr Kabila accuses both Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the rebels, who have seized most of the major towns in eastern Congo.

MPs summoned Mr Kategaya, a long-time associate of President Yoweri Museveni, to explain the government's involvement in the Congo crisis and to explain why troops were being deployed in a foreign country without legislative authorisation.

Mr Kategaya said Ugandan troops were in north-eastern and eastern Congo under an agreement reached early this year with Kinshasa to allow them to flush out Ugandan rebel groups. "When Kabila came [to Kampala], we agreed that our army operates in the Congo to ensure that rebels do not attack Uganda," he said.

He said President Museveni could by law bypass several procedures if the security of the country was threatened.

Mr Kategaya said that despite the entry of Angola and Zimbabwe into the conflict on Mr Kabila's side, Uganda continued to recognise Mr Kabila's government and did not support the war.

In signs of concerted rebel activity inside Uganda, at least 28 people died in two explosions on buses travelling from Kampala to the countryside. In a third explosion, a child was injured on a bus travelling out of Kampala.