Central Africa on brink of all-out conflict
Zaire-Rwanda crisis: Ethnic battles loom in Kinshasa as strategic towns fall to the invaders and their local allies
Saturday 02 November 1996
As hundreds of thousands of refugees in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu fled before the fighting, the ethnic battles threatened to explode in the capital, Kinshasa. Thousands of university students swarmed through the streets demanding all-out war with neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi and shouting for the Tutsi rebels' defeat. Tutsis, who are among some of Zaire's most successful entrepreneurs and professionals, are packing up and leaving, fearing a witch-hunt. On Thursday, the transitional parliament called for Tutsis to be sacked from the army, the civil service and state-run companies.
Panicking residents streamed out of the border town of Goma as Zairean and Rwandan soldiers fought in the streets and Tutsi rebels battled for control of the airport, the aid life-line for hundreds of thousands of refugees. "There are RPA [Rwandan Patriotic Army] troops in uniforms in the centre of Goma city, the main square," said a diplomat in Rwanda, who declined to be identified. "They came in by land and across Lake Kivu on boats, landing on the city beach." Another diplomat said: "We are 110 per cent certain the RPA is in Goma."
Rwandan officials, however, denied troops of the Tutsi-led Rwandan government army were in Zaire. "There are categorically no RPA troops in Goma despite the heavy shelling we received from Zaire," a Rwandan government spokesman, Major Wilson Rutayisire, said in Kigali.
"If we continue to receive such provocations, such attacks on the part of the Zairean army, we have the right to defend ourselves and to engage in defensive action against the Zairean army if that continues," the Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana said.
Radio reports said 100 foreigners were trapped in a cathedral in the centre of Bukavu, a provincial capital 60 miles south of Goma at the southern end of Lake Kivu. Thirty-five miles north of Goma, 200,000 terrified Hutu refugees were fleeing the fighting.
Tutsis, backed by the Rwandan army, are fighting to repel Zairean army attacks and to push Rwandan Hutu refugees further into Zaire. A Reuter photographer, Corinne Dufka, confirmed yesterday that Bukavu fell to the rebels on Wednesday. Ms Dufka, who was in the town throughout the fighting, said the Zairean military and allied militiamen fled, followed by tens of thousands of people, in the hours before the rebels entered the town. She said the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge rebels, who were well equipped with mortars, were well disciplined and had not looted the town. She saw 28 people who had been executed by the Zairean army before the troops fled. After capturing Bukavu the rebels then closed in on Goma.
The Zairean Prime Minister, Kengo wa Dondo, claimed yesterday that the army had retaken Bukavu and Uvira.There are only a few outposts in South Kivu that are occupied by the enemy," he told journalists in Kinshasa.
Heavy cross-border artillery and mortar fire continued through yesterday. A shell fired from Zaire exploded in the main market of Gisenyi, Rwanda, across the border from Goma, and wounded several people. The artillery attack sent about 5,000 residents fleeing.
About 10,000 to 15,000 Rwandan troops were attacking from inside Zaire and from the Rwandan side of the border, said a Zairean military spokesman, Victor Masandi.
Tutsis moved into the area of Zaire north of Lake Kivu about 60 years ago, and have lived in Zairean territory south of the lake for at least 200 years. Last month Zairean officials ordered those in South Kivu, the Banyamulenge, to leave.
On Thursday, Raymond Chretien, the new UN envoy to Central Africa, said in New York that he would stop in Lausanne to see the Zairean President, Mobutu Sese Seko, before he leaves for the region in the coming week. Mr Mobutu, 66, underwent surgery for prostate cancer in Lausanne's University Hospital in August.
The fighting is fuelling a refugee crisis that threatens to match the 1994 exodus of 1.1 million Rwandan Hutus, who fled to Zaire fearing reprisals for the Hutu massacre of Tutsis. Should aid workers leave, Zaire, with negligible resources, would be left to feed 700,000 refugees in camps near Lake Kivu.
Matt Smith is set to join cast of Jane Austen classic - with a twist
Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas
- 2 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 3 'Necrophilia-obsessed' girl among double murder accused in three-way sex case
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Isis release 'Flames of War' video warning Obama of attacks troops could face in Iraq
Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked next, threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: To work as part of the Le...
£100 - £110 per day + Travel scheme plus free professional trainnig: Randstad ...
£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...
£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme plus free professional training: Randstad ...