Guide to the Zaire crisis: Tutsis were told to leave or die

The rebels
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The Independent Online
When rebellion began suddenly to sweep through eastern Zaire last month, the Banyamulenge, Tutsis who had lived in the region for generations, were reported to be responsible.

It now seems likely that while the Banyamulenge were launching an insurrection in south Kivu, a number of other non-Tutsi groups, with a shared hatred of Zaire's President Sese Seko Mobutu, were starting rebellions further north.

The Banyamulenge were fighting for survival. Local discrimination against them had escalated with the arrival of 2 million Rwandan Hutu refugees in 1994. After murdering 800,000 of their Tutsi countrymen, the Hutu militias brought their racist hatred with them. Their presence gave courage to local politicians who, only weeks before the uprising, had warned the Banyamulenge to leave eastern Zaire or die.

Despite Rwandan government denials that its troops were fighting alongside the rebels in Zaire, the Zairean Banyamulenge would be expected to receive military and financial support from Rwanda. Some Banyamulenge fought in the Rwandan Patriotic Front which brought the Rwandan Tutsis to power in the wake of the genocide in 1994.

But to ensure that the Zairean refugee camps, used by Hutu militia to launch attacks, were swept from its border, the Rwandan government almost certainly took advantage of the discontent within Zaire.

Many non-Tutsi Zaireans also hated the refugee camps. The arrival of so many people turned the local economy upside down.

The Banyamulenge are, in fact, just one of at least four political groups which have formed the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, which speaks for the rebels. Its aim appears to be Zaire's national regeneration, not the annexation of eastern Zaire to a greater Tutsi homeland with Rwanda, as President Mobutu has alleged.

Laurent Desire Kabila, one of the rebel leaders, is not a Tutsi but a Marxist - a secessionist from Zaire's fiercely independent Shaba province. He and his province have a history of uprisings against Kinshasa. The soldiers in Goma this week come from Shaba and Kasai - also almost autonomous from Kinshasa - as well as Kivu.

With the international community refusing to disarm the Interahamwe - the Hutu militias who prevented refugees returning home - it is likely that Major-General Paul Kagame, Rwanda's vice-president, saw the potential for a homegrown solution in the growing discontent with Mr Mobutu.

Mr Mobutu's treatment in Europe for prostate cancer may also have presented Rwanda with an opportunity. During his 31-year rule the country has collapsed. Nationhood is a hard idea to foster among 250 language and ethnic groups; it is impossible when corruption and mismanagement have ensured that communications in a country twice the size of France, and with enormous mineral resources, have disappeared.