Rebel forces push deep into Zaire

Rebels in eastern Zaire are continuing to push westwards, driving the demoralised Zairean army (FAZ) before them. Missionaries evacuated from the area have reported looting and raping by Zairean troops fleeing north after the capture of a number of towns in the interior. The rebels, who are backed by neighbouring Rwanda, are committed to toppling the regime of the Zairean president, Mobutu Sese Seko.

A senior Zairean rebel commander said yesterday that rebels had entered Kisangani, the largest city in eastern Zaire, and were in control of parts of it. Commander John Kabunga, senior aide to the rebel leader Laurent Kabila, said in the town of Goma that rebel forces had reached Kisangani from the east by bypassing the intervening town of Walikale, where they had encountered difficulties.

What started in October as a localised self-defence campaign by a group of ethnic Tutsis has become a full-scale insurgency. The conflict, which has caused massive movements of panic-stricken people, is increasingly threatening to ignite the whole of central Africa. Having accused Rwanda's Tutsi-led government of arming and fighting alongside the rebels, Zaire has turned on Uganda, seen by many as the most stable country in the region.

Uganda admits shelling the Zairean town of Kasindi which it says was occupied by rebels opposed to the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni. But it denies having crossed the border and occupied part of Zaire.

Zaire says it will counter- attack, though how it proposes to tackle the well-trained Ugandan army, having failed to suppress an uprising in its own back yard, is unclear. The Zairean government has repeatedly voiced its opposition to plans for the deployment of a foreign intervention force in its eastern region, having lost control over it more than a month ago.

More than 20 countries, among them Britain, the United States and Germany, are due to contribute to the multi- national force which is being led by Canada. The scale of the intervention has been trimmed back radically in the face of widespread regional opposition and growing evidence that not so many refugees are at risk as was originally thought.

The United Nations and aid agencies have said that as many as 700,000 Rwandan refugees and Zairean civilians need to be rescued from eastern Zaire, having been uprooted by fighting. But Rwanda - on whose territory the international community originally wanted to base the intervention mission - says few of its nationals remain in Zaire. Their claim is supported by United States satellite pictures which show only small concentrations of refugees still in eastern Zaire.

More than half a million Rwandan Hutus returned to Rwanda last month from eastern Zaire where they had lived in refugees camps for more than two years.

The intervention force has so far been unable to get convoys of food and medical aid to the refugees. Taking their cue from their Rwandan backers, the Zairean rebels say they will only allow a handful of multinational military personnel into the territory they control. The rebels fear that the presence of such a force could neutralise the amazing gains they continue to make against the FAZ and allied Rwandan Hutu militias.

The Canadian-led force has been considering airdrops of food to the refugees in eastern Zaire. So far, however, it has only been able to deliver a small consignment of aid to Tanzania. Refugee camps there have recently swelled with an influx of Zaireans and Burundian Hutus fleeing eastern Zaire.

Fighting in Burundi has flared up again in recent days, with Hutu rebels reporting attacks on Tutsi-led army positions in five regions.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has won the award ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 business...

SThree: Trainee Recuitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 business...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn