Rebels close on Kinshasa

The siege of Kinshasa drew closer yesterday after rebels announced the capture of three gateway towns to the Zairean capital, choking food and essential supplies. Mwenge Kongolo, the rebel "justice minister, revised the recent forecast by his leader, Laurent Kabila, of the fall of Kinshasa from weeks to "a matter of days".

The rebels seized Ilebo, Tshikapa and Dowete. A pincer offensive appears to be under way after missionaries in Bas-Zaire province reported the arrival of the first rebel force west of Kinshasa. Families of government soldiers in the port of Matabi are being sent back to Kinshasa and diplomats in the capital confirm military activity on the border between Bas-Zaire and Angola.

Analysts had forecast that Angola could provide a strategic springboard for the rebels. President Sese Seko Mobutu is an old enemy of the Angolan President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos. "The rebel plan is becoming clearer now," said an analyst in Kinshasa. "They want to force the capital into submission and the noose is tightening."

Most people in Kinshasa will welcome the speed of the rebel advance but there are concerns that Mr Mobutu, the country's corrupt ruler for the past three decades, may take violent revenge before his almost inevitable flight. If he spares his people, and opposition politicians, his desperate, thuggish soldiers, who have looted and raped civilians during six months of retreat, may not.

The official line is that troops will defend Kinshasa to the last man. But yesterday Mr Kongolo said he did not believe there would be a bloody battle for the capital. In Geneva, Francois Lumumba, son of Patrice Lumumba, the country's first prime minister, and Mr Kabila's hero, appealed to Mr Mobutu not to launch any revenge attacks on the population.

"To the numerous crimes (he has) already committed it is useless to add, on the eve of the new regime, a crime against humanity," said Mr Lumumba, an opposition figure in Kinshasa who was on his way to eastern Zaire for talks with Mr Kabila. Mr Mobutu was implicated in the death of Patrice Lumumba.

The people of Kinshasa may have to rely on Mr Mobutu's restraint, because South African-led peace talks are going nowhere. Although South African ministers said yesterday that the UN special envoy, Mohamed Sahnoun, was poised to return to Cape Town to settle a date and venue for direct talks and that both sides had reaffirmed their commitment to a negotiated peace, analysts believe Mr Kabila will not stop until Mr Mobutu and his regime are ousted.

The US has warned that Mr Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire could be damaging relations with the West by failing to repatriate Rwandan Hutu refugees in east Zaire. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, had claimed the rebels were starving refugees by denying aid agencies access to them. The refugees fled to Zaire two years ago after the Hutu genocide of 800,000 Tutsis.

The rebels deny being obstructive. Yesterday they allowed the UN to visit camps where rebel massacres of refugees and deaths from starvation had been reported. Last night a UN spokesman said a team had found two camps, which until this week housed 55,000 refugees, deserted, at Kasese, south of Kisangani. The rebels, he said, would not allow the team to travel further.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a dynamic En...

SAP Data Migration Lead

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Experienced Lead SAP Data Manager Requir...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

£18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform