Zairean army prepares to seize rebel territory

Zaire is preparing to launch a counteroffensive against rebels in the east of the country, threatening a fresh refugee crisis.

Ian Linden, director of the Catholic Institute for International Relations, said that humanitarian officials recently in the region had reported evidence of a military build up in eastern Zaire. Zairean forces, reportedly assisted by foreign mercenaries, have concentrated around the towns of Walikale and Bunia, apparently in preparation for an assault on rebel-held towns.

Zaire's President, Mobutu Sese Soko, returned to Kinshasa this week after cancer treatment in Europe, and appointed a new army chief,General Mahele Bokungo. He pledged to recover territory lost to the Rwandan-backed rebels.

The rebels, backed by Uganda and Rwanda, have seized territory 300 miles long from north to south since October. Zairean troops put up little resistance but are now regrouping.

The rebel leader, Laurent Kabila, urged civilians this week to stay put, but his words failed to stem a stream of people leaving the eastern city of Goma, the biggest of several towns seized by rebels in November.

In a speech on rebel Star Radio, Mr Kabila, president of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo/Zaire, said his forces would defeat any army counterattack launched by Mr Mobutu.

There is little evidence that external powers will permit Zaire to disintegrate in the face of an effort by the rebels to topple Mr Mobutu. The US State Department expressed strong support this week for Zaire remaining a unified state.

Mr Mobutu is now trying to regain his military and political grip on the country. Opposition representatives have urged him to dump Prime Minister Leon Kengo wa Dondo, and set this weekend as the deadline for forming a crisis government.

Amnesty International said yesterday it had received reports from Burundi that up to 500 people were massacred on 3 December in and around a Pentecostal church in Butaganza commune, Kayanza province. The army had reportedly herded villagers into the church, thrown grenades inside and shot those trying to escape. The wounded were bayoneted to death.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before