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Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 97 11:08:19 CST
From: bghauk@berlin.infomatch.com (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Zaire Rebels Advance, Imperialists Take Aim
Organization: InfoMatch Internet - Vancouver BC
Article: 6589

Zaire Rebels Advance, Imperialists Take Aim

By Megan Arney, in the Militant, Vol. 61, no. 10, 10 March 1997

As rebels in Zaire come closer to capturing Kisangani, the country's third largest city, new rumors of intervention are being floated by government spokespeople from a number of imperialist powers, led by Washington.

The Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, which opposes the dictatorial regime of President Mobutu Sese Seko, is led by Laurent Kabila. Kisangani could become one of many Zairian cities overrun by the Alliance forces in the past few weeks. On February 4, rebels took the port and railway center of Kalemie, in the southern part of eastern Zaire in the Shaba province - one of the richest in the country. Although still about 800 km [496 miles] from Shaba's copper and cobalt mines, Kalemie is a commercial transit point.

Advancing closer to Kisangani, rebels also moved north from Kalemie to Kalima, taking that city on February 22. Kalima is only 180 miles south of Kisangani. The rebels have announced they will proceed on to Kindu, 75 miles south of Kalemie, to capture one of the two government airports in eastern Zaire.

Rebels have also made some gains on the northern front. On February 13, they took the northeastern town of Faradje, which is 45 miles west of the Sudanese border. In total, the rebels control a swath of land that extends 900 miles of length in eastern Zaire.

While the Zairian government complains that the rebels are backed by the governments of Rwanda and Burundi, it has been widely reported that Mobutu has hired some 300 mercenaries to prop up the Zairian army. Military sources say Mobutu's White Legion is made up of former members of the British secret police (SAS), and soldiers from Belgium, France, Russia, Serbia, and several African countries.

On February 17, Zairian army warplanes bombed three rebel-held cities. Bukavu, Shabunda, and Walikale were the first cities to be bombed since the civil war broke out in Zaire last October. Rebel leader Kabila said the Zairian army, backed by mercenaries, dropped napalm on his troops at Tingi-Tingi. The bombings are part of the counteroffensive launched by the Zairian government in mid- January. The air raids, however, have not slowed down the rebels from advancing and have deepened resentment by millions of Zairians against the Mobutu regime.

On February 20, government officials from South Africa said that talks to halt the civil war in Zaire would take place. South African president Nelson Mandela announced two days earlier that representatives of the Zairian government and Laurent Kabila, the rebel leader, had agreed to talks on a cease-fire that could lead to elections. On February 21, Kabila delayed an offensive on the city of Kalima, but Zaire's defense minister later said his army would not delay its counteroffensive. On February 23, Nzanga Mobutu - the son of Zaire's president and his spokesman - said, "Our position remains the same from the start. We will not discuss or negotiate whatsoever."

Growing increasingly nervous, Washington issued a public statement February 5, warning Zaire's eastern neighbors -Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi - to stay out of the fighting between the rebels and the Zairian government. "The United States appeals again today to the neighbors of Zaire, to not involve themselves in the fighting," said U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns at a press conference that day. Washington subsequently dispatched to South Africa George Moose, assistant secretary of state, and Susan Rice, a senior member of the National Security Council.

On February 12, Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi appealed for an international force to act as a buffer between Zaire and its neighbors, according to news reports in Nairobi. Moi also directed his appeal to the United Nations, Washington, and the European Union.

The February 9 Washington Post quoted an unnamed U.S. government official saying that Washington's plan for an "All-African Response Team," is still "alive and moving, very much so." The plan, which was first put forward by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher last October, would include up to 10,000 African troops, militarily trained and supplied by the U.S. government.

It would allow for African troops to intervene in crisis situations - such as the current civil war in Zaire or the rebellion against French domination in the Central African Republic. So far, however, only two governments, those of Mali and Ethiopia, have agreed to participate.

On February 4, an official of Zaire's defense ministry said that the governments of Morocco, Togo, and Chad were all prepared to send troops and equipment to stop the rebels in eastern Zaire. According to London's Financial Times, the unnamed official said that a recruitment campaign, aimed at forming 13 commando brigades of 2,000 men each, had been launched and that Beijing and Tel Aviv would train the new recruits.

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