Rwandan and Ugandan troops clash in Congo

Krishna Lalbiharie umlalbi0 at SPAMcc.UManitoba.CA
Thu Aug 19 12:58:57 MDT 1999



Headline: Rwandan and Ugandan troops clash in Congo
Byline: Krishna Lalbiharie


Rwandan and Ugandan troops sharing control of the divided northern
Congolese city of Kisangai exchanged gunfire in fierce street battles, as
presidents of both countries prepare to meet in support of resolving the
Congo's inclement civil war.
        Reports from within the troubled territory indicate that civilians
hid in their homes as a torrent of mortar and artillery shells rained in
Kisangai, Monday, August 16, the third consecutive day of violence there.
        Rwanda and Uganda support rival factions of the Congolese Rally for
Democracy (RCD), a rebel group fighting to unseat Congolese President
Laurent Kabila.
        The clash was "intense" in the central city where Rwandan troops
attempted to reclaim positions captured by Ugandan forces, said Ernest
Wamba dia Wamba, leader of the Ugandan-supported rebel bloc to the
Associated Press.
        Wamba further indicated that Rwandan servicemen had assumed
strategic positions in buildings overlooking his headquarters.
        "I'm supposed to be the main target," he said.
        Rwandan forces, inured in fighting during the last two rebellions
in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), appeared to have gained control
over much of the city centre and a textile factory that was formerly a
Ugandan stronghold.
        Uganda, however, appears to command control over the only road
leading to the area's principal airport, another site of heavy incursions.
        Casualties are believed to be extensive on both sides including, at
minimum, fifty civilian deaths, physicians in Kisangani said. Exact figures
at press time, however, could not be independently confirmed.
        Rwandan commander Lt. Col. Patrick Nyavumba said he had been
ordered by superiors in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, to cease fire. His
Ugandan counterpart, Brig. Gen. James Kazini, stated that he too had been
issued the alike orders, although fighting continued unabated.
        Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan Vice-President Paul
Kagame  are scheduled to meet to discuss the crisis in the Ugandan capital,
Kampala, a senior Ugandan Foreign Ministry official told CNN.
        The conflicts follow a series of gun battles in the city last
weekend between Rwandan-backed dissidents from the RCD and Ugandan armed
forces in support of the splinter RCD faction led by Wamba, who was ousted
from the group's leadership in May.
        The rebel leadership dispute has grown increasingly tense amid
efforts to secure the RCD's signature on a July 10 peace accord brokered in
Lusaka, Zambia, and signed by six African nations, including both Uganda
and Rwanda.
        While Wamba insists on signing the agreement, his successor, Emile
Ilunga, claims Wamba is disempowered to command troops or any political
following, indicating further that he will not sign the accord if Wamba
does.
        Both Wamba and Ilunga are contending for negotiating positions with
Congolese President Kabila when national dialogues on the future of the
Congo occur.
        Uganda appears to be hoping Wamba can help expand its footing on
lucrative timber, tea, coffee, gold and diamond markets in northern Congo.
        While Uganda favours an immediate retraction from Congo with its
interests protected, Rwanda is resolute in not withdrawing until Rwandan
Hutu paramilitaries, who advanced the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and are now
fighting alongside Kabila's military, are disarmed and delivered for trail.
        Collaterally, the fighting in Kisangani is threatening a United
Nations-sponsored campaign to vaccinate some ten million children against
polio, the Congolese government said.
        Congolese Health Minister Mashako Mamba told state television on
August 15 that battling had disrupted electricity supplies in the city,
destroying three million refrigerated doses of vaccine.
        "The vaccination program has been seriously jeopardized by the
barbaric behavior of Rwandan and Ugandan occupation troops," Mamba said.












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