Congolese troops loot Central African town

from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 28 Jan 1999
BANGUI, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Congolese troops fleeing advancing rebels in the former Zaire have fled across the border into Central African Republic, looting and harassing local people, residents and church sources said on Thursday.
The member of parliament for the area, Charles Armel Doubane, told Reuters that 2,200 soldiers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo had entered the town of Zemio on January 8.

They had been based in Gbadolite, the northern Congolese hometown of the ex-Zaire's late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, which is just across the border from Zemio, a town of some 14,000 inhabitants.

He said a handful of Congolese officers had since been repatriated but the bulk of the soldiers remained, creating tension and fear among the local population.

In a statement issued in the Central African Republic's capital Bangui on Wednesday, Doubane called on his government to take ''urgent steps to see that these troops leave the town immediately.''

''They loot, rape, hassle, provoke and humiliate Central Africans -- victims of their own hospitality, on their own territory,'' the statement said.

''We are worried because Zemio faces Gbadolite and in the event of an attack by rebels pursuing loyalist forces, the population will suffer,'' it added.

Church sources in contact with Zemio corroborated the situation described by the parliamentarian.

They added that a small unit of some 50 Central African Republic soldiers was based close to Zemio but was ineffective in the face of the much larger Congolese force.

There was no immediate comment from the Central African Republic government, which has signed a defence accord with embattled Congolese President Laurent Kabila in his war with the rebels, backed by Uganda and Rwanda.

Early this month about 300 Kabila troops flew to Bangui in a tactical move to dislodge rebels who had seized the Congolese border town of Zongo, which faces Bangui across a river. The Congolese regained control of Zongo after looting the town and sending hundreds of residents fleeing to Bangui.

Kabila toppled Mobutu in 1997, but since last August he has faced a rebellion which has grown into a regional war involving at least six other African armies.

Kabila is backed by troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe while his former allies Rwanda and Uganda support the rebels.

Reut08:44 01-28-99

Copyright (c) 1999 Reuters
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 01/28/1999 08:45:47

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