DRC: Situation confused as Banyamulenge take over Bukavu radio

Report
from IRIN
Published on 03 Aug 1998
NAIROBI, 3 August 1998 (IRIN) - There is still confusion over who exactly is behind the rebellion in eastern DRC. Official Banyamulenge sources in the region told IRIN "we have rejected the rule of Kabila", but it was not clear whether this was purely a Banyamulenge uprising or if other members of the Congolese armed forces were also involved.
Humanitarian sources in Bukavu said Radio Bukavu and a local development radio station known as Radio Maendeleo were in the hands of the Banyamulenge military, and numbers of them could be seen around the offices of both stations. However, according to the sources, non-Banyamulenge soldiers are circulating freely in town. Witnesses also report the presence of some Rwandan soldiers. Bukavu radio has said the current local athorities "are no longer recognised", the sources added. The statement announcing opposition to Kabila, broadcast on Goma radio, was also read out on Bukavu radio by Commander Birunga Kamanda. The Banyamulenge military also freed a number of prisoners from Bukavu jail.

Shooting was still heard in Kindu as of 16:30 (local time) today, local sources told IRIN. Unconfirmed reports said government soldiers in the town were rounding up Banyamulenge troops, disarming them and holding them at a central point.

According to a Munyamulenge NGO worker, the rebellion takes place amid increasing feelings of marginalisation by the Banyamulenge community after several of their civilian officials were sacked, the latest being the deputy administrator of Uvira Boniface Budederi. The source also told IRIN four Banyamulenge soldiers, including a commander, were ambushed and killed Saturday by other Congolese soldiers on the Baraka-Uvira road. He claimed the fighting "is a kind of secession. Congo is going to be divided". He expressed anxiety that the current situation "is going to steam up old problems".

Humanitarian sources in DRC told IRIN the fighting actually began on Saturday when clashes broke out in Baraka between Banyamulenge (and reportedly Rwandan) soldiers on one hand, and government troops on the other. The sources claim there is a "high concentration" of Rwandan troops in Minova town, between Bukavu and Goma. However, Rwandan military spokesman Emmanuel Ndahiro denied any Rwandans were still present in DRC.

Meanwhile, the two remaining Tutsi members of President Kabila's government are reported to have fled the country. Former Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) secretary-general, Deogratias Bugera, recently "demoted" to presidential affairs minister, according to analysts, is said to be in Belgium. Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha has also left DRC.

DRC state television today displayed a caption reading: "The enemy will not succeed. The entire Congolese people are behind their president, Mzee Laurent-Desire Kabila."

A night curfew, in place for the next three days, has been imposed in Kinshasa where shooting last night was described as "rather intense" by local residents. According to unconfirmed reports, the confrontation was initiated by Rwandan soldiers who were being transferred from Matadi in Bas-Congo province back to Rwanda. Diplomatic and missionary sources said there were "heavy casualties", with the dead bodies of DRC and Rwandan soldiers observed in parts of Kinshasa.

Tension increased after Kabila last week told all Rwandan soldiers in the country to leave. Officially 100 Rwandans returned home, but various sources put the number much higher. Humanitarian sources in Kinshasa told IRIN the media speculated at the time that a Rwandan plot to topple Kabila had been discovered.

Nairobi, 3 August 1998, 15:20 gmt

[ENDS]

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