Translated from a document produced by Entraide Missionnaire (Emi) - Montreal
The War Continues
It is well known that on February 18, the Security Council of the United Nations adopted a five point plan aimed at putting an end to the war which is raging in Zaire. First and foremost, it called for an immediate end to hostilities. After having dragged its heels somewhat because the resolution did not condemn the invading countries, the Zairian government was forced to agree to the terms of the plan on March 4, and to call for its immediate implementation. This was because the Alliance des forces democratiques pour la liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL) had been chalking up victory after victory.
In fact, nothing seems capable of stopping the advance of the AFDL forces. On March 2, they seized Lubutu and the Tingi-Tingi camps, which had recently been abandoned by Rwandan refugees who have fled further to the west. From the north, east and south, AFDL forces converged on the city of Kisangani. Kisangani is Zaire's third largest city, the capital of Haut-Zaire, and above all, the location of Zaire's principal concentration of counter-offensive military forces. The city was defended simultaneously by the Zairian army, Serbian mercenaries, UNITA soldiers from Angola, and by soldiers of the former Rwandan army (whose commander, Augustin Bizimungu had already fled - it should be noted). Few observers expected Kisangani to fall so quickly. On March 12, Prime Minister Kengo had stated that Zaire's advantage lay in its immense size, and that the rebels had not reached the gates of Kisangani. Two days later, on the evening of March 14, the mercenaries fled, following an attack by soldiers of the Zairian army who were supposed to have been their allies. Then the Governor, along with General Mabilo Mulimbi, also left. The soldiers pillaged the city in the early morning. They then departed, leaving the AFDL troops to enter the city with no resistance in the early afternoon of March 15.
AFDL soldiers have continued to advance in Shaba province as well. They have followed on the heels of the Zairian soldiers who, fleeing by rail, have been pillaging all of the towns and villages on their route: Nyunzu, Kabalo, Kitenge.... In Kabongo however, the AFDL forces were reportedly stopped by soldiers from Kamina. On March 2, the mining town of Manono was taken without fighting, and without being pillaged. To the north, the town of Kongolo also escaped being illaged, thanks to a courageous Police Chief who disarmed a group of DSP soldiers there. The rebels entered Kongolo on or about March 8, with no fighting. They received a warm welcome from the population there. The AFDL is therefore now at he gates of Kasai. From Kalemie southward, Kabila's soldiers took Moba on March 9, then announced that Mpweto had fallen to them on March 16. As they advance further south, they will meet with supporters from Burundi who are part of Leonard Nyangoma's Forces de defense de la democratie (FDD). They are close to Lubumbashi, which they could
take quite easily if the soldiers of the Zairian army flee as they have everywhere else. They will be welcomed by a population happy to be rid of the Zairian soldiers and their corrupt administrators.
AFDL troops are continuing to advance in several directions. They are reported to have already reached Yangambe, 100 km west of Kisangani. From Kindu and Kongolo, they are advancing towards Mbuji-Mayi, the diamond capital of the province of Kasai Oriental. There too, the population will be happy to see them. Even loyal Mobutu supporter, Mukamba Kadiata Nzemba, who is in charge of the major diamond producer, la Societe miniere de Bakwanga (MIBA), was quoted March 12 in The London Financial Times, as saying: "I obeyed Mobutu when he was the boss, but he is not immortal. I will cooperate with whoever succeeds him. I can work under Kabila, and that would not make me a traitor." If Mbuji-Mayi and Lubumbashi were to fall, the rebels would control Zaire's principal sources of revenue, and will have taken from Mobutu a principal source of his own personal income.
Following The Fall Of Kisangani
The fall of a city as important as Kisangani has left the Zairian population in shock. It leads one to think that even with the help of mercenaries and foreign troops, the Zairian army is in complete disarray, and that nothing can now stop the AFDL forces. Besides, as they continue their advance, hundreds of soldiers of the Forces armees zairoises (FAZ) are changing sides. What is more, it seems that the entire population of Zaire wants Kabila to take control of the country as of now. At the beginning of the rebellion, the people feared the country would be broken up; now they hope that Kabila will deliver them from Mobutu's regime.
In Kinshasa, panic has spread with the fall of Kisangani. On March 18, the Haut conseil de la republique-parlement de transition (HCR-PT) voted to dismiss Prime Minister Kengo in a nearly unanimous vote by those present: 464 of the 740 members of the HCR-PT participated in the vote, and 445 of them voted in favour of the dismissal. The validity of the action was immediately contested, since the Acte constitutionnel requires that three-quarters of the deputies be present for any vote. There were rumours of a coup d'etat, and fears that the FAZ would begin pillaging Kinshasa. This led General Mahele to declare on March 19, that the army had no intention of taking the place of the political leaders, since this was not its constitutional mandate. The same day, Mahele addressed the Zairian soldiers, calling upon them to respect the law, and to protect the people and their property. But fears of serious trouble in Kinshasa have not dissipated. Most of the foreign powers with people in the country have advised their nationals to leave Zaire, and thousands
of Zairian men and women have been forced to flee towards Brazzaville, where some of Mobutu's family is reportedly seeking refuge. The United States, France, Belgium and Great Britain have even sent more than a thousand aracommandos, ready to intervene if necessary, in the evacuation of their respective nationals.
President Mobutu's health has also fuelled rumours. On the night of March 13, he had to be rushed to hospital in Monaco for emergency treatment. There were even rumours that he had died. However, on March 21, he returned to Kinshasa, no doubt in a weakened state since he did not make a public appearance upon leaving the plane. On March 23, he was able to receive a group of journalists in his residence at the Tshatshi camp. He assured them that he had not returned in order to take care of personal interests, rather "the greater interests of the nation, namely national unity and territorial integrity." The next day, the head of the Mouvement populaire de la revolution (MPR), Banza Mukalay, announced that his party was ready to negotiate with Kabila. After having met with Mobutu, Kengo resigned as Prime Minister.
Mobutu had indeed acted upon the HCR-PT decision, and the Kengo government was deposed. Following this, Mobutu presented his plan to create a National Council made up of members from the various political families in Zaire, in order to find a solution to the crisis. On March 25, Mobutu announced that he was prepared to share power with the rebels in order to organise elections.
It is not clear whether a diplomatic solution can be found which will satisfy the Zairian people. Several African countries, among others, are putting pressure on both Mobutu and Kabila to call for a cease-fire, and to follow the plan adopted by the Security Council of the United Nations on February 18. Mohamed Sahnoun, who is both the United Nations Special Envoy and the OAU representative, has met several times with Kabila. On March 23, Thabo Mbeki, representing South African President Nelson Mandela, met with Mobutu.
At this moment, several African heads of state are meeting in Lome, Togo in hopes of finding a solution to the crisis in the Great Lakes region. Zaire is represented by HCR-PT First Vice-President, Bo-Boliko Lokonga; as well as by Mobutu's Special Advisor, Honore Ngbanda. For its part, the AFDL is represented by Bizima Karaha and by Gaetan Kakudji, regarded as its Foreign Affairs representatives.
Life In The 'Liberated Congo'
Now that the AFDL has taken control of eastern Zaire by force, it is devoting itself to setting an administration in place through which it can control the 'liberated zones'. The initial actions of this new administration give some idea of its leaning.
The AFDL was initially formed by four parties: Laurent Kabila's Parti de la revolution populaire (PRP); le Conseil national de resistance pour la democratie (CNRD); le Mouvement revolutionnaire pour la liberation du Zaire (MRLZ); and l'Alliance democratique des peuples (ADP). However, the make up of the 'executive council' set in place to administrate the conquered territories does not seem to reflect these initial alliances. Besides Shaba native Laurent Desire Kabila, the political leader of the AFDL who had distinguished himself during the rebellions of 1964-1967, the others have been little known up to now. Among the 'General Commissioners' who have been nominated up to this point are: Raphael Ghenda, a uluba from Kasai who, according to press reports, has lived for more than 20 years in Belgium, to Government pokesperson and Commissioner of Information; Mwana Nanga Mawapanga, a Mukongo from Bas-Zaire who left his position in the United States as a professor at the University of Kentucky, to AFDL Economy and Finance; both Pretoria medical doctor Bizima
Karaha, a Munyamulenge from Sud-Kivu, and Gaetan Kakudji, a Muluba from Shaba, who have spent more than 25 years in Belgium, to External Affairs; Paul Kabongo, a Muluba from Kasai, to Security; Samson Muzuri, a Munyamulenge from Sud-Kivu, to National Education; Joseph Rubibi, also Munyamulenge from Sud-Kivu, to Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses; Deogratias Bughera, a Tutsi from Nord-Kivu and founder of the ADP, as the General Representative for Nord-Kivu; Nindanga Masasu, a Tutsi from Sud-Kivu, as the General Representative for Sud-Kivu; and Mwenze Kongola, a Muluba from Shaba brought in from Philadelphia in the United States, to head up the Justice Department.
For the moment, Nord- and Sud-Kivu nationals make up the backbone of the AFDL, and a large number of the Commissioners were chosen from among those who had left Zaire and settled elsewhere. Besides Kabila, who is over 60, members of the Executive Council are between 29 and 40 years old.
The country is to henceforth be known as la Republique democratique du Congo. The 1960 flag of the etat independant du Congo flies over the 'liberated' territories, and the anthem "Debout Congolais" is sung at assemblies, just as it was in the first days following independence.
A great many civil servants in Kivu have been put out of work. Those who remain now have to content themselves with issuing permits and stamping official documents, much to the satisfaction of the population. For the moment, customs receipts represent a major source of revenue. At first the AFDL was tempted to issue a new currency, the Congolese Franc, but at first abandoned the project fearing that they might be accused of trying to secede. However, in a speech given in Kisangani, Kabila resurrected the project. The official currencies now are the US dollar and the new zaire (NZ) - with the exception of the most recent denominations of NZ, known as 'prostates,' which are forbidden. The exchange rate is set daily, and is announced on the radio. At the beginning of March, the rate varied between 85,000 and 90,000 NZ to $1 US, compared to 150,000 NZ in Kinshasa. Import and export taxes have been reduced by 70% in order to motivate merchants to pay them faithfully.
Elsewhere, former heads of administration - at least those not complicit in Mobutu's regime - are invited to remain at their posts on the condition that they participate in ideological reeducation sessions where they will study the ideas of Patrice Lumumba and Laurent Desire Kabila. The managers who graduate from these 'revolutionary' training sessions are called upon to form 'tchembe-tchembe,' local units whose primary task is to ensure the safety of their designated areas through surveillance of the inhabitants.
As was the case in both Kindu and Kisangani, the crowds which attend the speeches given by the new leaders are asked to ratify, by a show of hands, the choice of the new administrative authorities put forward by the AFDL. Activities by all political parties are forbidden as long as the war continues, with no exceptions. All media activities are also forbidden, with the exception of the Radio du peuple in Goma.
These first decisions by the new leaders of Eastern Zaire seem somewhat confusing. The AFDL victories are being hailed by the people as a deliverance from the reign of terror and corruption by Mobutu's regime. However, in preparing for life after Mobutu, Kabila and his 'Commissioners' seem to have ignored local people and groups who, since 1990, have daily devoted themselves to preparing for the 'changeover,' particularly in Kivu. Is it simply that they are oblivious to the new Zairian reality since the transition, or is this a strategy designed to distance their eventual opposition? Only time will tell.
Kabila Wants To Be Governor
Following Laurent Desire Kabila's address to the population of Kisangani last March 22, it has become somewhat more clear how he plans to govern Zaire.
As long as the war continues, all political parties are forbidden to operate in the liberated areas, with the exception of those which belong to the Alliance des forces democratiques pour la liberation du Congo-Zaire. Following the liberation of the ntire territory, Kabila intends to form a transition government formed exclusively of members of the AFDL and the true opposition. As for his personal plans for the future, Kabila is stating that he will not run for President of the Republic and that he will return to private life as soon as Zaire is liberated.
Kabila and his army certainly have the right to their vision of a new Zaire. However, there are certain unavoidable legal and sociopolitical realities which cannot be ignored by anyone who would reform Zaire: consensus on the agreements reached at the CNS with respect to the organisation of the government and the State; as well as the work accomplished by civil society in making the population aware of and willing to exercise all of its rights and freedoms. By outlawing all activities by political parties in the liberated zones, Kabila is undermining the slow and important process of learning to understand the mechanisms by which democracy operates - by way of interaction between political parties. This is causing some speculation as to what Kabila's methods of governing will be: perhaps a return to the abhorrent single party State, and to yet another kind of dictatorship. In hoping to form a government dominated by the AFDL, he is turning against the other political parties and their bases of support, which he will only be able to silence through violence - and violence cannot be tolerated in a democracy.
The unarmed opposition, which saw in Kabila an ideal partner who was pursuing the goal of democracy, is becoming isoriented. Once it has passed beyond this confusion however, the opposition will likely dissociate itself from Kabila's political agenda. Kabila will then have to brace himself for the daily task of running an enormous country fraught with contradictions.
Genocide or Massacre?
The devastating testimony on the massacre of Hutu refugees in Kivu, made in mid-February to the Security Council of the United Nations, as well as to Amnesty International, and finally to the Western Embassies and Consulates, has provoked various reactions.
First, on February 22, Belgian Secretary of State for Cooperation, Reginald Moreels, officially recognised the report, and eclared that the AFDL rebels, who have the support of Kigali, had committed "genocide" with respect to the Hutu refugees in Zaire. He mitigated his comments somewhat several days later, speaking rather of "the possibility of genocide in retaliation."...
On March 4, a French spokesperson - the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jacques Rummelhardt - stated that France considered "unfortunately credible" the information contained in the report and hoped that an international commission would be convened to bring the truth to light.
However, on February 28, the coordinator of the HCR for Kivu, Filipo Grandi categorically denied that 500,000 refugees had disappeared as stated in the report. He declared: "such a massacre could not have escaped our attention." In tallying the refugees rescued by his organisation, he estimated rather that there remained only 200,000 refugees still unaccounted for. He admitted that some refugees had been killed by AFDL and FAZ troops as well as by their own militias, but concluded that there was no proof that such a massacre had happened.
Yet another formal denial was put forward on March 10, by Mgr Faustin Ngabu while he was on a visit to Paris. The Bishop of Goma and President of the Conference episcopale du Zaire views the document as "partisan, dishonest and irresponsible," and declared: "if there had been a genocide, I would have felt it."
Even in Goma, members of civil society interviewed by the Western media have chosen their words very carefully. They have stated that "massacres between communities," particularly in Masisi, have certainly happened, along with unexplained disappearances and kidnappings by the AFDL, but there has been no systematic massacre of the refugees....
Nonetheless, another report, this one produced by the Association zairoise des droits de l'homme (AZADHO), was made public on March 1. It tells of meticulously organised massacres on such a wide scale, that they can only be described as genocide. The AZADHO gathered its information from members of the organisation who had stayed behind after Goma fell. The report states that the massacres were carried out by Zairian and Rwandan Tutsis in retaliation for the deaths of close relatives during the 1994 genocides in Rwanda, and for the hunting down of Tutsis in 1995-1996 in Zaire. They were not only after the Rwandan refugees, but the Zairian Hutu population as well. The Mai-Mai militia, which is mostly Hunde, whose community was driven out of Masisi by Zairian and Rwandan Hutus in 1993 and 1995-1996, are reported to have actively participated in the killings, sanctioned and supported by the AFDL. On March 6, Radio Star, the AFDL radio station in Goma, called insistently upon the AZADHO to retract its statements. In the face of thinly veiled threats, the AZADHO issued a new statement, warning the new authorities in Kivu against taking any repressive actions against its members, as well as against any of the "human rights activists operating in the areas under rebel control."
Elsewhere, on February 25, eight priests and three members of religious orders who were all Rwandan Hutus, were assassinated two days after Kalima fell to the AFDL forces. This has continued to fuel speculation that the Hutu are being hunted down in the east of Zaire.
Faced with such troubling accusations, and with ever-increasing eyewitness accounts, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ayalla Lasso called upon both sides presently in conflict in Zaire to respect international laws on human rights. He declared that he is prepared to send human rights observers to the area, on the condition that their safety be guaranteed by both sides, and if he receives the necessary financial aid. He also asked the Special Rapporteur on Zaire, Roberto Garreton, to verify the allegations, and to make a report at the next session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. On March 25, the Special Rapporteur undertook a one week mission in eastern Zaire to "attempt to verify as much information and testimony as possible on the numerous allegations of violations of international laws on human rights (...) in the areas occupied by the AFDL."
Refugees Or Abandoned?
Since attacks on the camps near Bukavu and Goma last November, the Rwandan refugees who did not return to Rwanda have continued to flee the combat zones. As they move towards the west, the weakest among them die as their health continues to deteriorate.
Over the past weeks, 170,000 refugees have gathered at Tingi-Tingi, seven km from Lubutu, and are receiving aid from the HCR. However, as the rebels began approaching towards the end of February, the camp emptied out. Foreign workers from humanitarian aid organisations were the first to leave. Kinshasa reacted by accusing the United Nations agencies of abandoning the refugees and of provoking panic in Kisangani. Eleven of these agencies were ordered to leave the country. At the same time, about one hundred refugees who were able to pay the $800 US fare, arrived at Tingi-Tingi, Nairobi by plane. While looking into the matter of trafficking in falsified papers among the Rwandan community of the city, Kenyan authorities made the decision to detain the new arrivals, and to hand them over to the HCR. About a hundred of them reportedly still remain.
However, as the rebels approached Lubutu, the camp completely emptied out, with the exception of those who were too weak to leave. The mass of refugees, still surrounded by soldiers of the former FAR and the Interahamwe, was then directed 130 km further north towards Ubundu. Some 80,000 of them arrived there, and managed to cross the river. Others headed for Kisangani where, on March 25, the HCR counted 10,000 refugees at a distance of less than ten km from the city.
Tingi-Tingi finally fell into the hands of the rebels on March 1. Kabila then asked the international aid agencies to continue to bring support to the refugees, and promised to open a humanitarian corridor to Rwanda.
It is in this dramatic context that, upon leaving a meeting in Paris with French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Herve de Charette on March 1, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, put forward the idea of an international humanitarian force for eastern Zaire. The proposal, which was supported by France, met with opposition from the United States and Great Britain, and was rejected by the Security Council on March 10. In spite of a second appeal by French President, Jacques Chirac, for a limited intervention, the proposal was shelved. For the moment, Washington prefers to believe in a political solution to the crisis. In Kigali, Vice-President Paul Kagame for his part stated on March 17 that an intervention of this kind would only serve to worsen the situation, and that its promoters were motivated by something more than humanitarian concerns. He added that the majority of the refugees had returned to the country, and that those who remained in Zaire would have to pay the price for their own poor judgement. He sees no other solution than to continue to urge them to return to Rwanda. It must be remembered that one of the Generals already indicated last November 22, that the only refugees who remained in Zaire were those responsible for the genocides - a statement which was echoed by the Rwandan Ambassador to the United Nations on February 3.
The flight of the refugees to the west is therefore understandable, while their leaders remain on in the government controlled territories. It is also easy to understand the appeal by HCR High Commissioner Sadako Ogata to the AFDL on March 16, not to attack the Ubundu camp again. AFDL Justice Commissioner, Kongolo Mwenze responded on March 21, by advising the humanitarian aid agencies to "stop crying" over the state of the Ubundu refugees, and to come and get them. For his part, the AFDL representative in Nairobi confirmed that the AFDL could not guarantee the safety of the refugees if they continued to move towards the west.
A number of organisations are becoming increasingly worried about the future of the refugees, as well as of those displaced by the fighting in the east of the country. Human Rights Watch put out an urgent appeal on March 14 to American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, for protection for these displaced persons. In addition, 36 missionary institutions, under the umbrella of the Forum missionnaire sur le Zaire, are pleading with the international community not to abandon these victims of disaster. About 100,000 people are in danger of dying far from the cameras. They are caught between two equally deadly choices: to serve as a human shield for the soldiers of the former FAR and the Interahamwe in their fight against the AFDL; or to be all painted with the same brush, as those responsible for the genocides.
A Profitable War
A number of questions which have been on everyone's mind since the first cities were taken in Kivu, were put back on the table with the fall of the city of Kisangani last March 15: how can a rebellion, which is said to have sprung from an underground movement, so effectively defeat the military forces of an increasingly larger part of Zaire? And how can the defeat of the Forces armees zairoises (FAZ) be explained?
As long as a conspiracy of silence looms over the question of who Kabila's supporters are, it will be difficult to answer the first question. At any rate, certain information which has come to light as the FAZ flee in all directions, gives a glimpse into what the answer to the second question might be.
Lack of motivation within the troops can largely be explained by the miserable conditions in which the rank and file soldier has been left for years. However, some of them have put up real resistance to the rebels, particularly at Bukavu and Bafwasende. It has even been reported, by both the government and the AFDL, that several days before Kisangani fell, several battles took place in which the FAZ seemed to be at a disadvantage. What happened?
For the answer, we must look towards how the army and indeed the war, has been run. It will be remembered that in the days following the first defeats, General Eluki had been dismissed, and several officers were brought before the courts. The ensuing trials were revealing. Among other things, we learned that Colonel Opango, stationed in Bukavu, had sold arms left behind by the French following Operation Turquoise, to the highest bidder - in particular to Tutsi nationals, who used them against the FAZ. This explains why several weapons arsenals had already been emptied out by the time the fighting started in Sud-Kivu. Wisely, the Colonel kept copies of orders authorising the sale, which had been issued by two Generals, one of whom was General Tendele, who was posted in Goma at the time.
More recently, following the hasty departure of the Governor of Maniema, the soldiers' payroll, which he had 'forgotten' to
distribute..., was found in his office at Kindu.
Elsewhere, to support its 'lightning counter-offensive', the Kengo government seems to have withdrawn between $50 and $70 million US to purchase military equipment from private dealers, since Zaire was placed under an arms embargo following the student massacres in Lubumbashi in May of 1990. In order to buy this equipment, they did not call upon the Minister of Defence, nor upon the Chief of Staff; rather, upon the usual underground network used by those close to the President and the Prime Minister. The result was a sundry assortment of equipment, ill-suited to the terrain; ammunition which did not match their firearms; end-of-line machinery, with no spare parts; gasoline for their diesel engines and so on.... In brief, it was a golden windfall for the traffickers, who are continuing to pocket their commissions. It is business as usual for those who will continue to profit and to grow rich, until the very end of Mobutu's regime.
Angolan War On Zairian Soil
Last March 19, a spokesperson for the American State Department stated that the involvement of neighbouring countries in the Zairian conflict constituted "a most troubling development." In addition to naming Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, he made mention of a new player - Angola.
For some time now, Kinshasa and the AFDL have accused both the Luanda government and the Union nationale pour l'independence totale de l'Angola (UNITA) of coming to the aid of the enemy. This was the scene when Kinshasa announced on March 14, that two soldiers of the Forces armees angolaises were found among the rebels killed in battle at Bafwasende. These soldiers are reported to have been part of a group which had accompanied former Katangan officers, who had been refugees in Angola for decades, to join the Zairian rebellion in Kivu. A radio station run by the Opposition in Angola, confirmed that the two soldiers were part of the 1st regiment, which was stationed at Uige, in the north of the country.
For his part, on March 15, Laurent Kabila accused Jonas Savimbi's UNITA of having dispatched 2,000 soldiers to the FAZ as reinforcements. According to the American newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, the UNITA is reported to have deployed 200 troops in Shaba province during December. Their numbers have reportedly since swelled to 1,600 men, concentrated mainly in the city of Kamina where the movement has long had a base of operations behind the lines. UNITA General Abilio Kamalata 'Numa,' was himself allegedly wounded during the taking of Bunia.
The reasons why these two bitter enemies in Angola would become involved in the Zairian conflict are complex. We know that a peace treaty was reached in November 1994, under the auspices of the United Nations, between the Luanda government and the UNITA. This agreement was to have put an end to the 15-year civil war in Angola. But it seems that a real return to peace is late in coming.
Jonas Savimbi does not appear ready to comply with the terms of the peace agreement, nor to demobilise the army which kept him in power even after he was defeated in the 1994 elections. Above all, he is not interested in turning over control of the diamond mining region which has financed his rebellion, to the Luanda government. In addition, this traffic in precious stones, worth a reported $500 million US per year, passes through Zaire and Mobutu.... More than just a grateful gesture for services rendered, the UNITA involvement with the FAZ is in answer to a vested interest in the survival of the movement as a political and military force in Angola itself.
This is the understanding of the Luanda government, which could not pass up the opportunity to weaken its adversary by destroying as many enemy bases behind the lines as possible, and to repay Mobutu in kind for having supported the Angolan rebellion for so long. Luanda has every interest in the military defeat of the UNITA in Zaire, while respecting its country's peace agreements at the same time. The Luanda government is also waiting to collect on the dividends of this peace; such as, a $3 billion US investment by the American company, Chevron, to exploit Angolan petroleum resources.
Today, Zaire is paying for the regional politics of Mobutu, which are based on interference and personal profit. The latest example of this was reported by the Washington Post on March 21: some of those close to Mobutu are reported to have continued to sell hundreds of tons of ammunition to Jonas Savimbi's Angolan rebels, even though the FAZ is in retreat.
Risk Of Epidemic
A rare illness know as simian orthopox virus, which is related to smallpox, has reappeared in the Katako-Kombe zone, in Kasai Oriental. The illness was identified in 1970, and had remained confined to the region at the time. It also appeared from 1982-1986, when 331 cases were diagnosed. At the time, scientists believed that the disease could only be transmitted by contact with infected animals - squirrels or monkeys. During follow-up missions in August of 1996 and February of 1997, experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), along with members of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Doctors Without Borders (Belgium), and Zairian specialists, concluded that an epidemic was underway in the zone: 98 cases were reported last February, among whom six patients died. The spread of the virus indicates that it can indeed be transmitted between humans, which makes it all the more dangerous.
The team of scientists believes that one of the causes of the reappearance and spread of the infection lies in the fact that campaigns to vaccinate the population against smallpox stopped 15 years ago. In fact, the average age of those affected is 12 years, and three-quarters of them had not been vaccinated.
The researchers' last on-site investigation was interrupted by the unexpected arrival of FAZ fugitives. Their arrival resulted in at least 30 deaths in the zone, not to mention the ensuing pillaging and theft of property. Following the passage of the FAZ soldiers through the infected villages, the World Health Organisation now fears that the disease will spread even further, as the soldiers infect the populations along their path of flight. The WHO is also apprehensive about the arrival of Rwandan refugees into the region. The weakened state in which they find themselves will make them easy targets for this singular virus.
Contributors to this issue: Elonga Adjaje, Aleli Mboka, Roland Rivard, Michel Sunguza, Kadari Mwene Kabyana, and Denis Tougas.
(translated into English by L. and J. Lazazzera - Toronto)
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