Shooting in Kinshasa, army revolt in East

from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 03 Aug 1998
President Laurent Kabila's government declared an overnight curfew in the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Monday, after shooting in the city and talk of an army revolt in the east.
State radio urged the security forces and the population of the teeming capital of five million to work together to flush out the enemy and its supporters, and told ordinary citizens to stay at home until government troops had restored order.

Kabila aides accused his erstwhile Rwandan allies of fomenting unrest both in Kinshasa and the east in association with ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge, whose 1996 revolt triggered the bush war that brought him to power in May 1997.

"A curfew has been declared for three days for the whole town of Kinshasa from 1800 hours (1700 GMT) to 0600 (0500 GMT) hours," Deputy Interior Minister Faustin Munene said.

"Clean-up operations will continue until the total restoration of public order," he told state radio.

The shooting and incidents in the east followed Kabila's decision last week to order Rwandan troops to leave the formerZaire. Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated army helped spearhead the seven-month war that toppled veteran dictator Mobutu Sese Seko last year.

The shooting in Kinshasa began on Sunday and continued through the night. It died down on Monday morning.

It followed weekend incidents in the eastern towns of Goma and Bukavu, where a senior ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge source told Reuters that soldiers had withdrawn support from Kabila.

In a statement read on the Goma-based Voice of the People radio station and monitored in Rwanda's capital, the Congolese 10th battalion said it was in revolt against Kabila.

"We, the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have taken the decision to remove President Laurent Desire Kabila from power," battalion commander Sylvain Mbuchy said.

Witnesses in the Rwandan frontier towns of Cyangugu and Goma said on Monday both sides had closed their common border and the airport at Goma was also closed.

Witnesses in Kinshasa reported seeing bodies in the street near the Tshatshi military camp, scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the city. Shooting included artillery exchanges.

"It seems that some Rwandans have stayed behind in Kinshasa and together with the Banyamulenge have engaged the army. It's difficult to tell who is who," a senior presidency official told Reuters. "The situation is not good. They made a real attempt overnight to do something here in Kinshasa."

Witnesses said pro-Kabila soldiers manned barricades across the city, which was largely deserted.

Rwanda's army stepped in to help their Banyamulenge kinsmen after Mobutu's administration spoke of expelling them. The 1996 revolt grew into the bush war in which a coalition of forces with Kabila at their head ousted Mobutu.

Relations between Kabila and his Rwandan and Ugandan allies have since soured, in part over the status of the Banyamulenge and how to handle persistent insecurity in the volatile east near the border with Rwanda.

The differences became apparent in May when Kabila's sponsors declined to attend a regional security summit called to mark his first year in power. Kabila cancelled the summit.

The senior Banyamulenge source said that soldiers had withdrawn support from Kabila in Goma, Bukavu and Kindu on Sunday after broad consultations.

"The military command, after consultations, has decided to withdraw support from the government in Kinshasa," the source said. "Since Mr Kabila has been in power he has been leading the country towards the worst. We have had enough of this man, even though he has been in power only a short time."

There was no independent confirmation, and the extent to which non-Banyamulenge soldiers were involved was unclear.

An interior ministry official spoke of problems in Goma and in Bukavu and in the town of Baraka, 180 km (112 miles) to the south. "Tension is high in several towns in the east. The Banyamulenge have made common cause with the others," he said, in a veiled reference to the Rwandans.

The presidency official accused the Banyamulenge of wanting to control the government.

"They wanted a special status as a minority but in a country with 300 ethnic groups it was impossible. They wanted to control the government," the official said.

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