DR Congo

Zaire Watch News Briefs 27 Apr 1997

The international relief group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has accused ADFL rebels sweeping across eastern Zaire of increasing their massacres of Rwandan refugees. MSF issued a statement saying that the ADFL rebels are in the process of completely liquidating the Rwandan refugees in Kivu province. MSF has laid out a three point plan:
The ADFL rebels should immediately stop their attacks on the refugees.
The UN should stop surrendering Rwandan refugees to the Rwanda.
Other countries should take in the refugees in order to guarantee their safety.

UN Secretary-General Annan has accused the ADFL rebels of implementing a policy of "slow extermination" of the refugees in Zaire. He has said further that "the expression 'final solution' is not exaggerated." ADFL rebel spokesman Kabila has arrived in Kisangani to try to address the refugee problems. He claims his troops are disciplined and that he has no problem with investigations of allegations of wrong-doing. He continues to assert that violent actions against the refugees are being taken by people living among the refugees, most notably the Hutu militia. He accuses the UN and others of accusing the ADFL forces of these crimes before all the facts are in. ADFL rebel spokesman Kabila has suggested meeting with Kinshasa's Mr. Mobutu in Zambia. The Government of Zambia has agreed to host such a meeting.

Religious leaders in Zaire from Catholic, Protestant, Moslem, Kimbanguist and Orthodox faiths have urged Messrs. Mobutu and Kabila to settle their differences in a negotiation. Their prepared statement says "As spiritual fathers of President Mobutu and of Mr. Laurent Desire Kabila, we implore them in the interest of the entire Zairean nation, to meet and seek a peaceful solution and the reconciliation of all children of Zaire." American UN ambassador William Richardson has been tasked by President Clinton to go to Zaire soon to attempt to arrange peace talks between Kinshasa's Mr. Mobutu and ADFL rebel spokesman Kabila. Ambassador Richardson has extensive and positive experience negotiating tough problems, most notably in North Korea. President Clinton's spokesman, Mike McCurry said Ambassador Richardson "will press both sides to agree to halt the fighting and launch serious negotiations to form an inclusive transitional government leading to free and fair democratic elections." Indications are Ambassador Richardson will leave as early as April 28. The allegations that Angola has been participating in and continues to participate in the Zairean civil war on the side of the ADFL rebels continue to flow:

Zaire Watch has been told by an expert observer of the situation in Zaire that the U.S. government is very concerned that Angolan participation in support of the ADFL rebellion in Zaire threatens the peace process between the Government of Angola and its own UNITA rebels. There is even some informed speculation that Angolan regulars, including Angolan armor units, have actively participated in the fighting in Zaire and that some kind of "under-the-table" deals exist between the ADFL rebels, the Government of Angola, and the ex-Katangan gendarmes for the post-Mobutu era. One expert has told Zaire Watch that he was told by a highly reliable source that Angolan armor columns marched on Kisangani and were the main reason for the rapid demise of the mercenary-led Zairean force in that city. Zaire Watch has been told by Zaireans that ex-Katangan gendarmes from Angola bore the brunt of the fighting in Kisangani, and elsewhere. While this latter input might explain observations of Portuguese being spoken by troops in the area of Kisangani, because the ex-Katangans have been living in Angola for several decades, the mention of armored columns assaulting the city would certainly add a new dimension to the notion of who was speaking that Portuguese during the battle. An expert source has told Zaire Watch that the U.S. State Department knows Angolan regulars have participated and are participating in the fighting in Zaire but that the State Department is withholding that information from the public out of fear of upsetting the delicate Angolan-UNITA peace process. Kinshasa's Mobutu regime is alleging that some 1,400 Angolan forces have crossed into southwestern Zaire from the Cabinda enclave and from northern Angola and are participating in the drive against Kinshasa. Kinshasa radio quoted a Mobutu statement saying that villagers in the town of Yema near the Atlantic coast say that Angolan soldiers invaded their town. The Mobutu statement also alleges that Angolan regulars on Kinshasa's eastern flank, in Tshikapa on the road to Kikwit and Kinshasa from the east. Reuter is reporting that "expatriate mining officials in Angola's northeastern Lunda Norte province said (as recently as April 25 that) the Angolan army and Zaire rebels were performing joint military exercises on the Angolan side of the border. The sources said the exercises were taking place near the border town of Dundo, where Rwandan refugees have been crossing into Angola's diamond-rich area from Zaire." Reuter reports Angolan armor as being involved.

Reuter goes on to report that " Western diplomats in Luanda said the Angolan military activity in Zaire was part of the Angolan government's plans to clean out FLEC (Angolan rebels not a party to the UNITA-Government peace process) guerrilla separatists who have been fighting for oil-rich Cabinda's independence for years. The diplomats said the guerrillas have bases in Zaire to the south and southeast of Cabinda." This would help explain earlier Zaire Watch concerns that Angolan regulars were assembling in Cabinda to launch an attack on Kinshasa. They may have assembled in Cabinda, but to handle internal domestic problems rather than supporting the ADFL rebel assault on Kinshasa, or both. Whatever is going on here, indications are that American Ambassador Richardson will also visit Angola during his imminent surprise visit to Zaire. Speculation is he will ask the Government of Angola to stay out of the war in Zaire. He would not do that unless he had information, proof, that Angola was meddling in a very serious way.

There are a number of serious implications here.

First, Angolan participation in the war in Zaire may be far more substantial than we have previously thought. In fact, if one combines the notion of Angolan armor columns attacking Kisangani with the idea that ex-Katangan rebels from northern Angola supported them, then one might quickly conclude that Uganda and Rwanda might not have had the lead here, but may rather be in a subordinate role to the Angolans. If true, then the notion that what was to have been a little effort to build a buffer zone in eastern Zaire to protect Uganda and Rwanda might have gotten out of control, which might help explain why President Museveni of Uganda has said ADFL rebel spokesman Kabila might not be the right man for the presidential job in Zaire.

Second, if this Angolan participation is a big as it is starting to appear, then one must start growing wary of the deals that have been cut between the Angolans, the ex-Katangan rebels, and the ADFL.

The Government of Belgium, through its finance minister, says Zaire will be compelled to initiate immediate and significant economic reforms if it expects to receive support from the international community once its civil war is over. These remarks, which are similar to ones made by the U.S. State Department, indicate the diplomatic leverage the West intends to use on the new government that will form in Zaire following the civil war. The message is clear: no economic reform and no strict march toward democracy, no aid, no investment, and no assistance from the West. Political opposition leaders in Brazzaville, Congo, have expressed deep concern that an ADFL rebel assault on Kinshasa, Zaire, just 2 miles across the Zaire River from Brazzaville, could spill over into Congo and draw Congo into the fighting. They have asked for a national crisis structure to assure that such does not happen. The Government of the Congo has revealed the existence of a crisis committee, but its deliberations and actions are not widely known or understood.

South Africa's Johannesburg Mail and Guardian says that President Mandela's interests in hosting a negotiated settlement between Kinshasa's Mobutu and ADFL rebel spokesman Kabila are not altogether altruistic and neutral. The paper says the Government of South Africa is very concerned about the impact of further warfare in Zaire on its mineral interests in Zaire. South African mineral interests are work urgently to firm up their deals with ADFL authorities. Many companies are scrambling because of the deals struck with the ADFL rebels by the Canadian-based American Mineral Fields, AMF. The paper is also alleging that the rush for minerals has produced an enormous amount of new-found cash for the ADFL rebel machine, and that the mining companies, namely AMF, have injected sufficient new cash to make the rebel assault on Kinshasa a reality. In addition, there are mounting assertions that the deals being struck with the ADFL rebels are not legal. Many mining companies, which heretofore have been reluctant or unable to deal directly with the ADFL, are now starting to break camp and are rushing to do business with the rebels. Some, however, remain closely linked to the Government of South Africa and cannot be found to be openly negotiating with the ADFL forces as the government seeks to accommodate negotiations between Messrs. Mobutu and Kabila. Kinshasa's Field Marshal Mobutu has apparently sent fresh troops to Kikwit, which now stands between ADFL rebel-held Tshikapa and Kinshasa. ADFL rebel spokesman Kabila says his forces are only a day or so away from assaulting Kikwit.

Paul Ames of Associated Press is also reporting that mining sources say a North Korean ship has been seen unloading ammunition and arms in the western Zairean port of Matadi.