Zairean Troops Attack Uganda

from Pan African News Agency
Published on 14 Nov 1996
From Moses Draku; PANA Correspondent
KAMPALA, Uganda (PANA) - Zairean troops backed by Ugandan rebels Wednesday attacked the Ugandan border towns of Mpondwe and Bwera in south western district of Kasese.

Uganda's Foreign Affairs Minister, Martin Aliker told an impromptu news conference Wednesday night that a Uganda Peoples' Defence Force platoon at Karambi, seven kilometres north west of Bwera and Mpondwe border posts had been attacked.

He said that the attackers were a combination of Zairean forces and some Ugandan dissidents trained in Zaire. However, the minister could not name the dissident groups involved in the attack.

"We do not know the names but we are aware that Ugandan dissidents were involved" Aliker said.

He said that the raiders were repulsed and three of them were killed but "shelling has continued sporadically most of the day from the Zairean side".

Following the attack, Uganda sent heavy reinforcements to the scene from the nearby towns of Mbarara and Fort Portal.

Eye witness reports from Kasese say that the rebels started shooting at around 7.30 a.m local time before taking the customs post 30 minutes later.

Scared residents claimed that about 50 people were feared dead including the headmaster of Karambi Secondary School and some of his students.

Aliker could not explain why Zairean troops had attacked Uganda now when they are embroiled in the Banyamulenge crisis in the east of their country.

"We do not know. But I think it is sheer madness for Zaire to attack us from that side. It is a diversionary attack" he stressed.

He also said that he could not confirm whether the attack was sanctioned by the governemnt of Zaire, or it was a result of general lawlessness that is prevailing in eastern Zaire.

The minister said Uganda would not sever diplomatic relations with Zaire because they were not aware that the Zaire governemnt had authorized the attack.

"We really sympathise with the government of Zaire because of this Banyamulenge crisis. And we are aware there is no government in eastern Zaire, so we cannot sever the ties before we have proof" he said.

The Banyamulenge rebels, ethnic Zairean Tutsi militants, launched attacks in the eastern parts of the country nearly a month ago, with the alleged backing of Rwanda and Burundi.

The Zairean government has accused Uganda, too, of helping the Banyamulenge and parliament in Kinshasa passed a resolution calling for the severence of diplomatic relations with all the three countries.

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