DR Congo

Zimbabwe-DRC: Allied forces to confront rebels in east

News and Press Release
Originally published
JOHANNESBURG, 21 October 1998 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has warned of an escalation of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), while South African leader Nelson Mandela launches a series of high-level regional meetings to broker a diplomatic settlement.
After a mini-summit in Harare today of SADC countries backing the Kinshasa government, Mugabe said the allies had agreed to take the war to the rebels' eastern strongholds.

"We are going east. What this means in military terms is that we are going to defend the Congo from the rebels," Mugabe told a news conference at the end of talks attended by the heads of state of Angola and Namibia.

The deepened commitment to the defence of beleaguered DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila raises the prospect of alliance forces clashing with Rwandan and Ugandan army units, widely believed to be supporting the rebels.

"It's full of frightening implications," a defence analyst in Harare told IRIN. "This could be Mugabe's Waterloo."

Rwandan Vice President and Minister of Defence Paul Kagame "is Africa's best military brain, he's never lost a battle, and I don't know if Zimbabwe's generals are a match for him," he said.

He added that with Angola more concerned with UNITA insurgency, and Namibia's contribution to the allied cause currently limited, the burden of the campaign would fall on Zimbabwe - where the rationale for the war is increasingly questioned.

"The ace Zimbabwe has is airpower, but November is the height of the rainy season," the defence specialist said. "If I were in command I would postpone it for a few months."

Mandela has, meanwhile, scheduled a series of meetings with regional leaders.

According to press reports he met Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni on Monday and plans to hold talks with Kagame, the DRC rebels, and Namibian President Sam Nujoma.

"Mandela is trying to find a diplomatic solution but on the ground we are working towards a military solution," a Namibian defence official told IRIN. "Both approaches must go hand in hand. You can't say 'lets talk' while others [the rebels] are fighting."


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN-SA Tel: +27 83 737 7867 e-mail: irin-sa@ocha.unon.org for more information or free subscriptions. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived at: http://www.reliefweb.int/ or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to archive@ocha.unon.org. Mailing list: irin-sa-service]