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Zaire and rebels demand strict limits on aid


November 30, 1996
Web posted at: 3:20 p.m. EST (2020 GMT)

KINSHASA, Zaire (CNN) -- The Zairian government and its rebel enemies on Saturday both criticized an international plan to airdrop supplies to refugees in eastern Zaire.

Zaire's interior minister met the Canadian commander of a planned multinational force for Zaire and rejected Canada's proposal for the airdrop.

"We do not understand how the multinational force could operate in Zaire without taking into account... the fact that we are at war with the regular armies of Rwanda and Burundi, supported by Uganda," Interior Minister Kamanda Wa Kamanda said.

"We remain formally against the airdropping of supplies," said Kamanda, speaking after meeting Canadian Lt. Gen. Maurice Baril who was on a one-day visit to Kinshasa.

Ambassadors from 14 countries meeting in Canada on Friday approved a multinational force to bring aid to hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees and Zairians displaced by recent fighting between the Zairian army and Rwanda-backed rebels.

Meanwhile, the region's rebel leader, Laurent Kabila, also objected to widespread airdrops. Food airdrops would only be allowed, he said, if his mostly Tutsi rebels are given evidence of a "big concentration of refugees." Without such information, airdrops will be banned, he said, because they would aid the "enemy" -- the Zairian military.

Kabila made his comments at a news conference in Goma, Zaire. He said he met with Baril on Thursday and both agreed to specific terms.

"We agreed that they (international force) can only send a small group of soldiers, not more than five, who would be specialists. Their duties would be to coordinate airdrops," Kabila said. Baril has yet to comment on Kabila's statements.

Kabila and his forces took a swath of territory along Zaire's borders with Rwanda and Burundi in October. The rebel-held territory extends for about 250 miles (400 km), from Butembo in the north to the shores of Lake Tanganyika in the south.

International force smaller than first planned

As part of the international plan, the participating nations -- including the United States, France, Britain, Belgium and South Africa -- agreed to an unarmed military reconnaissance mission to find refugees, and to airdrop supplies into the region.

The international force will set up headquarters in Entebbe, Uganda -- a move that came about because of Rwanda's reluctance to allow aid missions from its soil.

Zaire opposes setting up of the U.N. military headquarters in Uganda, said Kamanda, the interior minister.

The force will be much smaller than the 10,000 envisioned by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien when he called for the mission three weeks ago. Since the moves to set up the force began, some 600,000 refugees left Zaire and returned to Rwanda. Accounts vary about how many refugees remained in Zaire.

Uganda troops reportedly enter Zaire

Meanwhile, near the northern tip of the rebel-held territory, the Ugandan army entered Zaire and seized the town of Kasindi and surrounding hills, the Ugandan government newspaper New Vision reported Saturday.

The paper said 23 Ugandan rebels were killed in the attack for allegedly raiding western Uganda.

"We are fed up with these bandits. We are going to finish them," Lt. Col. Geoffrey Muheesi was quoted as saying.

He said the rebels were backed by Zaire. The Zairian government has denied the allegations.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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