Rebels thrust toward last government-held town in E. Zaire
Government forces reportedly defect
December 8, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EST (1630 GMT)
BENI, Zaire (CNN) -- Zairian rebels fought Sunday for control
of the last town held by government troops in eastern
Zaire as their campaign to oust President Mobutu Sese
A Zairian rebel officer in the northeastern town of Beni said
his forces had surrounded the government-held town of Bunia,
100 miles (160 km) north, and were planning to capture it.
"Bunia hasn't fallen yet. We're still in the process of
taking it," said the officer, who only identified himself as
But Bunia residents, contacted by radio, contradicted rebel
claims, saying government forces had secured the town. Though
details of the fighting were unclear, the government said at
least 10 people were killed.
News of the fighting came as Zairian rebels said more than
300 government troops, including a colonel and three
captains, had defected to their side.
Rebel commander Andre Ngundu Kissasse told the Sunday
Standard of Kenya that his troops were gaining momentum in
their push to topple Mobutu's 31-year regime.
"As I speak now, over 300 of Mobutu's soldiers have already
joined our forces," the commander said. "They are fed up
He added, "Mothers, children and men are joining us night and
day to fight our common enemy."
Over the past six weeks, rebels have overrun a wide swath of
territory in eastern Zaire that stretches nearly 300 miles
(480 km). Rebels took over Beni Friday before pushing toward
Bunia, roughly 75 miles (120 km) to the north. Because of
the rebel successes, Zairians and international observers
have been taking more seriously rebel threats to oust Mobutu.
Refugees flee in Tanzania
In nearby Tanzania, thousands of Rwandan Hutu
refugees abandoned two entire camps in the Karagwe region on
Sunday, aid workers said.
The refugees fled from Kagenyi and Rubwera camps, which had
held about 41,000 Rwandans and are part of a chain of five
camps in northwestern Tanzania with about 110,000
"These two camps appear to be empty now," said Bradley
Guerrant of the U.N. World Food Program.
Aid workers said hard line Hutu groups may have organized the
mass exodus in response to an order by the Tanzanian
government that all Rwandan Hutu refugees in Tanzania return
to Rwanda by the end of the month.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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