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Sunday, 17 March, 2002, 10:02 GMT
DR Congo rebels defiant after attack
DR Congo rebels
France says Rwandan troops are heavily involved
Rwandan-backed rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo say they will not budge "one centimetre" from the eastern town of Moliro after capturing it on Saturday.

The rebel offensive, which began last week, has disrupted peace talks with the government and drawn strong criticism from France and concern from the United Nations.

We are staying here - we are not moving one centimetre

Major-General Sylvain Mbuki
rebel commander

But Major-General Sylvain Mbuki, the chief of staff of the Congolese Rally for Democracy, said his forces did not plan to advance any further.

"We are staying here. We are not moving one centimetre," he said.

Speaking on Sunday, the commander said the situation in Moliro, a small town on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, was "calm" with no new fighting reported overnight.

A UN observer team spent 45 minutes in Moliro on Saturday and reported evidence of recent fighting.

The UN Mission in the Congo (Monuc) team said it would return for a fuller inspection when the security situation permitted.

It did not comment on reports of thousands of Rwandan soldiers fighting on the rebel side.

Major-General Mbuki has denied the reports, saying that only rebel forces were involved.

But the DR Congo Government has insisted Rwanda took part.

Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu accused Rwanda of deploying its troops on DR Congo soil since 14 March.

The French news agency AFP has also quoted villagers from the region involved, Sud-Kivu, as saying that Rwandan troops arrived on 27 February.

The unconfirmed report said the troops had been looting houses, attacking schools and hospitals and raping local girls.

Rescuing the peace

Monuc's commander, Major-General Mountaga Diallo, has told Reuters news agency that Moliro had been previously recognised as a rebel defensive position.

The war
Broke out in August 1998
Has involved Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia
Estimated death toll from fighting, famine and disease is 2m

However, he pointed out that the town was occupied for the past year by DR Congo Government forces and their allies.

The offensive against Moliro was the first major cease-fire violation in a year.

France accused Rwanda of sending 10,000 regular soldiers to help the rebels.

As the UN Security Council appealed for peace, the DR Congo Government pulled out of peace talks in the South African resort town of Sun City in protest.
Former President of Botswana Sir Ketumile Masire
The talks facilitator hopes they can resume on Monday

The government accuses Rwanda and Uganda of seeking to control the rebel delegates at the talks.

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has had talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and is consulting other leaders involved in the war in DR Congo, a government source in Pretoria said on Sunday.

"The president is working to end the latest fighting and to ensure the peace talks continue," the source told Reuters.

The peace talks facilitator, former President of Botswana Sir Ketumile Masire, has sent two envoys on a rapid diplomatic tour of the region.

The envoys are due to report back on Sunday night after visits to Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Angola, Namibia, Zambia and the DR Congo capital, Kinshasa.

The BBC's Helen Vesperini
"The UN mission plans to visit Moliro"
See also:

14 Mar 02 | Africa
Congo peace talks hit by walk-out
13 Jan 02 | Africa
Kabila seeks peace at SADC summit
20 Dec 01 | Africa
Death rate soars in DR Congo
16 Mar 02 | Africa
Fighting flares in DR Congo
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