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Sunday, November 7, 1999 Published at 17:13 GMT

World: Africa

Congo ceasefire in jeopardy

Rebels said they fought off the attack on Dongo

The peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo appears increasingly vulnerable, with one of the main rebel groups calling off its ceasefire, and another warning it will go back to war if further provoked.

The BBC's Anna Borzello: "The resumption of fighting brings an end to two months of fragile peace"
Jean-Pierre Bemba, the head of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), said the ceasefire was "null and void" after what he described as a massive attack on his forces around the north-western town of Dongo by troops loyal to the regime of President Laurent Kabila.

"We reacted and fought off the attack. Now, the ceasefire is null and void after Kabila's multiple violations of the ceasefire," he said.

This is not the first time the MLC has alleged the government has violated the ceasefire which was signed just two months ago. However Mr Bemba said that the attack on Dongo signalled the end of the agreement.

Battle for the heart of Africa
The Ugandan-backed rebel leader said the attack proved that Mr Kabila did not want peace and had simply used the ceasefire as an excuse to re-equip his army.

There has been no independent confirmation of the Dongo attack nor any comment from the government of President Kabila. The BBC's Anna Borzello, who is in the region, says Mr Bemba's announcement will end the fragile peace in DR Congo.

In another blow to the peace process, a rival rebel movement, the Goma branch of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), has accused President Kabila of preparing to renew hostilities.

[ image: The RCD sees President Kabila's actions as a declaration of war]
The RCD sees President Kabila's actions as a declaration of war
The RCD said the Congolese Government had been sending troops and ammunition to all fronts in readiness for a fresh offensive, while also developing a new arms factory with the support of North Korea in the southern province of Katanga.

The Rwandan-backed RCD accused President Kabila of co-opting Rwandan and Burundian militia fighters into his armed forces and trying to pass them off as ordinary soldiers.

An RCD spokesman told the BBC the movement was responding to what it saw as a declaration of war by President Kabila, but stressed the RCD still followed the logic of peace.

Rebels 'flooding in'

DR Congo's Foreign Minister, Abdoualye Yerodia, has ordered UN ceasefire monitors out of the country after announcing that rebels from neighbouring Angola were flooding in.

Speaking on state television, Mr Yerodia said masses of Unita rebels fleeing the fighting in Angola were joining the rebels in DR Congo.

Unita rebels had arrived at Kalemie and Moba in the south-west and were heading north towards Gbadolite in Equateur province, he added.

He warned that the country was not going to become a depository for all the stray soldiers in the region. The presence of the rebel fighters could only reinforce the will of the government to put an end to rebel occupation and liberate the country "before the end of the century".

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