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Tuesday, November 16, 1999 Published at 13:12 GMT

World: Africa

OAU monitors enter DR Congo

Rebels and government accuse each other of ceasefire violations

By Ishbel Matheson in Lusaka

The Organisation of African Unity has begun deploying ceasefire monitors in the Democratic Republic of Congo - the first independent observers to monitor the peace accord signed by rebel groups at the end of August.

Battle for the heart of Africa
The first team left from the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on Tuesday, bound for Kabinda. Others will follow to three more locations in the DRC over the coming days.

There was something of an improvised air about this operation: There was a 16-strong military team bound for Kabinda, but only 16 places in the plane. In the end, some officers had to squeeze two to a seat in the twin-engined jet on loan from the Zambian government.

The United Nations had been expected to provide a suitable aircraft but when none was immediately forthcoming, the Algerian general in charge of the operation, Rashid Lalali decided to press on , using, as he said, whatever means were available.

This process has been dogged by lack of funds. The Zambian president, Frederick Chiluba, castigated the diplomats assembled at the airport for the failure of the international community to give financial support. He said the peace process was now in a critical phase and needed resources very quickly.

Eight green-bereted OAU investigators were among the team that boarded the flight to Kabinda.

Drawn from countries outside the conflict zone, including Malawi and Algeria, their task will be to investigate any alleged breaches of the peace accord. They are likely to be kept busy, as the Congolese government and rebels continually swap accusations of ceasefire violations.

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