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Wednesday, August 12, 1998 Published at 02:24 GMT 03:24 UK

World: Africa

Congo rebels claim new advances

Refugees have been heading for the capital to escape fighting in the west

A rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo has said his forces are advancing in the west and east of the country.

BBC News' Mark Doyle reports
Commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane said his forces were about to take the western river port of Matadi, 280km from the capital, Kinshasa. Government forces deny the claims.

Commander Ondenkane said President Laurent Kabila was "worse than Mobutu" - the former president - and said his troops would arrive in Kinshasa soon.

[ image: Rebel claims of success have been denied by President Kabila's government]
Rebel claims of success have been denied by President Kabila's government
Zambian peace mission

Meanwhile a Zambian Government minister, Eric Siluwamba, is reported to have arrived in Kinshasa, in an effort to resolve the current fighting.

Mr Siluwamba is opening an investigation into allegations by the Kinshasa Government that Rwanda, helped by Uganda, is behind an apparently growing revolt by ethnic Tutsi soldiers. Both have denied the accusations.

Sylvain Biku, a Banyamulenge leader, says they do not need Rwanda's help (in French)
As fighting continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, both sides continue to insist they are making headway against each other's forces.

On Tuesday, the government in Kinshasa said they had recaptured the eastern town of Bukavu and its airport.

The claim was denied by rebel forces, who said they remained in control in the area.

People's army

[ image: Civilians have been enlisting in President Kabila's 'People's self-defence force']
Civilians have been enlisting in President Kabila's 'People's self-defence force'
President Kabila said he would arm his people to defend Congo against a Rwandan invasion.

Earlier, the government spoke of clashes with what it described as fleeing Rwandan soldiers near the capital, Kinshasa.

The clash - at the town of Kasangulu, 45km south of Kinshasa - was said to have left 18 Rwandans dead. There was no independent confirmation of the incident.

President Kabila:"Weapons are going to be handed out to tens of thousands" (in French)
The BBC correspondent in Kinshasa says the Kinshasa Government is describing every incident involving its troops as a clash with Rwandans.

'Enemy within'

Many of the clashes may also involve minority Congolese ethnic Tutsis, known as Banyamulenge, who are the Rwandan Government's natural allies in the region.

[ image: Government tanks patrol the streets of Kinshasa]
Government tanks patrol the streets of Kinshasa
The BBC correspondent says all Tutsis, including civilians, are being portrayed by the Congolese press as the enemy within, and some are reported to have been detained against their will.

Congolese Government officials say there is a Tutsi conspiracy to colonise Congo and that they will have to mount a people's war to stop it.

But the Tutsis say they are being persecuted and need to fight for their survival.

The rebellion in Congo began shortly after the Rwandans - who helped President Kabila to power last year - were told to go home.

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