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Thursday, August 13, 1998 Published at 06:23 GMT 07:23 UK

World: Africa

Human rights plea in Congo

The uprising began in the eastern border towns

Diplomats in the Democratic Republic of Congo have called on the government in Kinshasa to guarantee the safety of all those under its authority.

They are particularly concerned for ethnic Tutsis being held by the security forces.

Mark Doyle: "Spectre of tribal violence"
The call follows meetings between diplomats and Kinshasa ministers about several hundred Tutsis reported to be detained.

They have been rounded up since the rebellion against President Laurent Kabila began nearly two weeks ago.

The Kinshasa government said some Tutsis were being held for their own protection because, in the present climate, they faced being lynched by the general population.

Red Cross visits

It said the human rights of military and civilian prisoners of war would be respected.

The Congolese Minister for Human Rights, Leonard Okintunda, said those detained would be allowed to see representatives of the Red Cross.

But the BBC's West Africa Correspondent, Mark Doyle, says there is such distrust between Tutsis and other ethnic groups in Congo that his assurances are unlikely to be accepted by the Tutsi community.

The Congolese government has accused Tutsi-led Rwanda of backing the rebellion, an allegation it denies.

But Rwanda did protest against what it called the persecution of Rwandans and ethnic Tutsis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the government of President Kabila.

Foreign Affairs Minister Anastase Gasana said human rights violations included beatings of Rwandans and people associated with them as well as looting of their property.

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