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Thursday, August 20, 1998 Published at 01:35 GMT 02:35 UK

World: Africa

Congo rebels ready for cease-fire

Kinshasa students protest against foreign support for the rebels

Rebels fighting to overthrow the government in the Democratic Republic of Congo say they are willing to negotiate a cease-fire with the forces of President Laurent Kabila.

The BBC's Mark Doyle: "The situation on the ground is still very fluid"
"Our organisation has decided that we want to negotiate a cease-fire with Mr Kabila, as long as Mr Kabila recognises there is a fire," a rebel leader Bizima Karaha told reporters in the eastern town of Goma.

[ image: Kinshasa residents queue to buy kerosine for lamps]
Kinshasa residents queue to buy kerosine for lamps
This is the first time that the rebels, mainly ethnic Tutsis and dissident Congolese soldiers, have indicated that they are willing to talk to the Mr Kabila - a man they have accused of corruption and tribalism.

The development came as the Reuters news agency quoted the rebels as saying they had taken a key military outpost on the road to Kinshasa.

A rebel commander, Dioudonne Kabengele, told Reuters his forces had captured Mbanza Ngungu, 120 km south-west of the capital, after heavy fighting.

A warning to outsiders

Earlier, the rebels warned against regional military intervention in the conflict, saying it would only worsen the situation - President Kabila has urged neighbouring governments to provide assistance.

Zimbabwe and Angola have said they are prepared to help President Laurent Kabila resist the rebellion.

Joseph Winter reports on Mugabe's offer to Kabila
Zimbabwean officials are describing their proposed intervention on President Kabila's side as an attempt to restore law and order.

They support President Kabila's charge that invading Rwandan forces are involved in the rebellion, and that such rebellions should not be allowed to succeed - Rwanda denies involvement.

The South African President, Nelson Mandela, has said his country will not worsen the position, as he put it, by sending a military force.

Emmanuel Goujon, AFP Correspondent in North-Eastern Congo: "The level of confidence among rebel leaders is very high"
The BBC West Africa Correspondent in Kinshasa, Mark Doyle, says the attitude of Angola could be crucial as it has one of the best trained and equipped armies in the region.

Kinshasa tension

Most electric power to Kinshasa has been cut following the fall to the rebels of the large Inga hydroelectric dam on the river Congo.

Our correspondent in the city says the mood is tense and no one seems to know how far away the rebels are.

The cost of basic commodities such as bread and vegetables has increased. State-controlled radio said some items had doubled or tripled in price and it condemned what it called unpatriotic market traders.

Another pro-government demonstration was organised in the centre of town, this time by students. The marchers condemned France and the United States whom they said supported the rebels.

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