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Wednesday, September 9, 1998 Published at 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK

World: Africa

Kinshasa 'four days from starvation'

Water supplies to the capital have been interrupted

Jon Devitt: "Ceasefire has little immediate chance of working"
Reports from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, say the city is facing serious food shortages, as a result of fighting between government and rebel forces.

The United Nations children's fund representative in Kinshasa, Ibrahim Jabr, said he believes there are only four days of food stocks left and one week of water purifying chemicals.

The shortages come after rebel action which has blocked the main road and rail corridor to Kinshasa from the seaport of Matadi.

International agencies and western embassies, including those of Belgium and the Netherlands, are planning food drops by air, and are awaiting authorisation and guarantees of safety.

Meanwhile, electricity has been restored to Kinshasa, nearly a month after it was cut by rebels who had taken control of a hydroelectric plant.

UN advisors to talks

The United Nations says it is to send a group of military advisors to a meeting in Addis Ababa on Thursday, which is aimed seeking an end to the rebellion in the Congo.

A UN official said its military advisors would be able to give advice on the formation of a peacekeeping force on Congo's eastern borders, which is one of the options to be discussed at the meeting.

Zimbabwean Defence Minister Moven Mahachi: "A tentative agreement"
Thursday's meeting, at the headquarters of the Organisation of African Unity in the Ethiopian capital, follows a summit of seven regional leaders at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

The Victoria Falls summit ended with a commitment to work towards a cease-fire, but the Congolese rebels said they could not be bound by such a cease-fire as they had not been allowed into the talks.

The BBC's Jane Standley: "Two days of talks... secured only the promise of more talks on Thursday"
But the BBC's Africa Correspondent, Jane Standley, says the atmosphere of distrust has provided no timetable for peace, and the fighting in Congo continues.

Speaking in the rebel-held town of Kisangani, the rebel Commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane said his forces are launching operations everywhere and that the offensive is continuing.

[ image: Rebel prisoners of war held in Kinshasa]
Rebel prisoners of war held in Kinshasa
Another rebel leader, Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma, said that they reserved the right to fight on because they had not been asked to sign the cease-fire document.

Meanwhile, President Laurent Kabila's government said it had renewed an international warrant for the arrest of the rebels. However, it is not clear whether the Zimbabwean government tried to arrest them before they left.

The bulk of the forces fighting the Congolese government are foreign, and correspondents say the situation could improve even if the rebels do not sign any agreement.

Zimbabwe and Angola have intervened in support of Mr Kabila, who has accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels.

South Africa's President, Nelson Mandela, says he will try again to bring both peace and democracy to the Congo at yet another summit for southern African states at the weekend.

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