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Tuesday, June 8, 1999 Published at 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK

World: Africa

Congolese rebels control Kabila's home town

It's been confirmed that rebels have taken full control of President Laurent Kabila's home town in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Emmanuel Goujon in Manono: The fall of the town is significant to the rebellion
A journalist working for the French news agency, AFP, visited the tin-mining town of Manono in Katanga Province - and said it was occupied by rebels and Rwandan soldiers.

Colonel Songolo Nura, a rebel leader in the region, said the town had been taken on 8 May.

He said Zimbabwean troops allied to President Kabila's forces took refuge at Manono airport where they held out to 1 June before fleeing north to the town of Ankoro.

According to rebel radio monitored in Bukavu, the town is under the control of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD).

[ image:  ]
The AFP report said Manono now resembled a ghost town.

Its broad avenues, lined with mango trees, were deserted and villas had been abandoned.

"The people left just before the arrival (of the rebel forces), fearing massacres and reprisals by rebels hostile to the town's most famous son, Kabila," said Colonel Nura.

He said the town was an important gain because it had a large airport and could provide a base for troops heading towards Mbuji Mayi and Lubumbashi, President Kabila's stronghold.

Rebels 'united'

Meanwhile, reports say all three Congolese rebel factions are now willing to discuss forming a united front against President Kabila.

Bizima Karaha, one of the leaders of the RCD says he is now prepared to meet deposed RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and Jean Pierre Bemba of the Congolese Liberation Movement.

[ image: President Laurent Kabila himself took power after making territory gains in the east and south]
President Laurent Kabila himself took power after making territory gains in the east and south
The talks are due to be held at Kabale in south-western Uganda and will include representatives of Rwanda and Uganda, who are backing the rebels.

Their aim is to coordinate the rebel strategy ahead of detailed peace talks which are due to take place soon in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

Leaders of the three Southern African countries backing President Kabila against the rebels, also met on Monday to discuss their approach to the Lusaka talks.

The Presidents of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia met in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

According to reports from DR Congo, President Kabila was absent from the discussions owing to the military situation following the fall of Manono.

Speaking afterwards, Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, described the Rwandan ceasefire announced last month as "a gimmick" intended to deceive the world that Rwanda was interested in peace.

Rwanda later called off its ceasefire in reaction to the bombing of the rebel-held town of Uvira by DRC government forces on Wednesday.

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