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Friday, July 9, 1999 Published at 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK


World: Africa

Fighting continues despite Congo peace plan

Fighting is continuing around Kabinda, despite hopes of peace

One of the main rebel leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo has said he will continue fighting until a ceasefire deal is officially signed.

Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) told the French news agency AFP that his forces would only stop when all sides in the 11-month conflict signed the agreement in Lusaka on Saturday.

He made his comments as he arrived in the northern town of Gbadolite, which the rebels say they seized from the forces of President Kabila last week.

AFP said that, according to a Ugandan army commander, Gbadolite fell to a combined force of MLC rebels and a Ugandan army battalion.

The commander - Brigadier James Kazini - said 2,000 government troops had fled across the border to the Central African Republic.

Gbadolite had been seen as an important strategic base for President Kabila and was the birthplace of the former Zairean ruler, Mobutu sese Seko.

Kabinda fighting

A spokesman for one of the other rebel groups - the Congolese Rally for Democracy - said a major battle was going on against government forces for control of the southern town of Kabinda.

He said the rebels were trying to take control of the town, a key staging post on the way to the southern diamond-mining city of Mbuji-Mayi.

The intensification of fighting comes as representatives of both sides in the conflict, and the countries which have backed them, prepare to sign a full peace agreement after days of intensive talks.

Several African heads of state are expected to sign the deal which Zambian President, Frederick Chiluba, said was "very comprehensive."

Click here to read the main points of the deal agreed on Wednesday by the six countries and two rebel factions involved in the conflict.

However, the BBC correspondent in Kinshasa, Stephanie Wolters, says there is distrust on all sides and a number of potentially explosive issues still threaten any lasting ceasefire.

Long sought deal

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has welcomed the agreement.


[ image:  ]
"This is an important and welcome step towards the restoration of peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Great Lakes region of Africa," he said.

Mr Annan called on the warring parties to declare an immediate cessation of hostilities, and promised to deploy up to 500 observers as soon as the agreement was signed.

"Afterwards, we will send a peacekeeping force. It may take three months, but it can be earlier than that if the African countries help us."

Mr Annan gave an assurance that the UN would spare no effort in mobilising the international community to assist the people of the region in their efforts to achieve reconciliation, reconstruction and development.



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