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BBC's Chris Simpson
"The rebels have promised to reopen supply routes"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 December, 1999, 22:19 GMT
Congo deal struck



Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have struck a deal with the Zimbabwean Government enabling them to regain a town in the north of the country in exchange for guarantees that Zimbabwean troops will receive food supplies.

Agreement was reached in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where a senior Zimbabwean delegation met with both rebel representatives and the Rwandan Government.

Battle for the heart of Africa
The Zimbabwean troops have been trapped behind rebel lines in the north-west of the country for several months.

In return, Congolese troops are to withdraw from Bokungu which they took from the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) in heavy fighting last week while attempting to relieve the Zimbabweans.

Government troops began a drive about two weeks ago to try to liberate about 700 Zimbabwean troops who are surrounded at Ikela, about 800 km (500 miles) northeast of the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, by RCD rebels.

They have been stuck at Ikela airport since the Lusaka peace accord was signed in August.

The peace deal calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Congo, but has been held up by disagreements and allegations of ceasefire violations by both sides.


The renewed fighting in the Congo threatens to leave the Lusaka agreement in tatters
Richard Holbrooke
President Robert Mugabe has deployed about 11,000 troops - a third of his army - to help President Laurent Kabila fight rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda.

Last week, RCD rebels admitted the fall of Bokungu to the government, a key town about 120 km (75 miles) southeast of Ikela.

The rival rebel Congolese Liberation Movement backed by Uganda, says it has captured Basankusu and is within 200 km (130 miles) of the Congo River Port of Mbandaka.

US blunt warning

Richard Holbrooke, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, who met Mr Mugabe on Tuesday on his tour of African capitals, said on Monday that the international community would not intervene in DR Congo unless all sides stop the renewed fighting and stick to the peace agreement they signed in Lusaka last August.

refugees Thousands of Congolese have been displaced by the fighting
"If the parties in the Congo truly want the international community's involvement and support, such violations of these commitments are simply unacceptabe" he said.

The United Nations food agency has also warned that fighting between rebels and President Kabila's troops has forced thousands of Congolese civilians to flee into the jungle.

Entire populations of villages are trapped in the jungle where they are sick and undernourished, but too frightened to seek humanitarian aid, say the World Food Programme (WFP).

An estimated 800,000 people are thought to have been displaced by the fighting since August 1998.

And the WFP says it has only received a third of the $30m it appealed for in June to help the refugees.
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See also:
06 Dec 99 |  Africa
US issues stark DR Congo warning
03 Dec 99 |  Africa
Congo rebels lose northern town
25 Nov 99 |  Africa
Zimbabwe losses add up in Congo
16 Nov 99 |  Africa
OAU monitors enter DR Congo
08 Jul 99 |  Africa
Congo peace plan: the main points
11 Nov 99 |  Africa
UN team starts work in Congo
23 Jun 99 |  Africa
DR Congo: What price peace?
02 Oct 99 |  Africa
Congo accused of breaking truce

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