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BBC's Chris Simpson in Kigali
"The collapse of a long-standing regional alliance has caught Africa by surprise"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 7 June, 2000, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Kisangani's cathedral 'in flames'
Rwanda's Paul Kagame and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni
Kagame and Museveni: Battle between former allies
Fighting has intensified between Rwandan and Ugandan troops battling for control of a rebel-held city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, shattering a ceasefire agreement.

They are destroying everything. What did we do to deserve this?

Kisangani resident
Mortar shells landed on Kisangani's cathedral and the adjoining UN headquarters as heavy shelling and machine-gun fire echoed across the north-eastern city.

A Reuters reporter said the cathderal's wooden roof was in flames after the shell hit, while three shells landed inside the church compound where the UN military observer mission has its headquarters.

The fighting will renew doubts that the two countries are serious about honouring the agremeent to withdraw under international supervision from the diamond-rich city.

Uganda and Rwanda back different rebel factions fighting within the DR Congo.

However, clashes between the two countries have strained their once close relationship.

The UN Security Council has called for an immediate halt to the hostilities, saying it could threaten plans to deploy a 5,000-strong UN peacekeeping force.

Fighting 'catastrophic'

The United Nations mission in the city said at least 50 civilians have been killed and 100 wounded.

They said a school had been hit by shelling, and at least 16 children were among the dead.

Uganda troops in Congo
Hopes of a UN deployment depend on a ceasefire being observed

Residents said most of the firing was concentrated around the Tshopo river bridge on the city outskirts, from where Ugandan units had infiltrated.

"Around Tshopo it's catastrophic. Houses have been completely flattened," said maths teacher Willy Bondombe.

"People have just been buried near their houses because [the survivors] can't go out," he told Reuters news agency.


The Ugandan and Rwandan presidents agreed last month to end the fighting and withdraw their troops from Kisangani

There's not enough room to put all the dead in the morgue at Kisangani hospital

City resident

But since Monday, fierce artillery exchanges have been taking place in the city centre and in surrounding suburbs.

The withdrawal agreement has also been undermined by a continuing war of words.

Ugandan and Rwandan commanders accused each other of trying to deceive the UN, of publicly withdrawing their troops or secretly pushing for complete control of Kisangani. Despite months of summit meetings and top-level consultations, a real antagonism has developed between Uganda and Rwanda.

Rwandan officials now speak of the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, with open contempt, arguing that he has given extremists in the Ugandan miltiary free reign while also sabotaging the rebellion in Congo by encouraging the fragmentation of the main rebel movements.

Uganda is equally critical of Rwanda, hinting that its much smaller neighbour has regional ambitions which are vain and inappropriate.

There are also accusations that Rwanda has committed a series of errors in DR Congo.

Peace talks being organised in Benin by former Botswana President, Quett Masire, are in difficulties after the Kinshasa government refused to take part in preliminary discussions, and on Monday prevented Kinshasa-based opposition politicians from attending the sessions.

The talks followed a summit on Saturday between President Kabila and President Kagame, at which they agreed to restore relations and continue discussions to resolve their differences.

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See also:

17 May 00 | Africa
Quick UN Congo force urged
10 May 00 | Africa
UN faces risks in DR Congo
08 May 00 | Africa
Congo town pull out agreed
24 Feb 00 | Africa
UN approves Congo force
05 May 00 | Africa
UN failing in Africa
25 May 00 | Africa
UN to monitor Congo pull-out
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