DRC: Government troops seize rebel stronghold, general says
KINSHASA, 14 Sep 2004 (IRIN) - Government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo captured on Monday the town of Minova, the stronghold of dissident soldiers in the eastern province of South Kivu, a high-ranking officer told IRIN.
"I can confirm that my troops have regained control of the entire military region," Gen Mbuza Mabe, the commander of the 10th Military Region, said.
He said troops seized Minova at 3 p.m. without a fight when dissidents loyal to the renegade general, Laurent Nkunda, abandoned the town and the locality of Numbi after government troops recaptured the localities of Nybibwe and Dutu, close to Minova, on Thursday. Mabe said civilians, who had fled their homes after Nkunda’s men began raping and pillaging had started to return.
Nkunda, who had recently made Minova his headquarters, did not answer telephone calls. His aides have also refused to take questions from reporters.
The UN Mission in the Congo, known as MONUC, said it was trying to verify Mabe's claim that Minova had fallen. "A UN patrol left this morning," Maj Francois Ouedraogo, the MONUC military spokesman in Kinshasa, said.
The head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Goma, Patrick Lavand’homme, said the chief of Numbi locality and the administrator of the territory of Kalehe had told OCHA that 150,000 mostly Kinyarwanda-speaking people, who feared reprisal attacks, had fled toward Ngungu, in neighbouring North Kivu Province. Nkunda is Kinyarwanda-speaking.
"Others fled shells that fell directly on their homes," he said.
Lavand'homme said the displaced persons were not yet being cared for. However, OCHA is coordinating humanitarian aid in both Kivus. Presently, it is reviewing the security situation and evaluating the humanitarian aid required for the needy, Jean-Marc Cordaro, head of the OCHA office in Bukavu, capital of South Kivu, said.
Meanwhile in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, the chief of general staff of the armed forces, Lt-Gen Kisempia Sungilanga, has called a two-day meeting beginning on Tuesday of the North and South Kivu military regional commanders.
"We have been ordered in and I am obeying my superiors," Obed Rubaswira, the commanding general of 8th Military Region of Nord-Kivu, said on arrival in Kinshasa.
This is his first visit to the capital since taking command of the region in January. Prior to this, he had given several reasons for refusing to come to Kinshasa when ordered.
The dissidents under Nkunda and his ally Col Jules Mutebutsi started hostilities at the beginning of June when for one week they occupied Bukavu and other localities of South Kivu. They withdrew from these locations after negotiations with MONUC.