Rwanda accuses Congo of fresh attacks on war's second anniversary

KIGALI, Rwanda - Rwanda's government on Wednesday accused Congolese President Laurent Kabila's army of attacking Rwandan forces, saying it was the heaviest fighting since a cease-fire agreement a year ago.

''There is military activity on all fronts'' said Patrick Mazimhaka, the presidential foreign policy adviser. The reported fighting came on the second anniversary of Congo's civil war.

Mazimhaka said the Congo army attacked the Rwandans and allied Congolese rebels in Kabalo and Kabinda in the diamond-rich southern Congo. He said it was the most serious fighting since a cease-fire agreement in August 1999.

Rwanda is one of five nations that have sent troops into the Congo. Rwanda and Uganda back the rebels who took up arms against Kabila on Aug. 2, 1998, accusing him of misrule and sheltering anti-government insurgents.

Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia have sent troops to prop up Kabila, but have since expressed interest in ending the war.

Last year Kabila and the five nations signed the Lusaka peace agreement.

But last week, officials from the five warring nations in Congo criticized Kabila for his refusal to allow the first armed U.N. peacekeepers into government-controlled Congo and rejecting the national conference to bring together the government, rebels and other opposition activists.

''The fighting becomes more serious when you listen to the (Congo) government in Kinshasa, which has rejected the peace agreement, disengagement of forces and deployment of U.N. troops,'' Mazimhaka, the Rwandan official, told The Associated Press.

The Congolese government rejected the accusations.

So far, more than 200 U.N. military observers have deployed in Congo, instead of a planned force of 5,537 troops and observers with a mandate to oversee the fragile cease-fire, the withdrawal of foreign troops and the disarming of Rwandan Hutu militiamen. The Hutu militiamen are responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and have been fighting alongside Congolese government troops.

In the past month, Rwandan and rebel officials and international aid workers have reported an upsurge in attacks in eastern Congo by Rwandan Hutu militia, backed by the Congolese army, which left dozens of Congolese civilians dead and tens of thousands displaced, most of them fleeing into Uganda.


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