Anti-Kabila forces seize Bukavu


A revolt against the President, Mr Laurent Kabila, has widened in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with his foreign minister defecting and rebels securing the eastern town of Bukavu.

Government officials acknowledged that Bukavu had fallen to a Tutsi-led dissident faction of the new Congolese army after two days of heavy fighting but accused troops from their estranged ally, Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated army, of taking part.

The Voice of the People radio station in the eastern town of Goma, where the revolt began on Sunday, introduced the opposition politician, Mr Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma, as co-ordinator of the uprising.

The picture of events on the ground in Africa's third-largest country remained confused, but government officials, who say ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge and neighbouring Rwanda are behind the revolt, conceded that Bukavu had fallen.

UN sources said fighting had closed the airport outside Kisangani on Tuesday. Airline sources said a planned Congo Airlines flight to the city yesterday had been cancelled.

A Kinshasa official said he had no information on the outcome of fighting further south in Uvira or to the north in Goma, where rebel broadcasts called Mr Kabila a dictator.

Aid agencies said the picture in Uvira was extremely confused and that it was unclear, after heavy automatic weapons fire and shelling on Tuesday, who controlled the town.

The foreign minister, Mr Bizima Karaha, rallied to the rebels, accusing Mr Kabila of nepotism and failing to run the country properly. "This is a country-wide revolution to topple Kabila. It is spreading like fire," an ethnic Tutsi said in Goma.

Rwanda's army and the Banyamulenge spearheaded the seven-month bush war that toppled veteran dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and propelled Mr Kabila to power in May 1997.

Rwanda has formally denied any involvement this time.

Kinshasa emerged from a second night of curfew, during which shooting rang out in the central Gombe diplomatic district. Witnesses reported seeing two bodies in the street.