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Rebel Forces Claim to Take Key City in Rwanda

TUTSI rebels claimed yesterday that their fighters had seized control of the strategic city of Gitarama in heavy fighting and were chasing Rwanda's government Army from the surrounding area.

If true, it would be a key victory for the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RFP), which already controls most of the north and east of the country.

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The interim government fled to Gitarama after the civil war began two months ago. As the RFP advanced last week, interim president Theodore Sindikubwabo and some of his ministers fled Gitarama.

Aid workers estimate that some 500,000 people, most of them Tutsis, have been killed by Hutu militias and government troops since President Juvenal Habyarimana died in a rocket attack on his plane on April 6. Tutsis accounted for about 10 percent of the population before the war started. The rebels are thought to have about 20,000 fighters.

The RFP and the Army have held cease-fire talks over the past 10 days with little progress. S. Africa joins OAU

SOUTH African President Nelson Mandela, taking his country into the Organization of African Unity for the first time in the group's 31-year-history, was given a thunderous ovation from fellow heads of state, the press, and public when he entered the meeting hall in Tunis yesterday.

In a speech delivered to over 40 heads of state, Mr. Mandela praised Africa's ``new birth'' in an era free of apartheid, but pointed to the Rwandan disaster as a failure of the continent's leadership. Rwanda ``stands out as a stern and severe rebuke to all of us,'' he said.

Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison in his struggle against a white-minority government, called South Africa's new freedom ``a gift of emancipation'' for whites as well as blacks.

``Africa cries out for a new birth. We must bend every effort to rebuild the African economy. We must ... say that there is no obstacle big enough to stop us from bringing about a new African renaissance,'' he said.

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The presence of the charismatic leader has given other countries a boost. Mandela symbolizes the victory of peace over oppression as his nation shifts from white-only rule to multiracial democracy.

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