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Congo rebels' offensive

Southern African allies backing President Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said on Feb. 16 his rebel foes had launched a major offensive in the former Zaire, ignoring efforts to find a peaceful solution.

In a communiqu published by Zimbabwe's official Herald newspaper, the allied forces of Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe said they would use all available resources to deny the rebels and their backers a total military victory.

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"SADC [Southern African Development Community] allied forces are currently engaged in battles ... along the Congo River, notably in the general area around Kabalo and along Lake Tanganyika in Moba," it said.

Sophisticated weapons

The Congolese rebels and their Ugandan and Rwandan supporters had engaged in massive recruitment, reorganization, and, recently, acquisition of highly sophisticated weapons, the statement said.

The rebels' ultimate aim was to capture Gbadolite in the north, Kamina and Mbuji Mayi in Katanga Province, and Lubumbashi in the south and finally launch an offensive on the capital Kinshasa, it added.

But Zimbabwe Defense Forces spokesman Col. Chancellor Diye said the rebels had an "insurmountable task" to break through allied lines on all fronts and penetrate the hinterland.

The rebels' latest offensive undermined peace efforts spearheaded by Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, Kabila's allies said in their communiqu.

Pretending to talk peace

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"The invaders have since the beginning of the conflict used peace talks to achieve military gains. They pretend to talk peace while on the ground they are intensifying the war effort," it said.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe deployed more than 6,000 troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when rebels took up arms against Kabila in August last year, accusing his government of corruption and of seeking to eliminate Tutsis formerly from neighboring Rwanda.

[Rwanda's Tutsi-led government claims that Kabila permits Hutu rebels against it to be based in Congo. Similarly, Uganda says rebels against its government find havens in Congo.]

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