Congo rebels attack Zimbabwean troops

After a lull in the war that dominates a large swath of central Africa, rebel forces claim to have killed troops loyal to the Congolese government of President Laurent Kabila. Some report as many as 210 have been killed, including 80 Zimbabwean soldiers allied with Kabila.

The Rwandan-backed Congolese Democratic Coalition say they ambushed the Zimbabwean battalion north of Kabinda, and killed its commander, Major Stephen Madezokore. Kabinda is the last government defense on the road to the Southern Congolese diamond centre of Mbuji-Mayi, which the rebels are targeting.

Zimbabwe denies suffering heavy casualties. But if the reported heavy loss of troops and equipment is true, pressure on Robert Mugabe to pull out of the Congo war will increase. He has faced a chorus of domestic criticism over the loss of Zimbabwean troops in Congo

Although the current wave of fighting started last August, the story really began in May 1997 when Laurent Kabila, with help from the Tutsi Banyalemenge of eastern Zaire (now Congo), and Tutsi from both Rwanda and Uganda, overthrew the despotic regime of Mobutu Sese Seko.

There was hope that the newly named Democratic Republic of Congo would live up to this name, and that Kabila would prove to be one of the "new" wave of African leaders, encouraging trade and free elections.

Sadly for this mineral rich-country, this did not come true as Kabila turned on the Rwandan and Ugandan-based Tutsi who had helped him to power.

Now these former helpers have turned rebel. And Kabila is relying for support on several other central African states bordering Congo, including Zimbabwe, Namibia, Chad and Angola.

The fighting has created yet another refugee problem in central Africa with 5,000 seeking refuge in Zambia, according to a recent United Nations High Commission for Refugees report.

Based on its mineral deposits, Congo should be a wealthy country. Yet its people live in poverty, not only because of protracted war, but because of mismanagement.

There is some benefit from this mineral wealth, however. Canadian mining companies are the biggest players in a boom which-- like the war the West all but ignores-- is sweeping Africa.