DR Congo decries presence of rebels in CAR

Brazzaville- Congo (PANA) -- The presence in the Central African Republic of DR Congo rebels helping the CAR government against its own rebels may have compromised the participation of the CAR's armed forces in an integrated joint command in charge of ensuring the resumption of free traffic on the Ubangui and Congo rivers, said a military source Friday.
The DR Congo rebels, under the umbrella of the Congolese Liberation Movement (CLM) of Jean-Pierre Bemba, recently joined CAR forces to repel former ruler Andre Kolingba's rebels who were trying to overthrow the regime of President Ange Felix Patassé.
"Our DRC colleagues pointed out this problem at the latest meeting we had in Brazzaville.
In all cases, they negatively viewed the participation of Bemba's rebels beside the Central African Republic's armed forces in the failed coup against President Patassé," said a Congolese officer who is also member of the joint task force of the two Congos.
In this condition, he added, the officers of the DR Congo members of the joint command are not ready to let the Central African armed forces join the command because, for them, the presence of the rebels in Bangui is evidence of their collaboration with the government in Bangui.
Therefore it is not opportune, they said, to open the task force to the Central African Republic, the officer said.
During his stay in Brazzaville, where he attended the opening of the inter-Congolese dialogue in March, Patassé told the Congolese press of his country's request to be involved in the joint command alongside the armies of the two Congos.
As a landlocked country, the CAR uses Pointe-Noire port in Congo for its external trade.
The goods are transported by train to Brazzaville where they are forwarded via the Congo and Ubangui to Bangui.
But due to the insecurity along the two rivers, the CAR switched to the Cameroon port of Douala while waiting for the situation to return to normal.
For three months now, Congo and the DRC have set up an integrated joint command of their armed forces, each country contributing 250 men, in order to guarantee the free traffic of goods and people on the Congo and Ubangui rivers.
The first patrol, which was supported by an attack helicopter, took place in April and since then, traffic on the rivers to the city of Impfondo has resumed.
"We have not yet gone beyond Impfondo because of Bemba's rebels who control the Ubangui River to Bangui.
Our objective is to open the traffic down to Bangui," said the Congolese officer.
The Congo and Ubangui rivers are open to the free traffic of goods and people from the three countries as provided for in an international treaty.

16 june 2001 11:37:00

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