Showdown Coming In Zaire

  • Share
  • Read Later
KINSHASA, Zaire: An official close to Zaire's Defense Ministry claims that more than 2,500 Ugandan soldiers, backed by tanks, are headed toward the city of Beni in eastern Zaire. According to the official, the Ugandans are trying to join rebel forces as they brace for a counterattack by Zairian army troops massed to the west at Kisangani. Although Zaire's government has frequently complained that Ugandan and Rwandan soldiers are fighting alongside rebels, it now appears that the country's army has recruited some outside help of its own. The unnamed official insists that uniformed men filmed by television crews last week alongside Zairian soldiers actually are technicians hired by Zaire to service the army's equipment. But TIME's Peter Graff reports that diplomatic sources have confirmed that the 280 or so "white guys with guns" are indeed mercenaries, led by a Belgian named Christian Taverniers. Taverniers told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir on Monday that his group had "not yet fired a single shot," despite Kinshasa's claims that it had retaken the town of Walikale before the weekend. Activity on the current front, some 500 km of dense jungle between Kinshasa and the rebel-held territory to the east, remains mostly a mystery to journalists, who have had to depend on dubious reports from the Zairian government.