President Frederick Chiluba fears that government troops fleeing into Zambia across the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with refugees may bring war, a government-owned paper said Monday.
The Zambian president has ordered troops sent to the border with the DRC to ensure that thousands of armed soldiers fleeing fighting there are prevented from threatening the neighboring country.
"I know we have an obligation to look after our brothers and sisters but we must be alert at all times," Chiluba said on Sunday during a visit to Northern Province, according to The Times of Zambia.
"These refugees can easily bring war into Zambia if given so much freedom," Chiluba was quoted as saying.
Insecurity has grown in Zambian villages on the far northern border with DRC in the Lake Mweru area near Pweto in the DRC, where rebels fighting President Laurent Kabila's regime launched an offensive late last month.
Several thousand DRC government soldiers have crossed the border with civilian refugees, increasing the tension.
On December 4, Rwandan-backed rebels of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) claimed to have taken Pweto, but the general staff in Kinshasa later said the town was in the hands of Kabila and his allies.
A Joint Military Commission (JMC) set up among the combatants in the DRC, who signed a shaky cease-fire last year in the Zambian capital Lusaka, has sent a verification mission to Northern Province, The Times of Zambia said.
The JMC chairman, General Timothy Kazambe of neutral Zambia, said the DRC troops have been disarmed and separated from civilians, who fled the fighting in the Pweto region, the newspaper reported.
The paper said that some 3,700 DRC soldiers have been placed under heavy guard inside Zambia.
Fighting has continued in parts of the DRC in breach of the accord among Kabila's government, his military allies from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia, and several rebel movements who currently hold well over a third of the vast country, backed by Rwanda and Uganda -- LUSAKA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )