INTRODUCTION: The war in Zaire - and the tide appears to be turning in favour of government forces.
INTRODUCTION: The war in Zaire - and the tide appears to be turning in favour of government forces. Zairean and Moroccan troops were reported by a military spokesman to have re-captured the town of Mutshatsha, the first major victory of their 11-day counter-offensive against rebels in the southern copper-mining province of Shaba. Mutshatsha, regarded by the government as an important target, was seized by the rebels -- said to be former Katangese gendarmes -- a month ago. On Sunday (24 April), President Mobutu Sese Seko visited his front line troops in the area.
SYNOPSIS: Mutshatsha was only 32 kilometres away and the troops were preparing for the final assault. President Mobutu wore the combat dress of a three-star general as he talked to officers about the offensive. There was no sign here of the government's special force of pygmy warriors, although the little men with their poisoned arrows and fearsome reputation were said to have arrived at the front a week earlier. Regular troops said they had been moved to other areas.
A bridge over the Lubudi river was damaged by the rebels in their retreat. About one third of its span was blown up. Engineers thought that it would take about three days to repair before transport could use it again.
Zairean troops reached the bridge last Friday (22 April) and advanced on foot about five kilometres beyond it. The swirling Lubudi river was the last natural barrier to the advance on Mutshatsha, and cases of ammunition and other equipment were moved across in slings while the bridge was out of action.
The front is being held by the joint Zairean and Moroccan force The Moroccans are members of a 15-hundred strong force which arrived in Zaire this month. According to a Zairean spokesman, only Zairean troops were involved in the capture of Mutshatsha, although Moroccan sources said that a Moroccan commando unit had been in the fighting.
The troops advancing on Mutshatsha found it difficult to get to grips with the enemy -- the rebels just seemed to melt away into the twisted bush and high grass. The Zaire countryside seemed peaceful enough, but this was the lull before the storm. The strike on Mutshatsha came just before dawn the next day (25 April).