France and Belgium have mounted an airborne rescue mission to Zaire, where southern rebels have gone on the rampage against foreigners.
France and Belgium have mounted an airborne rescue mission to Zaire, where southern rebels have gone on the rampage against foreigners. Troops left a Belgian base near Brussels, and two planeloads of French Foreign Legion paratroops flew out of Corsica on Thursday (18 May). More than two thousand foreigners, most of them Belgians, were trapped in the mining town of Kolwezi which rebels from Angola captured it last week. In Kinshasa, tens of thousands turned out at a rally to support President Mobuto Sese Seko's state of national mobilisation in Zaire. And, in South Africa, the wives and women relatives of Zaire mine managers and workers have arrived after being evacuated from the Shaba fighting area.
SYNOPSIS: In Belgium, the airlift of troops got underway on Thursday. The government had declared its aim in sending troops was limited and humanitarian -- to rescue foreigners caught up in the war that erupted last week in Shaba, the copper-rich southern province of Zaire. As these troops were preparing to leave, the Zairean News Agency AZAP reported that Zaire Air Force planes had bombed rebel positions in Kolwezi, and that President Mobutu had flown down to observe the air strikes.
The Belgian Foreign Ministry reporter on Thursday that fighting in Kolwezi had stopped, and that Zaire government troops had re-taken the airport, while rebels were holding the town.
In Kinshasa, on Wednesday, the government ordered shops, factories, offices and schools closed for a rally supporting President Mubutu. They were to show they were behind the president's mobilising the country against the rebels.
The rally had its seemingly light-hearted aspects. President Mobutu himself did not attend. Meanwhile, in Johannesburg, the BBC's John Humphrys spoke to Mrs Elizabeth Howkins, wife of a mine manager from Kolwezi. She had just flown in from the Shaba fighting area.