Potential Hot Spots: December 17, 2002


  The British mine-clearance non-governmental organization (NGO) "Halo Trust" advised caution in the Central African Republic (CAR) town of Damara, 50 miles northwest of the capital, Bangui. Residents feared that unpaved streets may have been mined by retreating rebels at the beginning of December. Military engineers have not inspected the areas for mines. 

Meanwhile, hatred for President Patesse's Congolese rebel proxy troops grows. Of the 111 women raped during October's fighting in the Central African Republic capital, 26 have tested HIV positive. Most acts of rape were blamed on the fighters of Jean-Pierre Bemba's Mouvement de Liberation du Congo (MLC). On the 11th, CAR youths had erected barricades across a major road in one of the capital's suburbs, following rumors that MLC rebels would be stationed at Malimaka School. Government troops used machine-gun fire to disperse the youths manning the barricades, who were wielding only sticks, machetes and axes.

Libya denied Congolese government allegations made on 13 December, of sending troops and military equipment into the Congo along the border with the Central African Republic (CAR). Libyan troops had recently helped the CAR government stall a rebel coup attempt. That same day, a CAR government spokesman said that Libyan troops would remain until all the Community of Central African States (CEMAC) peacekeeping troops promised to his country arrived. The next day, Radio Centrafrique announced the death of Gen Ernest Betibangui (who succeeded the now-rebel General Bozize as the CAR's army chief of staff). He had died "after a short illness", which might be a case of 9mm lead poisoning due to the non-performance of CAR army units during the October coup attempt.

On 11 December, the Congo government claimed that the MLC (which was being aided by Libya) had heavy weapons, tanks and artillery stationed in Gbadolite, in preparation for an attack on the capital, Kinshasa. The Libyan shipments are allegedly reinforcing and supplying the rebels by Antonov cargo jets, so they could launch an assault on Kinshasa by way of Beni and Mbandaka.


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