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Rivalry Among Congo Rebels Grows

May 21, 1999

GOMA, Congo (AP) _ The recently ousted leader of Congo’s rebels announced Friday he was ready to enter peace talks with President Laurent Kabila, while his replacement warned him to step aside.

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, stripped of his leadership earlier this week, moved his headquarters from the eastern rebel stronghold at Goma to the Congo River port Kisangani on Friday and said he would continue heading the movement.

``If Kabila invites me to negotiate peace with him, I will go,″ Wamba told The Associated Press by satellite phone. ``We want to negotiate an end to this war.″

But in Goma, Emile Ilunga, named the new leader of the rebel movement, warned that the rebels will take ``appropriate measures″ against Wamba if he causes a rift.

``We are in a war situation, and if Wamba continues to jeopardize the security of our operations, we will take appropriate measures against him,″ Ilunga said in the first public statement since he was elected leader.

The rebels’ minister for information, Mende Omalanga, said Wamba would be arrested if he continued to undermine the rebel movement.

The rebel coalition of ethnic Tutsis, disaffected Congolese soldiers and opposition politicians took up arms in August, accusing Kabila of corruption and fostering ethnic strife. The rebels control the eastern third of this vast Central African nation.

The rebel Congolese Democratic Coalition fired Wamba on Monday, accusing him of poor leadership and a failure to rally popular support for their war.

The split has highlighted divisions between Rwanda and Uganda, both of which have supported the insurgents. The two neighboring countries have differed over how to end the war and the choice of rebel leaders.

Uganda, whose troops are fighting in northern Congo, appeared to have rejected Wamba’s ouster, while Rwanda accepted the decision.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a peace agreement with Kabila last month, apparently hoping for an early withdrawal of Ugandan troops from Congo. Rwanda has rejected the agreement.

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