Belgian ambassador caught in Congolese gunfight

22nd August 2006, Comments 0 comments

22 August 2006, BRUSSELS — EU troops evacuated 14 diplomats, including the Belgian ambassador, to safety on Monday after heavy fighting erupted in the Congolese capital Kinshasa.

22 August 2006

BRUSSELS — EU troops evacuated 14 diplomats, including the Belgian ambassador, to safety on Monday after heavy fighting erupted in the Congolese capital Kinshasa.

It was the first time that EU troops came into action in the Democratic Republic of Congo since being deployed there to secure the national elections last month.

But fighting between the troops of President Joseph Kabila and Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba erupted after the election results were published on Monday.

Presidential guards used machine guns and a tank to fire on Bemba's residence as they tried to disarm Bemba's forces. The vice-president's helicopter was also fired upon.

At that moment, negotiations between Bemba and 14 diplomats, including the Belgian ambassador Johan Swinnen, were taking place in the residence.

The gunfire lasted for 30 minutes, but the diplomats were left blocked in the residential cellar for several hours afterwards.

EU peacekeeping troops then carried out an evacuation and brought the diplomats to safety on Monday night.

In other developments, government troops occupied Kinshasa airport after 25 people were killed in various clashes around the city.

The city was largely quiet on Monday: the streets were empty and economic activity came to standstill.

SN Brussels Airlines has suspended all flights from the Belgian capital to Kinshasa.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt urged both Kabila and Bemba by phone on Monday to maintain peace leading up to the second round of the presidential elections.

The two men will contest a second round of presidential elections in October because Kabila failed to win the 50 percent of the vote needed for a first round victory.

The 30 July election was the first democratic poll to be held in the country since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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