HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Southern African military allies of embattled Congolese President Laurent Kabila began preparing Wednesday for a prolonged and costly offensive against rebels in the dense eastern jungles of the country.
The announcement could lead to a major escalation of the conflict that began Aug. 2 with rebel advances aimed at toppling Kabila.
Kabila’s allies — Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola — made the decision Wednesday in Harare. To date, their forces were concentrated in western Congo.
A Congolese rebel leader warned Kabila’s allies to back off.
The Congolese rebels — ethnic Tutsis, disenchanted members of Kabila’s army and opposition politicians — accuse Kabila of corruption, mismanagement and promoting tribalism.
Zimbabwe has strike jets, helicopters, transport planes and armored cars backing about 3,000 troops in Congo, which formerly was called Zaire.
Kabila’s allies say they are bound by mutual membership along with Congo in the 14-nation Southern African Development community to protect a fellow government in trouble and maintain security in the region.