President Idi Amin today pledged Ugandan troops and military supplies to help Zaire defeat rebel invaders, if requested by Zairian President Mobulu Sese Seko.
In a one-day visit to Zaire, Amin and Mobutu discussed the seven-week-old conflict in Zaire's southern province of Shaba, formerly Katanga. He said at a press conference later that they talked about ways Uganda could assist Zaire.
Uganda is the third African country to discuss the possibility of sending soldiers to help Zaire's army. Morocco has flown in 1,500 troops with another 1,500 on standby. An Egyptian military delegation was in Zaire two weeks ago to assess the need for Egyptian troops.
The Ugandan leader also said he made the trip to warn Zaire that an anti-Mobutu force may cross into southern Zaire from bases in Tanzania on the eastern border.
TAmin said the new front would be opened if Angolan-based Katangan rebels on the western border fialed to take Shaba in their drive for secession.
Although there has been no confirmation of the report of a new front, there is a rebel force, the peoples Revolutionary Party, near Zaire's western border. In May 1975, members of the party kidnaped four foreign students at a zoological preserve on the Tanzanian-Zaire border. The rebels demanded ransom and foreign support in exchange for release of the students who were eventually released unharmed.
The party also attended two recent meetings of anti-Mobutu exile groups in Europe, according to intelligence reports.
The pledge of Ugandan aid has an tronic twist, since Amin receives most of his military supplies from the Soviet Union. Zaire repeatedly has condemned the Soviets for their alleged role in arming and training Katangan rebels.
If the Uganda aid does arrive in Zaire, it is conceivable that some of it will be Soviet-made meaning both sides will be armed by the Soviet Union.
Amin refused to comment on the Soviet role in the rebellion. "Western countries have mistaken me that I am Communist. But I am not controlled by any country East or West."
But Amin condemened Angola for its support of the rebels, calling its Marxist government a "traitor to Africa."
Several Western military attaches said they did not expect Mobutu to use the Ugandan aid, although it was a public boost for Zaire. They added, however, that a dramatic change in the military situation might change Mobutu's position on Ugandan aid.
The military situation is unclear. Earlier today a Zaire general, a Morocan diplomat and Radio Congo-Brazzaville announced that the two strategic towns of Mushatsha and Kapanga had been retaken by joint forces of Zaire and Moroccan troops.
But tonight the official Zaire news agency AZAP vehemently denid the story and said the situation had not changed in the past 24 hours. The denial has led to further confusion about the strange "war."
Correspondents here to do not known whether the contradicting reports mean that no one in the capital knows exactly what is going on, or whether the areas were retaken by Zaire and then lost again.
[Mobutu told a Paris radio station in a telephone interview today that he was seeking 400,000 cans of Coca-Cola from the United States so that his troops would not have to drink from Shaba water systems that he said may have been poisoned by the rebels, according to Associated Press.]