President Laurent Kabila declared victory in Congo's southwestern war front Monday over an army of rebel fighters that just weeks ago appeared poised to capture the capital.
Kabila's Cabinet director, Abdoulaye Yerodia, conveyed the president's message and said the war would now focus on the east, where rebels still control several key cities."There are no fronts left in the west, the last bastions of the aggressors have fallen," state-controlled radio quoted Yerodia as saying.
Kabila's announcement came after his Angolan allies captured the last major rebel strongholds in the southwest. Still, pockets of resistance remained and rebel fighters were believed to be hiding in parts of Kinshasa, the capital.
Kinshasa was quiet Monday after days of pitched combat in its suburbs left bodies scattered through the streets and triggered a spree of lynchings. Government troops patrolled streets Monday and searched door-to-door for hidden rebels. A dusk-to-dawn curfew remained in effect.
With Kinshasa in peril only a few weeks ago, Kabila regrouped and enlisted the help of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia - a move that turned the tables on the conflict but has also internationalized Congo's war.
Officials say hundreds and perhaps thousands of rebel fighters have surrendered or been killed in the last few days. Rebel leader Jean-Pierre Ondekane remained defiant and insisted the fight to oust Kabila, whom the rebels accuse of mismanagement and corruption, would continue.
Kabila accuses his former allies in Rwanda and Uganda of sponsoring the rebellion and invading his country. Both neighbors, upset that Kabila has not stemmed cross-border attacks by militants in Congo, have threatened to intervene openly to protect their borders.