Great Lakes: IRIN Update 174, 5/17/97

Great Lakes: IRIN Update 174, 5/17/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for the Great Lakes

Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129

IRIN Emergency Update No.174 on the Great Lakes (17 May 1997)

* Laurent-Desire Kabila, leader of the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), declared himself head of state this morning from his headquarters at Lubumbashi. He said he would form a government of national salvation within 72 hours and form a constituent assembly within 60 days. He said he had spoken by telephone to army generals in Kinshasa, who had declared their allegiance, and had given government troops until mid-morning to surrender. Zaire would be renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kabila told Reuters by telephone last night that his forces had already begun to enter Kinshasa and aimed to secure it before nightfall tonight. By 0945 GMT, AFP said rebel soldiers with armoured vehicles were greeted by cheering crowds waving palm leaves just a kilometre from the capital's business district. Zairean soldiers abandoned Ndjili international airport, 25 kms from the city centre, apparently without resistance, although there was sporadic gunfire. Some shooting inside the city appeared to come from Zairean soldiers indulging in bouts of looting. This afternoon, prime minister Likulia Bolongo spoke on state radio ordering all fighting army units back to barracks and civilians to stay at home.

Last night, chief-of-staff of the Zairean army, General Mahele Lyoko Bokungu, was assassinated by members of the presidential guard at Camp Tshatshi garrison just outside the centre of Kinshasa, where he had gone to restore calm after the camp commander fled to Congo. Reuters reports that Mahele had been due to meet Kabila today in the Zambian capital Lusaka to discuss the handover of power. Observers say Mahele had been collaborating with the ADFL and was working to ensure that the army would not put up any organised resistance to the rebels' arrival in the capital. This morning, AFP reports that a unit of the presidential guard went to the Intercontinental and Memling hotels looking for Mahele's children.

President Mobutu is believed to be at his jungle palace in Gbadolite, close to the border with Central African Republic, which has its own private airstrip. Diplomats suggest he may be going into exile in Morocco but other sources say he will go to Europe. His son Kongolo, an officer in the presidential guard, fled today by boat with a number of colleagues to Brazzaville in neighbouring Congo, Reuters reported. They handed their weapons to Congolese police. Congo had earlier closed its river border with Zaire to passenger traffic. Reuters quotes residents as saying many other members of Mobutu's army are fleeing west by road out of Kinshasa.

US president Bill Clinton called on Friday for a "genuine democracy" in Zaire. His government was prepared to offer financial assistance for elections but no commitment had yet been made. The 'Los Angeles Times' reported on Thursday that the US would provide US$10 million and would try to obtain US$50 million from the European Union if Kabila promised elections in two years. However, a US State Department spokesman said on the BBC yesterday that his government was watching closely to see whether Kabila tended towards "democratic or dictatorial" ways. * Rebel radio in Bunia reported yesterday that an ADFL delegation is currently in Switzerland to urge the government to freeze all Mobutu's assets there. The radio said "the man with the leopard-skin hat" (Mobutu) has deposits worth US$7 billion in Swiss banks. The Swiss authorities yesterday impounded Mobutu's US$5.6 million villa near Lausanne and said any new visa request by Mobutu would be "blocked." Opponents of Mobutu say his fortune may equal Zaire's national debt, which in 1994 was recorded at US$12.3 billion.

* Angolan rebel UNITA radio said yesterday it had new details about the participation of the Angolan government in the Zairean conflict. It said Dundo airport in Lunda Norte province was being used to provide logistical support to the Zairean ADFL rebels and that military instructors from the Angolan government army were training ADFL soldiers at Scandica in Uige province.

* Tanzanian radio yesterday denied reports that 100 Zairean soldiers who entered the country from Zaire were being persecuted. Amnesty International expressed concern for their safety earlier in the week, saying they had been ordered to leave the country. Tanzania's home affairs minister, Ali Amer Mohamed, said the soldiers must go to refugee camps like other refugees. * Rwanda today accused the Central African Republic (CAR) of taking in armed Rwandan Hutus fleeing Zaire, including Rwanda's former army chief Major-General Augustin Bizimungu, Reuters reported. The report, quoting a senior aide to Rwandan vice-president Paul Kagame, says Bizimungu's deputy, Brigadier-General Gratien Kabiligi, was now in Kenya. "Rwanda reserves the right to take whatever action it deems necessary to bring these killers under control," the aide said.

* The UN is to suspend its activities in eastern Zaire for one day on Monday if demands made to the ADFL authorities for new security measures in the region are not met. The move follows an attack on a UNICEF house in Goma on 12 May.

* The trial of 53 military officers accused of planning the 1993 attempted coup that sparked Burundi's ongoing civil war began yesterday in the capital Bujumbura. 22 others also accused absconded and four died before the start of the trial. Those in court included former defence minister Colonel Charles Ntakije, former chief-of-staff Colonel Jean Bikomagu, former presidential security chief Lieutenant-Colonel Isaie Nibizi and member of parliament Francois Ngeze. They are charged with planning the assassination of Burundi's first democratically-elected Hutu president Melchior Ndadaye on 21 October 1993. His death sparked a wave of massacres of Tutsis by Hutus in the countryside and reprisal killings of Hutus by the Tutsi-dominated army.

Independent Studio Ijambo in Bujumbura told IRIN that hundreds of Tutsi university students held a demonstration in the capital on Friday, criticising President Buyoya for negotiating with Hutu rebel groups. The students' march through the streets was quickly halted by police and a number of students were arrested. Buyoya announced this week that he had been holding secret talks with the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD), in Rome.

Nairobi, 17 May 1997, 13:15 gmt


[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts from this report should include attribution to the original sources mentioned, not simply "DHA".]

Date: Sat, 17 May 1997 16:54:04 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Great Lakes: IRIN Update 174 for 17 May 1997 97.5.17 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific