December 19, 1996
THE HOMECOMING of President Mobutu Sese Seku after four months in Europe was the best thing that could happen to troubled Zaire in the short term. He was running his regime by phone, diplomats attest. Even his enemies give him some credit for holding the country together. The best use he could possibly make of this probably brief presence, however, would be to prepare an orderly departure.After international agencies and donor nations suspended Zaire's aid, the dictator who seized power with U.S. support in 1965 pledged to hold nationwide elections next June.
April 11, 1997
THE REBELLION has paused for three days to consolidate its gains, which are now half of Zaire, as it prepares the final push to Kinshasa and the sea. Rebel leader Laurent Kabila gave President Mobutu Sese Seku this time to hand over the country. If the reaction of the million people in Lubumbashi is indicative, the country is handing itself to Mr. Kabila, with most people welcoming him as a liberator.So much for the brief negotiation in Pretoria, or talk of a cease-fire, or shared power, or the forlorn U.S. State Department suggestion about transitional arrangements.
October 10, 1991
The job of holding Zaire together was made more difficult, no matter who is attempting it, by the riots and looting in the capital Kinshasa, the mining center Kolwezi and other towns that erupted late last month. Food and medicine were stolen, factories wrecked, health care centers dismantled. AIDS may even have been spread by the theft of hospital research center refrigerators containing blood samples.Now that President Mobutu Sese Seko has appointed his sworn opponent, Etienne Tshisekedi, to be prime minister, only to threaten to fire him for trying to grab control of the military, confusion rather than either of these two politicians rules the country.
May 1, 1997
WHETHER President Mobutu Sese Seko takes advantage of a South African offer to meet with Zairian rebels matters less and less as each hour passes. His misrule is coming to the end.In seven months, the rebels have seized more than half of Africa's third-largest nation. Yesterday, they captured Kikwit, a city on a major highway 250 miles east of the capital. "The next stop is Kinshasa," a rebel spokesman said.The U.S. position is revealing. After propping up the regime for so long, Washington now wants President Mobutu to resign so democratic elections can be held and the possible disintegration of Zaire avoided.
March 14, 1997
IT IS ABUNDANTLY clear that Zairians will not fight to save the presidency of Mobutu Sese Seku, whose chief protectors are foreigners: Hutu refugees who were soldiers in Rwanda; Serb and Croatian mercenaries, and some UNITA insurrectionaries of Jonas Savimbi in Angola. But Zairian civilians, aside from the ruling clique in Kinshasa, are more afraid of the Zairian army -- unpaid looters who won't fight -- than of the rebels. Better the devil they don't know.Rebel forces of Laurent Kabila are moving inexorably forward from the fifth of the country they occupy.
February 3, 1993
Zaire and Somalia have notable differences. Zaire has five times as many people and three times the land area. Zaire is much richer in resources, and therefore matters more to the outside world. Zaire's society is breaking down, while Somalia's has broken down. And what happens to Zaire is more Washington's responsibility than Somalia is.Last weekend's mutiny of troops paid in new currency they consider worthless, the death of some 1,000 people in riots, the murder of the French ambassador and the rescue of Europeans in Kinshasa by French troops crossing the Congo River from the Republic of Congo are part of the death agony of President Mobutu Sese Seko's regime.