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Capture of Zaire's capital complete

Rebels prepare to begin the task of governing

May 18, 1997
Web posted at: 9:55 a.m. EDT (1355 GMT)

KINSHASA, Zaire (CNN) -- Rebel troops capped a night of sporadic violence Sunday with the capture of Zaire's presidential palace and the military base that protects it, completing Laurent Kabila's ragtag troops' seizure of the capital.

Kinshasans celebrated the ouster of President Mobutu Sese Seko in the streets of the city, shouting and burning the Zairian flag.

The capture of Kinshasa
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Liechtenstein, responding to French news reports that Mobutu might travel there to wait out French elections before seeking exile in France, said Sunday he was not wanted. Neighboring Switzerland said Saturday it would most likely reject any visa request from him.

Nations hope for peaceful transition in Zaire
Kabila: Democratic leader or another African strongman?

Sources told CNN that as of Sunday morning Mobutu remained in his home village of Gbadolite in northern Zaire, where he had fled hours before the rebels entered Kinshasa. Earlier reports indicated Mobutu and his entourage had arrived at a Moroccan military airport at 3 a.m. Sunday and went immediately to a seaside resort.


But a Mobutu spokesman in Paris said the deposed president was still in Zaire and would travel to Morocco later Sunday. The aide said Mobutu would not travel by night because of superstitions.

At least 200 people, including some soldiers were killed in various incidents in Kinshasa during this weekend, the local Red Cross said Sunday.

Recognition of new government begins

Kabila, who remained in Lubumbashi, declared himself president on Saturday and pledged to set up a transitional government.

A United Nations special envoy Mohamed Sahnoun said.Kabila Sunday pledged to fully cooperate with U.N. and other humanitarian agencies dealing with the refugee crisis in eastern Zaire.

Sahnoun, accompanied by a special representative of the OAU (Organisation of African Unity), Mamadou Kamme, met Kabila as a delegation of Alliance leaders prepared to leave for Kinshasa to reassure the capital city's population about security.

The delegation was led by Deogratius Bugera, Secretary-General of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo and included "information minister" Raphael Ghenda. It flew on board a Boeing 727 jet in blue and white colors.

Asked whether they were going to contact the Kinshasa opposition leadership, Bugera told Reuters: "That is not what takes me there. I am going to contact all my compatriots without exception. There are parties, civil organizations, everyone."

Bugera would not say when Kabila would visit Kinshasa: "He has major tasks here. He can come when he is finished."

Bugera also said that Kabila's alliance did not object to Mobutu going into exile but added that Mobutu was a "Congolese citizen who has the right to live in the Congo."

In Lubumbashi later Sunday, South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki was expected to be the first international official to meet with Kabila since the rebels' victory. The Organization of African Unity also acknowledged the rebel victory Sunday, calling on Kabila to "consolidate the peace."

"I hope that when Mr. Kabila forms his government of transition, it will be a broad-based one, incorporating other elements of the Congo-Zaire society, said OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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