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Mobutu in Togo as Zaire rebels assume leadership

South Africa says new Kabila government due on Tuesday

May 19, 1997
Web posted at: 1:52 p.m. EDT (1752 GMT)

Latest developments:

(CNN) -- Deposed dictator Mobutu Sese Seko was in Togo on Monday after fleeing rebels who had captured his jungle palace in northern Zaire. Laurent Kabila, who took over as the country's self-declared president, is expected to name a multi-party transitional authority on Tuesday.

The new leadership, however, would not to commit to a date for elections.

South African Deputy President
Thabo Mbeki on Kabila's government:
icon (289K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

In Kinshasa, the streets filled with people returning to work, giving the capital a feeling of normalcy following a violent weekend.


Vehicles full of armed rebel soldiers cruised among the workers, a reminder of the bloodshed that left 200 people dead, including government soldiers whose bodies burned in the streets and others who were summarily executed.

Next stops: Morocco, France?

After a weekend of confusing reports on Mobutu's whereabouts, CNN confirmed on Monday that he was in Togo, escaping there early Sunday just ahead of rebels advancing on his home in the northern Zairian village of Gbadolite.

Mobutu -- who fled Kinshasa on Friday, the day before rebels entered the capital in force -- was resting in a residence belonging to his old friend, Togolese dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema, government officials in the West African nation said.

It was not immediately clear when Mobutu would go from there, but his next stop is believed to be Morocco. Officials there have said Mobutu would stay briefly in Rabat, Morocco's capital, while waiting out French elections -- due to end June 1 -- before continuing on to France.

Mobutu, 66, has a villa on the French Riviera, where he has spent much of the last several months recuperating from prostate cancer.

France is one of many nations, including the United States, that had supported the Zairian president during his 32 years in power.

Meanwhile, his eldest son, Kongulu, and 109 members of the deposed leader's extended family were stuck across the river from Kinshasa, in Brazzaville, Congo, because a flight crew refused to fly them out.

Kongulu, a senior army officer, was the son most closely associated with his father's brutal excesses. Zairians trashed his house on Sunday.

Elections promised but no date set

Kabila, who has renamed Zaire the Democratic Republic of Congo, will announce his new government on Tuesday night, South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki said on Monday.

"It will be a broad-based government, as inclusive as possible of the various political forces," Mbeki, a key negotiator in the peace efforts for Zaire, told reporters in Johannesburg.

Even Mobutu's party had indicated that it would work with the new government, said Mbeki, who met with Kabila on Sunday in the southern Zaire city of Lubumbashi.

Kabila was not expected in Kinshasa for several days, perhaps a week. But other officials from the new alliance government, who are already in the capital, told reporters on Monday that the Kabila regime was committed to free and fair elections.

However, no date has been set. "Before elections, you need preparations. You have to have a civic spirit," said Deo Bugera, the alliance's secretary-general.

Holding elections too soon would mean counting votes of people who may have been brainwashed by Mobutu's autocracy, Bugera said.

South Africa and seven other African countries have announced their official recognition of the Kabila-led government.

The United States has recognized Kabila as the "de facto" president. But Bugera rejected pressure from the West for elections. "We need to enter a partnership based on respect. We don't want to be dictated to."

Soldiers surrender weapons

About 200 people were killed during Saturday's rebel takeover of Kinshasa, according to Red Cross spokesman Nick Sommer.

The rebels ordered government soldiers to surrender their weapons.

Thousands of soldiers, unpaid by the previous regime and eager for change, readily complied, tying white cloths around their heads to show support for Kabila. They marched into military camps past taunting crowds.

Taking Kinshasa with hardly a fight may have been the easy part for the rebels. The tough job may be coping with a country that has a devastated infrastructure, banks that have been closed for months and millions of citizens barely able to earn enough to eat.

"We don't need air conditioning," said Bugera. "What we do need is technology that is in sync with our country."

Correspondent Peter Arnett and Reuters contributed to this report.

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