Kabila's Victory May Trigger About-Face from Western Interests in Heart of Africa

Article excerpt

Laurent Kabila's remarkable rebellion in Zaire signals a change in Africa on a scale unseen since the continent was carved up by Europeans in the late 19th century.

The end of Mobutu Sese Seko's three-decade reign of corruption opens up the heart of Africa to new economic and political alignments that have little to do with Western interests.

Despite achieving independence in the 1960s, African nations long continued their relationship with Europe - mainly France, Belgium, Britain and, to a lesser extent, Portugal - as client-states without independent domestic or foreign policies. During the Cold War, African nations often served as proxies in the turf wars of the United States or the Soviet Union. The end of the Cold War, and the end of apartheid in South Africa, make it possible for African nations to form new relations. India and South Korea have become major investors and traders in eastern and southern Africa, and they don't demand political allegiance in return. Nations in eastern and southern Africa are looking toward what is being called the Indian Ocean Rim, stretching from India and Pakistan down through Mauritius and on to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda - and now, Zaire. Eastern Africa has a long history of trade with India. Rwanda and Angola had precise reasons for helping Kabila's rebel alliance get rid of Mobutu: He was the main backer of the 32-year Hutu regime in Rwanda that refused to allow Tutsi refugees to return home. …