Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Zaire Waits for Dictator to Take His Final Bow MOBUTU'S TACTICS

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Zaire Waits for Dictator to Take His Final Bow MOBUTU'S TACTICS

Article excerpt

If Zaire's cornered dictator were a stage actor, he'd be a master of the curtain call.

His reign over this giant African nation appears over. A rebel army is nearing the capital. But President Mobutu Sese Seko Mobutu nonetheless promises to return - yet again - to Kinshasa, this time from a regional summit in nearby Gabon.

His talent for comebacks is legend here. In 1993, for example, Zaire was engulfed in unrest. Zaireans were calling for him to resign. The capital was being looted by his own unpaid soldiers. Journalists who flew to his jungle retreat, Gbadolite, asked Mobutu why, with all this chaos, he didn't just retire to his villa in France. Mobutu waved dismissively. "I thought about it," he said. "But those people {political opponents} aren't fit to run the country. I think I'll stay here and treat them as they deserve to be treated." He survived that crisis. But maybe not this one. Most of his aides have fled Zaire, even though a US envoy, Bill Richardson said on Thursday there was "a good chance" that Mobutu will meet again with his enemy, rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila. The two strongmen had even exchanged phone numbers at their first meeting Sunday. A Western diplomat in Kinshasa says the chances of Mobutu returning today are "50-50." The diplomat says that France was behind the meeting in Gabon of Mobutu's French-speaking allies. It was unlikely, he added, that France would use its clout to encourage him to step down as that would be a bad example for Paris's other African allies. Diplomats say Mobutu's defiance is typical of the man who has ruled and ruined Zaire for 31 years. For years, they say, he has done what he wanted with the country's wealth, craftily pitting his enemies against each other to protect his power. Now that the United States and most of his African neighbors have decided he should go, Mobutu is making it clear that he will not be dictated to, regardless of the fact he is ailing. The fact that the yet-to-be defeated rebels of Kabila are only about 100 miles away does not seem to faze him. Mobutu is keeping the world guessing as to whether or not he will step down before the rebels come knocking on the capital's door. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.