By the side of a dusty road in Kinshasa, a tomb has been set up
for a man who isn't dead. A crowd gathers around this inglorious
memorial to former President Mobutu Sese Seko, yelling insults at
the portraits and paper money with his image that decorate the
A sign attached to the top says simply: "May he rest in
Mr. Mobutu has fled the country. His regime fell May 17 to the
rebels of Laurent-Desire Kabila, who walked into the capital with
hardly a fight.
The question now is: Will the vitriol pent up after nearly 32
years of callous lack of governance prove hard to erase?
Since the fall of the capital, Kinshasa, aid officials say at
least 222 people have been killed, mainly looters and supporters of
Mobutu who have been lynched, dragged through the streets, or shot.
Some perpetrators were ordinary citizens who had scores to settle
with the former government's soldiers, who terrorized them with
The number of killings has not surprised many foreign observers,
given that a country of 45 million has just been freed from a hated
regime. Many of the killings are spontaneous. But they are still
Enthusiastic crowds sacked the residences of Mobutu and his
family, carrying off furniture and mementos, partaking of wealth
they felt should have been theirs.
Human rights observers say such anger is understandable
considering the repressive nature of the Mobutu years. They say it
is remarkably contained considering the size of this city of 5
million. But there is a nagging worry that violent revenge could
"It would be amazing if an initial bloodletting didn't go on. I
am hardly surprised this has occurred, considering what went on for
32 years," says one foreign humanitarian aid worker. "You can't
just wave a magic wand and say everything is fine.
"But is it drawing to an end? We don't know," the worker says.
Many of the incidents are spontaneous, such as a near lynching
of a man outside the French Embassy whom the crowd presumed to be a
Mobutu supporter. (During the past seven months, there have been
scattered reports of summary executions by Mr. Kabila's forces as
they moved across Zaire.)
But the rebels who have installed their rule in the sprawling
capital are renowned for their military discipline, as well as
their disciplined control over territory they have won. They have
encouraged many of the soldiers of the former government to give
themselves up without a fight.
Within a day of taking the city, Kabila's well-organized troops
set up an emergency hot-line number where civilians could report
incidents of disorder and looting, as well as the location of
government soldiers who had not given themselves up. …