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  New Rulers Pledge to Remake Congo

By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, May 25, 1997; Page A34

Self-proclaimed President Laurent Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo has told political parties here to suspend all activity. It has told politicians from other groups that have been included in the new government to leave their party affiliations behind.

But if this sounds like the beginning of a one-party state, it is not, says Luangy Celestin, the new justice minister. In the new logic of liberation that prevails in the former Zaire, the alliance is a political movement, not a political party, so the country cannot be called a one-party state. But the alliance has installed itself as the nation's single political authority, which makes Congo, if not a one-party state, certainly a one-movement state.

"We [in the alliance] have our objectives, and these objectives are the objectives of the new government," said Bizima Karaha, the new foreign minister and a close Kabila aide. "The members of our government are believed to be people who belong to democratic forces."

With its military victory over longtime leader Mobutu Sese Seko, the alliance has marginalized a deadlocked system of officially sanctioned political opposition that sought Mobutu's ouster but never managed to achieve it.

To eradicate the Mobutuist system, the alliance has dissolved parliament, dumped the old constitution, declared itself the national authority, proclaimed Kabila president and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo. And there is more. For this is not just a government takeover -- it is a complete remaking of society, alliance officials say, ranging from the political to the economic, from the civic to the moral, with the alliance as arbiter of it all.

The alliance, whose military forces took Kinshasa on May 17 as the final prize in their seven-month campaign to control the country, has assumed the reins of a vast nation of 45 million people, at least 250 ethnic groups and regions so insular that outsiders are considered foreign.

To govern this chaotic country, the alliance put in place the core of its interim government this week, including several figures from other political groups. The alliance has pledged to create a constituent assembly in 60 days to hammer out a transitional constitution. Elections will be held after a two-year period of suspended political activity during which the nation's political system will be reoriented -- under the alliance's guidance.

Part and parcel of this process apparently is a neutralization of the Mobutu-inspired agendas of the nation's kaleidoscope of political parties. A multi-party system was introduced in 1990 when Mobutu announced the end of his one-party rule. Since then, however, Mobutu had presided over the political system like a wizard throwing dust in the eyes of his opponents. He created parties called "opposition" that in reality were his allies. He co-opted some opposition figures to dilute their support. And he never gave up the power that had been exclusively his until he was forced to flee Kinshasa May 16, with rebel forces just outside his city.

With the alliance's seizure of political power, "we have helped them out of their misery," Luangy said of the political parties. "Maybe they do not understand that yet, because it's too recent."

The system of Mobutuism was so corrupt, so immoral, so personalized that ordinary Zairians had never been taught to understand free political thought or the broader interests of the nation, alliance officials say. Before elections can be held, the population needs to be ideologically and politically reeducated so it will be able to make truly free and fair choices, alliance officials say.

"Until such time when there will be those minimum conditions to organize a free and fair election, there shall never be elections in this country, because we want elections that will bring real democracy," Karaha said.

Alliance officials grow testy when pressed too hard to outline a transitional time frame, as did Karaha at a news conference Friday. "Do you know what the people of this country want? They want to eat! They want food! They want to go to school! Please! Wait with your elections!"

The alliance's economic program still is loosely formed but comprises elements of both free-market and the controlled-market practices in what alliance officials call an economy of the "social market," which they are careful to say does not mean socialist.

But their work goes much further, they say -- a fact indicated when a newscaster on the alliance's radio station this week urged women to stop wearing miniskirts. It was not official alliance policy, said Luangy, but in line with the new push to stifle the immorality that the alliance sees as the legacy of the Mobutu regime.

More than half of Congo's population was born during the Mobutu years, meaning they know no other way of life than the hustle for daily survival and the thievery, bribe-taking and embezzlement that Mobutu's system fostered, and even encouraged, Luangy said. In the absence of a formal economy providing jobs with regular salaries, the hustle of corruption has become the only way.

"There's much more than the economic and social objective that the [alliance] has to address," said Luangy. "There has been a crisis in morality in this country." This week, as alliance officials installed themselves in the Inter-Continental Hotel, they were deluged by hundreds of people who lined up each day to meet them, to greet them and to cut deals.

One Western diplomat said his worst fear is "that this bunch will be suborned or co-opted, that they won't be able to either maintain their own integrity well enough or they will be, in the end, buried" in an avalanche of Mobutuism. "That's probably my worst fear -- that this is not a new start for Zaire."

The Reuter news service reported from Rabat, Morocco:

Congo's ousted president Mobutu Sese Seko, given asylum in Morocco for "humanitarian reasons," is expected to leave for France at the beginning of June, a senior Moroccan official said.

"President Mobutu, who was welcomed by Morocco for humanitarian reasons, is expected to leave for France as his final destination at the beginning of June unless there are complications in his health," said the official, who asked not to be named.

Mobutu and members of his family arrived Friday and are staying in the heavily guarded Amphitrite Hotel at the seaside 12 miles south of Rabat.

French Prime Minister Alain Juppe said Friday that France would consider a request for asylum but had not received one. He added that if a request is made, "We would look into it.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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