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  Victorious Rebels Pour Into Kinshasa

By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, May 19, 1997; Page A01

Thousands of reinforcements streamed into Kinshasa today to consolidate the control of Laurent Kabila's insurgent movement, while government soldiers donned white headbands and held their AK-47s aloft as they surrendered at military camps occupied by Kabila's forces.

On the first day of Zaire's shaky transition from Mobutu Sese Seko's nearly 32-year rule, scattered acts of retribution were carried out as the capital city celebrated Mobutu's ouster and cheered the rebels who had marched across the country in a seven-month campaign. Bodies were strewn about city streets, and the International Committee of the Red Cross set its initial death toll at 200. Several of Mobutu's soldiers were killed by mobs.

With Kabila now firmly in control of this mineral-rich nation, the continent's third largest, his African neighbors and other nations stepped up pressure on him to abide by his pledge to install democracy in the country he calls the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kabila, who declared himself president of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, remained in his headquarters in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi. He is an untested leader who will head a country of 45 million people, 250 languages and vastly different regions. Despite his status as liberator, there is concern in foreign capitals that he could impose the kind of harsh rule that characterized the era of Mobutu, who reigned for three decades in a ruinous, personalized autocracy. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Kabila today to respect the "choice and voice" of the country's citizens.

President Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. (Sandy) Berger, told CNN today: "We have urged him to form a government that is inclusive and ultimately to move toward democracy. We have urged him to respect human rights."

Mobutu's whereabouts were a mystery today after he fled Kinshasa Friday for Gbadolite, his ancestral enclave in northern Zaire.

Togolese state television reported today that Mobutu had spent Saturday night in Togo before leaving for Morocco at about 9:30 this morning, according to the Associated Press. Togo is run by an old friend of Mobutu, dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Mobutu fled Kinshasa in the nick of time, for Kabila's rebels seized the international airport Friday night and moved into the sprawling city of 5 million Saturday morning with little resistance. Snaking through the city streets on feet clad in thongs, boots or nothing at all, at least 4,500 rebel troops arrived today to join Saturday's smaller force. They were cheered and applauded by residents; one woman ran out of her house with several boxes of Cocoa Puffs cereal that she gave to the hungry rebels. Many of them had arrived by boat on the Zaire River, one of the rebels said.

"This is liberation! We want to take everything," an armed rebel shouted as he passed out supplies just seized from the Camp Mobutu military base, where a huge pile of surrendered weapons was stacked on the ground not far from a long line of former government soldiers registering with the rebel movement. All this was watched in silence by a throng of residents, including many small children wide-eyed at the spectacle.

While most of the surrendering soldiers apparently were processed in an orderly fashion after marching into military camps past taunting crowds, there were some displays of vengeance. Witnesses reported two incidents in which individuals were taken away by rebels and shot.

In another incident, five soldiers' bodies were burned on a pyre while a crowd prepared to throw a victim, this one alive, into the flames, said a health worker among those who prevented the killing.

Small-arms fire heard around the city overnight appeared to have vanquished the remaining elements of Mobutu's army. Many of its commanders already had left in panicked evacuations early Saturday. Several high-level Mobutu officials who were unaccounted for on Saturday surfaced outside the country today, including the former foreign minister, diplomats said.

The last bastion of resistance to Kabila's movement, the Camp Tshatshi military enclave where Mobutu lived until Friday, was abandoned by Mobutu's special presidential division this morning, despite predictions that a final battle might be waged there. Residents from nearby neighborhoods flooded through Tshatshi's gate to loot furniture, appliances, even the swimming pool slide. Foreign journalists who entered the premises of Mobutu's family also took some items. Residents looted the homes of people linked to Mobutu and tore through shops to steal merchandise.

With Kabila's takeover now complete, great expectations abound among the capital's residents. Many say they want democracy, elections, jobs and dignity -- all the things that were suppressed because of the crippling concentration of economic and political power of the Mobutu era.

"As he has already chased away the dictator, we want change," said Martin Kabeya, whose shop was looted overnight by Mobutu's soldiers. "We want to restore human rights, because we had no rights before. With Kabila, we see that now we are free, I hope."

"In the old days, to get the soldiers to come you had to pay them for their transport, for their time -- even $100," Kabeya said. Pointing at a rebel nearby, he said, "but now I don't have to pay Kabila's soldiers anything. Not even a dollar!"

The depths of enmity toward Mobutu could be gauged by the jubilation with which people celebrated his ouster. Hundreds of excited people converged on the cars of foreign journalists traversing the narrow dirt roads of residential neighborhoods, banging on car windows, hoods and roofs to emphasize their glee.

"Mobutu was not a man; I don't know what I can call him," said Dienson Liyeye bin Ahmad, nicknamed Armageddon. "Mobutu was a devil. You must send the message to the world: It's like when Jesus has come."

The change in the tenor of life here was apparent everywhere. Mobutu allies who had not fled the country were staying at the Intercontinental Hotel waiting for the upheaval to end. Rapid fluctuations in the value of the currency caused prices to triple in the markets.

Radio and television broadcasts by Kabila's alliance were made up largely of propaganda and calls for order. Residents were told to go about their business as usual, and soldiers to surrender at rebel camps. It was announced that acts of vandalism would be severely punished. Civil servants were told to remain at their posts and await further guidance.

Not a word was heard from the nonviolent opposition, which had pressed for Mobutu's ouster for seven years. They are led by Etienne Tshisekedi, an opposition prime minister under Mobutu several times, whose followers feel they have been upstaged by Kabila's military success. These opposition members feel they laid the groundwork for Mobutu's departure and that Kabila jumped on the opposition bandwagon at the eleventh hour.

"Kabila shot at the ambulance that already was transporting a corpse," said a Tshisekedi supporter.

Kabila will have to come to terms soon with the fact that Tshisekedi has broad support. For although Kabila is a liberator, he would not necessarily win a presidential election. Recent surveys by a public opinion research group show Tshisekedi with far broader electoral support than Kabila.

Kabila has not announced when he will make his triumphal entrance into Kinshasa. But tonight, a delegation from his movement arrived here from Lubumbashi to begin ironing out the administration of this chaotic city.

Kabila has announced that he will form an interim government by Tuesday and set up a constituent assembly in 60 days to draft a provisional constitution. His movement has pledged to hold internationally supervised elections, but it has provided no timetable.

Among those pressing for democratic change are President Clinton and South African President Nelson Mandela, whose diplomatic mediation to end Zaire's conflict was overtaken by events when Mobutu fled and Kabila's soldiers entered Kinshasa.

Angola became the first country to recognize the new Democratic Republic of Congo, rebel radio said.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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