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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cheers Greet Mobutu's Arrival in Zaire

KINSHASA, Zaire -- President Mobutu Sese Seko was greeted by thousands of cheering supporters upon his return to Zaire on Tuesday, determined to prove to them that he is still in control of his country shaken by a rebel incursion.


The 66-year-old leader, who has been in Europe for four months undergoing cancer treatment, was received by embattled Prime Minister Leon Kengo wa Dondo and other government and foreign dignitaries. Traditional bands played as the ailing leader, wearing his trademark leopard-skin cap, descended smiling and waving from his chartered jet from southern France.


The president was wearing a brown-and-yellow flowered shirt and was accompanied by his wife, Bobi Ladawa. He briefly stepped up to a podium between two Zaireans flags and raised his ornate wooden staff above his head in a symbol of triumph.


He and Mrs. Mobutu were presented with bouquets from a group of children.


Dancing troops and children waving the green and yellow Zairean flags crowded around the red carpet, where he took a slow walk and waved to the crowd.


The loud strains of several bands -- from traditional African accompanied by painted dancers to more contemporary jazz musicians -- clashed furiously.


Heavily armed soldiers tried to keep back the crowd of an estimated 7,000 people who were hanging over balconies and off the control tower at Ndjili International Airport.


Many supporters in the crowd said they saw Mobutu as their "savior'' who was returning to stabilize the central African country.


"Even if he is sick, even if he is weakened, his mere presence will energize the nation,'' said Bongombe Bohulu Ousmane, a member of the National Assembly and pro-Mobutu Union for Progress and Action party.