Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rebels Warn Mobutu To Give Up Kinshasa

LUBUMBASHI, Zaire -- Zairean rebel leader Laurent Kabila said Monday his forces would chase President Mobutu Sese Seko out of the capital Kinshasa if Mobutu has not handed over power by the time they arrive.


"If Mobutu hands over power before we enter Kinshasa, I will guarantee his safety and that of his biological family. But if he does not, we will have to chase him away in humiliation," Kabila said at a news conference at his headquarters in Lubumbashi.


He said that his rebel movement, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, was ready to enter Kinshasa within two or three days.


They are now less than 60 kilometers from Kinshasa international airport, which lies about 25 kilometers from the city center in the direction the rebels are approaching, Kabila added.


Kabila met Mobutu on a South African navy ship Sunday, but they disagreed on arrangements for Mobutu to step down. Mobutu wants to hand over power to some transitional body, and Kabila wants to take full control immediately.


"I once again appeal to Mobutu to hand over power peacefully to me, but if he does not do so my forces are ready to enter Kinshasa in the next two to three days," Kabila said.


In Kinshasa, life went on as normal Monday despite the rebel advance and the deadlock between Mobutu and Kabila at weekend peace talks on a South African ship.


Witnesses at Ndjili international airport reported Mobutu's plane had returned. There was no sign of extra checkpoints in the center of the city of 5 million people.


Emergency rule Prime Minister Likulia Bolongo met the plane, but public access was restricted. Although a motorcade with smoked glass windows was seen leaving the airport, no one actually saw the veteran president.


Rebels said they would push on toward Kinshasa on several fronts while Mobutu, 66, considered a demand from Kabila for his immediate resignation.


Mobutu offered at Sunday's talks with Kabila and South Africa's Nelson Mandela to hand power to an elected president. Kabila said his Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire should serve as transitional authority.


Mandela said fresh talks between Mobutu and Kabila, 56, would take place within eight to 10 days to "narrow the gap between the two parties."


"The understanding is that Mr. Kabila will want to lead that transitional authority," said a South African official, who did not want to be identified. He added that the idea was not to humiliate Mobutu.


The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said Monday that 91 Rwandan Hutu refugees died in a stampede on a train taking refugees from the jungle for airlifting back home.


UNHCR spokesman Paul Stromberg said three people were in critical condition and 75 also in the hospital after the disaster on the train from Biaro camp to Zaire's third city of Kisangani.


"We have asked [the rebels] for the train evacuation to be stopped immediately while we assess the situation," he said.