Zaire's Mobutu returns home,
May 10, 1997
plans to meet rebel leader
Web posted at: 12:13 p.m. EDT (1613 GMT)
KINSHASA, Zaire (CNN) -- Embattled President
Mobutu Sese Seko
returned to his capital Kinshasa Saturday, ending rumors that
he would immediately head into exile. Mobutu was to meet
with rebel leader Laurent Kabila on Wednesday for a second
round of talks in which the president's future role in Zaire
would be the main topic.
"Both of them have agreed to meet on Wednesday on the boat,"
South African Deputy President
Thabo Mbeki told reporters in the Gabonese capital Libreville.
The first session between Mobutu and Kabila, mediated by
South African President Nelson Mandela, was held last weekend
on a South African ship off the coast of Angola. The meeting
ended inconclusively after Kabila demanded that power be
handed directly to him and Mobutu refused.
U.S. optimistic of peaceful transition
Mobutu returned to Zaire from Gabon, where he met earlier in
the week with other Central African presidents. Western
diplomats and at least one Mobutu aide said privately
they believed Mobutu might use his trip to Gabon as a
stone to exile, especially with rebel forces reportedly less
than three days from taking Kinshasa.
Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said
he still believed a peaceful transition in Zaire was
possible. He said any new government would "most likely" be
headed by Kabila in light of his military victories.
Appearing on CNN International Saturday, Hamedou
Ould-Abdallah, the executive secretary for the Global
Coalition for Africa, predicted that not only would Kabila be
the likely head of a new government, but Mobutu would
minimize damage to Kinshasa by ceding power even before the
"Trying to have face-saving miracles are not helping him, are
not helping his legacy, are not helping his clan,"
Ould-Abdallah said. "If I were Mobutu ... I would say I
united Zaire, the conditions are not helping me today to
continue, I would like to leave and hand power to Mr. Kabila
or to someone else.
And he should make move without delay, Ould-Abdallah said,
because "every single day is a day helping the rebellion and
his own enemies."
Kabila's forces hold more than three-quarters of the country,
the third largest on the African continent.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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