U.N. workers attacked as new Zaire talks near
May 13, 1997
Web posted at: 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT)
KINSHASA, Zaire (CNN) -- One day before new Zairian peace
talks were planned, leaflets appeared in the capital on
Tuesday calling for an end to President Mobutu Sese Seko's
32-year reign -- an apparent sign of growing boldness by his
opponents as rebels advance toward Kinshasa.
South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki called Wednesday's
planned meeting between Mobutu and rebel leader Laurent
Kabila the likely "last chance" for a peaceful solution to
the seven-month Zairian crisis.
Mbeki was expected to fly to the region on Tuesday to try to
arrange final agreement on crucial issues of when and how
Mobutu, 66 and ailing with prostate cancer, would hand over
But obligations in South Africa delayed his departure, and
aides said he might have to carry out his shuttle diplomacy
Plans call for Mobutu and Kabila to meet on the South African
navy vessel anchored off neighboring Congo where the two
leaders met for talks on May 4.
Meanwhile, the U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) said armed men
in rebel uniforms in eastern Zaire had beaten and bayoneted
two of its international staff. One needed hospital
Spokeswoman Marie Heuze in Geneva, Switzerland, said UNICEF
condemned "this act of barbarism" in the de facto rebel
capital of Goma on Monday, which she said showed conditions
were "not adequate" for relief work there.
U.N. sources said the attackers spoke Kinyarwandan, the
language of neighboring Rwanda whose rulers, mainly from the
Tutsi ethnic minority, are backing the Tutsi-dominated rebels
Heuze said five armed men entered a UNICEF house in Goma on
Monday morning and attacked the two staff members -- a man
and a woman -- and three domestics.
UNICEF had no immediate plans to pull out of Goma but it may
be forced to do so if security worsened, she added.
Heuze said rebel authorities in Goma, reacting to the
daylight attack, had said it was possible the attackers wore
rebel uniforms to discredit their alliance.
But the uniforms were brand new, suggesting they came
straight from rebel stocks, she said.
Kabila's rebels have taken a key bridge on the road to
Kinshasa, reports reaching the city said on Tuesday.
Zairians from the region, in contact with Kinshasa residents
by radio, said government forces pulled back from the Kwango
River Bridge about 110 miles (180 km) by road from the
capital on Monday.
Information Minister Kin-Kiey Mulumba said he could make no
immediate comment on the reports. On Monday, he told
reporters there was fierce fighting in the region of Kenge,
125 miles (200 km) east of Kinshasa.
On the streets of Kinshasa, the leaflets left on cars or
stacked on corners called for people to observe the villa
morte, or dead city strike, called for Wednesday by political
opposition groups and the rebels.
Other leaflets, from the opposition youth movement, demanded
the resignation of Mobutu and arrest of Zairian soldiers.
With rebels pressing their advance, the United States on
Monday renewed pressure on Americans to leave Zaire, saying
the country is too high a security risk.
"Get out of Zaire before you find yourself in harm's way,"
State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said.
"There are missionaries there who believe, obviously, that
they are doing necessary work. There are business people
there who are chasing profits, chasing contracts, and
obviously they and their companies have decided it's worth
the risk," he told reporters.
But he said: "We think it's a high risk, frankly."
Correspondent Mike Hanna and Reuters contributed to this report.
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