Zaire talks postponed indefinitely
May 14, 1997
Web posted at: 2:19 p.m. EDT (1819 GMT)
POINTE NOIRE, Congo (CNN) -- Planned talks between Zairian President
Mobutu Sese Seko and rebel leader Laurent Kabila collapsed Wednesday, after Kabila complained that security measures for the meeting were inadequate. It was not immediately clear when or if the talks might be rescheduled.
Mobutu arrived for Wednesday morning's talks aboard the South
African naval supply ship Outeniqua, but Kabila was not in
Soyo, Angola, when a helicopter arrived to bring him to the
Kabila surfaced in the Angolan town Cabinda, saying a fuel
shortage had forced his plane to land there on his way from
talks with Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos in Luanda.
A L S O
Zairians, too, are refugees
South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said that in addition to Kabila's security concerns, the Mobutu government's response to South African proposals
to end the conflict was not ready.
South African Defense Minister Joe Modise told reporters
shortly before the talks began that Pretoria was hopeful of a
breakthrough to end Zaire's seven-month civil war and ensure
a smooth transition to democracy.
"There's no reason why we should not expect a breakthrough,"
he said before Kabila's arrival. "That's why we're here."
The two sides have been unable to agree on a peaceful
transition of power from Mobutu's 32-year dictatorship to a
democracy. The rebels insist that Mobutu hand over power to a
transitional government headed by Kabila, while Mobutu wants
to keep the presidency until elections are held.
U.S. envoy Bill Richardson, who helped arrange a meeting
between Kabila and Mobutu on May 4, said earlier he thought an
agreement was within reach.
"I am optimistic that there will be a soft landing and
peaceful, inclusive transition, mainly because of South
Africa's very strong and effective and skillful efforts," he
told reporters in New York.
But the rebels say they will take control by force if Mobutu
does not voluntarily step down.
"We don't have much to discuss with Mobutu," said rebel
foreign minister Bizima Karah on the rebel's Voice of the
People radio. "We've had enough time in the past to discuss
everything .. We have heard enough from this guy."
Rebel radio said that troops had entered Kinshasa, but a
government spokesman said there was no fighting inside the
capital. Military sources said the rebels had reached the
Black River, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of the
The government imposed an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew to prevent
looting -- largely by government troops who have ransacked
cities before fleeing ahead of the rebel advance.
Opposition parties in Zaire called for a general strike to
demand Mobutu's resignation, and the streets of Kinshasa were
largely empty Wednesday.
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