After 32 years, Mobutu relinquishes power
May 16, 1997
Web posted at: 1:14 p.m. EDT (1714 GMT)
KINSHASA, Zaire (CNN) --
As rebel troops advanced toward
Kinshasa, Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko on Friday gave
up his powers, fled the capital and apparently headed into
Mobutu flew from Kinshasa early Friday to his home town of
Gbadolite for what his spokesman called a "short rest." But
hours later, an official government statement said the
longtime president would take no further role in governing of
"He reigns but does not govern," Information Minister Kin
Kiey Mulumba said at a news conference.
Mulumba hinted Mobutu would retain his title, saying it is
tradition for past presidents to hold onto their titles.
In a handwritten statement read on the lawn of the prime
minister's office, Mulumba said the government still assumes
responsibility for defending the capital, maintaining order
and negotiating with the rebel alliance.
But with Mobutu's departure, it was unclear who his immediate
successor would be. Rebels, led by rebel leader Laurent
Kabila, have captured most of the nation since October.
Mobutu had ruled the Central African nation for nearly 32
years, which aside from the reign of monarchs, exceeded that
of any current head of state except Cuban President Fidel
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U.S. wants peaceful solution
"The United States' position is clear," Clinton said. "We want
to see a transition to a genuine democracy."
He pledged to "do what we can to support Africa in taking one
of the largest and most important nations in Africa and
promoting a democratic transition."
Added U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, "The most
important thing is Zaire has to move forward."
The United States has offered Kabila $10 million in
assistance to hold elections soon after his expected takeover
in Zaire while assuring him monetary support from European
governments as well.
Clinton also praised South African President Nelson Mandela
who for weeks has worked with the warring factions to agree
to a peaceful solution to the Zaire crisis. "I want the whole
world to get behind him," Clinton said.
Exile whereabouts unknown
Mobutu left the capital Friday as rebels were reported to be
as close as 15 miles (24 km) from Kinshasa. He apparently was
headed into exile, a former senior Zairian diplomat and
Mobutu confidant told CNN. Mobutu has ruled Zaire for almost
It was not immediately clear where Mobutu planned to begin
life in exile. Diplomatic sources told CNN that Mobutu
was first traveling to his presidential palace in his
hometown of Gbadolite in northern Zaire for a brief stop.
A confidante of the 66-year-old president said he believed
Mobutu would then head to France, but other sources close to
the president said he was to fly to Morocco.
Mobutu's departure followed talks with army chiefs who told
him government troops could not defend the capital against
advancing rebels. The departure also comes a day after Mobutu
was given a rebel ultimatum to resign by Monday or face an
attack on Kinshasa.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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