Delegates row suspends talks on multi-party system for Zaire

Mark Huband in Kinshasa

The Guardian, 1 August 1991

ZAIRE’S national political conference, aimed at creating a multi-party system after 27 years of one-party rule, was yesterday suspended for one week when opposition parties complained rural areas were not properly represented.

The opposition coalition, known as the Sacred Union, represents nearly 200 parties and pro-democracy movements which have sprung up since President Mobutu Sese Seko declared Zaire a multi-party state on April 24 1990.

It believes the ruling party intends to steer the course of the national conference by giving itself a majority of delegates.

It also claims Mr Mobutu has recruited a secret army of mercenaries from Chad, the Central African Republic, and South Africa to destabilise the conference.

The suspension was agreed at the first session of the conference yesterday morning, when rural associations were given time to send their delegates to Kinshasa.

Even when the delegates’ issue is settled, the status of the conference remains unclear. The opposition has demanded the conference be given sovereign powers, and that it take over the running of the country for an interim period.

Mr Mobutu, who seized power in 1964, has conceded some powers to the conference but has so far refused to give it power over issues that are constitutionally within the remit of the government.



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