Mobutu promotes former ally in teeth of Zaire’s new PM

Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 3 September 1992


ZAIRE’S President Mobutu Sese Seko yesterday saved his former prime minister from political oblivion by giving him ministerial status, in defiance of the authority of the new prime minister selected by a national conference two weeks ago.

The former prime minister, Nguza Karl-I-Bond, was appointed minister of state in the office of the president early yesterday morning, Zairean television announced.

The appointment, which the constitution allows for organising presidential affairs but which does not permit Mr Karl-I-Bond to hold a government post, strengthens opponents of the new prime minister, Etienne Tshisekedi. His nomination, and the appointment of a new transition cabinet on August 29, marked steps in the country’s attempted move to democracy after a year of riots and political violence.

By keeping his one-time leading opponent, Mr Karl-I-Bond, in the political limelight, President Mobutu may appease opponents of his 27-year-old regime who also oppose Mr Tshisekedi. Mr Karl-I-Bond has long been the chameleon of Zairean politics, having occupied key posts under Mr Mobutu between spells of opposition and imprisonment. He deserted the opposition alliance last November when he accepted the prime ministership from Mr Mobutu, but resigned on August 25 when the national conference appointed Mr Tshisekedi.

Last week, Mr Karl-I-Bond declared that his home province of Shaba, whose mineral wealth provides 60 per cent of Zaire’s income, would not accept Mr Tshisekedi’s authority as prime minister. Delegates from Mr Mobutu’s former ruling Popular Movement for the Revolution party, and 33 pro-Mobutu political parties, boycotted the national conference, alleging delegates had insulted the president.

Mr Tshisekedi has said he will talk to all sides during the transition period. But, while excluding Mr Mobutu’s staunchest opponents from the cabinet, he gave no posts to the president’s supporters.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited