Mobutu ready to dismiss PM in clash-over defence



Mark Huband in Kinshasa

The Guardian, 7 October 1991

President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire yesterday threatened a further clash with his opponents by saying that he would sack the new Prime Minister if he insisted on depriving the President of control over the army and security services.

In an interview in today’s edition of the French newspaper Liberation, President Mobutu said: “The instrument of power is the army. One of the attributes of the sovereignty of a country is the army … I have nothing except the right to nominate and also the right to revoke. All that is in the constitution.”

He made it clear he would not only retain his power over the armed forces, but also over the composition of the government if he cannot work with it. President Mobutu denied allegations that he had deliberately encouraged last week’s riots, which have left the infrastructure of Kinshasa in tatters, as a way of encouraging a foreign military intervention in the country to assure his own survival.

Asked whether he would allow the repatriation of his reputedly vast personal fortune, President Mobutu, who owns villas and chateaux in France, Portugal, and other countries, said: “In fact I have put my own personal funds at the service of the state.”

President Mobutu described the Prime Minister, Etienne Tshisekedi, selected by a 12-man committee last week, as being an appointment made under the President’s initiative and authority.

The refusal of both sides to compromise over control of the defence and security portfolios lies at the heart of the political impasse and may well lead to further clashes. There are strong hints that demonstrators may take to the streets of Kinshasa today.

The dilemma now facing the opposition is how to retain the strength of the presidency while depriving President Mobutu himself of real power while he is still in office and has the constitutional right to dismiss the government, including the Prime Minister.


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