Mobutu suspends conference amid pressure to call elections



Mark Huband in Abidjan and agencies in Kinshasa

The Guardian, 20 January 1991

Zaire’s government last night suspended the country’s national political conference in a bid, it said, to avoid “provoking a political crisis” amid growing tension throughout the country.

Pressure on President Mobutu Sese Seko to call elections increased yesterday after anti-Mobutu delegates at the conference clashed with government officials and demanded the sacking of a provincial governor.

The suspension announced on television by the prime minister, Nguza Karl-I-Bond, comes only three days after discussions resumed following a three month impasse.

Mr Karl-l-Bond instructed the ministers of the interior, defence and justice to take strong action against dissenters throughout the country.

He said that the conference should resume discussions today, even though Mr Mobutu last week stopped all finance for the meetings, claiming there was no money left.

Mr Mobutu last week withdrew his 500 delegates after accusing the opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi of packing it with his own supporters, and halted television and radio coverage of the discussions.

Opposition delegates on Saturday overruled a minister, voted to remove a magistrate responsible for verifying conference credentials, and demanded the sacking of the Shaba provincial governor, who they said had forced delegates from Shaba to pull out of the discussions.

President Mobutu last week hinted at the possibility of elections during a meeting with foreign diplomats. His term expired on December 4, but he changed the constitution in order to retain the presidency until elections are held.

Government officials yesterday accused conference delegates of overstepping their mandate and “behaving like a parliament”.


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