Opposition sets up rival Zaire cabinet



Mark Huband in Kinshasa

The Guardian, 1 November 1991

Zaire’s defiant opposition last night courted further clashes with President Mobutu Sese Seko when it announced the appointment of an opposition government which will put it on a collision course with the new Mobutu administration, due to be sworn in today.

The United States yesterday condemned recent bomb attacks on the offices of Zaire’s anti-government press. It was the most outspoken American criticism of the Mobutu regime since violence broke out five weeks ago.

The opposition coalition Sacred Union also yesterday called on Belgium and France to increase the number of their troops in Zaire. Belgium plans to withdraw its 850 troops on Sunday, in accordance with a demand made by President Mobutu earlier this week.

Thousands of Sacred Union supporters last night crowded outside the headquarters of the opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, to hear the announcement of the parallel government which he will lead. Hundreds of Mr Mobutu’s Civil Guard stood nearby in the darkness which was only broken by flashing blue lights on top of armoured cars and by arc lights from a military lorry equipped with water cannon.

The opposition statement said that the decision to form what is effectively an illegal administration had been taken “in consideration of the total lack of authority of the state and the massacres perpetrated by the regime”.

The appeal for foreign troops to be reinforced was a response to the “danger of genocide”, the statement said.

The US statement describes as “deplorable” the attacks which it says are being carried out by “elements with access to explosives and munitions”. This is a clear reference to the army, and will severely embarrass Mr Mobutu, who claimed last week that he was unable to prevent the spiralling violence, although many observers believe that he intends to try to intimidate the opposition into submission.

The statement, issued by the US embassy in Kinshasa, claimed that the attacks were an attempt to silence the opposition, and it pointed out that pro-government newspapers are continuing to function without intimidation.

At the weekend the opposition newspaper Elima was bombed and its printing press completely destroyed. In all, five bomb attacks took place last week.

The opposition announcement of a new government came as the administration of the recently appointed Prime Minister, Mungul Diaka, faced a crisis yesterday when two ministers resigned from the government which he announced on Wednesday. The minister for higher education, Fundu Mbemba, and the interior minister, Michel Mokuba, were two of 27 ministers appointed in a cabinet assembled after Mr Tshisekedi was sacked from the post of Prime Minister 12 days ago.

Mr Diaka, whose government will be sworn in today, claims to have achieved a successful balance of opinion and regional representation in his administration.

However, Mr Tshisekedi yesterday denied the Prime Minister’s claim that 40 per cent of ministerial posts had gone to members of the Sacred Union. Key posts in the Diaka government, notably the defence portfolio, have been retained by pro-Mobutu appointees.


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