Papers show plot against Mobutu




Mark Huband in Abidjan

The Guardian, 12 July 1991

DISSIDENT Zaireans are attempting to recruit men for an armed force thought to be intent on overthrowing the dictatorial regime of President Mobutu Sese Seko.

Written evidence seen by the Guardian. shows that a dissident giving his name as Mongugu Mbenge has been trying to recruit from the expanding pool of Libyan-trained guerrillas dispersed throughout West Africa. The documents suggest that plans are underway for anti-government action this year.

The government of President Mobutu is already unstable and facing demonstrations and in. definite strikes organised by the opposition, which wants a national political conference and multi-party elections.

Mr Mbenge, who is based in the Belgian town of Mons, is known to have had a meeting in January with the Liberian rebel leader, Charles Taylor. Zairean dissidents have undergone training alongside Mr Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebels in the Libyan coastal training camp at Tajura.

The Zaireans were among 29 African and Asian nationalities trained at the camp between 1987-89.

Since an incursion into Sierra Leone on March 30 by a joint force of NPFL rebels and Sierra Leoneans, there have been accusations from countries throughout the region that Mr Taylor’s territory in Liberia is now being used as a training ground for armed groups intent on overthrowing other regimes in the region. West African diplomatic sources claim that the Gambia could soon be attacked from Liberia.

So far there has been no evidence that dissidents from Zaire are fighting alongside Mr Taylor’s forces.

But from the documents, Mr Mbenge appears to be close to the government of Burkina Faso and has travelled to its capital, Ouagadougou, a regional centre for the exiled dissidents.

Mr Taylor’s forces spent several months at the military base of Po, close to Ouagadougou, before launching their invasion of Liberia in late 1989.

Evidence recently came to light showing that up to 100 dissidents from Cameroon are also training at Po. A secret report compiled by Cameroonian intelligence under the National Centre for Studies and Research claims that opponents of the beleaguered regime of President Paul Biya are training in Burkina Faso, Libya, Ghana and Nigeria.

The Sierra Leonean President, Major-General Joseph Momoh, told the annual summit meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) last week that soldiers from Burkina Faso had been captured fighting alongside the Liberians and Sierra Leoneans in Sierra Leone’s eastern district. The area is still largely controlled by rebel forces.

Zaire’s President Mobutu is facing a sustained challenge to his 26-year rule. Four opposition parties launched a joint assault on the government this week to press for a national political conference to be convened as scheduled.

President Mobutu – who hopes to secure his political survival by becoming a non-party head of state – has refused to allow any conference aimed at taking control of the government for an interim period during the planning of multi-party elections.

A political conference was due to start this week. It has now been postponed until the end of July, and some reports say it may not be held until later in the year.

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