Soldiers seize Zaire radio over elections plan



Mark Huband in Abidjan and agencies in Kinshasa

The Guardian, 23 January 1991

Gunfire and grenade explosions were heard in the Zairean capital Kinshasa late last night after rebel soldiers seized the national radio station and broadcast a demand for the government’s resignation and the reconvening of the country’s national political conference, which was scrapped on Monday.

An army lieutenant read the message which called on colleagues to stay in barracks and told the people not to riot.

The action came less than two hours after pro-government troops beat-up the opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi and other members of the anti-government coalition as they tried to reach the conference hall to continue the discussions in defiance of the suspension.

The rebel soldiers demanded the resignation of, the prime minister, Nguza Karl-l-Bond, who scrapped the conference after accusing it of acting unconstitutionally and being biased in favour of the opposition.

Mr Karl-I-Bond said on Tuesday that elections would be held instead of the conference debates. This places President Mobutu Sese Seko in a stronger position than if the conference had run its full course.

It is not yet clear which section of the army has occupied he radio station. Last September hundreds of soldiers led riots in the streets of Kinshasa and other cities in protest at months of political impasse.

While Mr Mobutu’s elite Special Presidential Division has remained loyal to him, his control of other battalions was severely shaken by the riots.

Donors such as the United States and France have insisted that loans are conditional on democracy being established. Both countries yesterday condemned the suspension of the national conference, and the European Community with all but emergency aid until it is reconvened.


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