Zaire opposition paper bombed




Presidential Guard accused of fifth blast in three days

Mark Huband in Kinshasa

The Guardian, 28 October 1991

Elite troops were yesterday accused of blowing up the Kinshasa city-centre offices of one of Zaire’s leading anti-government newspapers during the early hours, in the fifth bombing of opponents in the city in three days.

The weekly newspaper Elima had last week published the latest in a series of articles demanding the resignation of President Mobutu Sese Seko.

A large crowd gathered outside the office, where enormous printing presses now lay mangled by the powerful bomb which, according to night guards outside the building when the explosion happened, had been placed inside. The blast did not injure anyone but publication of the newspaper has stopped.

On Friday a powerful bomb blew apart the house of Tshishimbi Muanza, a bodyguard to the opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, while he, his wife and seven children were sleeping. No one was hurt.

According to one opposition newspaper, the bomb was one of four detonated in Kinshasa that night, all of them at the homes of supporters of the opposition Sacred Union.

Witnesses to yesterday’s bombing said the electricity to the area was cut off five minutes before the blast and then they heard machine gunfire from inside the building. This was followed by a single, massive explosion.

Mboma Ndangi, a guard at the office, who was surrounded by soldiers as he spoke said: “I was sitting outside, and it was raining very hard so I couldn’t see very easily. The power was cut. Then we heard gunfire and then the explosion.”

The newspaper’s editor, Essolonwa Mkolyea Ruigauga, laid blame for the bombing on the Special Presidential Division (DSP), Mr Mobutu’s elite troops.

Mr Mobutu said yesterday that he had control of the army but that there was an increasing danger of unrest.

Asked if he questioned the loyalty of the army, Mr Mobutu said: “I have never liked pressure from one side or the other. But the danger is real.” He claimed that the army was now more loyal than it ever had been under Belgian rule.

As the political battle has become more personalised since Mr Mobutu’s dismissal of Mr Tshisekedi from the prime ministership last Monday, foreign powers who have wielded influence on internal matters in the past are finding themselves increasingly impotent.


Mr Mobutu berated unnamed foreign countries – taken to be Belgium, France and the United States – for their attempts to make him stand aside. “They want my head. They all want to have my head,” he said.

He said he could remain head of state until his successor was elected. At the current pace of change, this will be long after December 4, 1991, when his term of office ends.

Further violence was being predicted for today, when Mr Mobutu’s new prime ministerial appointee, Bernardin Mungul Diaka, is expected to name his government. Mr Mungul was appointed on Tuesday after Mr Tshisekedi was sacked for refusing to accept the authority of Mr Mobutu.

His acceptance of the post has been condemned as treacherous by his former colleagues in the opposition, and as a catastrophic error by the European powers.


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