Zairean troops open fire to disperse protestors



Mark Huband in Kinshasa

The Guardian, 11 October 1991

Security forces in the Zairean capital Kinshasa yesterday fired shots and teargas over the heads of opposition activists angry at the collapse of talks aimed at breaking the deadlock in the formation of a crisis government.

Up to 150 soldiers and members of the Civil Guard were stationed around the headquarters of the opposition Democratic Union for Social Progress (UDPS) and the house of its leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, throughout the day, and drove armoured cars through the crowd. No injuries were reported.

The shooting occurred after Mr Tshisekedi called supporters to take to the streets of Kinshasa in protest at the breakdown of talks with President Mobutu Sese Seko who, on Wednesday, demanded the right to appoint more than half the ministers in the crisis government.

Opposition sources believe that Mr Mobutu made his demand under pressure from advisers who felt they had achieved a victory when the opposition conceded the right to appoint the defence minister.

Attempts by a go-between, sent by Mr Mobutu to talk to the opposition yesterday, were initially rejected by Mr Tshisekedi.

Mr Mobutu said on state radio yesterday that the ruling Popular Movement for the Revolution (MPR) party should reconvene discussions with the opposition.

He was also believed to be considering the formation of a new administration which he would appoint himself.

A difference of opinion is developing between the two countries that have sent troops to Zaire – France and Belgium – on the issue of withdrawal now that most foreign nationals have been evacuated.

The two countries have a joint operation which could be in jeopardy if France withdraws troops within the next two weeks, as seems increasingly likely.

The Belgian government is considering establishing a permanent military presence, at least in the southern mining area of the country.


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