April 20, 1997 in Nation/World

Rebel Leader Tells Crowd He’ll Press On

Associated Press
 

Before a cheering crowd, rebel leader Laurent Kabila vowed Saturday to press on to the capital and fulfill his mission to oust President Mobutu Sese Seko.

“We have to prepare ourselves for the war to push out that devil … This war is not yet finished. Kinshasa is not yet liberated,” Kabila told 12,000 people in a soccer stadium in Lubumbashi, Zaire’s second-largest city.

Such victory speeches have become hallmarks of Kabila’s triumphant seven-month insurgency, in which his men easily seized Zaire’s mineral-rich eastern half with almost no resistance from Mobutu’s underpaid and undisciplined army.

The 56-year-old rebel leader has made a practice of holding a rally in every major town and city his forces have taken. His speech Saturday rambled on in Swahili for three hours: “Mobutu’s people should know that they are completely finished,” he said.

Mobutu’s people said Saturday that not only would he not step down but that he should be allowed to run for re-election.

Mobutu backers held a news conference to condemn members of the U.S. Congress and Zaire’s former colonial ruler, Belgium, for their calls for his resignation.

“These countries want to be the masters of the whole world - and more precisely the African continent,” said Idambituo Bakaato, president of the Political Forces of the Conclave, a group close to the president.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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