African peacemaker storms out of Congo

Report
from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 24 Mar 2000
KINSHASA, March 23 (Reuters) - Africa's Congo peacemaker, Ketumile Masire, stormed out of the country on Thursday, saying President Laurent Kabila's government had prevented him from flying to a town in the rebel-held north and "clearly intended to frustrate" his mission.
"The facilitator deeply regrets this unfortunate situation and hopes that the government, sooner rather than later, will see the necessity of assisting him to carry out his mandate," the former Botswanan president said in a press statement before leaving the capital Kinshasa for home.

Masire was appointed in December by the Organisation of African Unity with the consent of the government and all rebel factions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He arrived in Kinshasa on Monday, planning to travel to government and rebel-held cities in the interior, starting with the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko's fief of Gbadolite in the north, a town under the control of one of the three rebel factions.

Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia said on Wednesday that Masire had come without proper notice. He accused Masire of setting his own flight schedule without consulting the government.

Rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda took up arms against Kabila in August 1998. Jean-Pierre Bemba, who forces control Gbadolite, joined the revolt later.

The peace deal, signed by the warring parties in mid-1999, has shown signs of strain, with each side accusing the other of breaching a ceasefire. The United Nations has offered to send 5,500 observers and peacekeepers but only if the truce is respected and the security of its force is guaranteed.

Masire said that Kabila had stressed the need to visit the interior in talks with him in Kinshasa in February.

"President Laurent Kabila had raised the importance of the facilitator visiting other centres outside Kinshasa and mentioned in particular (government-held) Lubumbashi," his statement added.

"The leaders of the armed opposition have also expressed the desire to have their areas visited by the facilitator."

His statement accused the Congolese authorities of "attempts to take the facilitator and his team off the flight bound for Kinshasa at Johannesburg international airport." It did not elaborate.

It said that Masire had set up offices in Kinshasa before departing.

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