After the fall of Kisangani, where most of the war effort had been concentrated, and following the flight of the mercenaries, hose cruelty was only revealed after the fact, the soldiers of the Alliance des forces democratiques pour la liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL) have sped up their advance, as might have been expected. The mercenaries took combat planes and helicopters with them, laying open the entire country to the AFDL forces. As they continued to advance, their ranks were swelled by thousands of veteran soldiers; including, former Katangans and their sons from Angola, along with thousands of young Zairians hoping to deliver their country from Mobutu's grip by taking control of a rebellion which had originally been started by the Tutsis. For their part, the Forces armees zairoises (FAZ) could not initially mount any resistance, given that the Zairian people have acclaimed Kabila as one of their own. Several thousand soldiers of the Division speciale presidentielle (DSP) were all that was left to face the AFDL. Even the UNITA forces, which had previously come to Mobutu's assistance, were forced to abandon their base at Kamina, and have most likely retreated to their own country. Since March 15 therefore, the AFDL has had a relatively easy time taking control of important regions of the country, thanks to the complicity of the FAZ, along with that of the Zairian population, and even of those in positions of responsibility within the country.
The city of Kasenga, in eastern Shaba, fell on March 28. Following this, the city of Kamina, in western Shaba, although pillaged by the FAZ, was taken without fighting on March 31. The AFDL has therefore taken up an important strategic position: Kamina is a rail hub, linking Lubumbashi with Kasai, the northern regions of Shaba, Maniema and Kisangani. It is also an important military base, with landing facilities for large planes, which had served as a supply centre for the UNITA forces.
On April 4, following morning raids by the FAZ, AFDL soldiers were welcomed into Mbuji-Mayi, the capital of Kasai Oriental. There was even a welcome speech made, which was delivered in the presence of the Governor and the Mayor. With the city of Mbuji-Mayi, in the centre of the diamond producing region of Kasai Oriental, a major part of the principal source of the Mobutu regime's revenues has fallen into the hands of the AFDL. The value of diamond production in Kasai Oriental is estimated at more than $600 million US a year; however, official estimates place this figure at closer to $300 million US, since organised fraud for the personal profit of Mobutu, along with high ranking military officials and politicians, as well as illegal trafficking by the Israeli and Lebanese Mafia, has long been going on here. It is in light of this that AFDL forces proceeded to take the head of the Societe miniere de Bakwanga (MIBA), along with his family, into custody. Mukamba Kadiata Nzemba has long been considered one of Mobutu's major allies, although he has recently expressed a willingness to work with those now in control. Forty-six Lebanese nationals were also taken into custody for fraud. Ordered to repay $750,000 US in taxes owing to the Zairian State, they have recently been released, following an agreement reached with Lebanese authorities.
Forces from Kamina, Kasenga and Kipushi have slowly tightened their hold on Lubumbashi, Zaire's second largest city. On April 7, residents of Kipushi were surprised to awaken to find that their city had fallen to soldiers who could only have arrived unexpectedly from Zambia. Zambian authorities had apparently put the Ndola airport at the disposal of Katangan soldiers, who were able to enter Kipushi from there, and subsequently to advance on to Lubumbashi. En route, it is likely that they engaged in fighting several times with DSP soldiers. The FAZ, on the other hand, had already announced their surrender. On April 9, the AFDL were welcomed into Lubumbashi by recently reinstated Governor, Kyungu wa Kumwanza, who had managed to prevent the city from being pillaged. Having taken control of diamond revenues, the AFDL turned its attention to copper, cobalt and zinc deposits, which have always made up the largest part of Zaire's receipts. Several days later, the Zairian government was forced to issue a statement to the effect that: "Financial resources are sorely lacking in Kinshasa."
The AFDL is continuing to advance towards Kinshasa. Kolwezi, in Shaba fell, along with Kananga, the capital of Kasai Occidental, during the weekend of April 12 and 13. Then, on or about April 24, Tshikapa and Ilebo, in Kasai Occidental fell, along with Boende, in Equateur. From Kasai, the AFDL is approaching Kikwit, the capital of Bandundu. Pillaging has already begun there. The fall of Kikwit means that Kinshasa's food supplies will be cut off.
A third front is being organised, originating in the north-west of Angola. Some 3,000 soldiers have begun raids into Zaire, and are threatening the city of Matadi, 350 km from Kinshasa. Kinshasa could soon see its oil revenues disappear, along with its supply of electricity, if the hydroelectric plants in Inga are taken. What is more, all supply routes by sea will also be cut off. Rebel leader, Laurent-Desire Kabila has promised to be in Zaire's capital on June 30 to celebrate the 37th anniversary of independence. According to foreign diplomats, the government elite is reportedly making emergency plans to leave the country. Foreign embassies have apparently been deluged by requests for visas.
Several independent sources have confirmed that Angola is providing logistical support to AFDL troops. Events in recent weeks have confirmed this allegation. In fact, the mass arrival of former Katangan soldiers in Shaba and Bas-Zaire, as well as the visit of several Angolan officials to Lubumbashi the day after the city was taken, indicate that there is some collaboration going on between Angola and the AFDL. Official denials notwithstanding, there is no doubt that Angola has good reason to want Mobutu brought down. In fact, for the past 20 years UNITA forces have had rear bases in Zaire, and the Front de liberation du Cabinda (FLC) has carried out training somewhere in Bas-Zaire. By sending former Katangan soldiers to the western part of Zaire, Angola is able to kill two birds with one stone: it can dispose of the last remaining pockets of the FLC at Ango-Ango and Kitona, and attack Kinshasa from the west.
Political Evolution In Kinshasa
Following the contentious dismissal of Kengo as Prime Minister by the parliament (HCR-PT), the Opposition succeeded in rallying together to decide on a single candidate, Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, to be presented as Kengo's replacement. On April 2, Mobutu officially dismissed Kengo and ratified Etienne Tshisekedi's nomination as Prime Minister. Tshisekedi accepted the position, in spite of opposition from members of his own party, and in the face of warnings from the AFDL that anyone who accepted the position as Mobutu's Prime Minister would be considered a traitor. To everyone's surprise, Tshisekedi went ahead the next day and named a new government on April 3, without seeking the approval of the President. This was in defiance of the laws of the regime. He did not offer appointments to any members of Mobutu's MPR, and instead offered six ministry appointments to Kabila's rebels; including, appointments to National Defence, Foreign Affairs and the Budget. These were refused by the AFDL, however. At the same time, Tshisekedi turned his back on the entire political class, using his authority to dissolve the transition parliament and to replace it with the parliament which had been elected in 1992 at the Conference nationale.
The members of parliament resolved to unseat the new Prime Minister who had just dissolved the house, but they would not have the time to do so. On April 8, President Mobutu declared a country-wide state of emergency, which according to Le Star, implies: "a permanent state of emergency, the authority of military courts over civil courts, the suspension of political liberties, and the freedom to expedite proceedings when laws have been broken." The next day, Mobutu named General Likulia Bolongo to the position of Prime Minister, in violation of the Acte Constitutionnel de la transition, which does not give him the power to dismiss, nor to appoint a Prime Minister without the approval of the HCR-PT. According to the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, this in fact constitutes a military coup d'etat. However, this has not stopped the American, Belgian, German and French Ambassadors from meeting with the new Prime Minister, thus implicitly recognising his position.
In the end, Tshisekedi's influence over the population seems to have remained intact throughout the ordeal. He remains the 'incorruptible one' with whom the AFDL must come to terms. This is borne out by the success of operation ville morte, organised by the UDPS on April 14 and 15, which was observed not only in Kinshasa, but in the five other provinces still under government control as well.
It remains to be seen what General Likulia Bolongo's government is really capable of doing. He is seen as one of the most knowledgeable generals. Having twice been Prime Minister, and three times the Minister of Defence, he is definitely experienced. But, without financial resources, chances are slim he will be able to reorganise the army to take on the AFDL. In addition, there is the problem of finding young men willing to enlist in an army in the service of Mobutu. In the end, perhaps General Likulia and his colleague, General Mahele, whom he has named Minister of Defence, will be able to avert a bloodbath in Kinshasa, and prepare an honourable retreat for the dignitaries of the fallen regime! As for the parliament, it has been all but forgotten as a result of the state of emergency.
There was an unexpected development on April 13. The new Minister for Information and Government Spokesperson, Kin Kiev Mulumba, announced that former Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo had fled, having first emptied the government coffers, and that an international warrant for his arrest would be issued. From Geneva, Kengo formally denied both having fled and the allegations of embezzlement, stating that he wished to return to Kinshasa voluntarily to defend himself. Not many people have faith in the former Prime Minister's absolute integrity; but neither do they believe that he stole 28 billion new zaires (NZ). It is rumoured that the President is seeking revenge on his former ally. According to speculation, while Mobutu was in Europe, Kengo reportedly entered into negotiations with the rebels to stage a coup d'etat.
Negotiations And Pressure
Following the summit of the African Heads of State held in Lome, Togo on March 27, representatives of both the Zairian government and the AFDL agreed to meet for the first time. This was tacit recognition of the rebellion on the part of Zairian authorities, who until now, had been calling for negotiations with the invading countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The two sides promised to respect the cease-fire and to negotiate in good faith. The AFDL however, continued to call for Mobutu to first step down. Negotiations began in South Africa on April 5, only to end on April 8 without any agreement in principle having been reached. In fact, each of the parties has held fast to their respective positions.
In spite of numerous appeals to bring an end to the hostilities, Kabila and the AFDL are promising to take Kinshasa soon, unless Mobutu steps down. They certainly have the support of the Zairian population in this. The people of Zaire want to be rid not only of the dictator, but of all of the dignitaries of his regime. They know from experience how Mobutu can turn things to his own advantage, and are afraid of a face to face confrontation between Mobutu and Kabila.
Even if the Western powers continue officially to recognise Mobutu as the only negotiator really able to speak for Zaire, they have been acknowledging more and more openly that his time has come to an end. The Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs has stated: "The page of Mobutism has definitely turned." And according to George Moose, the American Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, "Mobutu and his regime are a thing of the past." Considerable pressure has been brought to bear on the President to resign. At the same time, there is a concerted effort underway to set up a meeting between him and Kabila. Perhaps it is hoped that he can be convinced to step down, since Kabila has repeatedly and firmly stated that there will be no cease-fire until Mobutu has left power. The President of the United States recently sent his trusted advisor, Bill Richardson, to take stock of this difficult situation. We will have to wait and see what he makes of all this.
In Kinshasa, the people fear what will happen during the final throes of a regime with its back to the wall. As Mobutu's son has already stated, they know that Mobutu is not the kind of man to resign. As he is hunted down from all sides, he is quite capable of putting the city to fire and the sword. The Financial Times is reporting that according to statements from European diplomats, as well as from Mobutu's opponents in Kinshasa, a list has been drawn up of 500 of those who oppose Mobutu, and who are to be eliminated. This list reportedly includes Belgians and Americans, and was allegedly written up by Kongolo Mobutu, one of the President's sons. Human rights organisations have confirmed the danger. They have been warned by soldiers about the possibility of desperate acts by Mobutu's dignitaries. The Western consulates are taking these rumours seriously. This is probably why Western soldiers from the United States, Belgium and France are on alert in Brazzaville, putting on a conspicuous show of muscle across the river from Kinshasa. This is one way of letting the Zairian authorities know that they are ready to intervene if anything were to happen in Kinshasa. Kabila Following Victory
As the AFDL forces continue to advance towards Kinshasa, the level of uncertainty is rising among both the population and the political class. In fact, under the present set of circumstances, it is difficult to predict how the battle for control of Kinshasa will end, or to predict what kind of administrative and political system will be set in place by the victors. Unless American Special Presidential Envoy, Bill Richardson, along with South African President Nelson Mandela, succeed in convincing Mobutu to agree to exile, Kabila has no intention of laying down arms until he has marched into Kinshasa.
However he intends to dispose of Mobutu, Kabila will be confronted with the hard realities of power. In fact, three fronts are already emerging, representing three sociopolitical leanings in Zaire. The first front groups together all those who see a place for themselves in Kabila's three step plan: liberation, rebuilding and finally democratisation. If, in the liberated zones, Kabila has broken new moral ground in fighting the corruption and the absence of values of the former regime, his economic and political plan must, on the other hand, pass the test of good government. The second front is made up of those calling for the formation of a republic. Its spokesperson is Etienne Tshisekedi, who see himself as the champion of the constitutional principles set out at the CNS, and which have been rejected by Kabila. Tshisekedi wants to see Zaire become a lawful State, with the help of the legitimate opposition and his popular base of support in Kinshasa. The third force represents civil society, which is calling for fair and open elections to be held, in order to bring some legitimacy to Zaire's political leaders.
Those in charge of the AFDL are certainly aware of the difficulties they are facing. Kabila's greatest challenge will be to harmonise these three points of view, and to integrate them into his government plan, while reassuring on the one hand certain elements within his army who are looking forward to enjoying the spoils of victory, and the Zairian people on the other hand, who are waiting for an improvement in their standard of living.
The Massacre Of Refugees
Much too late, the rest of the world is beginning to react to the treatment of some 85,000 refugees who have been hunted down for the past month between Ubundu and Kisangani. At the end of March, these Hutus, who are part of the 170,000 who had fled the Tingi-Tingi camps, tried to move closer to Kisangani, from where they might have received some assistance. For their part, the rebel soldiers had wanted them to return to Ubundu, but a great number of the refugees were dying of exhaustion, hunger and a lack of medical care. Under considerable pressure from the international community, including an urgent appeal from some of the major human rights organisations; including, the European Union, the HCR, UNICEF, USAID, and PAN, the AFDL consented to allow access to the refugees situated in the Kasese (25 km) and Biaro (40 km) camps, and to accept in principle their repatriation by air from Kisangani. Subsequent relief efforts, made possible by train access to the camps, decreased by half the likely number of deaths.
On April 18, everything was in place for the repatriation effort by air between Kisangani and Goma to begin. The refugees would not be returned to Kigali, as a result of refusal on the part of Rwanda to accept them there. However, under the pretext that there was cholera among the refugees, a claim which was refuted by the HCR, the flight was indefinitely postponed. Then, on April 21, with the apparent encouragement of the rebels, villagers pillaged 120 tons of supplies from a train, and raided warehouses near Kisangani and Kasese, apparently because the refugees had allegedly been responsible for the deaths of several Zairians. The human rights organisations were called upon to stop operating in the area. On April 23, it was learned that fighting had broken out in the camps at Kasese. Following this news, it was noted that all of the refugees, including the 9,000 who had been considered unable to travel, had disappeared from the camps at Kasese and Biaro. According to reports by the villagers, hundreds of refugees had apparently been massacred and buried. On April 28, a mission from Kisangani was able to locate no more than 5,000 refugees, and was prohibited from searching more than 40 km from the city. United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, did not hesitate to refer to the rebel "policy of the slow extermination of the refugees." Even though the AFDL is trying to absolve itself of any responsibility by placing the blame on the former Rwandan soldiers (who have almost all left, according the the HCR), reports abound. On April 23, Amnesty International accused the rebels of systematically attacking the refugees, and is referring to accounts which confirm that AFDL leaders are inciting the local populations against the refugees and against the human rights organisations. On April 25, Doctors Without Borders reported from one of its observation bases: "there have been recent large scale massacres of refugees in the area of Bukavu-Shabunda. These massacres have not occurred within the context of fighting. All of the refugees are considered enemies, and are consequently being targeted - women and children included. The massacres are continuing to happen."
It must be remembered that in November 1996, Rwandan strong arm, General Kagame, stated that the only Rwandans who remained in Zaire were those responsible for the genocides; that is, those whom Rwanda did not want back. According to HCR estimates, between 300,000 and 400,000 refugees from Rwanda and Burundi are said to have remained in Zaire. However, it is unclear how many tens of thousands of them have already been killed, or have died from hunger and lack of medical care.
In The Liberated Zones
Little by little, the liberated zones are being reorganised. The new administrative leaders, elected by a show of hands, are new faces and seem to have popular support. They are well educated and for the most part, natives of the region. With the exception of the Governor of Shaba, they are either members of the political parties of the legal Opposition, or members of civil society.
In order to maintain security, the AFDL has entrusted former FAZ major, Loange Mungelu, a graduate of the Ecole Royale de Belgique, with the task of establishing a police force which will operate independently of the regular army, and which will be in direct contact with the population. Eight hundred recruits are presently in training at the Rumangabo camp. Civil and political training is considered equally as important as keeping order. It is expected that the new army will be stationed at Kamina. Furthermore, former military official, Lieutenant Colonel Yamba, who had sought refuge in Belgium, has been called in to overhaul the military justice system; while Lieutenant Ibula will head up the anti-corruption force of the national police.
On the economic front, Aubert Mukendi, who has several years experience to his credit managing air transport operations, has been put in charge of getting the 'Congo Airways' company up and running. The company already has several planes: the Air Zaire Boeing 737, grounded at Cyangungu airport since just before the hostilities began last summer, has been handed back over to the New Congo; a second Boeing 737 along with a small carrier plane was recently offered by South Africa; and finally, several small carrier planes were appropriated by the AFDL when Lubumbashi airport was taken.
As the AFDL forces advance, they are signing contracts with foreign mining companies; nonetheless, it certainly seems as if they are merely ratifying agreements previously negotiated with the Kengo government. In Goma, the blue and gold flag of independence flies above a new development bank, recently opened by the AFDL with the help of American capital.
In Kisangani, a certain amount of property belonging to mobutists has been recovered and placed into the State heritage fund - a quick solution to the problem of what to do with ill-gotten gains.
For the moment, the AFDL has decided to keep the new zaire (NZ) as the official currency. In the zones under rebel control, the exchange rate rapidly fell and has finally stabilised. Faced with public protest in Shaba, where the large 50,000 and 100,000 NZ denominations were in use, the AFDL did not take them out of circulation, as they had elsewhere. In Kasai, the old currency in use before the 'Birindwa' reforms of 1993, is still being used.
The UN Fact Finding Mission
Last April 18, the member countries of the United Nations Human Rights Commission adopted, without a vote, a resolution condemning the human rights violations in Zaire by both the Kinshasa government and the AFDL. In addition to extending the Special Rapporteur's mandate by one year, the Commission asked the parties involved to unconditionally approve a five point peace plan proposed by the Security Council. Furthermore, they have asked AFDL authorities to allow a commission of enquiry to be sent in.
In fact, the UN Assembly has studied two reports this year written by Special Rapporteur, Roberto Garreton. The first report, submitted at the end of December, examined numerous human rights violations by the Kinshasa government's security forces, and denounced the attacks on human rights committed by both sides upon the Zairian civilian population, as well as on the Rwandan refugees. However, faced with numerous allegations of massacres by AFDL forces of both the civilian population and the Hutu refugees, the High Commission for Human Rights asked the Special Rapporteur to undertake an on site investigation to verify the facts.
In fact, from March 25 through March 29, Roberto Garreton visited Goma to examine the basis of these allegations, as well as to look into the situation in more depth.
On April 2, he submitted a report to the Human Rights Commission in which he described a great many incidents which would seem to implicate the rebel forces. Accompanying the report was a long list of presumed sites of mass graves where an undetermined number of Rwandan and Zairian Hutus are said to have been buried. Going beyond his original mandate, the Rapporteur highlighted yet other human rights violations he had witnessed while in Goma: attacks on freedom of expression, the invalidation of property rights, the enlistment of children into the military, and the obstruction of humanitarian aid to the refugees.
What is more, the Rapporteur rejected arguments by the AFDL representative that some of the human rights violations were due to the fact that there was a war going on. Neither did he accept the argument that the AFDL was the victim of a campaign of misinformation. In addition, Roberto Garreton underlined the fact that these crimes continued to be committed with impunity.
He therefore recommended that a commission of enquiry be established to shed light on the massacres committed in the east of Zaire, and that the United Nations General Assembly along with the Security Council keep themselves informed of the conclusions reached by any such commission.
Having received the approval of the AFDL, the Human Rights Commission announced on April 23, that if safety permits, a commission of enquiry would be sent to Kivu at the end of May.
Civil Society In The Face Of Crisis
On March 28, at the initiative of the Conseil national des ONG de developpement (CNONGD), twenty or so organisations representing a wide range of members of civil society from Kinshasa, met to study the present crisis. At the end of their deliberations, spokespersons for the development groups, human rights groups, unions and churches issued a statement in which they reaffirmed their support for the process of democratisation initiated by the Conference nationale souveraine (CNS), and which they see as the only way out of the present crisis.
These representatives of civil society condemned the present 'ideology' demonstrated by both sides, who believe that power can only be seized and maintained by force of arms, and at the expense of hard won inroads made in the area of civil liberties by the CNS. They denounced negotiations to be held between the two armed groups only, with no participation on the part of their victims - the people of Zaire; and without consultation with civil society. They called for negotiations aimed at organising fair and open elections throughout the country. According to them, this should be the sole and primary objective of any new government. In their final statement, they call for an end to rivalry between foreign powers, which is putting the territorial integrity of Zaire in jeopardy.
Finally, these civil society organisations promised to "continue the fight for the establishment of a democratic order in Zaire."
Elsewhere, from March 19 through March 22, twenty-two NGO's with members working in Kivu or native to the region, met in Bonn, Germany at the invitation of the EZE. This meeting outside of the country represented an opportunity for open dialogue, for an exchange of information, and a chance to clear up some ambiguity. It will be remembered that several groups from civil society in Kivu had adopted different positions, in particular with respect to Banyamulenge demands made when the fighting began last October.
The statement issued at the end of the meeting clearly shows that all of the ambiguity has not been put to rest. But is also shows that open discussion did take place, with the aim of resolving the remaining differences through dialogue. The decline of the State, and the absence of good government were identified as the main reasons for the crisis. The political authorities have not dealt adequately with the issue of the nationality of the Hutus and the Tutsis, which is cause for a great deal of frustration on the part of the population. Those present therefore promised "to work towards righting injustice and towards organising a census of all Zairians." They stated that although the present crisis "has plunged the country into a war which has brought human rights violations with it," this same crisis may also bring about the fall of the dictatorship, and thus offers an opportunity for change.
In addition to condemning the recruitment of children into both the army and the militia, and to confirming their support for territorial integrity, the participants declared themselves in favour of decentralised federalism as a means of governing. This would allow the populations of Kivu fuller participation in government.
Contributors to this issue: Aleli Mboka, Michel Sunguza, Roland Rivard, and Denis Tougas. (translated into English by L. and J. Lazazzera - Toronto)
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