Zaire: Interview with Laurent Kabila

Posted: October 15, 2010 in Evidence Material
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Wednesday, April 30, 1997 – 10:00

By Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

GOMA — I had the chance to meet Laurent Kabila in the official residence, a palatial place that used to belong to Mobutu (one of his many mansions across the country), right by Lake Kivu. The rotund leader of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADF) was waiting for me in a long-sleeved checked shirt and greyish trousers in the sitting room. We embraced with the obligatory three pecks of the French, after which he apologised for not meeting me early because he had been busy (which I know because his protocol administrative staff and one of the commanders have kept me up to date with his movements). This evening he had just returned from Tingi-Tingi, which was finally being cleared, thereby forestalling any further armed intervention using humanitarian disaster as a pretext. It was the point that started our discussion.

Question: On intervention:

We do not see the need for any military intervention now because we have given access to the UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies to deliver relief materials to genuine refugees. Our main worry was that intimidators, former FAR [armed forces of Rwanda] soldiers and their interahamwe were hiding behind refugees to continue their attacks on us, as they did in Mugunga camps. But now things have cleared.

Even before the UNHCR and others have resumed their activities our soldiers and community supporters have been taking care of the refugees with the little that we have. Mind you ,we do not have any budget from the UN or any budget from the UN or any agency, but we have been sharing with them. Now any refugees who want to go back to Rwanda can do so, and we are cooperating with relief agencies in that respect.

Therefore we see no need for any military intervention because there is no problem behind our lines. If the UN and [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Anan want to intervene, they should go to areas controlled by Mobutists where our people are dying, starving and frightened. Why don’t they help there instead of wanting to interfere with us? We consider any such intervention as an attack on our sovereignty.

Question: Negotiations:

I went to Johannesburg because I was invited by President Nelson Mandela, whom we have great respect for. I myself will only be involved directly in the negotiations if Mobutu is sitting there, face to face. Otherwise we have our team of competent, experienced and able people to do the negotiations.

We in the alliance are not violent people. It is the extreme violence of the Mobutists that forced us into this armed confrontation to check them and find a lasting solution.

Question: Elections:

Elections have to be part of the negotiated process. In our view there is no way that elections can take place in Zaire now because Mobutu’s government and the Mobutist opposition cannot be trusted to organise them. Therefore we have to negotiate, to form a genuine transitional government of national unity which will organise, supervise and hold elections as part of its duties within a specific period.

Question: The political situation

There is too much talk of “problems of eastern Zaire” in the media, but for us it is a national problem. We are engaged in a national democratic revolution to liberate Congo-Zaire. That is what is important, and our strategy is made with that purpose.

We are mobilising, training and organising our people, women, workers, peasants, youth, intellectuals, etc. from the bottom up, to appreciate the new situation and contribute fully as willing citizens.

It is of course very difficult because of the Mobutist politics of the past, which have marginalised and depoliticised the people, but as you can see the people are enjoying their new freedom behind the lines: Bukavu, Kiva, Kaleme, Kindu, all over the place. Some of them cannot believe it but many are re-educating themselves and meeting the new situations well.

For us the military and political fronts are not separate; that’s why the alliance is opening up branches everywhere. Our people are beginning to gain enthusiasm for politics which Mobutism had buried.

Question: Intellectuals:

We in the alliance believe that Zaire needs its patriotic and progressive intellectuals, academics, technicians, administrators and the professions. The intellectuals should join the struggle to end Mobutism.

We need intellectuals whose feet are on the ground, among the people, to build on their understanding and work with them for a new reality. However, it is true that Mobutism has also compromised many of our intellectuals. Some of them have even lost faith in the ability of the Zaireois to challenge the system.

We have proved it can be done. Therefore they should join us for total victory instead of remaining up there in the sky. We are in touch with some of those in exile, while others are returning home and establishing contacts with us. It is important for us to work together.

Question: Domestic critics, political rivals:

I believe that every one of us is entitled to his or her viewpoint politically. However, secondary differences should not stop us working together. There are those who think some of us are warlords, militarists etc. This is their opinion. But the struggle is not for Kabila, it is about Zaire.

The only way to deal with political differences is to discuss them openly and honestly. They are welcome in the alliance. The country is now polarised between those favouring Mobutu and those of us opposed to him. All those who are genuinely opposed to Mobutism should feel free to join the alliance to contribute their quota.

Zaire is big enough for all of us. Even some of Mobutu’s soldiers are now joining us. Some of his collaborators who are not too bad are also joining. We have room to forgive some past errors, mistakes and so on, as long as people are no longer opportunistic or act as agents of Mobutu. We need all our patriots.

Question: Pan Africanism:

It is not just patriotic Zaireois that we need. We call upon our brothers and sisters in Africa to also support us because Zaire is for all of us. There is a lot of contribution they can make to rebuild this country under a new leadership. We cannot do it alone. The Pan African Movement must see it as its duty to alert and mobilise all Pan Africanists and friends of Africa to support our people’s struggle.

Question: Mercenaries:

It is part of colonial and neo-colonial mentality for Mobutu and the Mobutists to think that 300 mercenaries (from Croatia, Serbia, France, Belgium) can help them to defeat us. There are mercenaries from other African countries too. But we believe that we shall bury the last mercenary in Africa. That era is gone, and gone forever.

Question: On intervention:

We do not see the need for any military intervention now because we have given access to the UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies to deliver relief materials to genuine refugees. Our main worry was that intimidators, former FAR [armed forces of Rwanda] soldiers and their interahamwe were hiding behind refugees to continue their attacks on us, as they did in Mugunga camps. But now things have cleared.

Even before the UNHCR and others have resumed their activities our soldiers and community supporters have been taking care of the refugees with the little that we have. Mind you ,we do not have any budget from the UN or any budget from the UN or any agency, but we have been sharing with them. Now any refugees who want to go back to Rwanda can do so, and we are cooperating with relief agencies in that respect.

Therefore we see no need for any military intervention because there is no problem behind our lines. If the UN and [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Anan want to intervene, they should go to areas controlled by Mobutists where our people are dying, starving and frightened. Why don’t they help there instead of wanting to interfere with us? We consider any such intervention as an attack on our sovereignty.

Question: Negotiations:

I went to Johannesburg because I was invited by President Nelson Mandela, whom we have great respect for. I myself will only be involved directly in the negotiations if Mobutu is sitting there, face to face. Otherwise we have our team of competent, experienced and able people to do the negotiations.

We in the alliance are not violent people. It is the extreme violence of the Mobutists that forced us into this armed confrontation to check them and find a lasting solution.

Question: Elections:

Elections have to be part of the negotiated process. In our view there is no way that elections can take place in Zaire now because Mobutu’s government and the Mobutist opposition cannot be trusted to organise them. Therefore we have to negotiate, to form a genuine transitional government of national unity which will organise, supervise and hold elections as part of its duties within a specific period.

Question: The political situation

There is too much talk of “problems of eastern Zaire” in the media, but for us it is a national problem. We are engaged in a national democratic revolution to liberate Congo-Zaire. That is what is important, and our strategy is made with that purpose.

We are mobilising, training and organising our people, women, workers, peasants, youth, intellectuals, etc. from the bottom up, to appreciate the new situation and contribute fully as willing citizens.

It is of course very difficult because of the Mobutist politics of the past, which have marginalised and depoliticised the people, but as you can see the people are enjoying their new freedom behind the lines: Bukavu, Kiva, Kaleme, Kindu, all over the place. Some of them cannot believe it but many are re-educating themselves and meeting the new situations well.

For us the military and political fronts are not separate; that’s why the alliance is opening up branches everywhere. Our people are beginning to gain enthusiasm for politics which Mobutism had buried.

Question: Intellectuals:

We in the alliance believe that Zaire needs its patriotic and progressive intellectuals, academics, technicians, administrators and the professions. The intellectuals should join the struggle to end Mobutism.

We need intellectuals whose feet are on the ground, among the people, to build on their understanding and work with them for a new reality. However, it is true that Mobutism has also compromised many of our intellectuals. Some of them have even lost faith in the ability of the Zaireois to challenge the system.

We have proved it can be done. Therefore they should join us for total victory instead of remaining up there in the sky. We are in touch with some of those in exile, while others are returning home and establishing contacts with us. It is important for us to work together.

Question: Domestic critics, political rivals:

I believe that every one of us is entitled to his or her viewpoint politically. However, secondary differences should not stop us working together. There are those who think some of us are warlords, militarists etc. This is their opinion. But the struggle is not for Kabila, it is about Zaire.

The only way to deal with political differences is to discuss them openly and honestly. They are welcome in the alliance. The country is now polarised between those favouring Mobutu and those of us opposed to him. All those who are genuinely opposed to Mobutism should feel free to join the alliance to contribute their quota.

Zaire is big enough for all of us. Even some of Mobutu’s soldiers are now joining us. Some of his collaborators who are not too bad are also joining. We have room to forgive some past errors, mistakes and so on, as long as people are no longer opportunistic or act as agents of Mobutu. We need all our patriots.

Question: Pan Africanism:

It is not just patriotic Zaireois that we need. We call upon our brothers and sisters in Africa to also support us because Zaire is for all of us. There is a lot of contribution they can make to rebuild this country under a new leadership. We cannot do it alone. The Pan African Movement must see it as its duty to alert and mobilise all Pan Africanists and friends of Africa to support our people’s struggle.

Question: Mercenaries:

It is part of colonial and neo-colonial mentality for Mobutu and the Mobutists to think that 300 mercenaries (from Croatia, Serbia, France, Belgium) can help them to defeat us. There are mercenaries from other African countries too. But we believe that we shall bury the last mercenary in Africa. That era is gone, and gone forever.
The late Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is the general secretary of the Pan African Movement.]

Source: http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/14913

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