Kabila promises elections in 1999

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The Independent Online
President Laurent Kabila took office as head of state of the Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday, promising to hold elections in April 1999 and to bury the legacy of the ousted dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

In an address to the nation, punctuated with side-swipes at Western governments who had supported Mr Mobutu and were now questioning his own democratic credentials, he made clear he would bring democratic change to former Zaire - but on his own terms.

"We are not in a hurry. This crumbling and shattered state must be organised so that the Congolese people can hold elections," he said, naming April 1999 as the date for presidential and parliamentary elections."

Mr Kabila, whose forces marched into the capital on 17 May after a seven- month civil war, swore the oath of office in front of the head of the supreme court and a crowd of tens of thousands in Kinshasa's main sports stadium.

Across town, outside the home of the veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, up to 2,000 opposition militants called for Mr Kabila to stand down, accusing him of acting like a dictator.

"It's up to the people to make Mr Kabila go," Mr Tshisekedi told them. "If the people want to end dictatorship it is up to them and not me."

As a first step towards elections, Mr Kabila said that a constituent council would be set up to draft a new constitution which would be put to an elected constituent assembly and finally to the people in a ref- erendum in December 1998.