Power slips from Kabila in Congo

LAURENT-DESIRE Kabila, the Congolese leader who just two years ago was welcomed by the world as a shining example of a "new generation of African leaders'', is losing his hold on power as his military allies desert him and rebels in the former Zaire gain the upper hand.

Mr Kabila came to power by the gun - ending the 32-year dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 - and now could be ousted by the same means, unless he agrees to give away vast tracts of his mineral-rich country - a territory the size of western Europe.

This week, growing pressure on the tottering regime of the 57-year-old President forced him to travel cap in hand to South Africa - a country he formerly despised - to beg it to exert pressure on Rwanda and Uganda to get the rebels they back to sign up for peace.

President Thabo Mbeki immediately dispatched his Foreign Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Her mission failed, signalling not only a severe setback for President Kabila but also the likely demise of recent moves for peace in the year-old conflict.

President Kabila and his allies - Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia - are desperate to stop fighting. But according to diplomats, the three rebel groups - who are backed by Rwanda and Uganda - have begun to scent victory.

One of the groups, Jean-Pierre Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), this month boosted its morale by seizing Gbadolite, in the north-west - the former base of President Mobutu, which has a runway long enough to land a Concorde.

The MLC believes it can advance along the Congo river and seize the capital, Kinshasa. The other armed rebel group, Emile Ilunga's Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) - which recently split from a political wing led by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba - is reportedly close to encircling Mbuji-Mayi.

Control of the south-western city would be a huge fillip to the RCD as Mbuji-Mayi provides President Kabila with the diamonds which fund his war effort.

All three rebel groups say they originally entered the conflict because President Kabila was showing the same avaricious tendencies as Mobutu, and none of the "new generation'' promise that the United States and Europe hastily proclaimed after his ascent to power in May 1997.

The rebels' sponsors have different motives - ranging from Ugandan jitters over rebel activities threatening its border, to Rwandan fears of a new anti-Tutsi genocide. President Kabila is backed by about 40,000 Hutu militiamen.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony, was the original site of the scramble for Africa in the late 1800s.

It was Congo that prompted the Berlin conference of 1885 at which European powers drafted the rules for carving up Africa.

A few weeks after the country's independence in 1960, a rebellion in the mineral-rich Katanga province produced the first major challenge to the post-colonial map of the region. Now, nearly 40 years later, the country again looks ready to blow apart the colonial legacy.

Zimbabwe can no longer sustain its support for President Kabila. President Robert Mugabe has sent in 10,000 troops and made himself deeply unpopular at home.

This week, the Harare-based independent Daily News reported that Zimbabwe is spending $400,000 a day on supporting President Kabila - a figure it provocatively pointed out represents twice the sum allocated to Bulawayo's main hospitals for the year. Bulawayo is the chief city in Zimbabwe's unstable Matabeland, power base of the late Joshua Nkomo.

The Angolan government has sent an estimated 3,000 troops to the Kabila war effort but only to thwart the military marriage of convenience between Angola's Unita guerillas and the Congo rebels.

Under that pact, Unita was launching attacks on Angola from bases inside south-east Congo.

Namibia, militarily a tiny country which, from the start, was only a half-hearted ally of President Kabila, has lost 19 soldiers and two attack helicopters. It wants out. Chad, which briefly joined, has left already.

The recent strategic advances claimed by the rebels, combined with the flagging enthusiasm of President Kabila's allies, paint a picture of a conflict which, increasingly, can only end with the partitioning of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat