Zaire's capital falls to Kabila's singing rebels

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In the end it was amazingly orderly. Yesterday Zaire died and the new Congo was born, in yet another walkover for Laurent Kabila. As they entered the centre of the capital, Kinshasa, in trucks and on foot, rebels encountered almost no resistance from former president Mobutu Sese Seko's troops.

Government soldiers ran up white flags and fired their ammunition off into the air as youths wearing white headbands danced through the streets, chanting, singing and waving green branches.

"We are very, very happy," Parfait Mondaka shouted. "We are liberated now. Mobutu stole everything from us and left us to suffer. He is a sorcerer." His friend Freddy Basama said the rebels would be welcomed as heroes. "We don't belong to any political party. We are the people - nothing but the people."

From distant Lubumbashi, the rebel headquarters, Mr Kabila claimed victory - and the presidency, saying he had been in contact with government commanders in Kinshasa. He rechristened Zaire the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Defence Minister, General Mahele Lieko Bokungo, who had been secretly co-operating with negotiators to prevent a bloody battle for Kinshasa, was assassinated overnight as he tried to persuade the presidential guard to lay down their arms. But Mr Mobutu's son Kongolo, before fleeing to Brazza-ville, told the troops not to fight. His father, who left Kinshasa on Thursday for his remote palace in Gbadolite, was last night expected in Morocco. Earlier yesterday, Switzerland froze his stolen assets on its territory.

Rebels arrive, page 16