Kabila makes quiet entry into Congo’s capital

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Triumphant rebel leader Laurent Kabila arrived without fanfare Tuesday in Kinshasa, quietly laying claim to the capital of the country he plotted and fought for three decades to capture.
Kabila — the new ruler of Zaire, which he has renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo — flew unannounced into Kinshasa’s airport, breaking into a broad grin when he stepped onto the tarmac dressed casually in a blue-gray open-necked shirt. Top aides lined up to greet him.
One well-wisher stood across the street from the airport, waving the blue-and-white flag of Kabila’s alliance. “I believe it should be possible to organize elections within six months,” Ferdinand Nakemanda said.
Until a downpour dispersed them, thousands of other Kinshasa residents had lined the city’s streets during the day hoping to welcome the man who had ended Mobutu Sese Seko’s 31-year dictatorship — and who promised to bring them democracy.
When his motorcade swept through the dark, rain-glistening streets, residents still walking home were quick to recognize that Kabila had arrived. Startled, they burst into cheers and waved his convoy on.
“We have finally vanquished 31 years of suffering,” well-wisher Nbula Akawa, who had traveled 19 miles to welcome Kabila, declared earlier in the day.
But democracy might have to wait a while.
While Kabila’s alliance said Tuesday it was committed to multiparty elections within 12 months — a guarantee that the United States and other Western nations had pressed Kabila to make — it said it would be the sole power in Congo until then.
Fellow opponents to Mobutu’s rule would be welcome in the government for the time being, but only as individuals and not as representatives of political parties, Kabila’s aides said.
“We have a lot of work. I don’t think this is the time to fracture the country,” said Kabila’s finance minister, Mwana Nanga Mawampanga.
“There will be a time for electioneering and campaigning,” he added.
Members of parties that had opposed Mobutu have expressed concern in recent days that Kabila might return to his Marxist-Leninist roots — ostensibly abandoned years ago — now that he has gained power.
In Austria, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he believed Kabila would stick to his promise.
“Zaire is a large country. You can win a war, but to govern Zaire you need the support of everybody,” Annan said in Vienna. “I think Mr. Kabila will go this road. I am not the only one who has encouraged him to do that.”
Thousands of Mobutu’s soldiers have sworn allegiance to Kabila, who claimed the presidency Saturday after sweeping across Zaire in seven months.
Kabila had fought Mobutu’s regime off and on since the 1960s; the aid of other African leaders and Zaire’s ethnic Tutsis helped make this latest rebellion a success.
Kabila had not been expected to leave rebel headquarters of Lubumbashi for the capital until Wednesday. It appeared security concerns — a known obsession of Kabila’s — may have led him to slip quietly into the city a day ahead of schedule.
Kabila’s motorcade — led by two military trucks, with Kabila himself traveling in a four-wheel-drive vehicle with darkened windows — ended at the residence usually reserved for the prime minister.
Kabila had promised to announce a government by Tuesday night, but his foreign minister, Bizima Karaha, said that was now unlikely.
While Kabila starts the transition from military commander to head of state, his deposed rival has taken temporary refuge in the West African nation of Togo.