Euphoria, revenge as rebels consolidate hold on Zaire

KINSHASA, Zaire (AP) –Rebel soldiers sealed their hold on the capital Sunday with a mix of discipline and brutality, setting up sites for defeated government troops to turn in weapons — and then executing some of them in anger.
A day after the rebels’ euphoric march into Kinshasa, Zairians celebrated their arrival amid the remnants of battle: charred bodies lying on the road and Red Cross trucks loaded with corpses.
In the La Cite district, residents danced around the burnt remains of seven soldiers killed by the rebels. Witnesses said two of them were still alive when they were set on fire. Other scalded bodies lay on the road to the airport.
Thousands of troops from Laurent Kabila’s rebel army fanned out across the city, capturing the riverside palace of ousted President Mobutu Sese Seko and the fortified military base that protected it.
Crowds swarmed through the palace, looting everything from swimming pool slides to chandeliers as rebel troops watched. The mansion of Mobutu’s son, Kongulu, also was trashed.
Togolese state television reported Sunday that Mobutu had spent Saturday night in Togo before leaving for Morocco about 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Togo is run by an old friend of Mobutu, the dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema.
The report said Mobutu had slipped out of his home village in northern Zaire, Gbadolite, aboard his cargo plane Saturday night.
About 200 people were killed during Saturday’s rebel takeover of Kinshasa, according to Red Cross spokesman Nick Sommer. Red Cross workers on Sunday were working their way through the capital’s streets, picking up bodies in their trucks. It was unclear how many of the people had been killed resisting advancing rebels and how many were murdered in revenge attacks.
The rebels quickly ordered government troops to surrender their weapons by the end of the day and set up disarmament sites at military camps throughout Kinshasa.
Thousands of soldiers, unpaid by the previous regime and eager for change, readily complied, tying white cloths around their heads to show support for Kabila. They marched into military camps past taunting crowds who vented their anger at years of abuse.
“Today we finally feel free,” said William Mazaza, a former army captain who tossed his weapon into a huge pile at the Camp Mobutu base.
Under Kabila’s leadership, Mazaza said he expected to earn a living wage and wear a decent uniform — to be what he called “a real soldier.”
While most surrendering troops were processed in an orderly fashion, there were some displays of vengeance.
At Camp Mobutu, rebels took one man away for interrogation, beat him bloody, then led him away from the crowds and shot him in the back as journalists watched. Later, a second man was similarly executed near the same spot, witnesses said.
Throughout Kinshasa, Zairians wearing white headbands cheered wildly as truckloads of heavily armed uniformed rebels drove past. Some shouted “Liberte!” and burned the flag they associated with nearly 32 years of Mobutu’s despotic rule.
Street currency markets reflected the easing of tensions. On Thursday, money changers were demanding 170,000 Zaires for a $1, while Sunday the rate had dropped to 50,000.
Rumors remained rife Sunday that Mobutu’s son, Kongulu, a senior army officer, was behind the execution of army chief Gen. Marc Mahele Lieko Bokungu, declaring him a traitor to his father: The general had advised Mobutu on Thursday that soldiers would not defend the capital and urged him to leave.