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Kabila aide says rebuilding will take time

May 21, 1997

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) _ A senior official met today with the most popular political figure outside Congo’s new leadership _ a man rebels labled a sellout for briefly serving as Mobutu Sese Seko’s prime minister.

It was unclear whether Congo’s new leadership, headed by Laurent Kabila, still regards Etienne Tshisekedi as tainted by association with the deposed dictator.

At parliament’s insistence, Mobutu accepted him as premier in April although the two were longtime foes. The move was seen as a ploy by Mobutu to weaken his opponents by splitting their loyalties.

But Tshisekedi apparently accepted the post only to embarrass Mobutu. He immediately dismissed all Mobutu’s cronies and offered Kabila’s rebel alliance the top six government jobs. He lasted only a week in office.

Kabila, who won Zaire in seven months, proclaimed himself president on Saturday, changed the country’s name and promised to form a government within 72 hours. His aides said Tuesday that Kabila was committed to multiparty elections within 12 months.

Today, Kabila’s aides were not saying when he would announce his government. But the meeting between Deo Bugera, a senior alliance official, and Tshisekedi raised the possiblity Kabila was trying to bring other Mobutu opponents into his fold.

Tshisekedi started his opposition to Mobutu’s one-party dictatorship in the 1970s. His Democratic Union for Social Progress advocated a constitution guaranteeing basic human rights and systemic reforms.

Kabila once maintained friendly ties with Tshisekedi’s party, but distanced himself as his rebels advanced. He has described Tshisekedi as a sellout who would taste the ``poison chalice″ for even dealing with Mobutu.

The delay in saying when and where Kabila will name his government could be due to his known obsession with security; he slipped into Kinshasa on Tuesday night after aides spread word of a Wednesday arrival.

Kabila’s foreign minister, Bizima Karaha, was vague about the delay in a brief statement, saying: ``We are starting the second phase of our revolution, the reconstruction phase, so you could understand that the reconstruction phase cannot go as quickly as the military phase.″

Western nations, particularly the United States, have been pressing for quick elections in Congo. But without specifying which countries, South African President Nelson Mandela today slammed Western nations for ``lecturing″ Kabila on democracy.

Mandela, Africa’s elder statesman, said Kabila promised to establish a panel within 60 days to prepare for elections. Mandela criticized Western countries pressing hard for elections to be held soon.

``What is most strange is that some Western countries that have supported the most vicious dictators for decades are now, just after Kabila has taken the country for one day, taking it upon themselves to lecture him upon democracy,″ Mandela told Zimbabwe business leaders and professionals.

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, Austria. ``I think Mr. Kabila will go this road. I am not the only one who has encouraged him to do that.″

Supporters who had lined the streets Tuesday waiting for Kabila to arrive said they believed he was committed to democracy.

``I believe it should be possible to organize elections within six months,″ said one supporter, Ferdinand Nakemanda.

Meanwhile, France _ the last major political backer of Mobutu, and cool to Kabila _ said today the new Congo leaders must guarantee the security of foreigners. Two French businessmen were killed Tuesday in Kinshasa.

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