Opposition Leader Was Once Mobutu Ally With AM-Zaire, Bjt
KINSHASA, Zaire (AP) _ Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi was once an ally of President Mobuto Sese Seko, but a political falling-out cost him dearly. He spent nine years in prison, tortured at times, for opposing Mobuto’s policies.
Now Tshisekedi is trying to form a transition government to cope with chaos following violent riots last month, and he says he will proceed with or without Mobutu’s cooperation.
Mobutu appointed Tshisekedi prime minister on Tuesday, but then accused him of trying to seize absolute power. On Wednesday, Mobutu reportedly said he was withdrawing the nomination because Tshisekedi had insulted him.
Tshisekedi has said he will control the government, including the key defense and foreign ministry posts, leaving Mobutu as a figurehead.
A stocky man who speaks slowly, Tshisekedi favors Western dress. That in itself is an affront to Mobutu, who in the late 1970s banned ties. The ban was lifted last year.
A lawyer, Tshisekedi speaks French and Lingala. He is a member of the Muluba tribe, which makes up about half of Zaire’s population.
The 59-year-old Tshisekedi was interior minister when Mobutu seized power in a military coup in 1965.
He was a founder of Mobutu’s Popular Movement for the Revolution, but insists that when the group was created there was no plan to make Zaire a one- party state. Mobutu’s authoritarian rule has lasted 26 years.
Tshisekedi served in Mobutu’s government, but in 1980, he and 13 other members of the parliament wrote Mobutu a letter criticizing his methods. They were all imprisoned or banished to the provinces. Tshisekedi was tortured during his imprisonment.
He was released from detention last year, after Mobuto announced in April that Zaire would have a democratically elected government within one year.