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Mobutu in Togo at friendly dictator’s residence

May 19, 1997

LOME, Togo (AP) _ Deposed Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko took refuge in Togo today, after fleeing rebels who captured his jungle palace and seized control of the country he ruled for nearly 32 years.

Mobutu was resting in a residence belonging to his old friend, Togolese dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema, government officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The former Zairian leader will not stay in Togo more than a few days, they said.

His eldest son, Kongulu, and 109 members of his extended family were stuck in Brazzaville, Congo, just across the river from the Zairian capital, because a flight crew that was supposed to fly them further refused to have anything more to do with the family.

Mobutu was to meet with Eyadema this afternoon, the government officials said. They said they did not yet know Mobutu’s ultimate destination.

Togo state television reported that Mobutu slipped out of the village of Gbadolite in northern Zaire late Saturday in a cargo plane just ahead of rebel leader Laurent Kabila’s troops, and flew to Togo.

Citing sources close to Mobutu, the report said he had been awakened by gunfire Saturday night and realized that rebel troops were closing in on his palace. The rebels reportedly fired on the departing plane.

Mobutu had fled from Kinshasa, the Zairian capital, to Gbadolite on Friday morning. On Saturday, rebels marched into Kinshasa, capping their victory.

Mobutu had sent his personal jet down from Gbadolite to Brazzaville for Kongulu and other relatives, but when it landed at Brazzaville’s airport, the crew quit, Brazzaville police said.

Kongulu was staying with Congolese politicians who had greeted him _ and disarmed him _ after he fled across the Congo River on Saturday, police said, speaking with customary anonymity.

Kongulu, a senior army officer, was the son most closely associated with his father’s brutal excesses. He was nicknamed ``Saddam Hussein,″ and Zairians trashed his house on Sunday with special glee.

A check of hotels showed that three of Mobutu’s close advisers were also in Lome, the Togolese capital: Foreign Minister Kamanda Wa Kamanda, who had been rumored shot dead in Kinshasa; Interior Minister Gen. Ilunga Shamanga; and Honore Ngbanda, his envoy to peace talks with the rebels.

Togo’s dictator had been one of the few world leaders to condemn Kabila for capturing Kinshasa instead of maintaining a South African-brokered dialogue with Mobutu.

The two dictators had led their countries since the mid-1960s, and both enjoyed the support of France.

Moroccan officials have said Mobutu would stop briefly in Rabat, Morocco, then head for Europe, where he would wait out the French elections on May 25 and possible runoffs June 1 before continuing to France.

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman had no comment.

President Jacques Chirac could be embarrassed if his government accepts a man much of the world has come to revile for heading a regime that has plundered Zaire and left millions in poverty.

Mobutu, 66, has a villa on the French Riviera, where he has spent much of the last few months recuperating from prostate cancer.

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