Mobutu Won’t Resign but Says He’ll Meet Rebel Leader if Asked ‘Politely’

From the Washington Post

President Mobutu Sese Seko on Saturday rejected a looming rebel deadline for him to resign, but he said publicly for the first time that he would be willing to meet rebel leader Laurent Kabila if asked “politely.”

Mobutu’s statement at a news conference here marked a turnabout from his strong opposition to direct talks with Kabila. But his insistence on being addressed “politely” seemed at odds with the situation of an ailing dictator who has lost the support of the United States and other allies in the West and who faces rebel forces that control nearly half his country, moving from victory to victory and threatening to make the capital their next goal.

After the capture Wednesday of Lubumbashi, the second-largest city in Zaire, the rebels declared a break in their campaign and issued an ultimatum to Mobutu that he step down by today. Mobutu is under intense international and domestic pressure--including from some of his close associates--to find a peaceful solution to the crisis that in effect has partitioned Africa’s third-largest nation.


He raised the possibility of direct talks with Kabila, but only if Kabila makes a formal request.

“If he requests it politely, I cannot refuse to talk to a compatriot,” said Mobutu as he stood on the veranda of his fortified residence.

After speaking to reporters, Mobutu met with Pascal Lissouba, president of neighboring Congo, who repeated his earlier offer that his country across the Zaire River be used as a site for possible talks between Mobutu and Kabila.