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Message-Id: <199709102327.SAA21884@mailhub.cns.ksu.edu>
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Date: Tue, 9 Sep 97 08:47:54 CDT
From: Marpessa Kupendua <nattyreb@ix.netcom.com>
Subject: !*Mobutu Sese Seko Dies at 66
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Article: 17658

Mobutu Sese Seko dies at 66

Associated Press, in Philadelphia Daily News, 8 September 1997

RABAT, Morocco - Mobutu Sese Seko, the Zairian leader toppled in May after nearly 32 years of autocratic rule that left his country in shambles, died yesterday. He was 66.

Mobutu, who for decades was a strong anti-communist ally of the United States in Africa, died of prostate cancer at the Mohamed V military hospital in Rabat, said two hospital workers who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Maghreb Arab Press agency said only that Mobutu had died at 9:30 p.m. local time "after a long illness." He had been living in exile in Morocco since May, following his ouster by the rebel forces of Laurent Kabila, who restored the country's old name of Congo.

Zaire was in ruins when Mobutu was deposed, and while his fortune was estimated in the billions, he died with neither a title nor a country. A family member in Kinshasha, capital of Congo, said Mobutu had informed his family he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered over his old country. Mobutu arrived in Morocco on May 23, after searching for a country that would take him. King Hassan II agreed to host him for a "few days," but the deposed leader ended up staying over three months.

During his rule, Mobutu became a symbol of excess and when he was ousted after an eight-month rebellion in May, his resource-rich country of 45 million was in economic and political shambles. Mobutu was out of Zaire during most of the rebel advance, recovering from cancer surgery in his palatial homes in Switzerland and the south of France. When he finally gave up power in May, he cited only health reasons, ignoring the growing ranks of opposition that had undermined his rule.

Mobutu was the last of Africa's Cold War relics, an autocrat in a leopard-skin hat who lived like a king while leading his potentially magnificent country down a ruinous path. The former Joseph- Desire Mobutu seized power in a military coup on November 24, 1965, five years after the mineral-blessed colossus once known as the Congo of the continent gained independence from Belgium. Then a colonel and the army chief of staff, Mobutu had earned his soldiers' loyalty by building up the military forces and crushing post-independence secessionist revolts.

His coup was welcomed by the West, which was vying with the Soviets for influence on the continent, and by Zairians weary of the bickering civilian government that couldn't decide how best to share power in the ethnically diverse nation. Mobutu promised to preserve democratic institutions and eventually return the country to civilian rule.

Instead, he declared himself head of state, founded the Popular Revolutionary Movement Party, banned all other political parties, and embarked on a decades-long pursuit of absolute power. Estimates of his wealth ran as high as $8 billion, though he told the authors of the book, "Voices of Zaire," in 1988 that he was worth only $5 million.