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Date: Thu, 15 May 97 16:25:44 CDT
From: "Workers World" <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: L'Entincelle on Zaire
Article: 11019

Via Workers World News Service Reprinted from the May 22, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper

U.S. role in the rebels' forward march

By Antoine Combe, in L'Etincelle, newspaper of the Guadeloupe Communist Party, 26 April 1997

[This article was published in L'Etincelle, the Guadeloupe Communist Party's weekly newspaper, dated April 26--that is, before the shipboard meeting between Laurent Kabila and Mobutu. G. Dunkel translated it from the French for Workers World.]

While negotiations between Kabila and Mobutu have been postponed from week to week, the United States brusquely decided to play the Kabila card and to take leadership. Previously, for some time, the U.S. had seemed to withdraw and leave France to sort out the Zaire crisis by itself.

To play this card, Washington let the rebel leader understand that his international legitimacy was going to depend largely on the United States, all the more because he controls the major part of Zaire's rich resources. In the rush of events, the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on Mobutu to resign immediately.

To speak frankly, the conquest of Zaire for the past 18 months has been carefully planned by Washington and the leaders of Burundi and Uganda.

According to a U.S. diplomat, the scenario of this conquest consists of three phases: Clear the camps, take the cities, force Kinshasa and Mobutu to fall.

We are now in the third phase with the dismissal of Mobutu by the House of Representatives, under the sudden accusation of not respecting human rights. During the past few years the United States had never used such a formulation.

Indeed, during the period of the Cold War the dictator Mobutu received without reserve U.S. diplomatic support together with French military support. It came in the framework of the struggle against communism, a struggle in which the Zairian president was a champion.

U.S. policy in Africa varies strictly with the period. Times change and so do they. Last October, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher declared, "Today the African continent needs the support of all its friends, not the exclusive control of some of them."

However, Washington, burned by its Somalia adventure, is moving cautiously in both the political and economic sphere. In fact, the State Department estimates that "the challenges which Africa represents demand a collective effort, no country having the capability to resolve them by itself."

But, beyond the strategy adopted, it is the choice of the propitious moment that has largely prevailed. France's "private game preserve" [in Africa] is today splitting apart under the joint impact of the peoples' democratic demands and a crisis that has been deepening since the 50-percent devaluation of the CFA January 1994. [CFA is the currency of Francophone Africa, which is tied to the French franc.]

Washington has been able to skillfully take advantage of this situation, either by supporting the opponents of dictatorships protected by Paris or by sending aid to the countries France has abandoned due to budget cuts. U.S. exports have thereby grown by 20 percent in two years.

Finally, France is incapable of rivaling the United States economically. The regimes France has supported are on the point of imploding. The Zaire crisis epitomizes the bankruptcy of France's colonial policy in Africa and the approaching fall of Kinshasa augurs that of Libreville [Gabon] and Bangui [Central African Republic].

But U.S. policy also has its limits. After encouraging and supporting Kabila, Washington fears he might create a void around himself once he is in power. Significant mining contracts have already been signed between the rebels and U.S.-based companies, which shows that not all the bridges [between Kabila and Washington] have been burned.

For the United States, these negotiations on the subterranean riches of Zaire count as much as the discussions taking place in South Africa.

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