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Vol 37 No 22

Published 1st November 1996

Zaïre starts to crack

With Mobutu sick and his army incompetent, a small rebellion may have huge consequences for Central Africa

The Banyamulenge explosion in Sud-Kivu on 18 October threatens to spark wider conflicts in Zaïre. While President Mobutu Sese Seko issues orders from his sickbed in Switzerland, his army is routed in Kivu. The Zaïrean generals who hope to inherit the state, if Mobutu fails to recover, have been unable to galvanise their badly paid and equipped forces. The crisis sends a signal to anti- Mobutist and secessionist forces across the country: there is a power vacuum and the state is unable to defend itself. The Banyamulenge have kept the initiative so far and there is little sign of the Zaïrean forces reversing the trend soon.

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