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DR Congo: The Secret Story Of The Fall Of Mobutu You Need To Know

Why did the Zairean army collapse? What role did France play? The causes and circumstances of the assassination of General Mahele; The last hours of the marshal in Gbadolite … An exclusive survey by François Soudan, published in JA n ° 1910-1911, in August 1997, which we propose to you in free access on the occasion of the 20 years of the fall of Mobutu.

He was the last commander-in-chief of the Zairian army, the general of an army dead between operetta and tragedy, whose total collapse in less than six months upset the geopolitical map of Central Africa. He was also the last Minister of Defense of a regime at bay, decomposed around its bedridden founder, tetanized by the advance of the “rebels” and their protectors.

Donatien Mahele Lieko Bokungu, Donat for his relatives, murdered in Kinshasa during the night of May 16-17, 1997 when Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s little green men entered the outskirts of this poisonous city. The itinerary and destiny of this man, traitor for some, martyr for others, are exemplary. They shed light on some of the unknown aspects and provide essential keys to understanding what a major revolution was in the heart of the continent. Through the tragic adventure of General Mahele, the veil rises over part of the secret history of the fall of Mobutu …

Some of them, in the entourage of President Kabila, dream of making a national hero in the same way as Lumumba and whose funeral at the end of May in Kinshasa were quasi-official, was never a mobutist of heart and blood, Like so many others, he served the omnipotent marshal and benefited from his favors. Born on April 15, 1941, in what was called Leopoldville at the time, in a Mbunza family from the northern province of Ecuador, Donatien Mahele naturally chose the profession of arms. War tribe, the Mbunzas gave a number of senior officers to the Zairian army.

Among them was General Eluki, the first cousin and future enemy of Mahele. Very young – barely 20 years old – Donatien flirted with Lumumbist ideas and joined, in 1963, the youth organization of the Congolese National Movement. Two years later, Mobutu took power. Mahele was sent to training at the camp of Kitona, where Belgian instructors took charge of him, and then at the paratrooperos of Ndjili, where he formed relations with the French advisers of General Jeannou-Lacaze which were not broken until thirty years later, A few weeks before his death.

Second Lieutenant, Mahele joined the prestigious presidential guard of Mobutu in 1968. Marouchal’s future advisor, Edouard Mokolo wa Mpombo, who met him then, remembers a soldier “integral and especially nationalistic”, hard, too, even fierce. Surprising a bodyguard in full sleep at the president’s door, he shakes, strikes him and twists his arm to break it.

He was transferred to the Kotakoli Commando Training Center as an instructor. At the beginning of the seventies, successive purges were struck by officers of the Zairian Armed Forces (FAZ), whom their ideas or their regional origins made suspicious to Mobutu. Among them, Captain Joe Ndjoku, a Saint-Cyrian, who opened a planned coup in Mahele – newly appointed commander of the Kotakoli camp. “Do not talk to me again! Mahele, who nevertheless arranged to have the apprentice putschist exiled to France, in the utmost secrecy. Donatien is loyalist, but he “understands” the frustrations of his comrades. Some of them already think that he is waiting for his time.

The glory of Mahele – and its popularity that will not be denied will occur in May 1978 during the second invasion of the Shaba by the former Katangan gendarmes. General Bumba, a Mbunza, commander-in-chief of the FAZ, and especially Colonel Ikuku, who commanded the theater of operations, called him to their side. Mahele jumps on Kolwezi to head the 31st Parachute Brigade and holds the airport until the arrival of the French legionaries and Moroccans of Colonel Loubaris.

In a few days, from Kinshasa to Goma, the whole of Zaire makes of Muhele a hero

In a few days, from Kinshasa to Goma, the whole of Zaire is a hero. Mobutu, an irritant in the eyes of Mobutu’s close guard, who gets Mahele locked up in a gilded cupboard: lecturer at the Military Academy of Kinshasa Binza. It was then that the French friends of the major, who were mortified, intervened. General Lacaze and Colonel Alain Gagneron de Marolles – alias Colonel Saint-Julien – from SDECE (Special Services), obtained Mobutu’s agreement for a two-year training course at the Paris War School. Mahele, housed in an apartment of the Ministry of Defense, Porte de Clignancourt, with his wife, the lawyer Marie-Jean ne Mondo, appears more and more as “the man of the French”.

When he returned to Zaire in 1984, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, Donatien Mahele Lieko Bokungu discovers an army in the process of “spreading” accelerated. It is the generals of the Mobutu ethnic group, Nzimbi and Baramoto, who run the Special Presidential Division (DSP) and the Civil Guard, two new units that are particularly pampered to the detriment of the FAZ.

Mahele nevertheless obtained a position of confidence: the direction of the SARM, the Service of military action and intelligence. But its task is to monitor borders, not to meddle in domestic politics. Mahele is bored and, like everyone else, does some business, even if his personal enrichment will never reach that of his rivals.

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He acquires two stars to go up the river, the Akonga Mohela and the Ave Maria, builds a villa in Kinshasa and buys another one in Waterloo, on the outskirts of Brussels. Alongside Generals Nzimbi, Baramoto and Eluki, or even Rear-Admiral Mavua, whose goods multiply in those years at a dizzying speed, Mahele is a “little one.” A practicing Catholic, a tennis lover, he then became a discreet and apolitical figure.

For the small people of Kinshasa, it is “the war of the stars”

At the end of 1990, it was again the call of the baroud. Colonel Mahele is appointed to head the Zairian contingent sent by Mobutu to the rescue of his friend, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana. Mahele, with his sometimes expeditious methods, was able to repel the first offensive by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) on Kigali, and it was during a fight against the FAZ that the first RPF military leader, Commander Fred Rwigyema, Finds death. Hence the mistrust, to say the least, that will later manifest towards Mahele the Rwandan protectors of Kabila, especially General Kagame. For now, once again, Mahele returns as a hero in Kinshasa. He earned his two-star brigadier general and resumed his post. For a few months.

In September 1991, the first “great plunder” of Kinshasa by the army broke out. Underpaid, badly ordered, the FAZ soldiers rake villas and shops downtown for two days of madness. Furious, Mobutu dismissed the Chief of Staff, General Mazembe, and named Mahele, the only one who, by his prestige, re-established a semblance of order. General of division, then general of corps in a record time, Donatien Mahele does not hide his contempt, he the man of field, for the “generals of order” repus. For the small people of Kinshasa, who, delighted, counts the points, it is “the war of the stars”.

January 1993: bis repetita. This time it was the DSP of General Nzimbi Ngbale Kongo wa Bassa who plundered the capital. Mahele responded immediately. At the head of his commandos, always flanked by his inseparable “Rambo” – cousin and bodyguard – the Chief of Staff himself crushed the rebellion, with grenades and without warnings. The DSP will not forgive him, his leader, Nzimbi, still less, henceforth on the lookout for the slightest false step. A few weeks later, Nzimbi took his revenge. As part of a national conference that is dying, Mahele is sending a communication to the Archbishop of Kisangani, Laurent Monsengwo, who will be read from the rostrum. “In the name of the Zairian Army”, General Mahele proclaimed that the FAZ are not the property of an individual or a clan but “of the whole nation”.

A four-year desert crossing for Muhele

Then, for Mahele, a crossing of the desert, which will last four years, begins. Appointed military advisor to Mobutu – this post is an empty shell, especially as the marshal distrusts him terribly – he retires to his plantation in Ebonda, not far from Bumba, province of Ecuador, on his land In a way. The Plantation and Breeding of the Mongala (PEM), is the small kingdom of Mahele: a oil mill for palmists, a hospital, a church, several villas and 350 agricultural workers. The general regents in feudal a production that brings back big as the multinational Unilever, former owner of the PEM, commercializes and pays rubies on the nail.

How could Mahele, who is known to have no reputation as a fund-raiser, have raised the necessary amount to acquire this $ 1 million estate? Zairian ambiguities: it was Mobutu himself who, through Governor Nyembo Shabani, offered the general the necessary money. The beneficiary, according to his relatives, “believed that it was due to him” after so many years spent in the army without getting rich. He did not refuse. As for the marshal, he thought it was wise to maintain, in comfort and at a distance, a man whom he had regarded since the incident at the national conference as a potential rival.

Anesthetized, Mahele disappears from the Zairian stage. He spends most of his time in Ebonda and travels a lot. He is seen in China, Hong Kong, South Africa, but also in Paris where he maintains contact with his military friends and officials of the DGSE. It is sometimes probed on his intentions. He invariably replied that since the dispersal of various elements of the 31st Brigade and the Kotakoli Command Center there was no basis on which to rely. “There is only one army that is worth, it is the DSP. And it is monoethnic. Any attempt is therefore doomed to failure. ”

More and more, he is thinking of resigning and getting into business once and for all. His relatives, especially the French who are beginning to think of him as a replacement card, find it difficult to dissuade him. When, in August 1996, Mobutu was operated in Lausanne for prostate cancer, they returned to the charge: “You have to wait, hold yourself in reserve. Mahele nods, almost reluctantly. It is then that the storm that rises in the east will change everything …

In October, violent clashes broke out in Uvira, in South Kivu, between a mysterious Alliance of the Liberation Forces of the Congo and the Zairean army. In November, Goma and Bukavu fall. From his residence in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Mobutu dismissed Eluki as Chief of Staff and replaced him with General Baramoto Kpara. Inexorably, like a castle of cards, the positions of the FAZ collapse one after the other. Pis: the elements of the Special Presidential Division sent to the front spend most of their time fighting against the other units of the Zairian army, in order to be the first to plunder.

Mobutu has long hesitated against the prospect of a tandem Mahele-Kengo wa Dondo (the Prime Minister), which he considers insecure. But he has no choice: Paris is the only capital that still supports him

On 17 December, after four months of absence, Mobutu returned to Kinshasa with a pocket, at the pressing insistence of the French, the decree which again appointed Mahele as head of the staff. “It’s your only chance,” he was told. The Marshal has long hesitated against the prospect of a tandem Mahele-Kengo wa Dondo (the Prime Minister), which he considers unsafe. But he has no choice: Paris is the only capital that still supports him.

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Descended from his plantation at Ebonda on 18 December, General Mahele was immediately taken over by the French soldiers of the embassy. Concerned about his safety, the latter gave him three urgent advice: to leave his villa in the Mbinza district, too close to the Tshatshi camp of the DSP; Working outside the headquarters, also located in Mbinza; And to limit as far as possible his movements on the front. It is not the men of Kabila who fear the friends of the general, but rather an attempt of assassination by “uncontrolled” elements of the Presidential Special Division or the Civil Guard. Ambiance … For two months, until the end of February 1997, Mahele and the French worked hand in hand.

With the support of Fernand Wibaux and Dominique de Villepin in Paris, the general set up a politico-military rescue plan, which was tantamount to a gentle coup d’etat. A four-stage contingency plan: reconstruction, with the help of French equipment and instructors, of the 31st Paratrooper Brigade; Reduction of the “useless” force of the FAZ – from 80,000 to 30,000 men; Dismantling, if necessary by force, of the CSP; The establishment of a Mahele-Kengo tandem capable of negotiating with Kabila “heads up”, the Marshal being forced to rule without governing.

This program obviously requires strong French involvement. President Chirac, to whom the project is submitted, hesitates. He was not opposed to the sending of food and medicine to the brigade and did not a priori discard some discrete supplies of equipment. But it is out of the question that French soldiers go into this bee-eater.

Consulted, Prime Minister Alain Juppé was fiercely hostile to any direct or indirect intervention by France. At the end of February, when the towns of Watsa, Kalemie, Isiro, Kalima and Kindu had already fallen into the hands of the rebels, a note from the DGSE made the difference: if Mahele and Kengo took power, generals Nzimbi and Baramoto would try to A counter-coup. Too risky. Chirac slice: the operation of support to General Mahele will not take place.

Donatien Mahele is collapsed. “The French have betrayed me,” he confided to a relative. The general, who knows that secret instructions have been given to the men of the DSP and the Civil Guard not to obey his orders, is now convinced that the battle is lost. Does it require additional proof? He is in Kisangani, three days before the fall of the city, on 15 March. In front of the last square of the defenders, he exhorts his troops to “save honor” and concludes: “Those who want to fight on my left; Those who wish to surrender, to my right! Without saying a word, almost all the soldiers line up on his right. Only the Rwandans of the ex-FAR and the Serbian mercenaries remain on the other side.

This army in rout is not mine, it is that of a clan

Back in Kinshasa, Mahele is bitter: “This army in rout is not mine, it is that of a clan; What Kabila does, I should have done it for a long time. In fact, while Prime Minister Kengo, blamed for the loss of Kisangani, was “sacked” on 18 March by the Transitional Parliament, General Mahele believes that he only has to anticipate the arrival Ineluctable in Kinshasa of the troops of Laurent Désiré Kabila. In what way?

Then, on the heels of the French people who dropped their protege without any consideration, the Americans entered … Ambassador Daniel Simpson, in this month of March, has a fixed idea: to avoid that the liberation Of Kinshasa is the occasion of a bloodbath under the indiscreet eye of the cameras of CNN.


He and Washington’s negotiator in the region, Bill Richardson, wanted a compromise solution in which Kabila, Etienne Tshisekedi and the “healthy elements” of the army had their place. It implies, of course, that Mobutu is sidelined and that the DSP is dismantled. For this, Mahele has a central role to play and the Americans let him know.

Very quickly, the Chief of Staff gave himself to them as he had given himself to the French, that is to say, with obvious naivete. Generalissimo without an army, he persuades himself that Kabila “needs” him if he does not want to be the prisoner of Kagame. He also dreams of a forthcoming presidential election to which he would present himself under a Lumumbist label. Encouraged by the Americans and in the utmost secrecy, Mahele finally resolved to cross the Rubicon: in the middle of the war, and of himself, the chief of staff of the FAZ makes contact with the enemy.

Betrayal or patriotism?

This contact is initially indirect. One of his close friends, Wilson Omanga, a kabilist businessman and nephew of Patrice Lumumba, puts him in touch with Juliana Lumumba, the daughter of the late leader. Juliana, who resides in Kinshasa where she secretly sympathizes with the AFDL (she is now deputy minister of information in the Kabila government), sends to the headquarters of the rebels in Goma what appears as an offer of dialogue. In return, Mahele is contacted, just as discreetly on his cell phone, by one of his childhood friends, Jean-Baptiste Mulemba.

This Mulemba is a figure of antimobutism: former spokesman of the Katangese gendarmes, former owner of a dance hall in Brussels (the Cocody) and former manager of an African restaurant in Paris, who calls himself “Man Elijah “Is a professional militant, lumumbist at heart, intelligent and trustworthy Kabila. He joined the AFDL as soon as he was trained and served as political adviser to the president and chief of intelligence services.

After the fall of Kinshasa, he was appointed by Kabila as head of the Commission to investigate “ill-gotten assets”, one of the key posts in the administration of the “new Congo”. Mulemba convinces Mahele to go, “for the good of all”, from dialogue to collaboration. But the general is worried: the telephone line of his Cyrtel is not safe. Never mind. The Americans, whom Mahele keeps informed, provide him with a “protected” satellite case, that is, audible by them alone. One day, on the 3rd of April, the bell rang. At the other end of the line: Laurent-Désiré Kabila.

In this month of April, Lubumbashi and Mbuji Mayi fall in their turn. On the 12th, Likulia Bolongo, archetype of the ordinance general, was appointed Prime Minister in place of Kengo wa Dondo. The French, who have changed their horses in the middle of the ford, now support this former law professor at the Faculty of Aix-en-Provence, close to some members of the “Pasqua Networks”. Five weeks later, after the fall of Kinshasa, they welcomed him in their embassy and fled him discreetly to Brazzaville, then, when the troubles broke out in the Congolese capital, to Paris, via Operation Pelican.

Suddenly, for the first time since the start of their offensive seven months ago, Kabila’s troops and their Ugandan, Rwandan and Angolan advisers are very seriously hooked

For now, Likulia Bolongo still believes he can play his card. He keeps Mahele at his post and entrusts him moreover the portfolio of the Defense, in spite of the hostility of Mobutu. He knows very well that war is lost, and doubtless thinks that it is better in the case of negotiations to have Mahele with himself than against himself. Inexorably, while the South African ship Outeniqa fails the last chance talks, the AFDL is progressing towards Kinshasa.

Two hundred and fifty kilometers east of the capital, the Presidential Special Division attempts a baroud of honor around Kenge’s lock. The DSP has touched new weapons, bought with a donation from the Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi – $ 20 million, about half of which was diverted by Mobutu’s entourage – and is backed up by about three Thousand fighters of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

Suddenly, for the first time since the start of their offensive seven months ago, Kabila’s troops and their Ugandan, Rwandan and Angolan advisers are very seriously hooked. On the natural barrier offered by the Wamba and Bakali rivers, the Zairians and their allies decimated the entire columns of the AFDL. At the Tshatshi camp, the Marshal’s family began to dream of a reversal of the situation.

Total lack of knowledge of the land

In fact, the major handicap of the men of Kabila is their total ignorance of the terrain: they do not have maps of staff and ignore everything of the device of the enemy. The only way to circumvent the positions of DS P and UNITA is that a “fifth column” lying in the opposite camp informs them. In two or three calls on its protected line, General Mahele provides the AFD military leaders with the precise information that allows them to take the last square of the Mobutists. Now, at the beginning of May 1997, Kinshasa is an open city.

This may seem like a major betrayal in times of war – a commander in chief providing the enemy with military intelligence on his own device! – is in fact perfectly logical and praiseworthy in the eyes of Mahele. “This army is not mine,” he said, speaking of the DSP, and in the state of decay that Zaire then, where no one knows very well who is with whom, Mobutu’s entourage and the ngbandis generals are for him much more dangerous than the AFDL.

Does defending a clan mean defending the homeland? Donatien Mahele has decided: it is necessary to deal with Kabila, to facilitate the task so that the issue is the fastest and the least bloody possible. So, also, to retain its own chances of influencing the post-Mobutu. On Thursday evening, 15 May, when the troops defeated in Kenge returned to Kinshasa, the last act of the reign of Mobutu Sese Seko was played. At Camp Tshatshi, around the exhausted marshal, a first meeting was held. There are General Likulia Bolongo, Mahele, Nzimbi, Ilunga (Minister of the Interior) and Vungbo (Civil Guard).

Mahele, Likulia and Ilunga urge Mobutu to leave Kinshasa and go to Gbadolite: “We can no longer guarantee your safety. Persuaded that the old dictator was going to resign, the Prime Minister had warned broadcasting that an important communication of the government would be transmitted in the night. Now Mobutu resists: “When you’re a soldier,” he said, “either we surrender, or we are killed, but we do not run away.” “We separate without a decision being made. A little later, Mobutu convened a second meeting.

This time, only the generals were present: Bolozi (gendarmerie), Vungbo, Nzimbi, Wezago, his deputy head of the DSP, and, on the telephone, Baramoto. “There are traitors, we have to eliminate them, make a list,” one of the participants said. The marshal calms the game: “I will go to Gbadolite tomorrow,” he confides, “make your arrangements.” ” It’s midnight. The generals leave Tshatshi camp and go directly to the home of Baramoto Kpara where a third meeting, in the presence of most of the officers from Kinshasa, is held until 5 am. The list of “traitors”, with Mahele in the forefront. Some worry about Mobutu’s intentions – “He’s abandoning us!” – most prepare their own flight to Brazzaville, on the other side of the river.

Friday, May 16, 8 am. The Marshal and his family are on the Ndjili airport where a Boeing 737 of the presidency, led by Major Mukandela, awaits them. Mobutu is impatient and furious. ” Where is the money ? He thundered. Since the previous day a huge operation of collection of the currencies available in Kinshasa has been launched. Between the Central Bank, the Primacy and the local headquarters of Belgolaise, where the funds collected in connection with the compulsory participation of the companies in the war effort were stored, about 40 million dollars were swept up in a few hours . The problem is that everyone has taken his part in passing and that the sum returned in cash to the president is very far from corresponding to what he expected. Hence his wrath.

Donat, that’s how you thank Papa!

But we must leave. At the moment of climbing the ladder, Bodi Ladawa, Mobutu’s wife, turns to Mahele, who, together with others, is present for this last departure: “Donat, we know what you have done; This is how you thank Papa, after all he has done for you! Mahele is silent. Mobutu, who heard the interpellation, contented himself with nodding his head. It is 9:30 am. On command of Colonel Mutoko, head of security close to the Marshal, Commander Mukandela makes the aircraft take a flight path different from ordinary. We are afraid of an attack.

Tshatshi Camp Murder

On this fateful day, when the Boeing is only a point in the sky, everyone goes home. Objective: to flee. The advance guards of Kabila were reported forty kilometers on the road to Kenge. General Mahele returns home to La Gombe. At 10 o’clock, he went to see Prime Minister Likulia. The two men discuss how to send money to the soldiers, to avoid widespread looting. At 11:30 am, he was at home again.

The satellite phone sounds: one of his contacts in the AFDL calls him. Long conversation. The aim is to finalize the FAZ surrender plan. Mahele, after hesitating, agreed to go to Lusaka in Zambia on the 17th, where he would solemnly announce to Laurent-Désiré Kabila the rallying of the Zairian army. His travel plan is elaborated: Brazzaville-Luanda-Lusaka. In mid-afternoon, the Chief of Staff went to the Prime Minister again. Then he returned to La Gombe, from where he called his friend Wilson Omanga to Brussels: “I will phone you Saturday night from Lusaka, it will be all over. Already Nzimbi and Baramoto have fled. Kinshasa offers itself to the men of Kabila.

It is 11 pm on Thursday, May 16, 1997, when Likulia Bolongo calls Mahele. The Prime Minister, who is preparing to take refuge at the French embassy, ​​signals to the general an early uprising at Tshatshi camp. “The DSP wants to go out and plunder everything! “I’m going,” Mahele answers. Folly? The general feels invested with a mission: to prevent the destruction of Kinshasa, to avoid a bloodbath. It is on this point, he is persuaded, that he is playing his political future. Doubtless he also thinks that, deprived of their chief, the general.

The End of a World

Nzimbi, the Ngbandis of the DSP will listen to him. Is not this the last chance for them to save their skin? Mahele jumps into a 4×4 with his driver and a bodyguard. A pick-up escort, with ten soldiers on board, precedes it. On the outskirts of the camp, the first dam: the escort remains on site. Mahele goes on alone with his two companions. The 4 × 4 penetrates the enclosure. There, the Chief of Staff finds himself face to a hundred men overexcited, between drugs, alcohol and witchcraft, who refuse to pay him honors.

Among them was General Wezago, the deputy of Nzimbi, the same person who participated the evening before at the second meeting at Mobutu, during which the “traitors” to be eliminated were evoked. ” What are you doing here ? You betrayed! You did not make war! Wezago yelled. “Calm yourself,” replied Mahele, “the AFDL is in the suburbs, tomorrow they will be there, you have no chance, lay down your arms! ”

Wezago goes mad: “How! You who let the DSP die, you give us orders! He pulls out his pistol and shoots Mahele, reaching to his leg. The bodyguard, who wants to intervene, is defeated. The driver has already fled. Donat jumped to the side. He makes a night of ink. We look for it, we do not find it. A soldier said, “It’s always like that with him, he has good fetishes, he knows how to make himself invisible. But Wezago does not want to let go of his prey. In the light of a torch, one ends up locating it, lurking under the 4 × 4. It is forced out of the way, and is put up again in spite of its broken leg.

A DPS major approached from behind and a silent pistol shot lodged a bullet in his neck. Mahele collapses, thunderstruck. Meanwhile, the escort soldiers went to warn Kongolu, aka “Saddam”, one of Mobutu’s sons, who is making resistance at the Intercontinental Hotel. On board a small tank, Kongolu went to Tshatshi camp. Gusts of Kalashnikov welcome him. Lost soldiers of the DSP, many of whom will be slaughtered the next day by the “liberators” of the AFDL or lynched by the Kinois, have lost their reason.

Friday, May 17th. In Kinshasa, it is the end of a world and the beginning of a new order. In Gbadolite, it is panic. When they heard the news of the assassination of Mahele, the military mbunzas of the nearby garrison of Kotakoli rise. Their aim was to seize Mobutu and his family and make them pay for the outrage. Colonel Mutoko informed the marshal: “We must go as soon as possible. “I am a soldier, I will fight to the end,” retorts Mobutu. Mutoko argues that they have no weapons. “And those of Savimbi?” “Questions the one who is no longer the head of state, alluding to the impressive stock of UNITA chief in Gbadolite to escape the disarmament operation in Angola under the auspices of ‘UN.

“Since your nephew, Major Movoto Sese, has stuck them somewhere in West Africa with your agreement, there’s nothing left,” Mutoko explains. “So it’s the end,” mutters Mobutu. Flee but how? Major Mukandela, whom the marshal had sent to Brazzaville with orders to bring his son Kongolu back, refused to take off from the Congolese capital for Gbadolite. It is, he said, he and his Boeing, at the disposal of the new authorities of his country. Another traitor! It will therefore be necessary to embark in an old Antonov cargo, piloted by Ukrainians.

Time is running out: the mutineers coming from Kotakoli are approaching. Colonel Mutoko wants to climb the whole family in an armored car, heading for the airport. In tears, Bodi Ladawa refuses: “We will not leave! “With all due respect,” replies Mutoko, “the one who opposes me, I cut him off.” One after the other, Bodi, his twin sister Kosia, their brother Fangbi – the evil genius of the last years of Mobutism and a few others rush into the vehicle. Remains Mobutu, whom his son Nzanga and Mutoko must literally hang out.

The armored vehicle rolls openly in the deserted streets of Gbadolite, then on the track where the Antonov heats its reactors. By the open bridge, it enters directly into the belly of the plane. Suddenly someone shouts: “Here they are! They are the Mbunzas of Kotakoli, whose first elements have already reached the airport building. The pilots take off the Antonov, the fear to the guts. Shots shoot. The Kalashnikov is fired on the aircraft, which has difficulty in gaining altitude.

Bullet strikes tear a small piece of wing. In a bold turn, the plane abruptly headed west towards Lomé, Togo. As mummified, Mobutu said nothing. Then he murmurs a sentence. His personal physician, Doctor Diomi, leaned in. “Even mine are shooting me,” said the fallen dictator, “I have nothing more to do in this country, it is no longer my Zaire. Then the vanquished Leopard plunges back into his silence. Perhaps he thinks of Agathe, the widow of his friend Habyarimana, the exiled Rwandan president. One year ago, she had come to see him in Gbadolite, she said, to entrust him with a secret: according to her information, there was something important on the eastern border of Zaire, preparations, Weapons and troops, as if an offensive was being prepared.




Written by How Africa

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