French paratroops have begun withdrawing from Kolwezi in Southern Zaire in readiness to fly back to France.
French paratroops have begun withdrawing from Kolwezi in Southern Zaire in readiness to fly back to France. The troops, parachuted into the town a week ago to evacuate Europeans, began to pull out of the area on Thursday (25 May). The move drew a complaint from President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire that France had not informed him the troops would be withdrawn so soon. Observers say the Zaire Army is unable to defend the area satisfactorily and there are fears that the departure of the French will leave a security vacuum in Shaba province.
SYNOPSIS: President Mobutu has been in France this week and held a press conference is Paris last Thursday (25 May), coinciding with the news of the French withdrawal.
President Mobutu told reporters he had asked Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for help. There were also African plans underway to form an intervention force, but it should have European back-up, he said. The President hinted that the Katangese rebel invasion of Shaba Province had been instigated by Angola. The objectives were threefold: to disrupt Zaire's political and economic stability; to impose a political ideology similar to that of Angola or Cuba; and to take control of Shaba's mineral resources. He said there had been no rebel trouble in the south until the MPLA took control in Angola.
President Mobutu denied that his own troops had taken part in any of the Kolwezi atrocities. The sole authors were the rebels, he said, and their so-called "Operation Dove" was a dove which raped, looted and killed gratuitously.
President Mobutu had words of praise for French action in Kolwezi. He said he had thanked President Giscard d'Estaing personally for sending in paratroops. France did not have the same resources as the superpowers, but it had been the only Western country to intervene to respect its obligations to African countries, he said. He paid homage to the role France had played not only in saving its own nationals, but in saving all other expatriates, including Americans. President Mobutu's next scheduled state visit was to Morocco for talks with King Hassan next week. A Moroccan force is already assisting Zairean soldiers in Kolwezi.