September 13, 1997
Mobutu Buried in Priate Funeral
RABAT, Morocco (AP) -- Mobutu Sese Seko, shunned in death by the powers that once backed his despotic reign over Zaire, was laid to rest today after a private Roman Catholic ceremony outside the Moroccan capital.
Nearly 100 uniformed and plainclothes police kept journalists and onlookers 500 yards from the cemetery as mourners, many in traditional African dress, arrived in private cars. Mobutu's body was carried in a white ambulance.
Mobutu's family held a wake for the exiled leader Friday night at a villa Mobutu owned on the outskirts of Rabat, Rabat Archbishop Jean Micheau said.
Mobutu died Sept. 7 after a long battle with prostate cancer. He had been living in exile in Morocco after being chased out of Zaire following a 31-year reign. He was ousted in May by the forces of Laurent Kabila, who restored the country's former name of Congo.
Mobutu arrived in Morocco May 23 after searching for a country that would take him. Moroccan King Hassan II agreed to host him for a ``few days,'' but the deposed leader ended up staying more than three months.
A man who worked with Mobutu for 26 years and traveled from Belgium for the funeral criticized Western countries who backed Mobutu during the Cold War but withdrew their support in the face of his autocratic rule.
``It is easy for the French, Belgians and Americans to look down on him, but that man was a fortress against many evils,'' Koun Herman told Associated Press Television.
``One must pay homage to the king of Morocco, who took him in for his last resting place,'' he said.
South African President Nelson Mandela has criticized Mobutu's former allies for deserting him in his dying days.
``Those who helped him for 30 years and benefited from association with him, during his last day on earth, they did not want to know him,'' Mandela said last week.
In the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, there was no official recognition of Mobutu's funeral.
The Kinshasa-based La Tempete des Tropiques newspaper said his Rabat burial was temporary and plans would be made for him to be buried in his ancestral home in Gbadolite, Congo.
The Moroccan media didn't cover the funeral.