July 8, 1997
U.S. Still Backing Kabila
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton administration will continue working closely with the Congo's new government despite allegations its forces may have killed tens of thousands of refugees, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.
``The United States government believes our interests are best served by engaging the new authorities as they make key initial decisions that will determine the future course of Congolese government policy,'' said William H. Twaddell, assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
The reiteration of U.S. support for President Laurent Kabila's government comes amid allegations that up to 200,000 people may have been killed during his sweep to power earlier this year.
Kabila was inaugurated as the new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 29, after his forces advanced across Zaire -- as the country was formerly known -- and overthrew President Mobutu Sese Seko.
United Nations investigators have accused Kabila's rebel army, which included many Tutsis, of massacring thousands of Rwandan Hutus in eastern Zaire. U.N. teams have been barred so far from investigating the alleged massacre sites.
Kabila has denied the accusations.
The alleged murders were retribution for the 1994 bloodshed in Rwanda, when at least 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists. The killers hid among refugees fleeing to eastern Zaire when a Tutsi rebel force occupied Rwanda.
With brush-fire wars and massive refugee flows continuing in many countries in Central Africa, the United States has a clear interest in the stability of the Congo, the largest nation in the region, Twaddell told a Senate panel on Africa.
``A lasting resolution to these crises will minimize the potential future need for costly international humanitarian assistance,'' he said.
Twaddell acknowledged Kabila's record so far on human rights had been ``troubling.'' He said future relations with the Congo would depend on progress in creating a broad-based transitional government, respect for human rights, and cooperation with the U.N.-led probe into possible atrocities.
Kabila also needs to transform the rebel army into a disciplined military force and set up a separate police force, Twaddell said. The United States would be willing to help the new authorities reorganize the security forces by providing advice and training, he said.