Mini Summit Supports Intervention In Congo

September 3, 1998

DURBAN, South Africa (PANA) - South African President Nelson Mandela on Thursday, said the Southern African Development Community mini-summit in Durban unanimously supported the decision taken by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia to intervene militarily in the DRC and save the government of President Laurent Kabila.

Speaking at a news conference soon after a breakfast meeting called on the the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit, Mandela said:

''It is quite reasonable when a legitimate leader says 'I have been invaded' and ask for support and it is quite reasonable for countries to respond to that.''

The change in South Africa's position stunned the South African media which was on a feeding frenzy on the apparent differences between the two counties over the Congo crisis, with Mugabe being projected as a a reckless militarist.

Mandela also took the occasion to dispel rumours and speculation rife in South African press that there was bad blood between him and Mugabe.

''Relations between President Robert Mugabe and myself are good. We are good friends and some of the information we have seen in the media has been alarming to us. Not on a single occasion did I make a statement which suggested that there was tension between President Mugabe and myself,'' Mandela said.

He added: ''I did not comment because I knew that the relations between us were very good. I am not sure that some of these things you say about Mr. Mugabe and myself are true.''

He said it was also not true that Mugabe had boycotted the SADC emergency summit he called recently in Pretoria to discuss the DRC crisis.

He said Mugabe had not attended that meeting due to a communication breakdown between him and Vice-President Thabo Mbeki.

''There is no tension between us,'' Mandela said forcefully.

He said Nujoma had not attended the breakfast meeting because he had urgent business back home but the Namibian leader had briefed the summit about why his country had intervened in the Congo.

''After that explanation, we now understand that there are two sides to the conflict,'' said Mandela.

He also said he understood why Kabila could not wait for the breakfast meeting, saying the embattled leader had a very sensitive security and political situation in his country which he must attend to.

In fact, Mandela added, he did not think Kabila would come to Durban, given the urgency of the crisis in his country.

He said what remained now for for processes of discussions to take their course with the ultimate goal of restoring peace to the DRC.

Mandela said SADC had unanimously agreed on the urgent need to restore peace and stability in the troubled Great Lakes nation.

Mandela called the mini-summit of the 14-nation SADC which was also attended by United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan and Organisation of African Unity Secretary-General, Salim Ahmed Salim.

Present at the breakfast conclave were Mandela, Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, Festus Mogae of Botswana, Pakalitha Mosisili, Prime Minister of Lesotho, Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, Navichandra Ramgoolam of Mauritius, Joacquim Chissano of Mozambique, Jeremie Bonnelame, foreign minister of the Seychelles, King Mswati of Swaziland, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and Christian Tembo, vice president of Zambia.

At the news conference after the meeting, Mandela, flanked by Annan and Salim, described the SADC mini-summit as ''very fruitful'', saying it had opened the way to a settlement of the conflict in the former Zaire which is in the grip of a month-long Tutsi-led rebellion.

Annan said he would be meeting soon with President Yoweri Musevevi of Uganda and Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda to discuss about their countries' involvement in the DRC crisis. ''I think that we are going to leave South Africa encouraged because of what has transpired,'' said Annan.

''Very useful discssions are going on. Take it from me that we are making progress. Everybody wants peace.''

He said he believed the discussions would lead to a ceasefire followed by the withdrawal of foreign troops from the DRC in stages.