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In Rabat, Mobutu’s remains are still awaiting his return to the country

Ⓒ AFP – FADEL SENNA – | The remains of Mobutu Sese Seko, the all-powerful marshal-president who ruled 32 years on the former Belgian Congo – today Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – is buried in the European cemetery in Rabat, in a relative sobriety seen the character.

No name, no photo or epitaph. Just three initials-MSS- intertwined on the iron gate of a family vault: here rests Mobutu Sese Seko, “king of Zaire” and fallen dictator, died twenty years ago day for exile in Morocco.

The remains of the all-powerful marshal-president, who reigned 32 years on the former Belgian Congo – today Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – is buried in the European cemetery of Rabat, in a relative sobriety given the character .

“There are many people visiting the tomb every day, at least ten of them, almost all Congolese (and) Africans,” said Abu Fida, the guardian of the site. “Mobutu is the star of the cemetery!” He smiled.

Hidden behind high white walls, this improbable necropolis is a mixture of half-abandoned burials and alignments of military graves, a remnant of colonial Morocco.

In an almost religious silence, a central deserted walk surrounded by palm trees rises towards an imposing obelisk celebrating the “glorious defenders” of France.

A few steps further, two large chubby palm trees stand guard before the Mobutu vault, a temple of white and black marble, surmounted by a simple cross.

On that day, a duo of Congolese nuns came to collect, and murmured a discreet “our Father”. “He was our president all the same,” says one of them.

– “Mama” –

“There are three of them to be buried in the vault, Mobutu and two of his sons. In total, there are six places,” said goalkeeper Abu Fida. Over the years, other members of the family were also buried in discrete graves around the mausoleum.

Burned every day by the cemetery employees, the tomb of the patriarch is impeccable. The inside of the chapel, closed with double turn, where “there are small words, personal things …, it is Mama who takes care of it,” says Abu Fida.

“Mama”? His wife, who “usually comes twice a week, she is very nice”.

Bobi Ladawa was the legitimate wife of Mobutu who, unrecognized originality, took Kosia, the twin sister of Bobi, as an official concubine.

Ⓒ AFP – FADEL SENNA – | Burned every day by the cemetery employees, the tomb of the patriarch is impeccable.

The two sisters were the last companions of the dictator. They followed him into his Moroccan exile and lived today, at the head of the Mobutu clan, between Rabat, Paris, Brussels and Portugal, fueling rumors about the fortune concealed by the former president.

“Mama is now coming by taxi” visit the tomb of her late husband. No more chauffeurs and luxury cars. “She likes to talk with people,” says Abu Fida. “But she flees the solicitors like the plague. They are often numerous behind her, who come even to the grave to beg for a ticket.”

– Promise –

The marshal with the famous leopard toque and the carved wooden cane was driven out of power in May 1997 by the rebellion of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who came from the Swahili-speaking eastern DRC, with the support of Rwanda, Uganda.

Dropped by his allies, betrayed by his generals and hated by the population, Mobutu fled like a pariah. Firstly in Togo, he finally found refuge in Morocco, with his old friend Hassan II, before being quickly hospitalized for advanced prostate cancer.

Twenty years after his death, on September 7, 1997 at the age of 66, his body remains still in Rabat, in the family intimacy but far from the land of his ancestors. His repatriation was one of the commitments made in 2013 by the current President Joseph Kabila (son of Laurent-Désiré).

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – ERIC FEFERBERG – | Former President of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko in his private residence, 30 April 1997

“For the Congolese authorities, the body of President Mobutu should not remain in Morocco, he must be repatriated,” the Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP. “But there is an internal dispute in the family … The government can not undertake anything without the family,” he said.

Unable to confirm in Rabat, where the Mobutu clan carefully avoids journalists.

“It’s very political, Mama is also afraid that the grave in the Congo will be desecrated,” Abu Fida said.

In 2012, for the 15th anniversary of his death, the family had organized a discreet mass of requiem. For this year, nothing, to date, has yet been officially announced.

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