- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Diplomats expelled

Congolese Ambassador Faida Mitifu is wondering how she is going to run her embassy after two diplomats half of her staff leave the United States today.

The State Department Monday night ordered the two diplomats out of the country in retaliation for the expulsion of two U.S. diplomats from the Congo over the weekend.

Asked how the embassy can function with her depleted staff, Mrs. Mitifu responded, "You tell me. You tell me."

"I'm very saddened," she said. "How can I work with two diplomats? I'm very saddened to see them gone."

Nestor Wawa, a minister-counselor in charge of administration and political affairs, and Paul Ruhamya, a second counselor who handled cultural and economic issues, had arrived only in the spring.

Mrs. Mitifu emphasized that the two diplomats are not accused of any misconduct and are solely targets of diplomatic retaliation.

The ambassador is left with Tambo A. Kabila Mukendi, a minister-counselor here since 1988, and Siosi Thomas Mbimba, a counselor.

Mrs. Mitifu defended her government's decision to expel Roger Moran, a political officer, and Denise Burgess, the public affairs officer originally identified in Congolese news reports as "Denis Burgess."

She said the two diplomats attended a dinner party in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, and urged guests who are members of the political opposition to overthrow President Laurent Kabila, who ousted dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 and is now struggling to avoid the same fate at the hands of rebels backed by Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

"It was some kind of incitement to revolution, which for the government of the Congo is a very sensitive issue because we are a country at war and a victim of invasion," she said.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has denounced the allegations as "utterly false and outrageous."

Mrs. Mitifu said she realized that relations with the United States have eroded since Washington initially supported Mr. Kabila after the coup.

"I understand why the decision was taken to expel our diplomats, but it was unjustified," she said. "Hopefully this is only a bump in our relations and we can concentrate on liberating my country from invading forces."

Mrs. Mitifu urged the United States to aid Congo by condemning the actions of Uganda, which she said is redeploying troops and heavy equipment from the northeast area toward the center of the country.

The State Department Monday night issued a statement explaining why it chose to expel the two Congolese diplomats.

"We are declaring two members of the Congolese Embassy in Washington persona non grata and requiring them to depart the United States by Wednesday, Aug. 23," the statement said.

"We have taken this step reluctantly, but the Congolese government's unjustified expulsion of two American diplomats has left us with no choice."

Mr. Boucher said yesterday, "We regard the matter as closed."

Medal for Fox

The Center for Democracy will honor Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox tomorrow for breaking the seven-decade lock on power by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

The center will present him with its International Democracy Medal at a ceremony at the Inter-American Development Bank.

"The medal will be awarded to President-elect Fox, honoring him for his pivotal role in the globally recognized achievement of that country's democratic electoral process during its recent national election," the center said in a statement.

Mr. Fox's victory last month represented the first time a PRI presidential candidate had been defeated since the party was founded in 1929.

Mr. Fox arrives here today to discuss his goal to reshape U.S. policies on border controls and the migration of Mexican workers. He is due to meet Vice President Al Gore tomorrow.

Other recipients of the democracy award include Presidents Emil Constantinescu of Romania, Arpad Goncz of Hungary, Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina; former Presidents Raul Alfonsin of Argentina, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua and Boris Yeltsin of Russia; and former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic.

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