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Anti-globalisation protesters end occupation of Mobutu villa

Police blocked access to the villa while the group was inside Keystone

Anti-globalisation protesters have left a villa belonging to the late Zairian dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, after occupying the building for 24 hours.

The peaceful end to the occupation of the house in Savigny near Lausanne came after members of the Lausanne-based La Smala movement met with a judge, police and an official from the local debt and bankruptcy office, which is responsible for the villa.

The house is due to be sold at auction next month and is valued at SFr4.25 million ($2.5 million). As part of the deal to end the occupation, the debt and bankruptcy office agreed to drop a charge of breaking and entering.

Around 15 activists broke into the building on Thursday afternoon and hung a banner over the entrance emblazoned with the words, “Diktat Museum 01”. They said they wanted to turn the villa into a “Museum of Dictatorships” until Sunday.

“As the police wouldn’t let anyone in, we decided to leave,” said Theo Bondolfi, a spokesman for the movement. “It a real pity because we’d prepared a lot of material for the exhibition.”

Sale of villa

The group wants 10 per cent of the sale of the villa to be used to fund social projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bondolfi said the debt and bankruptcy office had agreed to let members of La Smala look at files listing the assets of the former dictator. “We can now achieve our aims by contacting the creditors,” he said.

The Swiss authorities seized the villa in Savigny four years ago along with other assets belonging to Mobutu following a request from the Congolese government.

The former dictator is suspected of plundering millions from the former Zaire before he was ousted in a coup. The Swiss authorities have already frozen assets belonging to Mobutu and his associates worth SFr6 million. La Smala also wants 10 per cent of these assets to be used to fund projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Proceeds from the sale of the villa will be transferred to a blocked account containing the SFr6 million. The interior of the house is now empty after the furniture was auctioned off in June.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR