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Anti-globalisation protesters holed up in Mobutu villa

Mobutu's villa is to be put up for auction in September Keystone Archive

Anti-globalisation protesters occupying a villa belonging to the late Zairian dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, say they intend to stay put until Sunday. The house in Savigny near Lausanne is due to be sold at auction next month and is valued at SFr4.25 million ($2.5 million).

Around 15 members of the Lausanne-based La Smala movement have been holed up in the villa since Thursday. They want the house turned into a “Museum of Dictatorships”. The police have not intervened, although they were holding talks with a local official on Friday.

“We hope to be able to stay here for four days and to welcome members of the public who want to visit the place,” explained Theo Bondolfi, a spokesman for the movement.

Playing down fears that the protesters would be evicted, he added: “This house has been empty for years, so there’s no real hurry for us to leave.”

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

Dictators’ assets

They also want the cabinet to review the way dictators’ assets are handled in Switzerland “in the light of several unfortunate episodes”.

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.

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. However the activists have transformed it into a “museum”, hanging various posters on the theme of dictatorship as well as works of their own art.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR