Mobutu Sese Seko
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Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (; born Joseph-Désiré Mobutu; 14 October 1930 – 7 September 1997) was a Congolese politician and military officer who was the
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) *President (education), a leader of a college or university *President (government title) President may also refer to: Automobiles * Nissan President, a 1966–2010 Japanese ful ...
of
Zaire Zaire (, ), officially the Republic of Zaire (french: République du Zaïre, link=no, ), was a Congolese state from 1971 to 1997 in Central Africa that was previously and is now again known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Zaire wa ...
from 1965 to 1997 (known as the
Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo (french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC), colloquially "La RDC" ), informally Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and formerly and also colloquially Zaire, is a country in ...
from 1965 to 1971). He also served as
Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity The Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity served as the head of the Organisation of African Unity, a rotating position. List See also * Chairperson of the African Union References

{{African Union chairpersons Chairpersons of ...
from 1967 to 1968. During the
Congo Crisis The Congo Crisis (french: Crise congolaise, link=no) was a period of Crisis, political upheaval and war, conflict between 1960 and 1965 in the Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), Republic of the Congo (today the Democratic Republic of the ...
, Mobutu, serving as Chief of Staff of the Army and supported by Belgium and the United States, deposed the democratically elected government of left-wing nationalist
Patrice Lumumba Patrice Émery Lumumba (; 2 July 1925 – 17 January 1961) was a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Con ...
in 1960. Mobutu installed a government that arranged for Lumumba's execution in 1961, and continued to lead the country's armed forces until he took power directly in a second coup in 1965. To consolidate his power, he established the
Popular Movement of the Revolution The Popular Movement of the Revolution (french: Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution, abbr. An abbreviation (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European la ...
as the sole legal political party in 1967, changed the Congo's name to ''Zaire'' in 1971, and his own name to Mobutu Sese Seko in 1972. Mobutu claimed that his political ideology was "neither
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nor
right Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people according to some legal system, social convent ...
, nor even centre", though nevertheless he developed a regime that was intensely
autocratic Autocracy is a system of government in which absolute power over a State (polity), state is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject neither to external legal restraints nor to regularized mechanisms of popular cont ...
even by African standards of his time. He attempted to purge the country of all colonial cultural influence through his program of " national authenticity". Mobutu was the object of a pervasive
cult of personality A cult of personality, or a cult of the leader,Cas Mudde, Mudde, Cas and Kaltwasser, Cristóbal Rovira (2017) ''Populism: A Very Short Introduction''. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 63. is the result of an effort which is made to cr ...
. During his rule, he amassed a large personal fortune through economic exploitation and corruption, leading some to call his rule a "
kleptocracy Kleptocracy (from Ancient Greek, Greek κλέπτης ''kléptēs'', "thief", κλέπτω ''kléptō'', "I steal", and -κρατία -''kratía'' from κράτος ''krátos'', "power, rule") is a government whose Corruption, corrupt leaders ...
". He presided over a period of widespread human rights violations. Under his rule, the nation also suffered from uncontrolled
inflation In economics, inflation is an increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, inflation corresponds to a reductio ...
, a large debt, and massive currency
devaluation In macroeconomics and modern monetary policy, a devaluation is an official lowering of the value of a country's currency within a fixed exchange-rate system, in which a monetary authority formally sets a lower exchange rate of the national curren ...
s. Mobutu received strong support (military, diplomatic and economic) from the
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,
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, and
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, who believed he was a strong opponent of
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in
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. He also built close ties with the governments of
apartheid Apartheid (, especially South African English: , ; , "aparthood") was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the So ...
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the Southern Africa, southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by of coastline that stretch along the Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the ...
,
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...
and the Greek military junta. From 1972 onward, he was also supported by
Mao Zedong Mao Zedong pronounced ; also Romanization of Chinese, romanised traditionally as Mao Tse-tung. (26 December 1893 – 9 September 1976), also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary who was the List of national founde ...
of China, mainly due to his
anti-Soviet Anti-Sovietism, anti-Soviet sentiment, called by Government of the Soviet Union, Soviet authorities ''antisovetchina'' (russian: антисоветчина), refers to persons and activities actually or allegedly aimed against the Soviet Union ...
stance but also as part of Mao's attempts to create a bloc of Afro-Asian nations led by him. The massive Chinese economic aid that flowed into Zaire gave Mobutu more flexibility in his dealings with Western governments, allowed him to identify as an "
anti-capitalist Anti-capitalism is a political ideology and Political movement, movement encompassing a variety of attitudes and ideas that oppose capitalism. In this sense, anti-capitalists are those who wish to replace capitalism with another type of economi ...
revolutionary", and enabled him to avoid going to the
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for assistance. By 1990, economic deterioration and unrest forced Mobutu Sese Seko into coalition with his power opponents. Although he used his troops to thwart change, his antics did not last long. In May 1997, rebel forces led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila overran the country and forced him into exile. Already suffering from advanced
prostate cancer Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancerous tumor worldwide and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related mortality among men. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that surr ...
, he died three months later in Morocco. Mobutu was notorious for
corruption Corruption is a form of dishonesty or a criminal offense which is undertaken by a person or an organization which is entrusted in a position of authority, in order to acquire illicit benefits or abuse power for one's personal gain. Corruption m ...
,
nepotism Nepotism is an In-group favoritism, advantage, privilege, or position that is granted to Kinship, relatives and friends in an occupation or field. These fields may include but are not limited to, business, politics, academia, entertainment, s ...
, and the
embezzlement Embezzlement is a crime that consists of withholding assets for the purpose of criminal conversion, conversion of such assets, by one or more persons to whom the assets were entrusted, either to be held or to be used for specific purposes. Em ...
of between US$4 billion and $15 billion during his rule. He was known for extravagances such as shopping trips to Paris via the supersonic
Concorde The Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde () is a retired Franco-British supersonic airliner jointly developed and manufactured by Sud Aviation (later Aérospatiale) and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). Studies started in 1954, and France ...
aircraft.


Biography


Early years and education

Mobutu, a member of the Ngbandi ethnic group, was born in 1930 in
Lisala Lisala is the capital of the Mongala Province in northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo River flows through the city. Its Cathédrale Saint-Hermès is the cathedral episcopal see of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lisala. It is ...
,
Belgian Congo The Belgian Congo (french: Congo belge, ; nl, Belgisch-Congo) was a Belgian colonial empire, Belgian colony in Central Africa from 1908 until independence in 1960. The former colony adopted its present name, the Democratic Republic of the Cong ...
. Mobutu's mother, Marie Madeleine Yemo, was a hotel maid who fled to Lisala to escape the
harem Harem (Persian: حرمسرا ''haramsarā'', ar, حَرِيمٌ ''ḥarīm'', "a sacred inviolable place; harem; female members of the family") refers to domestic spaces that are reserved for the women of the house in a Muslim Muslims ...
of a local village chief. There she met and married Albéric Gbemani, a cook for a Belgian judge. Shortly afterward she gave birth to Mobutu. The name "Mobutu" was selected by an uncle. Gbemani died when Mobutu was eight. Thereafter, he was raised by an uncle and a grandfather. The Belgian judge's wife took a liking to Mobutu and taught him to speak, read, and write fluently in the French language, the official language of the country in the colonial period. His widowed mother Yemo relied on the help of relatives to support her four children, and the family moved often. Mobutu's earliest education took place in the capital Léopoldville (now Kinshasa). His mother eventually sent him to an uncle in Coquilhatville (present-day Mbandaka), where he attended the Christian Brothers School, a Catholic-mission boarding school. A physically imposing figure (he eventually stood over six feet .8 metrestall) Mobutu dominated school sports. He also excelled in academic subjects and ran the class newspaper. He was known for his pranks and impish sense of humor. A classmate recalled that when the Belgian priests, whose first language was Dutch, made an error in French, Mobutu would leap to his feet in class and point out the mistake. In 1949 Mobutu stowed away aboard a boat, traveling downriver to Léopoldville, where he met a girl. The priests found him several weeks later. At the end of the school year, in lieu of being sent to prison, he was ordered to serve seven years in the colonial army, the
Force Publique The ''Force Publique'' (, "Public Force"; nl, Openbare Weermacht) was a gendarmerie and military force in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1885 (when the territory was known as the Congo Free State), through the period of Be ...
(FP). This was a usual punishment for rebellious students.


Army service

Mobutu found discipline in army life, as well as a father figure in Sergeant Louis Bobozo. Mobutu kept up his studies by borrowing European newspapers from the Belgian officers and books from wherever he could find them, reading them on sentry duty and whenever he had a spare moment. His favourites were the writings of French president
Charles de Gaulle Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (; ; (commonly abbreviated as CDG) 22 November 18909 November 1970) was a French army officer and statesman who led Free France against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government ...
, British prime minister
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 Winston Churchill in the Second World War, dur ...
, and Italian Renaissance philosopher
Niccolò Machiavelli Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli ( , , ; 3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527), occasionally rendered in English as Nicholas Machiavel ( , ; #Machiavel, see below), was an Italian diplomat, author, philosopher and historian who lived during the Re ...
. After passing a course in accounting, Mobutu began to dabble professionally in journalism. Still angry after his clashes with the school priests, he did not marry in a church. His contribution to the wedding festivities was a crate of beer, all his army salary could afford.


Early political involvement

As a soldier, Mobutu wrote in pseudonym on contemporary politics for ''Actualités Africaines'' (African News), a magazine set up by a Belgian colonial. In 1956, he quit the army and became a full-time journalist, writing for the Léopoldville daily '' L'Avenir''. Two years later, he went to Belgium to cover the 1958 World Exposition and stayed to receive training in journalism. By this time, Mobutu had met many of the young Congolese intellectuals who were challenging colonial rule. He became friendly with
Patrice Lumumba Patrice Émery Lumumba (; 2 July 1925 – 17 January 1961) was a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Con ...
and joined Lumumba's Congolese National Movement (MNC). Mobutu eventually became Lumumba's personal aide. Several contemporaries indicate that Belgian intelligence had recruited Mobutu to be an informer to the government. During the 1960 talks in Brussels on Congolese independence, the US embassy held a reception for the Congolese delegation. Embassy staff were each assigned a list of delegation members to meet, and discussed their impressions afterward. The ambassador noted, "One name kept coming up. But it wasn't on anyone's list because he wasn't an official delegation member, he was Lumumba's secretary. But everyone agreed that this was an extremely intelligent man, very young, perhaps immature, but a man with great potential." Following the general election, Lumumba was tasked with creating a government. He gave Mobutu the office of Secretary of State to the Presidency. Mobutu held much influence in the final determination of the rest of the government.


Congo Crisis

On 5 July 1960, soldiers of the
Force Publique The ''Force Publique'' (, "Public Force"; nl, Openbare Weermacht) was a gendarmerie and military force in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1885 (when the territory was known as the Congo Free State), through the period of Be ...
stationed at Camp Léopold II in Léopoldville, dissatisfied with their all-white leadership and working conditions, mutinied. The revolt spread across the region in the following days. Mobutu assisted other officials in negotiating with the mutineers to secure the release of the officers and their families. On 8 July the full Council of Ministers convened in an extraordinary session under the chairmanship of President
Joseph Kasa-Vubu Joseph Kasa-Vubu, alternatively Joseph Kasavubu, ( – 24 March 1969) was a Congolese politician who served as the first President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), Republic of the Congo) from 1 ...
at Camp Léopold II to address the task of Africanising the garrison. The former had shown some influence over the mutinying troops, but Kasa-Vubu and the Bakongo ministers feared that he would enact a ''
coup d'état A coup d'état (; French for 'stroke of state'), also known as a coup or overthrow, is a seizure and removal of a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In ...
'' if he were given power. The latter was perceived as calmer and more thoughtful. Lumumba saw Mpolo as courageous, but favored Mobutu's prudence. As the discussions continued, the cabinet began to divide according to who they preferred to serve as chief of staff. Lumumba wanted to keep both men in his government and wished to avoid upsetting one of their camps of supporters. In the end Mobutu was given the role and awarded the rank of colonel. The following day government delegations left the capital to oversee the Africanisation of the army; Mobutu was sent to Équateur. The British diplomat Brian Urquhart serving with the United Nations wrote: "When I first met Mobutu in July 1960, he was Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba’s chief military assistant and had just promoted himself from sergeant to lieutenant-colonel. By comparison with his boss, Mobutu was a pillar of pragmatism and common sense. It was to him that we appealed when our people were arrested by Lumumba’s hashish-stimulated guards. It was he who would bring up, in a disarmingly casual way, Lumumba’s most outrageous requests – that the UN should, for example, meet the pay roll of the potentially mutinous Congolese army. In those early days, Mobutu seemed a comparatively sensible young man, one who might even, at least now and then, have the best interests of his newly independent country at heart." Encouraged by a Belgian government intent on maintaining its access to rich Congolese mines, secessionist violence erupted in the south. Concerned that the United Nations force sent to help restore order was not helping to crush the secessionists, Lumumba turned to the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
for assistance. He received massive military aid and about a thousand Soviet technical advisers within six weeks. As this was during the
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
, the US government feared that the Soviet activity was a maneuver to spread communist influence in Central Africa. Kasa-Vubu was encouraged by the US and Belgium to dismiss Lumumba, which he did on 5 September. An outraged Lumumba declared Kasa-Vubu deposed. Parliament refused to recognise the dismissals and urged reconciliation, but no agreement was reached. Lumumba and Kasa-Vubu each ordered Mobutu to arrest the other. As Army Chief of Staff, Mobutu came under great pressure from multiple sources. The embassies of Western nations, which helped pay the soldiers' salaries, as well as Kasa-Vubu and Mobutu's subordinates, all favored getting rid of the Soviet presence. On 14 September Mobutu launched a bloodless coup, declaring both Kasa-Vubu and Lumumba to be "neutralised" and establishing a new government of university graduates, the College of Commissioners-General. Lumumba rejected this action but was forced to retire to his residence, where UN peacekeepers prevented Mobutu's soldiers from arresting him. Urquhart recalled that on the day of the coup, Mobutu showed up unannounced at the UN headquarters in Leopoldville and refused to leave, until the radio announced the coup, leading Mobutu to say over and over again "''C’est moi!''" ("This is me!"). Recognizing that Mobutu had only gone to the UN headquarters in case the coup should fail, Urquhart ordered him out. Losing confidence that the international community would support his reinstatement, Lumumba fled in late November to join his supporters in Stanleyville to establish a new government. He was captured by Mobutu's troops in early December, and incarcerated at his headquarters in Thysville. However, Mobutu still considered him a threat, and transferred him to the rebelling
State of Katanga The State of Katanga; sw, Inchi Ya Katanga) also sometimes denoted as the Republic of Katanga, was a breakaway state that proclaimed its independence from Congo-Léopoldville on 11 July 1960 under Moise Tshombe, leader of the local ''Co ...
on 17 January 1961. Lumumba disappeared from public view. It was later discovered that he was executed the same day by the secessionist forces of
Moise Tshombe Moise is a given name and surname, with differing spellings in its French and Romanian origins, both of which originate from the name Moses (given name), Moses: Moïse is the French spelling of Moses, while Moise is the Romanian spelling. As a su ...
, after Mobutu's government turned him over. On 23 January 1961, Kasa-Vubu promoted Mobutu to major-general. Historian De Witte argues that this was a political action, "aimed to strengthen the army, the president's sole support, and Mobutu's position within the army". In 1964,
Pierre Mulele Pierre Mulele (11 August 1929 – 3 or 9 October 1968) was a Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congolese rebel active in the Simba rebellion of 1964. Mulele had also been minister of education in Patrice Lumumba's Lumumba Government, cabinet. W ...
led partisans in another rebellion. They quickly occupied two-thirds of the Congo. In response, the Congolese army, led by Mobutu, reconquered the entire territory through 1965.


Second ''coup'' and consolidation of power

Prime Minister Moise Tshombe's Congolese National Convention had won a large majority in the March 1965 elections, but Kasa-Vubu appointed an anti-Tshombe leader, Évariste Kimba, as prime minister-designate. However, Parliament twice refused to confirm him. With the government in near-paralysis, Mobutu seized power in a bloodless coup on 24 November. He had turned 35 a month earlier. Under the auspices of a
state of exception A state of exception (german: Ausnahmezustand) is a concept introduced in the 1920s by the German philosopher and jurist Carl Schmitt, similar to a state of emergency (martial law) but based in the Sovereignty, sovereign's ability to transcend the ...
(''regime d'exception''), Mobutu assumed sweeping—almost absolute—powers for five years. In his first speech upon taking power, Mobutu told a large crowd at Léopoldville's main stadium that, since politicians had brought the Congo to ruin in five years, it would take him at least that long to set things right again, and therefore there would be no more political party activity for five years. On 30 November 1965 Parliament approved a measure which turned over most legislative powers to Mobutu and his cabinet, though it retained the right to review his decrees. In early March 1966 he opened a new session of Parliament by declaring that he was revoking their right of review, and two weeks later his government permanently suspended the body and assumed all of its remaining functions. Initially, Mobutu's government presented itself as apolitical or even anti-political. The word "politician" carried negative connotations, and became almost synonymous with someone who was wicked or corrupt. In 1966 the Corps of Volunteers of the Republic was established, a vanguard movement designed to mobilize popular support behind Mobutu, who was proclaimed the nation's "Second National Hero" after Lumumba. Despite the role he played in Lumumba's ousting, Mobutu worked to present himself as a successor to Lumumba's legacy. One of his key tenets early in his rule was "authentic Congolese nationalism". In 1966, Mobutu started renaming cities that had European names with more "authentic" African names, and in this way Leopoldville became Kinshasa, Stanleyville became Kisangani and Élisabethville became Lubumbashi. 1967 marked the debut of the
Popular Movement of the Revolution The Popular Movement of the Revolution (french: Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution, abbr. An abbreviation (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European la ...
(MPR), which until 1990 was the nation's only legal political party. Among the themes advanced by the MPR in its doctrine, the Manifesto of N'Sele, were nationalism, revolution, and "authenticity". Revolution was described as a "truly national revolution, essentially pragmatic", which called for "the repudiation of both capitalism and communism". One of the MPR's slogans was "Neither left nor right", to which would be added "nor even center" in later years. That same year, all trade unions were consolidated into a single union, the National Union of Zairian Workers, and brought under government control. Mobutu intended for the union to serve as an instrument of support for government policy, rather than as an independent group. Independent trade unions were illegal until 1991. Facing many challenges early in his rule, Mobutu converted much opposition into submission through patronage; those he could not co-opt, he dealt with forcefully. In 1966, four cabinet members were arrested on charges of complicity in an attempted coup, tried by a military tribunal, and publicly executed in an open-air spectacle witnessed by over 50,000 people. Uprisings by former Katangan gendarmeries were crushed, as were the
Stanleyville mutinies The Kisangani mutinies, also known as the Stanleyville mutinies or Mercenaries' mutinies, occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1966 and 1967. First mutiny Amid rumours that the ousted Prime Minister Moise Tshombe was plotting a com ...
of 1967 led by white mercenaries. By 1970, nearly all potential threats to his authority had been smashed, and for the most part, law and order was brought to nearly all parts of the country. That year marked the pinnacle of Mobutu's legitimacy and power. In 1970 King
Baudouin of Belgium Baudouin (;, ; nl, Boudewijn Albert Karel Leopold Axel Maria Gustaaf, ; german: Balduin Albrecht Karl Leopold Axel Maria Gustav. 7 September 1930 – 31 July 1993), Dutch name Boudewijn, was King of the Belgians from 17 July 1951 until his de ...
made a highly successful state visit to
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Once a site of fishing and trading villages situated along the Congo River, Kinshasa is now on ...
. That same year presidential and
legislative A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
elections were held. Although the constitution allowed for the existence of two parties, the MPR was the only party allowed to nominate candidates. For the presidential election, Mobutu was the only candidate. Voting was not secret; voters chose a green paper if they supported Mobutu's candidacy, and a red paper if they opposed his candidacy. Casting a green ballot was deemed a vote for hope, while a red ballot was deemed a vote for chaos. Under the circumstances, the result was inevitable–according to official figures, Mobutu was confirmed in office with near-unanimous support, garnering 10,131,669 votes to only 157 "no" votes. It later emerged that almost 30,500 more votes were cast than the actual number of registered voters.DRC: Elections under the Second Republic
EISA
The legislative elections were held in a similar fashion. Voters were presented with a single list from the MPR; according to official figures, an implausible 98.33% of voters voted in favor of the MPR list. As he consolidated power, Mobutu set up several military forces whose sole purpose was to protect him. These included the Special Presidential Division, Civil Guard and Service for Action, and Military Intelligence (SNIP).


Authenticity campaign

Embarking on a campaign of pro-Africa cultural awareness, called '' authenticité'', Mobutu began renaming cities that reflected the colonial past, starting on 1 June 1966: Leopoldville became Kinshasa, Elisabethville became Lubumbashi, and Stanleyville became Kisangani. In October 1971, he renamed the country as the
Republic of Zaire Zaire (, ), officially the Republic of Zaire (french: République du Zaïre, link=no, ), was a Congolese state from 1971 to 1997 in Central Africa Central Africa is a subregion of the African continent comprising various countries a ...
. He ordered the people to change their European names to African ones, and priests were warned that they would face five years' imprisonment if they were caught baptizing a Zairian child with a European name. Western attire and ties were banned, and men were forced to wear a Mao-style tunic known as an ''
abacost The abacost, a Blend word, blending of the French ''"à bas le costume"'' (), was the distinctive clothing for men that was promoted by Mobutu Sese Seko as part of his ''Authenticité (Zaire), authenticité'' programme in Zaire, between 1972 and ...
'' (shorthand for ''à bas le costume'', or "down with the suit"). Christmas was moved from December to June because it was more of an "authentic" date. In 1972, in accordance with his own decree of a year earlier, Mobutu renamed himself ''Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga'' (meaning "The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake."). Around this time, he eschewed his military uniform in favor of what would become his classic image—the tall, imposing man carrying a walking stick while wearing an abacost, thick-framed glasses, and leopard-skin
toque A toque ( or ) is a type of hat with a narrow brim or no brim at all. Toques were popular from the 13th to the 16th century in Europe, especially France. The mode was revived in the 1930s. Now it is primarily known as the traditional headgear ...
. In 1974, a new constitution consolidated Mobutu's grip on the country. It defined the MPR as the "single institution" in the country. It was officially defined as "the nation politically organized"—in essence, the state was a transmission belt for the party. All citizens automatically became members of the MPR from birth. The constitution stated that the MPR was embodied by the party's president, who was elected every seven years at its national convention. At the same time, the party president was automatically nominated as the sole candidate for a seven-year term as president of the republic; he was confirmed in office by a referendum. The document codified the emergency powers Mobutu had exercised since 1965; it vested Mobutu with "plenitude of power exercise", effectively concentrating all governing power in his hands. Mobutu was reelected three times under this system, each time by implausibly high margins of 98 percent or more. A single list of MPR candidates was returned to the legislature every five years with equally implausible margins; official figures gave the MPR list unanimous or near-unanimous support. At one of those elections, in
1975 It was also declared the ''International Women's Year'' by the United Nations and the European Architectural Heritage Year by the Council of Europe. Events January * January 1 - Watergate scandal (United States): John N. Mitchell, H. R. Ha ...
, formal voting was dispensed with altogether. Instead, the election took place by acclaim; candidates were presented at public locations around the country where they could be applauded.


One-man rule

Early in his rule, Mobutu consolidated power by publicly executing political rivals, secessionists, coup plotters, and other threats to his rule. To set an example, many were
hanged Hanging is the suspension of a person by a noose or ligature strangulation, ligature around the neck.Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. Hanging as method of execution is unknown, as method of suicide from 1325. The ''Oxford English Dictionary' ...
before large audiences. Such victims included former Prime Minister Évariste Kimba, who, with three cabinet members—Jérôme Anany (Defense Minister), Emmanuel Bamba (Finance Minister), and Alexandre Mahamba (Minister of Mines and Energy)—was tried in May 1966, and sent to the gallows on 30 May, before an audience of 50,000 spectators. The men were executed on charges of being in contact with Colonel Alphonse Bangala and Major Pierre Efomi, for the purpose of planning a coup. Mobutu explained the executions as follows: "One had to strike through a spectacular example, and create the conditions of regime discipline. When a chief takes a decision, he decides – period." In 1968,
Pierre Mulele Pierre Mulele (11 August 1929 – 3 or 9 October 1968) was a Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congolese rebel active in the Simba rebellion of 1964. Mulele had also been minister of education in Patrice Lumumba's Lumumba Government, cabinet. W ...
, Lumumba's Minister of Education and a rebel leader during the 1964
Simba rebellion The Simba rebellion, also known as the Orientale revolt, was a regional uprising which took place in the Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1963 and 1965 in the wider context of the Congo Crisis and the ...
, was lured out of exile in
Brazzaville Brazzaville (, kg, Kintamo, Nkuna, Kintambo, Ntamo, Mavula, Tandala, Mfwa, Mfua; Teke languages, Teke: ''M'fa'', ''Mfaa'', ''Mfa'', ''Mfoa''Roman Adrian Cybriwsky, ''Capital Cities around the World: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Cu ...
on the belief that he would receive amnesty. Instead, he was tortured and killed by Mobutu's forces. While Mulele was still alive, his eyes were gouged out, his genitals were ripped off, and his limbs were amputated one by one. Mobutu later switched to a new tactic, buying off political rivals. He used the slogan "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer still" to describe his tactic of co-opting political opponents through bribery. A favorite Mobutu tactic was to play "musical chairs", rotating members of his government, switching the cabinet roster constantly to ensure that no one would pose a threat to his rule. Between November 1965 and April 1997, Mobutu reshuffled his cabinet 60 times. The frequent cabinet reshuffles as intended encouraged insecurity in his ministers, who knew that the mercurial Mobutu would reshuffle his cabinet with no regard for efficiency and competence on the part of his ministers. The frequency that men entered and left the cabinet also encouraged gross corruption because ministers never knew how long they might be in office, thus encouraging them to steal as much as possible while they were in the cabinet. Another tactic was to arrest and sometimes torture dissident members of the government, only to later pardon them and reward them with high office. The Congolese historian Emizet F. Kisangani wrote: "Most public officials knew that regardless of their inefficiency and degree of corruption, they could reenter the government. To hold a government position required neither a sense of management nor a good conscience. On most occasions, effectiveness and a good conscience were major obstacles to political advancement. Mobutu demanded absolute personal allegiance in return for the opportunity to accumulate wealth". As early as 1970, it was estimated that Mobutu had stolen 60% of the national budget that year, marking him as one of the most corrupt leaders in Africa and the world. Kisangani wrote that Mobutu created a system of institutional corruption that greatly debased public morality by rewarding venality and greed. In 1972, Mobutu tried unsuccessfully to have himself named president for life. In June 1983, he raised himself to the rank of
Field Marshal Field marshal (or field-marshal, abbreviated as FM) is the most senior military rank, ordinarily senior to the general officer ranks. Usually, it is the highest rank in an army and as such few persons are appointed to it. It is considered as ...
; the order was signed by General Likulia Bolongo. Victor Nendaka Bika, in his capacity as Vice-President of the Bureau of the Central Committee, second authority in the land, addressed a speech filled with praise for President Mobutu. To gain the revenues of Congolese resources, Mobutu initially
nationalized Nationalization (nationalisation in British English) is the process of transforming privately-owned assets into public assets by bringing them under the State ownership, public ownership of a Government, national government or State (polity), ...
foreign-owned firms and forced European investors out of the country. But in many cases he handed the management of these firms to relatives and close associates, who quickly exercised their own corruption and stole the companies' assets. In 1973–1974, Mobutu launched his "Zairianization" campaign, nationalising foreign owned businesses that were handed over to Zairians. In October 1973, the Arab oil shock ended the "long summer" of prosperity in the West that had begun in 1945, and send the world economy into its sharpest contraction since the Great Depression. One consequence of the oil shock and the resulting global recession was that the price of copper dropped by 50% over the course of 1974, which proved to be a disaster for Zaire as copper was its most important export. The American historian Thomas Odom wrote because of the collapse in copper prices Zaire went from "prosperity to bankruptcy almost overnight" in 1974. The economic collapse forced Zaire to turn towards the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help its manage its debts which could no longer be serviced. Seeking an alternative source of support as the auditors for the IMF discovered major corruption within the Zairian finances, Mobutu visited China in 1974 and returned wearing a Mao jacket and the new title of ''Citoyen Mobutu'' (Citizen Mobutu"). Influenced by the Cultural Revolution, Mobutu shifted to the left and announced his intention to "radicalize the Zairian revolution". The businesses that Mobutu had just handed over to Zairians were in turn nationalized and placed under state control. At the same time, Mobutu imposed a 50% salary cut to state employees, which led a failed coup attempt against him in June 1975. By 1977, Mobutu's nationalizations had precipitated such an economic slump that Mobutu was forced to try to woo foreign investors back. Katangan rebels based in
Angola , national_anthem = " Angola Avante"() , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Luanda , religion = , religion_year = 2020 , religion_ref = , coordina ...
invaded Zaire that year, in retaliation for Mobutu's support for anti-
MPLA The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola ( pt, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, abbr. An abbreviation (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the ...
rebels. France airlifted 1,500 Moroccan paratroopers into the country and repulsed the rebels, ending
Shaba I Shaba I was a conflict in Zaire's Katanga Province, Shaba (Katanga) Province lasting from March 8 to May 26, 1977. The conflict began when the Front for the National Liberation of the Congo (FNLC), a group of about 2,000 Katangan Congolese soldi ...
. The rebels attacked Zaire again, in greater numbers, in the Shaba II invasion of 1978. The governments of Belgium and France deployed troops with logistical support from the United States and defeated the rebels again. The poor performance of the Zairian Army during the both Shaba invasions, which humiliated Mobutu by forcing him to ask for foreign troops, did not lead to military reforms. However, Mobutu reduced the size of the Army from 51,000 troops in 1978 down to 23,000 troops in 1980. By 1980, it was estimated that about 90% of the Zairian Army were Ngbandi as Mobutu did not trust the other peoples of Zaire to serve in the Army. The most loyal and best of Mobutu's units were his bodyguards, the Israeli-trained ''Division Spéciale Présidentille'' that was made up exclusively of Ngbandi and was always commanded by one of Mobutu's relatives. Mobutu was re-elected in single-candidate elections in
1977 Events January * January 8 – 1977 Moscow bombings, Three bombs explode in Moscow within 37 minutes, killing seven. The bombings are attributed to an Armenian separatist group. * January 10 – Mount Nyiragongo erupts in eastern Zaire (n ...
and
1984 Events January * January 1 – The Bornean Sultanate of Brunei gains full independence from the United Kingdom, having become a British protectorate in 1888. * January 7 – Brunei becomes the sixth member of the Association of Southeast As ...
. He spent most of his time increasing his personal fortune, which in 1984 was estimated to amount to US$5 billion. He held most of it out of the country in Swiss banks (however, a comparatively small $3.4 million was declared found in Swiss banks after he was ousted.). This was almost equivalent to the amount of the country's foreign debt at the time. In a speech that he delivered on 20 May 1976 in a football stadium in Kinshasa that was filled with some 70,000 people, Mobutu openly accepted petty corruption, stating: "If you want to steal, steal a little in a nice way, but if you steal too much to become rich overnight, you will be caught". By 1989, the government was forced to default on international loans from Belgium. Mobutu owned a fleet of
Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz (), commonly referred to as Mercedes and sometimes as Benz, is a German luxury and commercial vehicle automotive brand established in 1926. Mercedes-Benz AG (a Mercedes-Benz Group subsidiary established in 2019) is headquartere ...
vehicles that he used to travel between his numerous palaces, while the nation's roads deteriorated and many of his people starved. The infrastructure virtually collapsed, and many public service workers went months without being paid. Most of the money was siphoned off to Mobutu, his family, and top political and military leaders. Only the Special Presidential Division – on whom his physical safety depended – was paid adequately or regularly. A popular saying that "the civil servants pretended to work while the state pretended to pay them" expressed this grim reality. The '' Forces Armées Zaïroises'' (FAZ) suffered from low morale made worse by irregular salaries, dismal living conditions, shortages of supplies and a venal officer corps. The soldiers of the FAZ behaved very much like a brutal occupying force who supported themselves by robbing the civilian population of Zaire. A recurring feature of Mobutu's rule were the seemingly endless number of roadblocks put by the FAZ who extorted money from the drivers of any passing automobile or lorries. Another feature of Mobutu's economic mismanagement, directly linked to the way he and his friends siphoned off so much of the country's wealth, was rampant inflation. The rapid decline in the real value of salaries strongly encouraged a culture of corruption and dishonesty among public servants of all kinds. Mobutu was known for his opulent lifestyle. He cruised on the Congo on his yacht ''Kamanyola''. In
Gbadolite Gbadolite or Gbado-Lite (pronounced ) is the capital of Nord-Ubangi Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The town is located south of the Ubangi River at the border to the Central African Republic and northeast of the national capit ...
, he erected a palace, the "
Versailles The Palace of Versailles ( ; french: Château de Versailles ) is a former royal residence built by King Louis XIV located in Versailles, Yvelines, Versailles, about west of Paris, France. The palace is owned by the French Republic and since 19 ...
of the jungle". For shopping trips to Paris, he would charter a
Concorde The Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde () is a retired Franco-British supersonic airliner jointly developed and manufactured by Sud Aviation (later Aérospatiale) and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). Studies started in 1954, and France ...
from
Air France Air France (; formally ''Société Air France, S.A.''), stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the flag carrier of France headquartered in Tremblay-en-France. It is a subsidiary of the Air France–KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global ...
; he had the
Gbadolite Airport Gbadolite Airport (french: Aéroport de Gbadolite) is an airport serving Gbadolite, the capital of the Nord-Ubangi, Nord-Ubangi Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The airport is at the village of Moanda, southwest of Gbadolite. T ...
constructed with a runway long enough to accommodate the Concorde's extended take-off and landing requirements. In 1989, Mobutu chartered Concorde aircraft F-BTSD for a 26 June – 5 July trip to give a speech at the United Nations in New York City, then again on 16 July for French bicentennial celebrations in Paris (where he was a guest of President
François Mitterrand François Marie Adrien Maurice Mitterrand (26 October 19168 January 1996) was President of France The president of France, officially the president of the French Republic (french: Président de la République française), is the executive ...
), and on 19 September for a flight from Paris to Gbadolite, and another nonstop flight from Gbadolite to
Marseille Marseille ( , , ; also spelled in English as Marseilles; oc, Marselha ) is the Prefectures in France, prefecture of the France, French Departments of France, department of Bouches-du-Rhône and capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Regio ...
with the youth choir of Zaire. Mobutu's rule earned a reputation as one of the world's foremost examples of
kleptocracy Kleptocracy (from Ancient Greek, Greek κλέπτης ''kléptēs'', "thief", κλέπτω ''kléptō'', "I steal", and -κρατία -''kratía'' from κράτος ''krátos'', "power, rule") is a government whose Corruption, corrupt leaders ...
and
nepotism Nepotism is an In-group favoritism, advantage, privilege, or position that is granted to Kinship, relatives and friends in an occupation or field. These fields may include but are not limited to, business, politics, academia, entertainment, s ...
. Close relatives and fellow members of the Ngbandi tribe were awarded high positions in the military and government, and he groomed his eldest son, Nyiwa, to succeed him as president; however, Nyiwa died from
AIDS Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a retrovirus. Following initial infection an individual ma ...
in 1994.. ''Le Faso''. 24 December 2004 Mobutu led one of the most enduring dictatorships in Africa and amassed a personal fortune estimated to be over US$5 billion by selling his nation's rich natural resources while the people lived in poverty. While in office, he formed a totalitarian regime responsible for numerous
human rights violations Human rights are Morality, moral principles or Social norm, normsJames Nickel, with assistance from Thomas Pogge, M.B.E. Smith, and Leif Wenar, 13 December 2013, Stanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyHuman Rights Retrieved 14 August 2014 for ce ...
, attempted to purge the country of all Belgian cultural influences, and maintained an
anti-communist Anti-communism is Political movement, political and Ideology, ideological opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed after the 1917 October Revolution in the Russian Empire, and it reached global dimensions during the Cold War, w ...
stance to gain positive international support. Mobutu was the subject of one of the most pervasive
personality cult A cult of personality, or a cult of the leader,Cas Mudde, Mudde, Cas and Kaltwasser, Cristóbal Rovira (2017) ''Populism: A Very Short Introduction''. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 63. is the result of an effort which is made to cr ...
s of the twentieth century. The evening newscast opened with an image of him descending through clouds like a god. His portraits were hung in many public places, and government officials wore lapel pins bearing his portrait. He held such titles as "Father of the Nation", "Messiah", "Guide of the Revolution", "Helmsman", "Founder", "Savior of the People", and "Supreme Combatant". In the 1996 documentary of the 1974 Foreman–Ali fight in Zaire, dancers receiving the fighters can be heard chanting "Sese Seko, Sese Seko". At one point, in early 1975, the media were forbidden to refer to anyone other than Mobutu by name; others were referred to only by the positions they held.Edgerton, Robert. ''The Troubled Heart of Africa: A History of the Congo''.
St. Martin's Press St. Martin's Press is a book publisher headquartered in Manhattan, New York City, in the Equitable Building. St. Martin's Press is considered one of the largest English-language publishers, bringing to the public some 700 titles a year under si ...
.
Mobutu successfully capitalized on
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
tensions among European nations and the United States. He gained significant support from the West and its international organizations such as the
International Monetary Fund The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a major financial agency of the United Nations, and an international financial institution, headquartered in Washington, D.C., consisting of 190 countries. Its stated mission is "working to foster globa ...
.


Foreign policy


Relations with Belgium

Relations between Zaire and Belgium wavered between close intimacy and open hostility during the Mobutu years. More often than not, Belgian decision-makers responded in a lackluster way when Mobutu acted against the interests of Belgium, partly explained by the highly divided Belgian political class. Relations soured early in Mobutu's rule over disputes involving the substantial Belgian commercial and industrial holdings in the country, but they warmed soon afterwards. Mobutu and his family were received as personal guests of the Belgian monarch in 1968, and a convention for scientific and technical cooperation was signed that same year. During King Baudouin's highly successful visit to
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Once a site of fishing and trading villages situated along the Congo River, Kinshasa is now on ...
in 1970, a treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two countries was signed. However, Mobutu tore up the treaty in 1974 in protest at Belgium's refusal to ban an anti-Mobutu book written by left-wing lawyer Jules Chomé. Mobutu's " Zairianisation" policy, which expropriated foreign-held businesses and transferred their ownership to Zairians, added to the strain. Mobutu maintained several personal contacts with prominent Belgians. Edmond Leburton, Belgian prime minister between 1973 and 1974, was someone greatly admired by the President. Alfred Cahen, career diplomat and ''chef de cabinet'' of minister
Henri Simonet Henri François Simonet (10 May 1931 – 15 February 1996) was a Belgium, Belgian politician. Born in Brussels, Henri Simonet studied law and economics at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), ULB and then went to Columbia University as CRB ...
, became a personal friend of Mobutu when he was a student at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Relations with King Baudouin were mostly cordial, until Mobutu released a bold statement about the
Belgian royal family Belgium is a Constitutional monarchy, constitutional, Inheritance, hereditary, and popular monarchy. The monarch is titled king or queen of the Belgians ( nl, Koning(in) der Belgen, french: Roi / Reine des Belges}, german: König(in) der B ...
. Prime Minister
Wilfried Martens Wilfried Achiel Emma Martens (; 19 April 1936 – 9 October 2013) was a Belgian politician who served as prime minister of Belgium from 1979 to 1981 and from 1981 to 1992. A member of the Flemish Christian Democratic and Flemish, Christian People ...
recalled in his memoirs that the palace gates closed completely after Mobutu published a handwritten letter of the King. Next to friendly ties with Belgians residing in Belgium, Mobutu had a number of Belgian advisors at his disposal. Some of them, such as Hugues Leclercq and
Colonel Colonel (abbreviated as Col., Col or COL) is a senior military officer rank used in many countries. It is also used in some police forces and paramilitary organizations. In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, a colonel was typically in charge o ...
Willy Mallants, were interviewed in Thierry Michel's documentary '' Mobutu, King of Zaire''.


Relations with France

As what was then the second most populous French-speaking country in the world (it has subsequently come to have a larger population than France) and the most populous one in
sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically, the area and regions of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. These include West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa. Geopolitically, in addition to the List of sov ...
,''Zaire: A Country Study'', "Relations with France"
Lcweb2.loc.gov. Retrieved on 23 April 2014.
Zaire was of great strategic interest to France. During the First Republic era, France tended to side with the conservative and federalist forces, as opposed to unitarists such as Lumumba. Shortly after the Katangan secession was successfully crushed, Zaire (then called the Republic of the Congo), signed a treaty of technical and cultural cooperation with France. During the
presidency A presidency is an Administration (government), administration or the Executive (government), executive, the collective administrative and governmental entity that exists around an office of President (government title), president of a state or nat ...
of
Charles de Gaulle Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (; ; (commonly abbreviated as CDG) 22 November 18909 November 1970) was a French army officer and statesman who led Free France against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government ...
, relations with the two countries gradually grew stronger and closer. In 1971, Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d'Estaing paid a visit to Zaire; later, after becoming president, he would develop a close personal relationship with President Mobutu, and became one of the regime's closest foreign allies. During the Shaba invasions, France sided firmly with Mobutu: during the first Shaba invasion, France airlifted 1,500 Moroccan troops to Zaire, and the rebels were repulsed; a year later, during the second Shaba invasion, France itself (along with Belgium) would send
French Foreign Legion The French Foreign Legion (french: Légion étrangère) is a corps of the French Army which comprises several specialties: infantry, Armoured Cavalry Arm, cavalry, Military engineering, engineers, Airborne forces, airborne troops. It was created ...
paratroopers (
2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment The 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (french: 2e Régiment étranger de parachutistes, 2e REP) is the only airborne regiment of the French Foreign Legion, Foreign Legion in the French Army. It is one of the four infantry regiments of the 11th Parachu ...
) to aid Mobutu.


Relations with the People's Republic of China

Initially, Zaire's relationship with the People's Republic of China was no better than its relationship with the Soviet Union. Memories of Chinese aid to Mulele and other Maoist rebels in Kwilu province during the ill-fated
Simba Rebellion The Simba rebellion, also known as the Orientale revolt, was a regional uprising which took place in the Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1963 and 1965 in the wider context of the Congo Crisis and the ...
remained fresh on Mobutu's mind. He also opposed seating the PRC at the United Nations. However, by 1972, he began to see the Chinese in a different light, as a counterbalance to both the Soviet Union as well as his intimate ties with the United States,
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...
, and South Africa.Callagy, Thomas M. (1983) ''South Africa in Southern Africa: The Intensifying Vortex of Violence''. Praeger. In November 1972, Mobutu extended diplomatic recognition to the Chinese (as well as
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a country that existed from its creation on 7 October 1949 until German reunification, its dissolution on 3 October 1990. In t ...
and
North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia. It constitutes the northern half of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and shares borders with China and Russia to the north, at the Yalu River, Y ...
). The following year, Mobutu paid a visit to Beijing, where he met with chairman
Mao Zedong Mao Zedong pronounced ; also Romanization of Chinese, romanised traditionally as Mao Tse-tung. (26 December 1893 – 9 September 1976), also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary who was the List of national founde ...
and received promises of $100 million in technical aid. In 1974, Mobutu made a surprise visit to both China and North Korea, during the time he was originally scheduled to visit the Soviet Union. Upon returning home, both his politics and rhetoric became markedly more radical; it was around this time that Mobutu began criticizing Belgium and the United States (the latter for not doing enough, in Mobutu's opinion, to combat white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia), introduced the "obligatory civic work" program called ''salongo'', and initiated "radicalization" (an extension of 1973's "Zairianization" policy). Mobutu even borrowed a title – the Helmsman – from Mao. Incidentally, late 1974 to early 1975 was when his personality cult reached its peak. China and Zaire shared a common goal in central Africa, namely doing everything in their power to halt Soviet gains in the area. Accordingly, both Zaire and China covertly funneled aid to the
National Liberation Front of Angola The National Front for the Liberation of Angola ( pt, Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola; abbreviated FNLA) is a political party and former militant organisation that fought for Angola , national_anthem = " Angola Avante"( ...
(and later, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) in order to prevent their former allies, the
People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola ( pt, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, Abbreviation, abbr. MPLA), for some years called the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party (), is an Angolan left-wi ...
, who were supported and augmented by Cuban forces, from coming to power. The Cubans, who exercised considerable influence in Africa in support of leftist and anti-imperialist forces, were heavily sponsored by the Soviet Union during the period. In addition to inviting
Holden Roberto Álvaro Holden Roberto (January 12, 1923 – August 2, 2007) was an Angolan politician who founded and led the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) from 1962 to 1999. His memoirs are unfinished. Early life Roberto, son of Garcia Diasiwa ...
, the leader of the National Liberation Front of Angola, and his guerrillas to Beijing for training, China provided weapons and money to the rebels. Zaire itself launched an ill-fated, pre-emptive invasion of Angola in a bid to install a pro-Kinshasa government, but was repulsed by Cuban troops. The expedition was a fiasco with far-reaching repercussions, most notably the Shaba I and Shaba II invasions, both of which China opposed. China sent military aid to Zaire during both invasions, and accused the Soviet Union and Cuba (who were alleged to have supported the Shaban rebels, although this was and remains speculation) of working to de-stabilize central Africa.


Relations with the Soviet Union

Mobutu's relationship with the Soviet Union was frosty and tense. A staunch anti-communist, he was not anxious to recognize the Soviets; the USSR had supported—though mostly in words—both Patrice Lumumba, Mobutu's democratically elected predecessor, and the Simba rebellion. However, to project a non-aligned image, he did renew ties in 1967; the first Soviet ambassador arrived and presented his credentials in 1968. Mobutu did, however, join the United States in condemning the
Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia refers to the events of 20–21 August 1968, when the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was jointly invaded by four Warsaw Pact The Warsaw Pact (WP) or Treaty of Warsaw, formally the Treaty of Fri ...
that year. Mobutu viewed the Soviet presence as advantageous for two reasons: it allowed him to maintain an image of non-alignment, and it provided a convenient scapegoat for problems at home. For example, in 1970, he expelled four Soviet diplomats for carrying out "subversive activities", and in 1971, twenty Soviet officials were declared ''
persona non grata In diplomacy, a ' (Latin: "person not welcome", plural: ') is a status applied by a host country to foreign diplomats to remove their protection of diplomatic immunity from arrest and other types of prosecution. Diplomacy Under Article 9 of the ...
'' for allegedly instigating student demonstrations at Lovanium University.
Moscow Moscow ( , US chiefly ; rus, links=no, Москва, r=Moskva, p=mɐskˈva, a=Москва.ogg) is the capital and largest city of Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transco ...
was the only major world capital Mobutu never visited, although he did accept an invitation to do so in 1974. For reasons unknown, he cancelled the visit at the last minute, and toured the People's Republic of China and North Korea instead. Relations cooled further in 1975, when the two countries found themselves on opposing sides in the
Angolan Civil War The Angolan Civil War ( pt, Guerra Civil Angolana) was a civil war in Angola, beginning in 1975 and continuing, with interludes, until 2002. The war immediately began after Angola became independent from Portugal Portugal, officially th ...
. This had a dramatic effect on Zairian foreign policy for the next decade; bereft of his claim to African leadership (Mobutu was one of the few leaders who refused to recognize the Marxist government of Angola), Mobutu turned increasingly to the US and its allies, adopting pro-American stances on such issues as the
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
, and
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...
's position in international organizations.


Relations with the United States

For the most part, Zaire enjoyed warm relations with the United States. The United States was the third largest donor of aid to Zaire (after Belgium and France), and Mobutu befriended several US presidents, including
Richard Nixon Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913April 22, 1994) was the 37th president of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. A member of the Republican Party (United States), Republican Party, he previously served as a United States House ...
,
Ronald Reagan Ronald Wilson Reagan ( ; February 6, 1911June 5, 2004) was an American politician, actor, and union leader who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. He also served as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 ...
, and George H. W. Bush. Relations did cool significantly in 1974–1975 over Mobutu's increasingly radical rhetoric (which included his scathing denunciations of American foreign policy),Young and Turner, p. 372 and plummeted to an all-time low in the summer of 1975, when Mobutu accused the
Central Intelligence Agency The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA ), known informally as the Agency and historically as the Company, is a civilian intelligence agency, foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States, officially tasked with gat ...
of plotting his overthrow and arrested eleven senior Zairian generals and several civilians, and condemned (''in absentia'') a former head of the Central Bank ( Albert Ndele). However, many people viewed these charges with skepticism; in fact, one of Mobutu's staunchest critics, Nzongola-Ntalaja, speculated that Mobutu invented the plot as an excuse to purge the military of talented officers who might otherwise pose a threat to his rule. In spite of these hindrances, the chilly relationship quickly thawed when both countries found each other supporting the same side during the Angolan Civil War. Because of Mobutu's poor human rights record, the
Carter Administration Jimmy Carter's tenure as the List of presidents of the United States, 39th president of the United States began with Inauguration of Jimmy Carter, his inauguration on January 20, 1977, and ended on January 20, 1981. A History of the Democr ...
put some distance between itself and the
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Once a site of fishing and trading villages situated along the Congo River, Kinshasa is now on ...
government; even so, Zaire received nearly half the foreign aid Carter allocated to
sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically, the area and regions of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. These include West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa. Geopolitically, in addition to the List of sov ...
. During the first Shaba invasion, the United States played a relatively inconsequential role; its belated intervention consisted of little more than the delivery of non-lethal supplies. But during the second Shaba invasion, the US played a much more active and decisive role by providing transportation and logistical support to the French and Belgian paratroopers that were deployed to aid Mobutu against the rebels. Carter echoed Mobutu's (unsubstantiated) charges of Soviet and Cuban aid to the rebels, until it was apparent that no hard evidence existed to verify his claims. In 1980, the
US House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives, often referred to as the House of Representatives, the U.S. House, or simply the House, is the Lower house, lower chamber of the United States Congress, with the United States Senate, Senate being ...
voted to terminate military aid to Zaire, but the
US Senate The United States Senate is the Upper house, upper chamber of the United States Congress, with the United States House of Representatives, House of Representatives being the Lower house, lower chamber. Together they compose the national Bica ...
reinstated the funds, in response to pressure from Carter and American business interests in Zaire. Mobutu enjoyed a very warm relationship with the
Reagan Administration Ronald Reagan's tenure as the List of presidents of the United States, 40th president of the United States began with First inauguration of Ronald Reagan, his first inauguration on January 20, 1981, and ended on January 20, 1989. Reagan, a R ...
, through financial donations. During Reagan's presidency, Mobutu visited the
White House The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., NW in Washington, D.C., and has been the residence of every U.S. preside ...
three times, and criticism of Zaire's human rights record by the US was effectively muted. During a state visit by Mobutu in 1983, Reagan praised the Zairian strongman as "a voice of good sense and goodwill". Mobutu also had a cordial relationship with Reagan's successor, George H. W. Bush; he was the first African head of state to visit Bush at the
White House The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., NW in Washington, D.C., and has been the residence of every U.S. preside ...
. Even so, Mobutu's relationship with the US radically changed shortly afterward with the end of the
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
. With the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
gone, there was no longer any reason to support Mobutu as a bulwark against communism. Accordingly, the US and other Western powers began pressuring Mobutu to democratize the regime. Regarding the change in US attitude to his regime, Mobutu bitterly remarked: "I am the latest victim of the cold war, no longer needed by the US. The lesson is that my support for American policy counts for nothing." In 1993, Mobutu was denied a visa by the
US State Department The United States Department of State (DOS), or State Department, is an executive department of the U.S. federal government responsible for the country's foreign policy and relations. Equivalent to the ministry of foreign affairs of other ...
after he sought to visit Washington, D.C. Mobutu also had friends in America outside Washington. Mobutu was befriended by televangelist
Pat Robertson Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson (born March 22, 1930) is an American media mogul, Televangelism, religious broadcaster, political commentator, former presidential candidate, and former Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist minister. Ro ...
, who promised to try to get the State Department to lift its ban on the African leader.


Coalition government

In May 1990, due to the ending of the
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
and a change in the international political climate, as well as economic problems and domestic unrest, Mobutu agreed to give up the MPR's monopoly of power. In early May 1990, students studying at the
Lubumbashi Lubumbashi (former names: (French), ( Dutch)) is the second-largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo (french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC), colloquially "La RDC" ), informal ...
campus of the National University of Zaire protested against Mobutu's regime, demanding his resignation. On the night of 11 May 1990, electricity was cut off to the campus while a special military unit called ''Les Hiboux'' ("The Owls") were sent in, armed with machetes and bayonets. By the dawn of 12 May 1990, at least 290 students had been killed. The massacre led to the nations of the
European Economic Community The European Economic Community (EEC) was a regional organization created by the Treaty of Rome of 1957,Today the largely rewritten treaty continues in force as the ''Treaty on the functioning of the European Union'', as renamed by the Lisbo ...
(now the European Union), the United States, and Canada to end all non-humanitarian aid to Zaire, which marked the beginning of the end of Western support for Mobutu. Mobutu appointed a transitional government that would lead to promised elections but he retained substantial powers. Following the 1991 riots in Kinshasa by unpaid soldiers, Mobutu brought opposition figures into a coalition government, but still connived to retain control of the security services and important ministries. Factional divisions led to the creation of two governments in 1993, one pro- and one anti-Mobutu. The anti-Mobutu government was headed by Laurent Monsengwo and Étienne Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). The economic situation was still dismal, and in 1994 the two groups merged into the High Council of Republic – Parliament of Transition (HCR-PT). Mobutu appointed Kengo Wa Dondo, an advocate of
austerity Austerity is a set of Political economy, political-economic policies that aim to reduce Government budget balance, government budget deficits through spending cuts, tax increases, or a combination of both. There are three primary types of au ...
and
free-market In economics, a free market is an economic market (economics), system in which the prices of goods and services are determined by supply and demand expressed by sellers and buyers. Such markets, as modeled, operate without the intervention of ...
reforms, as prime minister. During this period, Mobutu was becoming increasingly physically frail and during one of his trips to Europe for medical treatment, ethnic
Tutsi The Tutsi (), or Abatutsi (), are an ethnic group of the African Great Lakes region. They are a Bantu peoples, Bantu-speaking ethnic group and the second largest of three main ethnic groups in Rwanda and Burundi (the other two being the largest Ba ...
s captured much of eastern Zaire.


Overthrow

The seeds of Mobutu's downfall were sown in the
Rwandan Genocide The Rwandan genocide occurred between 7 April and 15 July 1994 during the Rwandan Civil War. During this period of around 100 days, members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group, as well as some moderate Hutu and Twa, were killed by armed Hutu ...
, when about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by about 200,000 Hutu extremists aided by the Rwandan government in 1994. The genocide ended when the Tutsi-dominated
Rwandan Patriotic Front The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF–Inkotanyi, french: Front patriotique rwandais, FPR) is the ruling political party in Rwanda. Led by President Paul Kagame, the party has governed the country since its armed wing defeated government forces, winn ...
seized the whole country, leading hundreds of thousands of Hutus including many of the genocidal killers, to flee into refugee camps in eastern Zaire. Mobutu welcomed the Hutu extremists as personal guests and allowed them to establish military and political bases in the eastern territories, from where they attacked and killed ethnic Tutsis across the border in Rwanda and in Zaire itself, ostensibly to prepare for a renewed offensive back into Rwanda. The new Rwandan government began sending military aid to the Zairian Tutsis in response. The resulting conflict began to destabilize eastern Zaire as a whole. When Mobutu's government issued an order in November 1996 forcing Tutsis to leave Zaire on penalty of death, the ethnic Tutsis in Zaire, known as
Banyamulenge Banyamulenge, also referred to as nyamurenge and banyamurenge (literally 'those who live in Mulenge') is the name that they adopted in the 80’s describes a Tutsi community in the southern part of Kivu who migrated from Rwanda and seek refuge ...
, were the focal point of a rebellion. From eastern Zaire, the rebels, aided by foreign government forces under the leadership of President
Yoweri Museveni Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa (born 15 September 1944) is a Ugandan politician and retired senior military officer who has been the 9th and current President of Uganda since 26 January 1986. Museveni spearheaded rebellions with aid of then ...
of
Uganda }), is a landlocked country in East Africa. The country is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. The souther ...
and Rwandan Minister of Defense
Paul Kagame Paul Kagame (; born 23 October 1957) is a Rwandan politician and former military officer who is the 4th and current president of Rwanda since 2000. He previously served as a commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Uganda-based rebel f ...
launched an offensive to overthrow Mobutu, joining forces with locals opposed to him under Laurent-Désiré Kabila as they marched west toward Kinshasa. Burundi and Angola also supported the growing rebellion, which mushroomed into the
First Congo War The First Congo War, group=lower-alpha (1996–1997), also nicknamed Africa's First World War, was a civil war and international military conflict which took place mostly in Zaire (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo), with major spillo ...
. Ailing with cancer, Mobutu was in
Switzerland ). Swiss law does not designate a ''capital'' as such, but the federal parliament and government are in Bern, while other federal institutions, such as the federal courts, are in other cities (Bellinzona, Lausanne, Luzern, Neuchâtel, St. Gall ...
for treatment, and he was unable to coordinate the resistance which crumbled in front of the march. The rebel forces would have completely overrun the country far sooner than it ultimately did if not for the country's decrepit infrastructure. In most areas, no paved roads existed; the only vehicle paths were irregularly used dirt roads. By mid-1997, Kabila's forces resumed their advance, and the remains of Mobutu's army offered almost no resistance. On 16 May 1997, following failed peace talks held in
Pointe-Noire Pointe-Noire (; kg, Njinji, french: Ndjindji with the letter d following French spelling standards) is the second largest city in the Republic of the Congo, following the capital of Brazzaville, and an autonomous Departments of the Republic of ...
on board the
South African Navy The South African Navy (SA Navy) is the naval warfare branch of the South African National Defence Force. The Navy is primarily engaged in maintaining a conventional military deterrent, participating in counter-piracy operations, fishery prote ...
ship SAS ''Outeniqua'' with Kabila and President of South Africa
Nelson Mandela Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (; ; 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African Internal resistance to apartheid, anti-apartheid activist who served as the President of South Africa, first president of South Africa from 1994 to 1 ...
(who chaired the talks), Mobutu fled into exile. Kabila's forces, known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL), proclaimed victory the next day. On 23 May 1997, Zaire was renamed the
Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo (french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC), colloquially "La RDC" ), informally Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and formerly and also colloquially Zaire, is a country in ...
.


Exile and death

Mobutu went into temporary exile in
Togo Togo (), officially the Togolese Republic (french: République togolaise), is a country in Western Africa, West Africa. It is bordered by Ghana to Ghana–Togo border, the west, Benin to Benin–Togo border, the east and Burkina Faso to Burkina ...
, until President Gnassingbé Eyadéma insisted that Mobutu leave the country a few days later. From 23 May 1997, he lived mostly in
Rabat, Morocco Rabat (, also , ; ar, الرِّبَاط, er-Ribât; ber, ⵕⵕⴱⴰⵟ, ṛṛbaṭ) is the Capital (political), capital city of Morocco and the List of cities in Morocco, country's seventh largest city with an urban population of approximat ...
. He died there on 7 September 1997 from
prostate cancer Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancerous tumor worldwide and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related mortality among men. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that surr ...
at the age of 66. He is interred in an above ground mausoleum at Rabat, in the Christian cemetery known as Cimetière Européen. In December 2007, the
National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of the Congo The National Assembly is the lower house and main legislative political body of the Parliament of the Democratic Republic of the Congo The Parliament of the Democratic Republic of the Congo consists of two chambers: *The Senate of the Demo ...
recommended returning his remains, and interring them in a mausoleum in the DRC, which has not yet taken place. Mobutu remains interred in Morocco.


Family

Mobutu was married twice. He married his first wife, Marie-Antoinette Gbiatibwa Gogbe Yetene, in 1955. They had nine children. She died of
heart failure Heart failure (HF), also known as congestive heart failure (CHF), is a syndrome, a group of signs and symptoms caused by an impairment of the heart's blood pumping function. Symptoms typically include shortness of breath, Fatigue (medical), exc ...
on 22 October 1977 in Genolier,
Switzerland ). Swiss law does not designate a ''capital'' as such, but the federal parliament and government are in Bern, while other federal institutions, such as the federal courts, are in other cities (Bellinzona, Lausanne, Luzern, Neuchâtel, St. Gall ...
, at the age of 36. On 1 May 1980, he married his mistress, Bobi Ladawa, on the eve of a visit by
Pope John Paul II Pope John Paul II ( la, Ioannes Paulus II; it, Giovanni Paolo II; pl, Jan Paweł II; born Karol Józef Wojtyła ; 18 May 19202 April 2005) was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 until his ...
, thus legitimizing his relationship in the eyes of the
Church Church may refer to: Religion * Church (building), a building for Christian religious activities * Church (congregation), a local congregation of a Christian denomination * Church service, a formalized period of Christian communal worship * Chris ...
. Two of his sons from his first marriage died during his lifetime, Jean-Paul "Nyiwa" (d. 16 September 1994) and Konga (d. 1992). Two more died in the years following his death: Kongulu (d. 24 September 1998), and Manda (d. 27 November 2004). His elder son from his second marriage, Nzanga Mobutu Ngbangawe, now the head of the family, was a candidate in the 2006 presidential elections and later served in the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as Minister of State for Agriculture. A daughter, Yakpwa (nicknamed Yaki), was briefly married to a Belgian, Pierre Janssen, who later wrote a book that described Mobutu's lifestyle in vivid detail. Altogether, Mobutu had at least twenty-one children: * With Marie-Antoinette (first wife): Nyiwa, Ngombo, Manda, Konga, Ngawali, Yango, Yakpwa, Kongulu, Ndagbia (9) * With Bobi Ladawa (second wife): Nzanga, Giala, Toku, Ndokula (4) * With Kosia Ladawa (mistress and twin sister of his second wife): Ya-Litho, Tende, Sengboni (3) * With "Mama 41": Senghor, Dongo, Nzanga (3) * With Mbanguula: A son (1) * With an unknown woman from Brazzaville: Robert (1) On trips across Zaire he appropriated the '' droit de cuissage'' (right to deflower) as local chiefs offered him virgins; this practice was considered an honor for the virgin's family.


In art and literature

Mobutu was the subject of the three-part 1999 Belgian documentary '' Mobutu, King of Zaire'' by Thierry Michel. Mobutu was also featured in the 2000 feature film '' Lumumba'', directed by Raoul Peck, which detailed the pre-coup and coup years from the perspective of Lumumba. Mobutu also featured in the 1996 American documentary '' When We Were Kings'', which centred around the famed
Rumble in the Jungle George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali, billed as ''The Rumble in the Jungle'', was a heavyweight championship boxing match on October 30, 1974, at the Stade Tata Raphaël, 20th of May Stadium (now the Stade Tata Raphaël) in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Demo ...
boxing bout between
George Foreman George Edward Foreman (born January 10, 1949) is an American former professional boxer, entrepreneur, minister and author. In boxing, he was nicknamed "Big George" and competed between 1967 and 1997. He is a two-time world heavyweight champio ...
and
Muhammad Ali Muhammad Ali (; born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.; January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) was an American professional boxer and activist. Nicknamed "The Greatest", he is regarded as one of the most significant sports figures of the 20th century, a ...
for the 1974
heavyweight Heavyweight is a weight class in combat sports and professional wrestling. Boxing Professional Boxers who weigh over are considered heavyweights by 3 of the 4 major professional boxing organizations: the International Boxing Federation, the Wor ...
championship of the world which took place in
Kinshasa Kinshasa (; ; ln, Kinsásá), formerly Léopoldville ( nl, Leopoldstad), is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Once a site of fishing and trading villages situated along the Congo River, Kinshasa is now on ...
during Mobutu's rule. In the 1978 war adventure film '' The Wild Geese'', the villain, General Ndofa, described in the film as an extremely corrupt leader of a copper-rich nation in central Africa, was a thinly disguised version of Mobutu. Mobutu also might be considered as the inspiration behind some of the characters in the works of the poetry of
Wole Soyinka Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka ( Yoruba: ''Akínwándé Olúwọlé Babátúndé Ṣóyíinká''; born 13 July 1934), known as Wole Soyinka (), is a Nigerian playwright, novelist, poet, and essayist in the English language. He was awarded ...
, the novel '' A Bend in the River'' by V. S. Naipaul, and ''
Anthills of the Savannah ''Anthills of the Savannah'' is a 1987 novel by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. It was his fifth novel, first published in the United Kingdom 21 years after Achebe's previous one (''A Man of the People'' in 1966), and was credited with having "revi ...
'' by
Chinua Achebe Chinua Achebe (; 16 November 1930 – 21 March 2013) was a Nigerian novelist, poet, and Literary criticism, critic who is regarded as the dominant figure of modern African literature. His first novel and ''magnum opus'', ''Things Fall Apart'' ...
. William Close, father of actress
Glenn Close Glenn Close (born March 19, 1947) is an American actress. Throughout her career spanning over four decades, Close has garnered List of awards and nominations received by Glenn Close, numerous accolades, including two Screen Actors Guild Awards, ...
, was once a personal physician to Mobutu and wrote a book focusing on his service in Zaire.
Barbara Kingsolver Barbara Kingsolver (born April 8, 1955) is an American novelist, essayist and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, South ...
's 1998 historical novel ''
The Poisonwood Bible ''The Poisonwood Bible'' (1998), by Barbara Kingsolver, is a best-selling novel about a missionary family, the Prices, who in 1959 move from the U.S. state of Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia to the village of Kilanga in the Belgian Congo, close to ...
'' depicts the events of the
Congo Crisis The Congo Crisis (french: Crise congolaise, link=no) was a period of Crisis, political upheaval and war, conflict between 1960 and 1965 in the Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), Republic of the Congo (today the Democratic Republic of the ...
from a fictional standpoint, featuring the role of Mobutu in the crisis. Mobutu was played by the Belgian actor Marc Zinga in the 2011 film ''
Mister Bob Mister Bob is a 2011 French drama film directed and co-scripted by Thomas Vincent (director), Thomas Vincent. Plot The film follows the exploits of the French mercenary Bob Denard in the Congo between 1964 and 1967. The story begins in July 1967 ...
''. The French critic Isabelle Hanne praised Zinga's performance as Mobutu, writing he "brilliantly embodies this Shakespearian and bloodthirsty figure." Mobutu was included as an additional promotional card in the card-driven strategy game '' Twilight Struggle''. His card, when played, increases the stability of the country then known as Zaire and increases the influence of the United States over the African nation.


Legacy

According to Mobutu's ''
New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid d ...
'' obituary: "He built his political longevity on three pillars: violence, cunning, and the use of state funds to buy off enemies. His systematic looting of the national treasury and major industries gave birth to the term '
kleptocracy Kleptocracy (from Ancient Greek, Greek κλέπτης ''kléptēs'', "thief", κλέπτω ''kléptō'', "I steal", and -κρατία -''kratía'' from κράτος ''krátos'', "power, rule") is a government whose Corruption, corrupt leaders ...
' to describe a rule of official corruption that reputedly made him one of the world's wealthiest heads of state." In 2011, ''
Time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is a component quantity of various me ...
'' magazine described him as the "archetypal African dictator". Mobutu was infamous for embezzling the equivalent of billions of US dollars from his country. According to the most conservative estimates, he stole US$4–5 billion from his country, and some sources put the figure as high as US$15 billion. According to Pierre Janssen, the ex-husband of Mobutu's daughter Yaki, Mobutu had no concern for the cost of the expensive gifts he gave away to his cronies. Janssen married Yaki in a lavish ceremony that included three orchestras, a US$65,000 wedding cake, and a giant fireworks display. Yaki wore a US$70,000 wedding gown and US$3 million worth of jewels. Janssen wrote a book describing Mobutu's daily routine, which included several daily bottles of wine, retainers flown in from overseas, and lavish meals. According to
Transparency International Transparency International e.V. (TI) is a German registered association founded in 1993 by former employees of the World Bank. Based in Berlin, its nonprofit and non-governmental purpose is to take action to combat global corruption with civi ...
, Mobutu embezzled over US$5 billion from his country, ranking him as the third-most corrupt leader since 1984 and the most corrupt African leader during the same period. Philip Gourevitch, in '' We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families'' (1998), wrote: Mobutu was instrumental in bringing the
Rumble in the Jungle George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali, billed as ''The Rumble in the Jungle'', was a heavyweight championship boxing match on October 30, 1974, at the Stade Tata Raphaël, 20th of May Stadium (now the Stade Tata Raphaël) in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Demo ...
boxing match between
Muhammad Ali Muhammad Ali (; born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.; January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) was an American professional boxer and activist. Nicknamed "The Greatest", he is regarded as one of the most significant sports figures of the 20th century, a ...
and
George Foreman George Edward Foreman (born January 10, 1949) is an American former professional boxer, entrepreneur, minister and author. In boxing, he was nicknamed "Big George" and competed between 1967 and 1997. He is a two-time world heavyweight champio ...
to Zaire on 30 October 1974. According to the documentary '' When We Were Kings'', promoter Don King promised each fighter five million dollars (U.S.) for the fight. To this end, King offered the bout to any African country that put up the money to host it, in exchange for recognition. Mobutu was willing to fund the ten million dollar purse and host the bout, in order to gain international recognition and legitimacy in the process. Mobutu gained Zaire and its people considerable publicity in the weeks even before the televised bout, as worldwide attention focused on his country. According to a quote in the film, Ali supposedly said: "Some countries go to war to get their names out there, and wars cost a lot more than ten million (dollars)." On 22 September 1974, Mobutu presented the rebuilt 20 May Stadium, a multi-million-dollar sports project constructed to host the Ali-Foreman boxing card, to the Zaire Ministry of Youth and Sport, and to the people of Zaire.


Explanatory notes


References


Citations


General and cited references


Books


English

* Ayittey, George B.N. ''Africa in Chaos: A Comparative History''.
Palgrave Macmillan Palgrave Macmillan is a British academic and trade publishing company headquartered in the London Borough of Camden. Its programme includes textbooks, journals, monographs, professional and reference works in print and online. It maintains offi ...
. * * Callaghy, Thomas M. ''Politics and Culture in Zaire''. Center for Political Studies. ASIN B00071MTTW * Callaghy, Thomas M. ''State-Society Struggle: Zaire in Comparative Perspective''.
Columbia University Press Columbia University Press is a university press based in New York City, and affiliated with Columbia University. It is currently directed by Jennifer Crewe (2014–present) and publishes titles in the humanities and sciences, including the field ...
. * Close, William T. ''Beyond the Storm: Treating the Powerless & the Powerful in Mobutu's Congo/Zaire''. Meadowlark Springs Production. * De Witte, Ludo. ''The Assassination of Lumumba''. Verso. * Edgerton, Robert. ''The Troubled Heart of Africa: A History of the Congo''.
St. Martin's Press St. Martin's Press is a book publisher headquartered in Manhattan, New York City, in the Equitable Building. St. Martin's Press is considered one of the largest English-language publishers, bringing to the public some 700 titles a year under si ...
. * Elliot, Jeffrey M., and Mervyn M. Dymally (eds.). ''Voices of Zaire: Rhetoric or Reality''. Washington Institute Press. * French, Howard W. ''A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa''. Vintage. * Gerard, Emmanuel, and Kuklick, Bruce. ''Death in the Congo: Murdering Patrice Lumumba'', 2015, Harvard University Press. * Gould, David. ''Bureaucratic Corruption and Underdevelopment in the Third World: The Case of Zaire''. ASIN B0006E1JR8 * Gran, Guy, and Galen Hull (eds.). ''Zaire: The Political Economy of Underdevelopment''. * Harden, Blaine. ''Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent''.
Houghton Mifflin The asterisk ( ), from Late Latin , from Ancient Greek , ''asteriskos'', "little star", is a Typography, typographical symbol. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star (heraldry), heraldic star. Computer scientists ...
Company. * * * Kelly, Sean. ''America's Tyrant: The CIA and Mobutu of Zaire''. American University Press. * Kingsolver, Barbara. ''The Poisonwood Bible''. Harper Collins. * * MacGaffey, Janet (ed.). ''The Real Economy of Zaire: The Contribution of Smuggling and Other Unofficial Activities to National Wealth''. Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press The University of Pennsylvania Press (or Penn Press) is a university press affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The press was originally incorporated with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on 26 Ma ...
. * Meditz, Sandra W. and Tim Merrill. ''Zaire: A Country Study''. Claitor's Law Books and Publishing Division. * Mokoli, Mondonga M. ''State Against Development: The Experience of Post-1965 Zaire''. New York:
Greenwood Press Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. (GPG), also known as ABC-Clio/Greenwood (stylized ABC-CLIO/Greenwood), is an educational and academic publisher (middle school through university level) which is today part of ABC-Clio. Established in 1967 as Gre ...
. * Mwakikagile, Godfrey. ''Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era'', 2006, Chapter Six: "Congo in The 1960s: The Bleeding Heart of Africa." New Africa Press, South Africa. ; Mwakikagile, Godfrey. ''Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done'', 2006. New Africa Press. * Nzongola-Ntalaja, Georges. ''The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila: A People's History''. Zed Books. * * Sandbrook, Richard (1985). ''The Politics of Africa's Economic Stagnation''.
Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press is the university press of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII of England, King Henry VIII in 1534, it is the oldest university press in the world. It is also the King's Printer. Cambr ...
. * Schatzberg, Michael G. ''The Dialectics of Oppression in Zaire''.
Indiana University Press Indiana University Press, also known as IU Press, is an academic publishing, academic publisher founded in 1950 at Indiana University that specializes in the humanities and social sciences. Its headquarters are located in Bloomington, Indiana. IU ...
. * Schatzberg, Michael G. ''Mobutu or Chaos?'' University Press of America. * Taylor, Jeffrey. ''Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness''.
Three Rivers Press Three Rivers Press is the Trade paper edition, trade paperback imprint (trade name), imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It publishes original paperback titles as well as paperback reprints of books issued initiall ...
. 0609808265 *


French

* Braeckman, Colette. ''Le Dinosaure, le Zaïre de Mobutu''. Fayard. * Chomé, Jules. ''L'ascension de Mobutu: Du sergent Désiré Joseph au général Sese Seko''. F. Maspero. * Dungia, Emmanuel, ''Mobutu et l'Argent du Zaïre, les révélations d'un diplomate, ex-agent des Services secrets''. L'Harmattan. , . * Mobutu Sese Seko. ''Discours, allocutions et messages, 1965–1975''. Éditions J.A. * Monheim, Francis. ''Mobutu, l'homme seul''. Editions Actuelles. (Unknown ISBN) * Ngbanda Nzambo-ku-Atumba, Honoré. ''Ainsi sonne le glas! Les Derniers Jours du Maréchal Mobutu''. Gideppe. * Nguza Karl-i-Bond, Jean. ''Mobutu ou l'Incarnation du Mal Zairois''. Bellew Publishing Co Ltd.


Other

*


External links


Speech by Mobutu, vowing to resist the rebel onslaught and remain in power




(''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid d ...
'' biography by Howard W. French)
Mobutu's legacy: Show over substance

Hope and retribution in Zaire
Allan Little, ''
From Our Own Correspondent ''From Our Own Correspondent'' is a weekly BBC radio programme in which BBC foreign correspondents deliver a sequence of short talks reflecting on current events and topical themes in the countries outside the UK in which they are based. The prog ...
'', BBC News, 24 May 1997.
"Zaire's Mobutu Visits America," by Michael Johns, Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum #239, 29 June 1989
{{DEFAULTSORT:Mobutu 1930 births 1997 deaths 20th-century criminals Commanders of the Legion of Merit Deaths from cancer in Morocco Deaths from prostate cancer Democratic Republic of the Congo anti-communists Democratic Republic of the Congo Roman Catholics Field marshals Grand Collars of the Order of Prince Henry Knights Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic Leaders who took power by coup Lumumba Government members Ngbandi people People from Mongala People of the Cold War People of the Congo Crisis People of the Rwandan genocide Political corruption Politicide perpetrators Popular Movement of the Revolution politicians Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Recipients of the Order of Isabella the Catholic Soldiers of the Force Publique Zaire