|“||In our African tradition there are never two chiefs. That is why we Congolese, in the desire to conform to the traditions of our continent, have resolved to group all the energies of the citizens of our country under the banner of a single national party.||„|
|~ Mobutu Sese Seko|
Mobutu Sese Seko, (born as Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, October 14th, 1930 - September 7th, 1997) was a Congolese politician and military officer who ruled as the President of Zaire (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) from 1965 until 1997. He presided over a totalitarian regime that was one of Africa's most enduring dictatorships, a regime that perpetrated numerous human rights abuses during its existence.
Mobutu was born on October 14th, 1930; in a small village to a mother who had a profession as a hotel maid.
After the Congo gained independence from Belgium, Joseph Kasa-Vubu was installed as the Congo's first president, with Patrice Lumumba as their Prime Minister. Mobutu took a great interest in the military, and Joseph hired him to become the head of the Congolese National Army. Later, he was promoted to major-general and started planning a takeover of the country.
After Patrice Lumumba was brutally assassinated by Belgian and American forces when he refused to seek aid from the UN, Mobutu took his chance and overthrew Kasa-Vubu via a bloodless coup, he also had in his possession the remains unearthed and mutilated in his power immersed in sulfuric acid. Because of this, Mobutu gained complete control of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (which he later named Zaire.)
He began his dictatorship with a mass of public executions, targeting rival politicians. All rebels who proved a threat to Mobutu were brutally tortured and murdered. In one particular case, Pierre Mulele, a rebel during the Simba Revolution, had his eyes gouged out, his genitals ripped off, and his limbs amputated one by one alive. Eventually, he moved out of torture and into buying his opponents off, however, his visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972 brought bitter memories for Mobutu due to the headaches of said pro-Lumumba militant
He formed a one-man government, giving him total political power in Zaire. The National Treasury turned into his personal bank, amounting to a total of 5 billion US Dollars. He also formed a cult of personality, spreading propaganda throughout his country, telling lies about himself, and how he was the savior of the Congo. National TV, which was entirely controlled by Mobutu, portrayed him as a god descending from the clouds, saving the Congolese people. At one point, the propaganda got so bad that the media was forbidden to mention anyone by their names except for Mobutu.
Meanwhile, his citizens faced mass inflation and poverty, stemming from Mobutu's constant loaning from other countries, which lead to many riots and rebellions. Finally, he was forced to share his power with other politicians, but still retained most of the power.
During the Cold War, Mobutu received strong support (military, diplomatic and economic) from the United States, France and Belgium, who saw him as the strongest pillar of anti-communism in Francophone Africa; he also built close ties with the governments of Apartheid South Africa, Israel, and the Greek military junta. From 1972 onwards, he was also supported by Mao Zedong of China, mainly due to his anti-Soviet 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 allowed Mobutu more flexibility in his dealings with Western governments, gave him the chance to portray himself as an "anti-capitalist revolutionary", and enabled him to avoid going to the International Monetary Fund for assistance.
He was overthrown in the First Congolese War by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, aided by forces from Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda, as well as other rebel groups. His defeat was mostly due to his decaying health. Mobutu spent most of his time in the war in Switzerland, receiving treatment. This made communication between him and his army difficult.
After his forced fall of power, he temporarily stayed in Togo until then-president Gnassingbé Eyadéma insisted that he leave. He arrived in Morocco on May 23rd, 1997. After his exile, Switzerland froze his bank accounts that Mobutu had deposited several million
He died of prostate cancer three months later while living in Morocco on September 7th, 1997. Today, Mobutu is known for his corruption, his narcissism, and his one-man political party.
- Mobutu is known to have hosted the Rumble in the Jungle, a historic boxing match pitting George Foreman against Muhammad Ali.
- His full name, Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, translates to: "The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake." in Congolese.
- When Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was assassinated in the onset of the Rwandan Genocide, Mobutu somehow got a hold of his remains and kept them in a private mausoleum in Gbadolite, Zaire. Though he promised to return the remains to Habyarimana's family in Rwanda for proper burial after the genocide ended, he never did and it is unknown what happened to them.
- Mobutu once tried to name himself as the life-long president of Zaire. This, however, failed.
- Some scholars consider him to be a fascist, as his party's ideology shared characteristics of fascism, and was against both capitalism and communism. However, because of his corruption, this ideology generally did not show in his governance.