Zaire Table of Contents
Government: Republic with strong presidential authority dominated since 1965 by Mobutu Sese Seko. Personalistic regime often described as "presidential monarchy," in which Mobutu has run government as personal fiefdom, using national treasury as checkbook and disbursing rewards and punishments at will. Corruption, nepotism, and cronyism pervasive. Administrative structure effectively fused with sole legal political party, Popular Revolutionary Movement (Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution--MPR).
Regime ostensibly changed in April 1990 with announcement of move toward multiparty democracy. In mid-1991 national conference, ultimately known as Sovereign National Conference (Conférence Souveraine Nationale--CSN) convened to oversee drafting of new constitution and smooth political transition. Transitional Act adopted August 1992 to serve as provisional constitution, provided for parliamentary system with figurehead president, High Council of the Republic (Haut Conseil de la République--HCR) provisional legislature, and first state commissioner (prime minister) head of government. Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba elected head of two-year transitional government, recognized by Western powers, unable to govern because of Mobutu's continued control of key military and security forces, treasury, media, and administrative facilities. Mobutu also reconvened former legislature, National Legislative Council (Conseil National Législatif--CNL), attempted to obtain more favorable draft constitution, and, in March 1993, appointed rival government under Prime Minister Faustin Birindwa. Since then, government stalemate, with two parallel governments vying for political supremacy. Agreement reportedly reached in October 1993 on new transitional constitution, transitional parliament, and electoral schedule, but no action taken by mid-1994.
Politics: From 1967 until 1990, MPR sole legal political party. Formal registration of political parties allowed December 1990, and numerous parties sprang up. Principal opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress (Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social--UDPS) led by Tshisekedi. Also Union of Federalists and Independent Republicans (Union des Fédéralistes et des Républicains Indépendants--UFERI) led by Jean Nguza Karl-i- Bond, Democratic and Social Christian Party (Parti Démocrate et Social Chrétien--PDSC) led by Joseph Ileo Nsongo Amba, Congolese National Movement-Lumumba (Mouvement National Congolais-Lumumba-- MNC-Lumumba) led by Christophe Gbenye, and Lumumbist Unified Party under Antoine Gizenga. Major opposition parties united in Sacred Union (Union Sacrée) during 1991-92 CSN. In November 1991, Nguza and UFERI formed Alliance of Patriotic Forces as rival opposition force within CSN. Other schisms occurred in opposition. In September 1993, Tshisekedi formed another coalition called Democratic Forces of the Congo-Kinshasa. Pro-Mobutu forces, led by MPR, worked together in coalition known as United Democratic Forces (Forces Démocratiques Unies--FDU). MPR retained the same abbreviation and same political orientation, reportedly changed name to Popular Movement for the Revival (Mouvement Populaire pour le Renouveau).
Administrative Divisions: Administratively, country divided into ten regions plus capital of Kinshasa. Highly centralized system with little autonomy at regional or local level.
Foreign Relations: Foreign policy orientation officially nonaligned but generally pro-Western under Mobutu. Mobutu regime traditionally perceived as enjoying, and depending on, support of Belgium, France, and United States. Because of Zaire's size, mineral wealth, and strategic location, as well as Mobutu's willingness to support Western foreign policy goals (e.g., in Angola and Chad), Mobutu able to capitalize on Cold War tensions to garner support and substantial economic and military assistance. Until early 1990s, Western powers mostly disregarded growing evidence of human rights abuses and corruption of Mobutu regime. But following end of Cold War and chaotic events in Zaire in early 1990s, Belgium, France, and United States terminated all but humanitarian aid to Zaire, have increasingly pressured Mobutu to improve human rights record and institute multiparty democracy. All three nations have voiced support for transitional government under Tshisekedi, have refused to recognize rival, Mobutu-appointed Birindwa government, but have stopped short of adopting stronger measures against Mobutu, such as confiscating his assets abroad or imposing economic sanctions.
Regional relations significant because Zaire borders on nine other states. But relations with neighbors often tense because of refugees, smuggling, mutual harboring of antigovernment rebels, and border violations by security forces.
International Agreements and Memberships: Member of many international and regional organizations, including United Nations (UN) and its specialized agencies, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat), Nonaligned Movement, Organization of African Unity (OAU), African Development Bank, Economic Community of Central African States (Communauté Économique des États de l'Afrique Centrale--CEEAC), and Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (Communauté Économique des Pays des Grands Lacs--CEPGL).
Data as of December 1993
Zaire Table of Contents