Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents


Patron-Client Relations

Patron is a term of address that means, crudely, "boss" or "patron." Patron-client relations are marked by unequal status, reciprocity, and personal contact, and their use is common throughout Zaire. Individuals may circumvent the power of state officials by locating someone in the bureaucracy to whom they are related by ties of ethnicity, locality, kinship, religious affiliation, or class. In appealing to such ties in order to get a permit issued, a court case resolved, or a child admitted to school, for example, bonds are forged that may be used by the patron or the client in future matters. Such bonds may undercut or reinforce other bonds of class, regional, or ethnic solidarity, depending on the situation.

Such bonds and the need for them subvert official ideology as well as official structures and procedures. Under the state and party ideology of authenticity, all citizens were equal and the appropriate term of address among all Zairians was citoyen, or citizen. The term was mandated for public use in order to do away with the perceived hierarchical distinctions of monsieur and madame. Not only does use of the term patron undercut this aim by creating new hierarchies, but Zairians often reversed the egalitarian intent of the term citoyen itself in their use of it. The term was often reserved for addressing members of new and old elites, the politico-commercial class and the external estate; a foreigner might find himself or herself addressed as citoyen, while a Zairian worker or farmer might not.

Data as of December 1993