Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents




Official presidential residence, Kinshasa
Courtesy Zaire National Tourism Office

Under Mobutu, the government of Zaire has generally been described as a republic with strong presidential authority. Indeed, on paper at least Zaire possesses most of the conventional organs of a modern republic: separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches. However, mere enumeration of the organs of government conveys little about how they function. It is more useful to conceive of Zaire under Mobutu as being governed according to a system that has been variously described as patrimonialism (see Glossary) or as a presidential monarchy, in which the president exercises near-absolute power.

Zaire's constitutional situation has been murky since Mobutu's proclamation of the Third Republic and ostensible authorization of a multiparty system in 1990. The 1974 constitution (amended in 1978) is the last permanent constitution. The Mobutu-appointed government of national salvation headed by Birindwa was based on that constitution. Opposition forces, however looked to the Transitional Act, which was passed by the CNS as a provisional constitution in August 1992 and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court as the country's only legitimate constitution. The transitional government headed by Tshisekedi was elected by the CNS on the basis of that document, which, broadly, established a parliamentary system with a figurehead president.

Throughout 1992 and 1993, both camps continued to formulate rival draft constitutions. In October 1993, agreement reportedly was reached on a new constitution acceptable to both sides, but no details were available, and the agreement has not been implemented. At year's end, the constitutional standoff persisted, but because Mobutu controlled the state's treasury and military apparatus, the old political system clearly prevailed.

Data as of December 1993