Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents


Creation of the Zairian Armed Forces

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mobutu inaugurated his authenticity (see Glossary) campaign, which was intended to reject European values and develop a Zairian identity (see The Quest for Legitimacy , ch. 1). As part of this initiative, Mobutu changed the name of the country to Zaire, dropped his Christian name and ordered his countrymen to do the same, and changed the name of the military to the Zairian Armed Forces (Forces Armées Zaïroises-- FAZ).

During the mid-1970s, the FAZ experienced extensive turmoil. The army was shaken in mid-1975 when several generals, colonels, and lower-ranking officers were arrested and accused of plotting to overthrow the government. In August forty-one alleged plotters, including nine civilians, were tried in secret by a military court that handed down death sentences to three generals and four other army officers. One of the generals, Fallu Sumbu, was considered one of the brightest young officers in the military. Again in 1978, the government executed eight officers and five civilians alleged to have plotted against Mobutu. Although it is uncertain whether or not these plots ever existed, according to Zaire specialist Thomas Turner, what is certain, "is that the purges reflected both generational and ethnoregional cleavages. Those eliminated in 1975 were mainly Tetela and others from Kasai-Oriental and Kivu regions, while those eliminated in 1978 were mainly Luba from KasaiOriental ." These purges also had a significant negative impact on a military whose performance was characterized by gross incompetence during this period. In an interesting sidenote that reflects the sometimes bizarre policies of the Mobutu regime, a decree issued following the coup forbade marriage between officers and foreign women and ordered officers already married to foreigners to give up either their wives or their commissions.

Data as of December 1993