Zaire Table of Contents
Despite the deficiencies of the FAZ, during the early 1970s Mobutu was viewed as a major player in Africa, and the Zairian military was considered to have improved. As a result, Mobutu sought to acquire the image of power broker by involving himself in the Angolan civil war. Anxious to prevent the victory of the Soviet- and Cuban-backed MPLA, Mobutu sent several battalions of the Zairian army into Angola to support anti-MPLA forces. These units advanced south toward Luanda with FNLA elements and also entered Cabinda with forces of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Frente para a Libertação do Enclavo de Cabinda- -FLEC). During October 1975, FAZ/FNLA forces advanced in the direction of Luanda, encountering gradually stiffening resistance from MPLA units defending the city. MPLA forces received assistance from Zairian exiles and Cuban units. This combined force routed the Zairian/FNLA soldiers and counterattacked, sending them fleeing toward the Zairian border. As the FAZ retreated, it disintegrated into disorganized bands looting the countryside. According to historian Crawford Young, the result for Mobutu could hardly have been worse: "humiliating defeat for the army; the entrenchment of his enemies in Luanda; and the exposure of Zaire as a junior partner" to the United States and South Africa.
Data as of December 1993