Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents



By the early 1990s, the FAZ's enlisted ranks represented much of society. However, members of President Mobutu's own Ngbandi ethnic group are disproportionately represented in the military and security forces, particularly at the highest levels. The Ngbandi overwhelmingly dominate the elite DSP. Mobutu has excluded certain areas of the country from recruitment in the military (in the past, the western half of the country had provided a majority of recruits). The army reportedly is dominated by soldiers from the ╔quateur Region, Mobutu's home region, as well as Haut-Za´re. It has also been reported that soldiers from the regions of Shaba, Kasai-Oriental, Kasai-Occidental, Bandundu, Bas-Za´re, Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, and Maniema are discriminated against.

The military is highly visible in most areas of the country, but it is not an institution that most Zairians identify with or in which they have any pride or confidence. The FAZ, as a descendant of the colonial Force Publique, has retained an aura of separateness and, like the colonial force, is perceived, justifiably, as an instrument of repression. As such, the majority of the population sees the army as their enemy.

There is also discontent within the military itself. Low and irregular pay is the primary cause for depredations by the FAZ. Only the highest-ranking officers and the DSP receive pay sufficient to provide a basic level of subsistence. Most officers and other ranks receive wages that are inadequate to feed and clothe their families, and they often go unpaid for months (see Conditions of Service , this ch.). As a result, FAZ members often prey on the local community in an effort to make ends meet, and to enrich themselves, which breaks down trust between the military and the Zairian population. In September 1991, unpaid paratroopers went on a rampage in Kinshasa, and widespread looting ensued. France and Belgium ultimately sent in troops to restore order and protect foreign nationals. Another wave of military-led pillaging and looting occurred in early 1993 following the introduction of a new Z5 million (for value of the zaire--see Glossary) note that many merchants refused to accept from the military personnel who had been paid with it. Lower-level, routine looting has continued; people who interfere or protest are often shot on the spot. As a result, fear of renewed military looting is widespread, inducing many citizens to pay the "contributions" that soldiers demand as the price of being left alone.

The FAZ has played a constructive role at times, in conducting occasional civic-action programs, but these may, in any case, have been largely window dressing for foreign advisers. For example, during a joint Zairian-American military exercise, Zairian engineer units built several bridges in Shaba Region, permitting vehicular travel between some towns for the first time in more than ten years.

Data as of December 1993