Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents




Zaire's small navy operates along its short coast and on its numerous lakes and rivers, such as this one through dense jungle in Équateur Region.

The constitution states that the president is the supreme commander of the armed forces and is also responsible for formulating and executing defense policy. The Ministry of Defense and Veterans' Affairs assists him with these duties. Mobutu had served as minister of defense and veterans' affairs since his 1965 coup, relinquishing the position only in 1990, following his announcement of the Third Republic (see Proclamation of the Third Republic , ch. 4). During the 1977 Shaba crisis, Mobutu personally took over as FAZ chief of staff, in effect becoming the supreme commander, minister of defense, and chief of staff of the army, a staggering array of duties for a single person to assume. He holds the unique rank of field marshal in the FAZ.

Mobutu also heads the advisory National Security Council, which comprises the prime minister; the ministers of defense and veterans' affairs, external relations, interior and security, and justice and keeper of the seals; the administrators general of the National Service for Intelligence and Protection and the Military Intelligence and Security Service; the president's special adviser on security matters; and the chiefs of staff of the FAZ and the gendarmerie. Within the National Security Council, a Security Committee and a Secretariat were established in May 1982.

The official mission of the FAZ is to defend the country against all internal and external threats. But throughout its existence, the mission to protect Zaire against internal threats-- as well as threats to Mobutu's rule--has been the military's primary task. The military's importance in propping up the Mobutu regime is amply demonstrated by the role military and security forces played in suppressing political opposition in the early 1990s. Mobutu has routinely deployed loyal military units to suppress popular demonstrations; to harass and intimidate political opponents and newspapers critical of his regime; to gain and retain control of key government institutions such as state-run radio and television facilities and the central bank; to incite ethnic violence; and to obstruct the operations of the transitional government, including blocking access by members of that government to their government offices (see Subsequent Political Developments, 1990-93; Opposition since 1990 , ch. 4).

Until 1988 the FAZ was organized into three military regions, but in August of that year, President Mobutu increased the number of military regions. They generally coincide with the country's administrative regions, but some military regions encompass more than one administrative region (see fig. 1).

Data as of December 1993