Zaire Table of Contents
The 25,000-member army consists of one infantry division (with three infantry brigades); one airborne brigade (with three parachute battalions and one support battalion); one special forces (commando/counterinsurgency) brigade; one presidential guard division; one independent armored brigade; and two independent infantry brigades (each with three infantry battalions, one support battalion). These units are deployed throughout the country, with the main concentrations in Shaba Region (approximately half the force). The Kamanyola Division, consisting of the 11th Infantry Brigade, the 12th Infantry Brigade, and the 14th Infantry Brigade, operates generally in western Shaba Region; the 21st Infantry Brigade is located in Lubumbashi; the 13th Infantry Brigade is deployed throughout eastern Shaba; and at least one battalion of the 31st Airborne Brigade stays at Kamina. The other main concentration of forces is in and around Kinshasa: the 31st Airborne Brigade is deployed at Ndjili Airport on the outskirts of the capital; the DSP resides adjacent to the presidential compound; and the 1st Armored Brigade is deployed to Mbanza-Ngungu (approximately 120 kilometers southwest of Kinshasa).
The army is equipped with a wide variety of military equipment, most of which came from the United States, France, and China (see table 16, Appendix). In 1993 the FAZ's main military requirements included new military vehicles, jeeps, and communications equipment, as well as foreign assistance in repairing and maintaining equipment already in the inventory.
The maintenance status of equipment in the inventory has traditionally varied, depending on a unit's priority and the presence or absence of foreign advisers and technicians. A considerable portion of military equipment is not operational, primarily as a result of shortages of spare parts, poor maintenance, and theft. For example, the tanks of the 1st Armored Brigade often have a nonoperational rate approaching 70 to 80 percent. After a visit by a Chinese technical team in 1985, most of the tanks operated, but such an improved status generally has not lasted long beyond the departure of the visiting team. Several factors complicate maintenance in Zairian units. Maintenance personnel often lack the training necessary to maintain modern military equipment. Moreover, the wide variety of military equipment and the staggering array of spare parts necessary to maintain it not only clog the logistic network but also are expensive.
The most important factor that negatively affects maintenance is the low and irregular pay that soldiers receive, resulting in the theft and sale of spare parts and even basic equipment to supplement their meager salaries. When not stealing spare parts and equipment, maintenance personnel often spend the better part of their duty day looking for other ways to profit. American maintenance teams working in Zaire found that providing a free lunch to the work force was a good, sometimes the only, technique to motivate personnel to work at least half of the duty day.
The army's logistics corps is to provide logistic support and conduct direct, indirect, and depot-level maintenance for the FAZ. But because of Zaire's lack of emphasis on maintenance and logistics, a lack of funding, and inadequate training, the corps is understaffed, underequipped, and generally unable to accomplish its mission. It is organized into three battalions assigned to Mbandaka, Kisangani, and Kamina, but only the battalion at Kamina is adequately staffed; the others are little more than skeleton organizations.
The army's military capability is uneven, with some units more capable than others. For the most part, however, the Zairian army is not a combat-effective organization. The typical army brigade, such as the 21st Infantry Brigade in Lubumbashi, has virtually no offensive capability and only very limited defensive capability. The problems are manifold: ineffective leadership detracts from tactical and technical proficiency as well as morale; poor maintenance results in insufficient resources for mission accomplishment; and lack of funds limits the army's ability to purchase sufficient amounts of equipment or to pay soldiers a living wage. These conditions have long existed in almost all regular Zairian units and combine to keep capability at minimum levels.
The DSP, numbering between 7,000 and 10,000, is an exception to this rule. Members of the elite DSP have consistently received higher wages, been paid regularly, been well fed, and had better housing than soldiers in other units. These factors, and (in the past) the presence of Israeli advisers, have not only encouraged a better leadership environment but also produced more motivated soldiers.
There were, however, reports that even the DSP went for weeks without pay in late 1993. Only a subunit, Mobutu's personal guards known as Les Hiboux (The Owls), were paid regularly.
The situation in the 31st Airborne Brigade was at one time similar. Although paid the same basic salary as soldiers in other units, airborne personnel were once paid regularly. French advisers ensured that the soldiers of the 31st Airborne Brigade were well fed, trained, and clothed. Also, French command of the unit's logistics battalion meant that supply and equipment maintenance were effective. As a result, the unit was capable of conducting effective combat operations. The 31st Airborne Brigade demonstrated its effectiveness during Shaba II and the first occupation of Moba in 1984. That situation no longer prevailed by September 1991, however, when unpaid personnel from the 31st Airborne Brigade spearheaded mass looting and pillaging in Kinshasa.
In the chaotic political climate prevailing in the early 1990s, the loyalty and effectiveness of individual military units are open to question. Clearly, the looting and rioting by military personnel in September 1991 and in early 1993 were indicative of a serious problem. By contrast, the DSP apparently has continued to prosper relative to other military units. According to press reports, Mobutu ensured the loyalty of this key unit by continuing to pay its members, despite the scarcity of funds and the failure of the regime to provide regular pay to civil servants and other military personnel. The DSP has continued to support the Mobutu regime internally, both protecting Mobutu and serving as his primary instrument of control. The DSP's violent attack on students in Lubumbashi in May 1990 is the most vivid manifestation of its support of Mobutu, but far from the only one. The DSP also was used to suppress both the September 1991 and the even more destructive February 1993 incidences of military looting--although in 1993 the DSP is widely reported to have engaged in considerable vandalism itself before quelling the unrest. Its suppression of the violence reportedly included summarily executing hundreds of military looters. In addition, the DSP is reputed to have ransacked the offices and blown up the presses of Elima, the leading opposition newspaper, in October 1991; to have put down a "coup attempt" after some military personnel took over the state-run television station in February 1992; to have interrupted numerous public demonstrations, shooting unarmed demonstrators randomly; and to have been deployed to Nord-Kivu in mid-1993 to stop ethnic violence widely believed to have been instigated by government and security officials in the first place. In all of its dealings with the populace, the DSP has been accused of using undue violence and torture. Its fearsomeness was demonstrated graphically in February 1993 when its members went on a punitive rampage after civilians killed one of its members.
Some DSP personnel reportedly were also deployed to Angola in the early 1990s and to Rwanda in October 1990 to support the beleaguered Rwandan government. The DSP undoubtedly is the only Zairian military force loyal and capable enough to be deployed abroad.
Data as of December 1993
Zaire Table of Contents