Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents


Conditions of Service

The conditions of service for most Zairian soldiers and officers are dismal. Even before the chaotic years of the early 1990s, in which the bankrupt government did not pay most troops regularly if at all, inadequate and irregular pay for the majority of personnel meant that they must have some source of outside income. Such income could come from a variety of interests, ranging from legitimate business enterprises to stealing and reselling government supplies and equipment. Such practices had an obvious negative effect on soldiers' morale and motivation but also seriously affected capability and readiness by forcing soldiers to spend much of their duty day attempting to make ends meet. As a result, training and other service-related matters assumed second priority.

In the early 1990s, most military units (except for the elite DSP) were paid so infrequently, and when paid were paid with worthless zaires, that they felt compelled to loot to survive. Aside from the two major military looting rampages in September 1991 and January-February 1993, smaller-scale banditry and looting continued routinely, both in Kinshasa and in other regions. In addition, military personnel often resorted to extorting money from the citizenry or made private arrangements with local and foreign businesses who paid them to act as private guards.

In the past, the situation for some mid- and senior-level officers tended to be better. Starting with the rank of major or lieutenant colonel, some Zairian officers were able to secure outside sources of income, which permitted them to support their families. By the time an officer became a colonel, he had usually guaranteed himself an adequate income through involvement in business by exploiting his military position.

General officers traditionally were in the best financial position by far of all Zairian military personnel. First, they could profit from their duty assignments by skimming funds intended for the soldiers in their organizations, but they were also well placed to capitalize on contacts they made to establish business connections. For example, a former air force chief of staff was reportedly one of the wealthiest and shrewdest businessmen in Zaire. Even while he was chief of staff, he owned several companies, many of which did business with the air force and other government agencies. All these business interests, however, left little time to run the air force, which reflected this neglect.

Aside from pay, other conditions of service are also deplorable. Zairian units rarely are fed two meals a day, with most only fed once. In the past, the presence of foreign advisers often served to improve this situation somewhat. For example, at the Belgian-run Senior Military Schools Group, Zairian personnel received three meals daily, which was, however, exceptional. Many other benefits designed to offset low salaries either do not exist or are sporadic. Free medical care, for example, often depends on the presence of foreign advisers, and free medicine, although authorized, is rarely available. Housing is also usually inadequate to meet the basic needs of the soldiers. Most enlisted personnel are forced to live in squalor, and the situation, even for companygrade officers, is often not much better.

Data as of December 1993