Zaire: IRIN Briefing - Facts and Figures, 11/16/96

Zaire: IRIN Briefing - Facts and Figures, 11/16/96


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[IRIN Note: This document is in no way intended to be comprehensive, but offers basic information thought to be useful to the humanitarian community during the present crisis.]

Zaire: IRIN Briefing - Facts and Figures 16 November 1996


Zaire -- Africa's third largest nation -- is located at the heart of the continent, and has become ever more embroiled in chaos since independence from Belgium in 1960. The sprawling country has vast mineral reserves, and regions such as copper-rich Shaba and diamond-rich Kasai are virtually autonomous.

Home to 1.2 million Rwandan and Burundian Hutu refugees in the east, Zaire is now wracked by a revolt in the eastern Kivu region led by Tutsi rebels, widely believed to be backed by soldiers from the Tutsi-led Rwandan army. Refugees are again on the move, and the rag-tag Zairean army's flight from the rebels, coupled with President Mobutu's prolonged absence from the country, has demonstrated Kinshasa's growing inability to control events in the country.


Area - 2,344,885 sq km, 905,365 sq miles

Capital - Kinshasa

Official language - French

Population - 41.2 million in 1993

Average life expectancy at birth - 52 years

Adult literacy - 75.2 percent


June 1960: Independence from Belgium. Joseph Kasavubu proclaimed president, Patrice Lumumba prime minister. Armed mutiny five days later and Belgian chief of staff replaced by Col (later Marshal) Joseph-Desire Mobutu.

February 1961: Lumumba murdered.

January 1964: Rebellion breaks out in southern Kivu and northern Katanga (now Shaba) provinces. Within a few months the rebels were in control of the east and northeast of the country. In early 1965, the revolt was defeated by the army, assisted by Belgian troops, mercenaries and members of the Banyamulenge Tutsi ethnic group.

August 1964: New constitution establishes presidential system of government and federal structure.

November 1965: Mobutu declares himself head of the 'Second Republic', imposes five year ban on party politics.

1966: Mobutu forms Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution (MPR). Provinces reduced to eight, Leopoldville becomes Kinshasa.

1970: Presidential and legislative elections. Mobutu, as the sole candidate, elected president end October, and members of the 420-member legislative council elected from a list of candidates selected by the MPR political bureau.

October 1971: Republic of Congo renamed Republic of Zaire.

1982: Opposition movement gains momentum with formation of the Union pour la Democratie et le Progres Social (UPDS) and the Front Congolais pour le Retablissement de la Democratie (FCD), with exiled Nguza Karl-I-Bond as its spokesman.

1990: Relations with Belgium enter all time low after Brussels freezes assistance to Zaire following the killing of student demonstrators.

October 1990: Mobutu announces that full multi-party system will come into force.

1991: Opposition parties come together under the umbrella of Union Sacree and take part in a national conference in August aimed at drafting a new constitution.

December 1992: National conference dissolves itself, and is succeeded by a 453-member High Council of the Republic (HCR) with Archbishop Monsengwo as its president. It declares Etienne Tshisekedi as prime minister.

March 1993: Mobutu attempts to reassert political authority by convening a special "conclave" of political forces to debate the country's future, and a parallel administration is formed with Faustin Birindwa as prime minister.

1994: Transitional legislature, known as Haut Conseil de la Republique-Parlement de Transition, formed and Leon Kengo wa Dondo elected premier of a transitional government.

July/August 1994: Zaire's international standing enhanced after the influx of over one million refugees fleeing the civil war in Rwanda.

January 1995: International concern after an outbreak of the fatal Ebola virus in the southwestern town of Kikwit.

May 1996: Violence escalates in the eastern region of Masisi in North Kivu as Zairean forces, former Rwandan soldiers and Hutu refugees target Tutsi villagers who have lived in the region for decades. Thousands of Tutsis flee to Rwanda.

August 1996: Mobutu undergoes surgery for prostate cancer in Lausanne, Switzerland.

October 1996: Concern mounts over Mobutu's health and his leadership, as he prolongs his stay in Switzerland, and fighting between rebel ethnic Tutsis in South Kivu - known as Banyamulenge - and the Zairean armed forces engulfs the eastern Zaire region.

November 1996: Great Lakes region faced with another refugee crisis after Banyamulenge rebels oust Zairean soldiers in Bukavu, Goma and Uvira regions and thousands of people are again on the move. Kinshasa effectively rudderless.


MOBUTU SESE SEKO - Zaire's strongman president for three decades and arguably the one symbol of national unity, Mobutu has been absent since August when he had surgery for prostate cancer in Switzerland. He is currently in France. He came to power in a military coup in 1965 and has ruled since with cunning. In 1990 he embraced democratic reforms, but the transition has dragged on and Zaire has yet to hold elections. Mobutu has a magnificent palace at his home of Gbadolite, deep in the jungle of northern Equateur district. In recent years he has spent most of his time there, rarely visiting the capital.

KENGO WA DONDO - Zaire's half-Polish, part-Rwandan prime minister is appreciated by the West for his willingness to reform the corrupt economy. A wealthy businessman, he was a prime minister under Mobutu's one-party system but during the transition to democracy moved towards the opposition ranks. The transitional parliament elected him prime minister in 1994 as a candidate from the opposition acceptable to Mobutu's supporters, who are in the majority. His attempts to implement economic reforms reflected well on Mobutu, shunned by the West for human rights abuses and lack of democracy.

ELUKI MONGA AUNDU - As army chief of staff, General Eluki commands Zaire's biggest armed force, a ragged body estimated at around 25,000, forced by low pay to survive on what they can forage or extract from the civilian population. Eluki is from the same Equateur region as Mobutu.

BARAMOTO KPAMA - General Baramoto commands the civil guard, most feared of the military forces by the civilian population. Well-trained and fed compared to the regular army, it is used to put down local disturbances and also has a combat role. Baramoto comes from the same Ngbandi ethnic group as Mobutu.

NZIMBI NGBALE - Commanding general of the Special Presidential Division (DSP), the most disciplined, best-paid and professional of Zaire's fighting forces. Their specific duty is to assure the president's security but includes defending vital national interests. Employed by the United Nations, a contingent of the DSP was used to guard Rwandan Hutu refugee camps in the east. Nzimbi has close family ties to Mobutu.

KAMANDA WA KAMANDA - A career politician, the interior minister is a centrist allied with Kengo, having once been close to Mobutu. In 1972 he was elected assistant secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity. Kamanda has been outspoken on getting Hutu refugees to return home, as both foreign minister and now interior minister. He is from the western Bandundu district close to the capital Kinshasa.

ETIENNE TSHISEKEDI - A onetime friend of Mobutu, Tshisekedi is now the main figure in radical political opposition to the president. He was arrested on numerous occasions before democratic reforms began. As prime minister elected by a national conference in 1992, he was shunted aside in favour of a Mobutu appointee in 1993. Tshisekedi refuses to accept Kengo's 1994 election and claims the job for himself. The opposition, and even Tshisekedi's own Union for Democracy and Social Progress Party, is divided. His origins lie in the diamond-rich Kasai region of central Zaire.

NGUZA KARL-I-BOND - Veteran opposition leader and political survivor, he has been everything from first commissioner (prime minister) under Mobutu's one-party state to a prisoner on death row. A former ambassador to the United States, he was a major player in the early days of the democratic transition. He leads the Union of Federalists and Independent Republicans.

LAURENT KABILA - A former Marxist who heads the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL), dominated by the Banyamulenge ethnic Tutsis now controlling much of eastern Zaire. He says the aim of the alliance is to put an end to Mobutu's rule and eradicate corruption.

The ADFL, formed on 18 October 1996 at Lemera, South Kivu, is composed of:

o Parti de la Revolution Populaire, a Marxist-oriented group founded in the 1960s battling the government in the east. Prominent leader: Laurent Kabila, from Shaba.

o "Kissasse" rebels, who follow military commander Andre Kissasse. They include fighters from the eastern Zaire Nande tribe and Kasai. Party: Conseil National de Resistance pour la Democratie.

o Mouvement Revolutionnaire pour la Liberation du Zaire. Prominent leader: Nindaga Masusu, reportedly of Bashi ethnicity.

o Zairean Banyamulenge Tutsis from South Kivu province, joined by the Banyarwanda Tutsis from North Kivu. Party: Alliance Democratique des Peuples (ADP), leader: Deo/Douglas Bugera (from Rutshuru), prominent member, Muller Ruhimbika (Banyamulenge).

In addition, fighters within the rebel forces may include:

o Ethnic Luba dissidents from southeastern Kasai province.

o Shaba fighters drawn from 500,000 people who fled government terror in the southeastern Shaba province to Kasai in 1992.

o Zairean army deserters.

o Elements from the Mai-Mai and Bangilima North Kivu Zairean militia - although they have reportedly fought on both sides of the conflict.


Main Exports - Copper, coffee, diamonds, cobalt, crude oil; mainly to the USA, EU and Japan.

Main Imports - Refined petroleum products, heavy machinery, food and fuels; mainly from the USA, EU and Japan.

Economic Performance Profile


GDP per capita ($) --------------------------------- 198

Real GDP growth (%) --------------------------------- -8.5

Inflation (%) --------------------------------- 2870.5

Unemployment (%) --------------------------------- 39.2

Capital Investment --------------------------------- 8% of GNP

[Sources: IBC USA Licensing Inc.,1995; Reuters; AFP; AP; New African Year Book 1995-96; Europa-Africa South of the Sahara 1996; Countries of the World Yearbook 1997]


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Date: Sat, 16 Nov 1996 10:51:33 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Briefing - Facts and Figures 16 Nov 1996 96.11.16 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali Dinar,