Zaire: IRIN Briefing Part VII: Equateur, 4/2/97

Zaire: IRIN Briefing Part VII: Equateur, 4/2/97

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Zaire: IRIN Briefing Part VII: Equateur 21 Mar 1997

A. History

Equateur encompasses some 403,292 square kilometres and 11% (4,820,000) of Zaire's population (1). Ubangi du Nord, or as it is sometimes called Equateur du Nord, is a sub-region of Equateur whose capital, Mbandaka (population 185,000), has long been neglected in favour of Gbadolite (population 124,500). Ubangi du Nord is also home to Mobutu's ethnic tribe the Ubangi, who comprise a minority of the region's ethnic population. Most of Mobutu's key generals and advisors originate from the Ubangi tribe (2).

Gbadolite, Mobutu's home village located some 1,000 km from Kinshasa near the Central African Republic (CAR) border post of Zongo, has been transformed into a modern city with an international airport, satellite communications and several presidential palaces. A hydro-electic dam built just east of Gbadolite at Mobayi-Mbongo provides it with all its power needs. Non-Ubangi are required to obtain visas in order to visit the area. Mobutu is said to run Gbadolite as a city state out of his own pocket (at one point estimated at $15 million US monthly), employing some 7,000 people. During the 1991-2 national conference, Mobutu, in an open threat of secessionism, supported demands that Ubangi du Nord be declared an autonomous region with Gbadolite as its capital. Mobutu went as far as to hail the 1993 Francophone summit in Mauritius as signalling a new era between Gbadolite and Paris.

Gbadolite is rumoured to have the best stocked weapons arsenal in Zaire and most of the 15,000-strong DSP, many of whom originate from Ubangi du Nord, were reportedly relocated to Gbadolite in January and February of 1997 to ensure its defence. The Zairean airforce was also said to have been redeployed here (3). Gbadolite's location near the CAR border raises the possibility of a back door exit in the event that it falls to the ADFL or, conversely, a potential conduit for channeling military support to its defenders.

Except for Ubangi du Nord and Gbadolite, Mobutu has for the most part ignored the rest of Equateur. As a result, the once prosperous agricultural area has returned to subsistence farming as more and more of its basic infrastructure eroded over time, isolating many of the communities from Kinshasa both economically and politically. Most of the roads are now impassable to motorized traffic and almost impassable to foot traffic during the rainy season. Economically, the region represents an, as of yet, untapped hydro-electric resource. Moreover, in 1993 diamonds were discovered in the region suggesting a further untapped source of wealth (4).

B. Gbadolite Who's Who

Refer to Zaire: IRIN Briefing Part III for more detailed information

B.1 President Mobutu Sese Seko

B.2 Prime Minister Leon Lobistsh Kengo wa Dondo

B.3 Felix Vunduawe Tepe Mako - key political advisor to Mobutu

B.4 Honore Ngbanda Nzambo Ayumba - key security advisor to Mobutu

B.5 General Dona Mahele Bokungu - army chief-of-staff

B.6 General Eluki Monga Aundu - former army chief-of-staff

B.7 General Kpama Baramoto Kata - commander of the Garde Civile

B.8 General Etienne Nzimbi Ngbale Kongo wa Bassa - DSP commander


Most of the above information was gathered from news and wire services, the journal 'Africa Confidential'and interviews with various local sources. Other sources include:

1. Institut National de la Statistique, Kinshasa Zaire -1995 figures
2. refer to Zaire: IRIN Briefing Part III
3. Le Phare (Zairean opposition paper), 05/03/97
4. Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Zaire 1995-96, p.21

This report is part of a series of briefings designed to assist the humanitarain community understand the complexity and history of the current situation in Zaire.
Part I: List of Key Political Figures, 24.02.97
Part II: Historical Overview of Zaire, 27.02.97
Part III: Zaire Who's Who, 27.02.97
Part IV: Eastern Zaire Who's Who, 28.02.97
Part V: Shaba, 19.03.97
Part VI: Kasai, 20.03.97
Part VII:Equateur, 21.03.97

The above has been compiled from varied sources and in no way reflects the views of the United Nations.

Nairobi, 19 March 1997

[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts from this report should include attribution to the original sources mentioned, not simply "DHA".]

Date: Wed, 2 Apr 1997 22:13:22 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Zaire: IRIN Briefing Part VII: Equateur 2 April 1997 97.4.2 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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