The Dark Horses of 1994: ZAIRE / Darkness encroaches on Mobutu

IS ZAIRE a country any more? The vast undeveloped heart of Africa which balloons out from the Congo river, renamed the Zaire River, is breaking up. So are the countries around it. Chaos, banditry, starvation and disease are likely to affect people in the whole region, hundreds of thousands of whom are already refugees.

In Zaire the writ of the government has never been strong away from the capital, Kinshasa, but now it has collapsed. It is a collapse not triggered by war but by bad government and the inability of the country's ruler to distinguish between his own security and satisfaction and the country's well-being. The President, Mobutu Sese Seko, now flies by helicopter from his floating palace moored on the Zaire River at Kinshasa to his palace in his home village, Gbadolite. There is nowhere else in the country for him to go but he still has most of the country's cash in private bank accounts abroad.

The southern province, whose secession caused the civil war in 1960, has declared independence again and reverted to its old name, Katanga. The eastern province is cut off from the capital and has the added problem of tens of thousands of hungry refugees from Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. There are no tarred roads between one part of Zaire and another and many of the river boats, the standard method of transport on the river and its tributaries, have stopped.

Civil war rages in Angola and arms and ammunition move across the border as if it did not exist. There is instability in Congo, war in Sudan, collapse in Burundi and instability in Rwanda.

The country has two governments, that of Etienne Tshisekedi wa Malumba, elected Prime Minister but sacked by President Mobutu in February, and that of Faustin Birindwa, appointed in March. Mr Tshisekedi's government is popular but has no power. It is known as the 'green government' because it now meets under the trees. The chances of a unified government coming back on track and preparing for peaceful, fair and free elections are zero.

Western donors have cut off aid to put pressure on Mr Mobutu. The sanctions have not hurt him at all but helped bring the country to a standstill. The US and France withdrew support from the president last year but when he did not fall, were forced to re-enter dialogue with him. A new currency introduced in October is already worth a thirtieth of its value and it is still falling. Last week fuel prices rose by 500 per cent. The price of fuel affects all commerce in Africa and in particular the price of food in towns. Unlike starving peasant farmers, hungry and angry townspeople are capable of changing governments and 1994 could see the end of Mr Mobutu.

But his departure will not bring a stable peaceful government reunifying the country. There is little sign of a nationally respected leader or party capable of pulling the country together. The aftermath will be bloody and protracted.

(Map omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee