Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga; born Joseph-Desiré Mobutu; 14 October 1930 – 7 September 1997) was the military dictator and President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (which Mobutu renamed Zaire in 1971) from 1965 to 1997. He also served as Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity in 1967–1968. Once in power, Mobutu formed an authoritarian regime, amassed vast personal wealth, and attempted to purge the country of all colonial cultural influence, while enjoying considerable support from the United States due to his anti-communist stance.
During the Congo Crisis, Belgian forces aided Mobutu in a coup against the nationalist government of Patrice Lumumba in 1960 to take control of the government. Lumumba was the first leader in the country to be democratically elected, but he was subsequently deposed in a coup d’état organised by Colonel Mobutu and executed by a Katangese firing squad led by Julien Gat, a Belgian mercenary.Mobutu then assumed the role of army chief of staff, before taking power directly in a second coup in 1965. As part of his program of “national authenticity,” Mobutu changed the Congo’s name to Zaire in 1971 and his own name to Mobutu Sese Seko in 1972.
Mobutu established a single-party state in which all power was concentrated in his hands. He also became the object of a pervasive cult of personality. During his reign, Mobutu built a highly centralized state and amassed a large personal fortune through economic exploitation and corruption, leading some to call his rule a “kleptocracy.The nation suffered from uncontrolled inflation, a large debt, and massive currency devaluations. By 1991, economic deterioration and unrest led him to agree to share power with opposition leaders, but he used the army to thwart change until May 1997, when rebel forces led by Laurent Kabila expelled him from the country. Already suffering from advanced prostate cancer, he died three months later in Morocco.
Mobutu became notorious for corruption, nepotism, and the embezzlement of between US$4 billion and $15 billion during his reign, as well as extravagances such as Concorde-flown shopping trips to Paris. Mobutu presided over the country for over three decades. He has been described as the “a hero by the people of Congo kinshasa.
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