Author Topic: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu  (Read 7544 times)

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Online <k>

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Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« on: April 18, 2011, 10:28:51 PM »
After decades of misrule by Belgian colonists, the Belgian Congo gained independence as the Republic of the Congo in 1960. Almost immediately the country was threatened with chaos, as the two richest provinces of the country, Katanga and Kasai, proclaimed their secession from the Congo.

Prime minister Patrice Lumumba turned to the USSR for help, while President Joseph Kasa-Vubu appealed to the US. Both men eventually claimed to have deposed the other, but in December 1960, Joseph Mobutu, the Chief of Staff of the Army, seized power in a CIA and Belgian-supported military coup. Kasa-Vubu reasserted control of the government, while Mobutu’s associates assassinated Lumumba.
 
 
« Last Edit: June 30, 2017, 07:09:55 PM by <k> »

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2011, 10:29:37 PM »


In September, the UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld flew to Katanga to negotiate with Moise Tshombe, the leader of the Katangan secessionists, but during a flight within the province his plane crashed and he was killed. By December 1961, however, UN and Congolese troops had reconquered secessionist Kasai, and by January 1963 the central government had also reasserted control over Katanga.

 
« Last Edit: March 12, 2019, 09:26:19 PM by <k> »

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2011, 10:31:34 PM »
In early 1964 a rebellion broke out in the Kivu and Eastern (Orientale) provinces, led by the Simba (Swahili for “lion”). From Wikipedia: By August they had captured Stanleyville and set up a rebel government there. As the rebel movement spread, discipline became more difficult to maintain, and acts of violence and terror increased. Thousands of Congolese were executed, including government officials, political leaders of opposition parties, provincial and local police, school teachers, and others believed to have been Westernized.

In July 1964, Tshombe, the former Katangan secessionist, was made prime minister. With the use of Congolese troops and white mercenaries, he began to defeat the rebels, who started capturing members of the white population and holding them hostage. Tshombe asked the US and Belgians for help, whose troops intervened in November 1964 and successfully put down the rebellion, along with help from Tshombe’s white mercenaries. Wikipedia: Tshombe's prestige was damaged by the joint Belgian-US operation which saw white mercenaries and western forces intervene once again in the Congo. In particular, Tshombe had lost the support of both Kasa-Vubu and Mobutu.

Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara addressed the UN General Assembly on December 11, 1964, publicly denouncing the US-Belgian operation as an "unacceptable intervention“. Wikipedia: In April 1965, Guevara himself, along with a small unit of Cuban fighters, arrived in Dar es Salaam and made their way across Lake Tanganyika to the Congo, where they were to lead rebellions against the Kasavubu-Tshombe central government for six months, until their retreat on November 20.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2017, 07:10:46 PM by <k> »

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2011, 10:32:24 PM »


In 1965 the first coins of the Democratic Republic of the Congo appeared: a circulation 10 francs coin, and various gold coins commemorating the fifth anniversary of independence; the gold 10 francs coin seen below portrays President Kasa-Vubu.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2019, 05:03:37 PM by <k> »

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2011, 10:33:17 PM »
On 25 November 1965, with the help of the CIA, Mobutu seized power from President Kasa-Vubu. Supported by the Western countries, he established a one-party state, banning all other political organisations except his own. Tshombe was charged with treason and fled to Spain.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2017, 07:13:50 PM by <k> »

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2011, 10:33:47 PM »
In 1966 and 1967, Mobutu had to put down two mutinies, whose leaders fled to neighbouring Rwanda.  After that, the country entered a long period of relative stability under his repressive rule.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2017, 07:14:40 PM by <k> »

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2011, 10:35:21 PM »
1967 saw a monetary reform, in which the franc was replaced by the likuta (singular: likuta; plural: makuta). One likuta was divided into 100 sengi. Below you can see the 10 sengi coin, portraying a leopard, a likuta coin, which depicts a leopard’s head as part of the coat of arms, and a 5 makuta coin, portraying President Mobutu himself. Mobutu’s leopard-skin hat became a trademark, so it is not surprising that a leopard is seen on more than one of his coins.

Designs by Michael Rizzello.









« Last Edit: March 17, 2019, 05:25:24 PM by <k> »

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2011, 10:36:24 PM »
From Wikipedia:

Over the next three decades, Mobutu led one of the most enduring regimes in Africa; it was also one of the most dictatorial and corrupt.
Despite the country's obvious natural resources, including copper, gold and diamonds, much of Zaire's population sank further into poverty. Mobutu amassed a personal fortune estimated to be as much as USD$5 billion, while what infrastructure the country had was left to decay.
After changing the country's name to Zaire in 1971, Mobutu also pursued a policy expunging remnants of colonialism. In addition to changing the names of the country and many of its cities, major industries were nationalised.

Mobutu's rule earned a reputation as one of the world's foremost examples of kleptocracy and nepotism. Close relatives and fellow members of the Ngbandi tribe were awarded with high positions in the military and government.  Mobutu was able to successfully capitalise on Cold War tensions and gain significant support from Western countries like the United States and international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund.


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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2011, 10:40:43 PM »
In 1972 Mobutu renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, which translates as "The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake."

In 1973 two coins were issued in the name of the Bank of Zaire, the first time that the country’s new name had appeared on coins. Each shows a different portrait of Mobutu.  A leopard-skin hat (20 makuta) and a leopard’s head (10 makuta)feature on the coins, and the reverse of the 20 makuta has a stirring design of a hand holding a flaming torch.

In 1977 a 5 makuta coin was issued. The portrait of Mobutu is a modified version of the one that appeared on the 1967 5 makuta; in 1967, he is clearly wearing a military uniform, which has been replaced by a tunic in the 1977 version.

All designs by Roger Duterme.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2019, 04:33:48 PM by <k> »

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2011, 10:41:46 PM »
One hundred makuta were equal to one zaire, but by 1987 inflation had rendered the earlier coins useless, so two new brass coins were issued: 1 zaire and 5 zaires. They had simplistic reverses, but the obverse carried yet another new portrait of President Mobutu, once again wearing his trademark leopard-skin hat. In 1988 the series was completed with the issue of a brass 10 zaires coin.

Designs by Roger Duterme.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2019, 04:09:16 PM by <k> »

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2011, 10:42:22 PM »
From Wikipedia:

As the Cold War waned in the early 1990s, so did Western support for Mobutu. In light of allegations of human rights abuses and rampant corruption, Belgium, France and the United States all suspended military and financial assistance to the regime.

As the economic and political situation worsened, Laurent Kabila began a military drive from eastern Zaire in October 1996 to depose Mobutu. As the rebels advanced, Mobutu - who had been out of the country receiving medical treatment - returned to Zaire, vowing to crush the rebellion.

But by May 1997, with his regime in shambles, Mobutu fled, first to Togo and then to Morocco. He had reportedly requested permission to travel to France for medical treatment, but the French government refused. Less than four months after he was forced into exile, Mobutu died in September 1997 in Morocco.

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Offline africancoins

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2011, 11:49:34 PM »
This medallic portrait of Mobutu is rather similar to that on the 1988 coins...

Image done many years ago...

Thanks Mr Paul Baker

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2011, 01:52:26 AM »
Good story, great illustrations. What a sad and unlucky place Zaïre is. One of the puzzles of development economics is why several countries that have great reserves of natural resources are among the poorest and worst governed on earth. Congo, Nigeria, Birma, Venezuela, Angola... I think one of the main drivers is hyper-corruption.

I heard a Congolese joke once. A beggar was robbed and screamed as a motorcade with Mobutu passed. Mobutu detailed a policeman to find out what the beggar was screaming about. The beggar complained he had been robbed, so the policeman asked "which way did the thief go?" The beggar pointed at the direction where the motorcade had disappeared...

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

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Re: Zaire, and the many faces of Mobutu
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2019, 08:28:04 PM »
Zaire, 1 zaire, 1970.  Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.