Mobutu Sese Seko

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Mobutu Sese Seko

(mōbo͞o`tō sā`sā sā`kō), 1930–97, president of Zaïre (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Born Joseph Désiré Mobutu, he returned from study in Brussels to the then Belgian Congo, joining the nationalist movement in 1956. In 1960 he led an army coup against the nationalist government of Patrice LumumbaLumumba, Patrice Emergy
, 1925–61, prime minister (1960) of the Republic of the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). A member of the Batatele tribe, he was educated in mission schools and later worked as a postal clerk.
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; Mobutu soon became the army chief of staff. In a second coup (1965), he assumed the office of prime minister (1966), then established (1967) a presidential form of government headed by himself; the constitution did not come into force until 1970, when Mobutu was old enough to become president. As part of his program of "national authenticity," Mobutu changed the Congo's name to Zaïre (1971) and his own name to Mobutu Sese Seko (1972). Citizens were required to drop their Christian names; place names were Africanized. Power was concentrated in Mobutu, who, backed by Western intelligence agencies that saw in him a foil to such leftist states as Angola, established a one-party state and a cult of personality. He suppressed tribal conflicts and encouraged a sense of nationhood, but at the same time amassed a huge personal fortune through economic exploitation and corruption, leading some to call his rule "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. Mobutu died in Morocco.

Mobutu Sese Seko

 

(known before January 1972 as Joseph Désiré Mobutu). Born Oct. 14, 1930, in Lisala. Governmental and political figure in the Republic of Zaire.

After graduating from secondary and military schools, Mobutu served in the Belgian colonial forces known as the Force Publique from 1949 to 1956. Upon leaving the service he worked as a journalist, contributing to the newspaper Avenir and the weekly Actualités africaines. In 1958, Mobutu attended the faculty of sociology at the University of Brussels. In 1959 he joined the Congolese National Movement and in January and February 1960 took part in the Brussels Round Table Conference, which adopted the decision to grant independence to the Belgian Congo.

In 1960, Mobutu became a state secretary in the cabinet, then chief of the general staff. In 1961 he was made commander in chief of the army; in 1972 he received the rank of corps commander. In November 1965 the army seized power in the country; Mobutu was proclaimed president for a term of five years and soon became head of the government. At the end of 1970, Mobutu was elected president. He is chairman of the Popular Revolutionary Movement, which he founded in 1967. He is also chief of the National Executive Council, that is, the governing cabinet, and the National Legislative Council, and simultaneously holds office as state commissar of national defense, veterans’ affairs, and planning.