October 14, 2005

Happy Birthday Mobutu!

Today is my and your favorite ex-leader's birthday! Let's all give a nice, warm shout-out to Mobutu!

Actual conversation I had with a Congolese colleague:
Colleague 1: "Today is Mobutu's birthday"
Me (in mock horror): "How could we have forgotten?"
Colleague 1: "One forgets quickly"
Laughs all around
Colleague 2: "It used to be a day off though"



Photo and Caption from Wikipedia: Mobutu's portrait appeared on every banknote

A few links for background information:
Mobutu Sese Seko
Mobutu dies in Exile in Morocco
Country Profiles: DRC

8 comments:

Magali said...

In honour of Mobutu's b-day, I recommend this book: "In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo" by Michela Wrong.

Black River Eagle said...

Now you've gone and done it! This is clearly a political posting. Nice picture of Mobutu though. Whose picture(s) appears on the DRC national banknotes these days? Laurent Kabila? Nah. Really?

How could we Westerners (Americans, French, Belgians, Brits, etc. etc.) be so stupid and so uncaring about the fate of the Congolese to setup and support this guy as President for so damn long? The Soviets won the Cold War in Africa anyway and many Soviet leftovers are still down there doing business as usual.

This is the part I like from the 1997 CNN article about Mobutu's passing:

"In 1965, Mobutu seized power with the backing of the military and tacit support of Western countries, who saw him as a bulwark against communist expansion in Africa. He established a one-party state, banning all other political organizations but his own.

Over the next three decades, Mobutu led one of the most enduring regimes in Africa -- and, said his critics, one of the most dictatorial and corrupt..."

What does "tacit support" mean? Guns and ammo and training in political repression? Jeeezzus. Has the DRC ever received a penny back from the billions of $$$ stashed away in foreign bank accounts that this guy and his cronies stole from the country?

I hear that famed Belgian documentary filmmaker Thierry Michel has the definitive work on the life and times of Mobutu. The 1999 film is titled "Mobutu, King of Zaire". Read that his latest work "Congo River" is pretty good too. Can't find even a trailer of either film online. A real pity.

Beaver said...

what's more disturbing is that the portrait on all bank bills thing apparently was also the case with Guinea's Sekou Toure.

Looks like a trend amongst crazy african dictators.

In response to BR Eagle, I'd like to say that it's very difficult not to get political in Africa : most countries such as RDC, Guinea, etc. are below the expected level of development because of bad governance. When in country, it's difficult to stay neutral and face all the unexplored potential of the country without getting indignant.

In this light, I find this post to be quite moderated.

Kudos, 007 !

Beaver said...

what's more disturbing is that the portrait on all bank bills thing apparently was also the case with Guinea's Sekou Toure.

Looks like a trend amongst crazy african dictators.

In response to BR Eagle, I'd like to say that it's very difficult not to get political in Africa : most countries such as RDC, Guinea, etc. are below the expected level of development because of bad governance. When in country, it's difficult to stay neutral and face all the unexplored potential of the country without getting indignant.

In this light, I find this post to be quite moderated.

Kudos, 007 !

007 in Africa said...

Magali, I am reading that right now and loving it!!

BRE, the current congolese francs (let's see here while I take a couple of them out), have Elephants, a hydroelectric dam (haha, I wonder where that's at)huts by a river full of fish and people working a mine for diamonds I think. They're nice. About the money stolen, I highly recommend a great documentary I saw this weekend--it's called "Mobutu, roi du Zaire", by Thierry Michel (oops, I see later that you mention it). It's really impressive. I think, to tell the truth, that the Congolese have been so used to being exploited by Leopold II and his hired men, that this didn't make a huge difference. About "Congo River", it's a great documentary but not out yet--I saw one of the first screenings in Kinshasa. Keep your eye out for it though--definitely worth it!

Beaver, my post wasn't political now was it? :) Congrats on the start of your job, sounds fascinating.

Beaver said...

just as political as mine... which was based on agency documentation... go figure !

jke said...

I think another - simple - reason is that the country is just too big, and has too many interested parties in looting the assets of the country.

Sasa, my dear, now I understand your need to call this the 007 blog: Roger Moore. Yes, my bday is on 14th october as well :-)

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