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On the evo of the eighth anniversary ofonune, President Mobutu is as firmly entrenched in power as anyone can be in the Congo, with its strife-torn history of coups and countoreoups. With the backing of the amy, Mobutu has reasserted the central government's authority over the provinces and has suppressed most overt political opposition. his leadership apparently is accepted by most of the population because his regime has brought some semblance of order to the country.
. Nevertheless, central governmental authority ciminishes rapidly in many outlying parts of theand tribalism and regionalism persist just below the surface. For security, the regime must rely neayily on the Congolese Nationaleryinstrument. If no new, debilitating crises occur, Kinshasa should be able to extend its control and influence further in the next few years, but it willong time before tt can exert more thanauthority over much of the Congo.
Although the Congolese National Army is crucial to Mobutu's power, he has carefully limited its involvement in the country's government and politics. Aside from General Mobutu himself, no army officerabinet or party post or any otherposition. After Mobutu seized power ine used the army to help stabilize the government and to suppress overt political opposition. however, the army has been used only sparingly as an administrative arm of the This restriction has occurred not only because the army is extremely unpopular and grossly incompetent but, more importantly, because Mobutu is intent upon
remaining the only link between the political and military spheres.
Although the CongoleseArmy hardly qualifiesilitary force, in the Congo it is capable of providing the kind of internal security required to keep Mobutu in power. At the same time, the army isajor cause of insecurityontributing factor to ruralstagnation. Provincial and territorial army units continually harass the populace, confiscating property and levying protection charges on the movement of goods and people. Some army units are also very active in smuggling important export items such as diamonds, gold, palm oil, quinin-i, and coffee.
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is aware of the need to reform the army, but he has been hesitant to make any changes that might erode his support within it. Recently, he initiated some measures aimed atthe top of the command structure. This move could portend more extensive reforms, but they are likely to be In making changes, Mobutu doubtless will balancetronger, moreforce against the risks of replacing incompetent but loyal coirmanders with younger, better-trained officers who might be more likely to challenge him.
When Mobutu took over twoalf years ago, the Congo was divided intoirtually autonomous, often chaotically administered provinces. Mobutu reasserted the centrals authority by reducing the number of provinces to eight and making all high provincial officials directly responsible to Kinshasa. He also centralized the police force and budgetand disbanded indefinitely the elected provincial assemblies in which tribal politics had all but paraly2ed many provincial governments.
Kinshasa's grip on the is not strong, however, largely because its provincial -officials are ineffective. Often they simply do not have the means to carry out government policy or to provide basic governmental services. In economicallyareas such as the Katanga
and Kasai mining complexes, for example, private or foreignfirms, not the | provide road health services and, in Kasai, even housing for government officials.
Furthermore, army unruliness, inflation, food shortages, and urban unemployment continue to breed discontent and potential unrest. Provincial authorities assure that their careers depend nore on jockeying for favor with the Kinshasa leadership than on attacking these thorny problems. The governors, therefore, spend nost of their time on activities designed to please their superiors in thevisits for government officials,the proper display of official notices, or getting out the voteovernment referendum.
Moreover, until the country's infrastructure is rehabilitated and the great deficiencies in adninistrative and technical personnel are alleviated, Kinshasa's control and influence willnot extend effectively much beyond the provincial capitals and the few modern economic centers.
Centralization andare the main means that Mobutu has used to strengthen and consolidate his control, but he has sought popular support, too. Immediately upon assuming power, heroll up the sleeves'* campaign to get the people involved in doing something themselves about everything from cleaning up the
streets to eliminating corruption in government. The results were somewhat nebulous and the campaign soon lost momentum and direction.
Mobutu also created the Volunteer Corps of the Republic toase of mass support for his regime, but it was equally unsuccessful. umber ofunits of the corps became fronts for opportunistic local politicians, and some cadres in Kinshasa came under theof left-wing youth groups in neighboring Brazzaville. Mobutu finally disbanded the corps in7 and incorporated its leadership ew political party, The Popular Revolutionary Moverient.
Created ond guided from above, the movement has not generated much mass support. At first, Mobutu tried to use the same technique to organize the party that he uses to control theadministration. Heall the high provincial officials himself, and assigned them to areas outside of their own tribal grouping, making themupon Kinshasa for both
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ment, however, created competing channels of authority between the movement and the local and did not prevent the re-emergence of local political.
Finally, Mobutu placed the party organization in the hands of the provincial governors andcivil servants. Thethereby gained greatercohesion, and the acquired authority to keep
local party activists in line. Nevertheless, the governors have had little success in unifyingtribal factions, and inprovinces the party has built no effective structure at all.
At best, the movement gives the regime the appearanceopular, mass-supported, progressii government. It also provides an outlet for political activity,arrow and officially controlled one, and someand status for party
After eight years of turmoil, some groups and even entire regions remain discontented with thegovernment and alienated from it. These elements are mostly unorganized, partly because Mobutu and the amy have kept them so. The only open opposition tocones from isolated rebel bands, the remnants of4 rebellion. Although they continue to harass the local security forces in Bandundu Province and in the eastern Congo, they are small, poorly equipped, and ridden by dissension--an irritant, butnore.
As always, tribalismig problem for the central government. Some triballygroups--the Kongo, the Luba, and Lunda--have never become completely reconciled to rule from Kinshasa. Although they are kept in line partly by fear of the army, there is asense of weariness and apathy among the rural population as wellitterness toward politicians
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that Mobutu has been able to In addition, he hasort of carrot-and-stick approach to politics, bringing people froa the various tribes into his gov-ernoent, but making it explicit that he will tolerate no This tactic, so far, has proved workable.
National elections aresometime this year. they are held, it is almost certain that only the PopularMovement's slate will be presented to the electorate,and-picked slateailor-madethat gives very littleto the National Assembly, the elections will be little moreymbolic show of citizen participation in government. will continue to rest with Mobutu, as before.
Meanwhile, there remain all the traditional social andproblems that have made the
Congoeographical labelnified country. Local disturbances and outbreaks can be expected to continue sporadically. Distances are so great, and tribal and cultural diversity so extreme, that many of those local flare-ups will probably not affect Kinshasa, but some may.
It is conceivable, forthat Moise Tshombe. if and when he is released by the Algerians, could re-emerge on the political scene by exploiting the discontent among the Lunda. It is perhaps significant in this respect, however, that during the cercenary crisis of last summer, no indigenous group hostile to the government attempted to takeof the situation.
If no new, debilitating crises occur, the centralshould be able to extend its control and influence further in the next few years. It willong time, however, before Kinshasa can exert more than nominal author-^ity^cjyer much of the
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