MOBUTU AND THE CONGO

Created: 6/23/1967

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and tbe Congo

Special Report

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7 SC

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MOBUTU AND THE CONGO

Although the Congo itill faces hard times, ita future looks brighter at present than at any time since independence. Opposition elements have been affectively subdued, bringing to theegree of political atabllity. The centralia exercising reasonable control over disparate regional elemonts, and for the first time since independence seems to be directing or influencing events throughout the vast interior. The predominant position of control once hold by the Belgians has diminished somewhat. Relations with neighboring African states have improved and will probably continue to do so. The general economic decline since independence has bean largely arrested, at least temporarily. reat deal of tha credit for this progress is due to President Joseph Mobutu, who. with careful and skillful exerciso of powor, plus an unusual amount of luck, has brought tho Congo to its presentposition.

African Chiof

Mobutu's approach toderives from the African traditions of chieftainshipinterspersed with ideas from his favorite political theorist, Hachiavelli. Mobutu believes that thehe deacribes as but oneremoved fromtrong chief who must be the unquestioned authority and the sole source of power. The Congolese, he says, are uaed to tutelage from their years under both tribal and Belgian rule, and are more comfortable when told exactly what is expected of them. Mobutu also believon that Western concepts of parliamentary

rule, embodied in the two post-independence Congoleseare strange and, in the

final analysis, unattractive to the Congolese.

Mobutu hasood deal of success with hla own ideas during his nineteen months as president. Hot particularlyat the time ofe has risen tremendously in public osteon. Hisapproach to cementing his position has drawn admiration from almost evoryone, and most Congolese respect him for his power and for effectivelya degree of order to the country.

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Mobutu L'onsoliaates His PoHltlon

In the first months after he came to power Inobutu sought to eliminate hie opposition by eithor absorbing it or neutralizing it. Fortunately for him, one crucialof opposition--the rebellion which had broken out inon the decline when he came to power. He helped the process along by cultivating neighboring states which had been aiding the rebels and by offering an amnesty to rank-and-file rebels. From the beginning, however, thewasajor concern and Mobutu could concentrate on other matters.

Immediately after hisMobutu announced an abaolute ban on political activity in an effort to put an end to the six years of intrigue that markod

Congoleso politics. He enforced this order by effectivelythe army to discipline errant politicians. Inerimhanging of four plotters in the Kinshasa publicthose who had still not gotten his message, when, in the springobutu formed his ownpolitical party, the Popular Revolutionary Movement ost local politicos quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

Mobutu's strategy includod the removal of Moisecurrently in exile inotential threat and theof Tshombe's support in his old stronghold of Katanga.ell-organizedcampaign, Tshombe* became identified as the Belgian stooge who, as Congolese premier, sold out the country to foreigninterests and asew Katangan secession. By the time of Tshombe's7 trial ln absentia for treason,

many Congolese believed that ho trulyraitor, and those who had lingering doubts were smart enough to remain silent. When Godefroid Munongo, Tshombd's former strong man, became too powerful in Katanga politics, he was called to Kinshasailitary officer. With Tshombe' gone and hisdispersed, Katanga fell in line- at least for the pronent--with other provinces in support of the central government.

Mobutu's New Congo

Having reduced hisMobutu found himself in a

position to restructure the Congo as he saw fit. ilitary man, Mobutu first tried using the army as his base and establishing strong military control. Hea state of emergency in troubled areas andilitary governor to contain politicalthere. After briefon these lines, however, he reverted to using civilian.

Facedistory of petty provincial politics, Mobutua scheme to switch elected governors to other provinces, making the provincial head an

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aeent of the central government. This maneuver curtailed local patronage and, imiteddetribaliied provincial politics. The system worked so well that Mobutu apparently was convinced that the civilian route was the way to go. He thenew constitution drafted in the spring7 whichall effective power in the hands of the president and gave legal sanction to the closecontrol Mobutu had already established over provincial The draft constitution was approvedeferendum early this month and is to go intoonune.

Mobutu made severalattempts to mobilize the masses behind his regime. Isaac diately after he assumed power, heroll up the sleeves" canpaign to get the peopleup everything from filth in the streets to corruption in Many eagerly adopted thethe point that in sane areas one dared not be caught without his sleevesrolledthe program soon drifted.

Then Mobutu sought toa mass movement called the Volunteer Corps of the Republic (CVR). Although performing some useful tasks initially, members of the CVR began associating with the radical youth group from Congo-Brazzaville, and the CVR turnedand of roving vigilantes. Mobutu skillfully disbanded it by appointing its leaders to positions in the MPR,

his new political party and his most recent attempt to organize mass support.

Mobutu and the Military

It is significant that Mobutu is not using the military as the basis for the political structure he has developed for the Congo. The core of his own strengththe army; he cultivates its officers and looks after its Nevertheless, ln workingew administration for the country he revertedivilian system after the brief experiment with military governors for the provinces.

His effort to keep the army in the background may have been stimulated by severalMobutu, aware of tha army's reputation with the populace, possibly wants to divorce himsolf from the military in the public mind. Fearilitary satrap in tho provinces might be able to build up an independent power base was probably another factor.

Mobutu's own prejudices,may be just as important. Of all tho military leaders who have come to power in blaek Africa over the past few years, Mobutu alons iarofessionalalthough he didigh-ranking HCO during his six years of service with the colonial army. From his preindepctndence experienceournalist and student ho retains elementsonmilitary outlook, including the desire of the man with modest education to be identified with

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of higher academic

Mobutu as an Administrator

The Congo has no dependable administration system except where the few thousand foreigners--mostlythe few trained and relatively uncorruptedhave been able to impose some order. Duplication andof efforts are common. Despite the Installation of an American computer to match wits with seasonedew improvements have been made.

of young intellectuals. Inwith the spirit of Machia-velli's advice, he generally avoids becoming dependent on either set or letting then know exactly what he is thinkir

Advisers

Mobutu has two principal sets ofhandful of long-time associatesroup

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They, with Mobutu, in Congolesesince independence and have acquired considerable experience in the ups and downs of Congolese affairs.

Mobutu has also brought into his regime elements of young, university-graduate intellectuals and has given them high-leveland coordinative positions, tieual rationale behind this: he believes that this group will be ruling the Congo within the next generation and wants to be identified as their patronj also, he views them as potential opposition to beby bringing them into his camp. Be has respect for and enjoys being with this group, but has been careful toheck on them and not give them free rein.

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segued

WithNeighbors

Congolese rotations with neighboring African states were In disrepair lnnd Mobutu appeared reluctant at first to devote much attention to the subject. Because good relations with the states which formerly supported the rebellion were in his interest, however, Mobutu found himself being pushed into the role of an intor-African statesman.

Wary initially, Mobutu has warmed considerably to his new role and has begun to project himself more and moreajor African leader. He believes that the Congo, by virtue of its size, its strategic position and its potential wealth, should be one of the greatest powers in Africa. This probably is the basis for his eagerness to mediate African problems. He has peraistently offered to help the Nigerians solve theiraternaltoward easing tensionsRwanda and Burundi, and tried last year to promoteconferences in Kinshasa.

Mobutu has made aeffort to create forthe Imagerue African nationalist. He has been willing to mouth African slogans and, occasionally if reluctantly, to promote the cult of the "martyred" Patrice Lumumba, the Congo's first premier. He agreed to get rid of the South African mercenaries imported by Tshonbtf to quell the rebellion. Mobutu is alsore-establishingrelations with the Soviet Union to underline his nonaligned position.

The most obviousof Mobutu's ambitions has been his attempt to move the seat of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) frost Addis Ababa to Kinshasa. Mobutu may have naively assumed that ha need only issue the invitation and the OAU would come running: he may also have gotten an exaggerated impression of African dissatisfaction with the OAU's Ethiopian hosts from radical OAU Secretary General Di-allo Telli. At any rate, Mobutu has apparently learned the facts of African llfet he seemsfor the time being atthe prospect of hosting7 summitin Kinshasa's brand-new "OAU city."

The Congo's Economic Problems

Much of Mobutu's economicrevolves around his efforts to achieve economic independence from Belgium. Mobutu is deeplynearlywith Belgian domination cf the Congolese economy, although hethe necessity of keeping Belgian technicians and hence of conceding many rights to the He distrusts the Belgians and sincerely believes that they are out to cheat and to steal from the Congo. Much of his time and attention have been directed toward the Katanga mining firm. Union Miniere du Haut Katanga nd the conflict between them

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reached dramatic proportions when Mobutu seized the company'sassets in

Mobutu has demonstratedability to handle thoof economics. His solutions to economic problems areand often political in orientation. He has littleof the consequences ofaction on economic problems and seldom follows through on his decisions. This past spring, for example, Mobutu sought aof the arrangements between Sabena and Air Congo and began negotiations, but has lostfor the moment. Negotiations have since stalemated. In anotherpercent consumption tax was levied in6 on all petroleum products, but oil companies were forbidden to raise prices to absorb the tax. that they would make no profit, the companies suspended operations for several weeks. Subsequently Mobutu agreed that they could stall their tax payment until the end Nothing more has been said and the taxes have not been paid. Numerous similar government actions were deferred, but not rescinded, and their questionable status has created confusion and anxiety on the part of the foreign business community.

Mobutu, however, has begun to realize how little ho really knows and has begun to seek more expert advice. He has beenpurely economic problems with the competent Congolese head of the National Bank andseeks the advice of foreign businessmen.

Short-term prospects for the Congolese economy are notgood. While some mines and factories are producingairly high level, most are hampered by supply and transport problems. Por example, the lossajor part of the foreign exchange andduring the7 copper crisis is now causing shortages of food and supply, plus high prices. The large northeastern plantations are still mainly de-sertodesult ofebellion and,esult,production is still far below preindependence levels. copper prices, among other thlnga, suggest hard times ahead for the economy, oven without the threat of erratic government

outlook

Although Mobutu has gotten th* Congo started in the rightenormous problems remain. Tha military, havingaste for politics and national leadership, may not quiatlybeing pushed backtrictly military role. Whether thoArmy can achieve any cohe-siveness or reliability for anperiod of time certainly remains subject to question. If anything happens toortho military may think it is timeecond coup.

Bogional disaffection,in Katanga, has merely been

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suppressed, not eliminated. moat of tho eaatern part of the Congo atill muat be Large portions of the population have literally gone back to the bush. Healthare deplorable] services, nonexistent. Despite lip service paid to the needs of these people, Mobutu has done little to getstarted.

Over the next few years, tho Congo may make some economic Mobutu's majorhas been to pacify th*leaving tho land androutes relatively safe but in deteriorated condition. If political stability continues, the Congolese leaders and foreign business interests can exert their energies toward Improving theeconomy. Under the guidance of the International Monetary

Fund, Mobutu has agreed to major monetary reforms, includingof the Congo's currency.

All of the problems whichtraditionally plagued the Congo still remain. Tribalhas been subdued, but mainly because of weariness and fear; basic antagonisms continue to fer-nent beneath th* surface. The need for hundreds of trained,young Congoleseand craftsmen still exists, and is only slowly being met. Further frictions with theare likely. The present period of stability bringB tho Congo to another threshold: from here it can continue to work out its social and economic problems, or it can takereather from its traditional feuding and begin again. -UEniW

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