Zaire


Zaire
/zah ear", zah"ear/, n.
1. Republic of, a former name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
2. official name within the Democratic Republic of the Congo of the Congo River (the term Congo River is more widely used elsewhere). Also, Zaïre.

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Zaire Zaire:Geography Location: Central Africa, northeast of Angola Map references: Africa Area: total area: 2,345,410 sq km land area: 2,267,600 sq km comparative area: slightly more than one-quarter the size of US Land boundaries: total 10,271 km, Angola 2,511 km, Burundi 233 km, Central African Republic 1,577 km, Congo 2,410 km, Rwanda 217 km, Sudan 628 km, Uganda 765 km, Zambia 1,930 km Coastline: 37 km Maritime claims: exclusive economic zone: boundaries with neighbors territorial sea: 12 nm International disputes: Tanzania-Zaire-Zambia tripoint in Lake Tanganyika may no longer be indefinite since it is reported that the indefinite section of the Zaire-Zambia boundary has been settled; long section with Congo along the Congo River is indefinite (no division of the river or its islands has been made) Climate: tropical; hot and humid in equatorial river basin; cooler and drier in southern highlands; cooler and wetter in eastern highlands; north of Equator - wet season April to October, dry season December to February; south of Equator - wet season November to March, dry season April to October Terrain: vast central basin is a low-lying plateau; mountains in east Natural resources: cobalt, copper, cadmium, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, coal, hydropower potential Land use: arable land: 3% permanent crops: 0% meadows and pastures: 4% forest and woodland: 78% other: 15% Irrigated land: 100 sq km (1989 est.) Environment: current issues: poaching threatens wildlife populations; water pollution; deforestation; 1.2 million Rwandan refugees are responsible for significant deforestation, soil erosion, and wildlife poaching in eastern Zaire natural hazards: periodic droughts in south; volcanic activity international agreements: party to - Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83; signed, but not ratified - Desertification, Environmental Modification Note: straddles Equator; very narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo River and is only outlet to South Atlantic Ocean; dense tropical rain forest in central river basin and eastern highlands Zaire:People Population: 44,060,636 (July 1995 est.) Age structure: 0-14 years: 48% (female 10,522,368; male 10,527,451) 15-64 years: 50% (female 11,211,353; male 10,630,118) 65 years and over: 2% (female 647,307; male 522,039) (July 1995 est.) Population growth rate: 3.18% (1995 est.) Birth rate: 48.33 births/1,000 population (1995 est.) Death rate: 16.57 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.) Net migration rate: NA migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.) note: in 1994, more than one million refugees fled into Zaire to escape the fighting between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi; a small number of these are returning to their homes in 1995 despite fear of the ongoing violence; additionally, Zaire is host to 105,000 Angolan, more than 250,000 Burundian and 100,000 Sudanese refugees; repatriation of Angolan refugees was suspended in May 1994 because of the recurrence of fighting in Angola; if present peace accords hold, repatriation of Angolans may recommence Infant mortality rate: 108.7 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 47.54 years male: 45.68 years female: 49.46 years (1995 est.) Total fertility rate: 6.7 children born/woman (1995 est.) Nationality: noun: Zairian(s) adjective: Zairian Ethnic divisions: over 200 African ethnic groups, the majority are Bantu; four largest tribes - Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) make up about 45% of the population Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other syncretic sects and traditional beliefs 10% Languages: French, Lingala, Swahili, Kingwana, Kikongo, Tshiluba Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write (1990 est.) total population: 72% male: 84% female: 61% Labor force: 15 million (25% of the labor force comprises wage earners) by occupation: agriculture 75%, industry 13%, services 12% (1985) Zaire:Government Names: conventional long form: Republic of Zaire conventional short form: Zaire local long form: Republique du Zaire local short form: Zaire former: Belgian Congo Congo/Leopoldville Congo/Kinshasa Digraph: CG Type: republic with a strong presidential system Capital: Kinshasa Administrative divisions: 10 regions (regions, singular - region) and 1 town* (ville); Bandundu, Bas-Zaire, Equateur, Haut-Zaire, Kasai-Occidental, Kasai-Oriental, Kinshasa*, Maniema, Nord-Kivu, Shaba, Sud-Kivu Independence: 30 June 1960 (from Belgium) National holiday: Anniversary of the Regime (Second Republic), 24 November (1965) Constitution: 24 June 1967, amended August 1974, revised 15 February 1978; amended April 1990; new transitional constitution promulgated in April 1994 Legal system: based on Belgian civil law system and tribal law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory Executive branch: chief of state: President Marshal MOBUTU Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga (since 24 November 1965) election last held 29 July 1984 (next to be held by 9 July 1995); results - President MOBUTU was reelected without opposition head of government: Prime Minister Leon KENGO wa Dondo (since 14 June 1994) cabinet: National Executive Council; appointed by mutual agreement of the president and the prime minister Legislative branch: unicameral parliament: a single body consisting of the High Council of the Republic and the Parliament of the Transition with membership equally divided between presidential supporters and opponents Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Cour Supreme) Political parties and leaders: sole legal party until January 1991 - Popular Movement of the Revolution (MPR); other parties include Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), Etienne TSHISEKEDI wa Mulumba; Democratic Social Christian Party (PDSC); Union of Federalists and Independent Republicans (UFERI); Unified Lumumbast Party (PALU), Antoine GIZENGA; Union of Independent Democrats (UDI), Leon KENGO wa Dondo Member of: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, CCC, CEEAC, CEPGL, ECA, FAO, G-19, G-24, G-77, GATT, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO Diplomatic representation in US: chief of mission: Ambassador TATANENE Manata chancery: 1800 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009 telephone: [1] (202) 234-7690, 7691 US diplomatic representation: chief of mission: (vacant); Charge d'Affaires John M. YATES embassy: 310 Avenue des Aviateurs, Kinshasa mailing address: Unit 31550, Kinshasha; APO AE 09828 telephone: [243] (12) 21532, 21628 FAX: [243] (12) 21534 ext. 2308, 21535 ext. 2308; (88) 43805, 43467 Flag: light green with a yellow disk in the center bearing a black arm holding a red flaming torch; the flames of the torch are blowing away from the hoist side; uses the popular pan-African colors of Ethiopia Economy Overview: Zaire's economy has continued to disintegrate although Prime Minister KENGO has had some success in slowing the rate of economic decline. While meaningful economic figures are difficult to come by, Zaire's hyperinflation, chronic large government deficits, and plunging mineral production have made the country one of the world's poorest. Most formal transactions are conducted in hard currency as indigenous bank notes have lost almost all value, and a barter economy now flourishes in all but the largest cities. Most individuals and families hang on grimly through subsistence farming and petty trade. The government has not been able to meet its financial obligations to the International Monetary Fund or put in place the financial measures advocated by the IMF. Although short-term prospects for improvement are dim, improved political stability would boost Zaire's long-term potential to effectively exploit its vast wealth of mineral and agricultural resources. National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $18.8 billion (1994 est.) National product real growth rate: 4% (1994 est.) National product per capita: $440 (1994 est.) Inflation rate (consumer prices): 40% per month (1993 est.) Unemployment rate: NA% Budget: revenues: $NA expenditures: $NA, including capital expenditures of $NA Exports: $362 million (f.o.b., 1993 est.) commodities: copper, coffee, diamonds, cobalt, crude oil partners: US, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, UK, Japan, South Africa Imports: $356 million (f.o.b., 1993 est.) commodities: consumer goods, foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, fuels partners: South Africa, US, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK External debt: $9.2 billion (May 1992 est.) Industrial production: growth rate -20% (1993); accounts for 16% of GDP Electricity: capacity: 2,830,000 kW production: 6.2 billion kWh consumption per capita: 133 kWh (1993) Industries: mining, mineral processing, consumer products (including textiles, footwear, cigarettes, processed foods and beverages), cement, diamonds Agriculture: cash crops - coffee, palm oil, rubber, quinine; food crops - cassava, bananas, root crops, corn Illicit drugs: illicit producer of cannabis, mostly for domestic consumption Economic aid: recipient: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-89), $1.1 billion; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-89), $6.9 billion; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $35 million; Communist countries (1970-89), $263 million note: except for humanitarian aid to private organizations, no US assistance has been given to Zaire since 1992 Currency: 1 zaire (Z) = 100 makuta Exchange rates: new zaires (Z) per US$1 - 3,275.71 (December 1994), 1,194.12 (1994), 2.51 (1993); zaire (Z) per US$1 - 645,549 (1992), 15,587 (1991), 719 (1990) note: on 22 October 1993 the new zaire, equal to 3,000,000 old zaires, was introduced Fiscal year: calendar year Zaire:Transportation Railroads: total: 5,138 km; note - severely reduced trackage in use because of civil strife narrow gauge: 3,987 km 1.067-m gauge (858 km electrified); 125 km 1.000-m gauge; 1,026 km 0.600-m gauge Highways: total: 146,500 km paved: 2,800 km unpaved: gravel, improved earth 46,200 km; unimproved earth 97,500 km Inland waterways: 15,000 km including the Congo, its tributaries, and unconnected lakes Pipelines: petroleum products 390 km Ports: Banana, Boma, Bukavu, Bumba, Goma, Kalemie, Kindu, Kinshasa, Kisangani, Matadi, Mbandaka Merchant marine: none Airports: total: 270 with paved runways over 3,047 m: 4 with paved runways 2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 with paved runways 1,524 to 2,437 m: 15 with paved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 2 with paved runways under 914 m: 97 with unpaved runways 1,524 to 2,438 m: 22 with unpaved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 127 Zaire:Communications Telephone system: NA telephones local: NA intercity: NA barely adequate wire and microwave service in and between urban areas; 14 domestic earth stations international: 1 INTELSAT (Atlantic Ocean) earth station Radio: broadcast stations: AM 10, FM 4, shortwave 0 radios: NA Television: broadcast stations: 18 televisions: NA Zaire:Defense Forces Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, National Gendarmerie, paramilitary Civil Guard, Special Presidential Division Manpower availability: males age 15-49 9,479,245; males fit for military service 4,828,367 (1995 est.) Defense expenditures: exchange rate conversion - $46 million, 1.5% of GDP (1990)

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▪ 1997

      The republic of Zaire is located in central Africa with a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 45,259,000 (excluding 500,000 Rwandan refugees). Cap.: Kinshasa. Monetary unit: new zaïre, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 67,004 new zaïres to U.S. $1 (105,551 new zaïres = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Mobutu Sese Seko; first state commissioner (prime minister), Léon Kengo wa Dondo.

      Government proposals for changes in the constitution, to be followed by presidential and legislative elections, met in 1996 with objections from part of the opposition coalition. The draft constitution, which provided for a federal state with 26 instead of the original 11 provinces and a semipresidential parliamentary regime, was adopted by the Cabinet in May and by the High Council of the Republic-Transitional Parliament in October and was to be the subject of a referendum in December (later postponed until February 1997). Candidates for presidential and parliamentary office would then be registered, and elections would follow by July 1997. The leader of the opposition coalition, Étienne Tshisekedi, who regarded the existing government as unlawful, came into conflict with a section of his own supporters in May when he refused to agree to the proposed elections. His critics, who considered Tshisekedi's attitude unreasonable, appointed his deputy, Frédéric Kibassa-Maliba, in his place. Undaunted, Tshisekedi organized a protest calling for the resignation of the prime minister, Léon Kengo wa Dondo, in July and then rejected the new draft constitution in October.

      With the opposition in some disarray, Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko's position should have been strengthened. An operation for prostate cancer, however, which took place in Switzerland in August, left the president's position in serious doubt. Yet even among those who longed for his overthrow, there was some anxiety lest there be no one else who could hold the country together.

      The mineral-rich regions of Shaba (formerly Katanga) and Kasai, the source of Zaire's diamonds, were already exercising a measure of autonomy, but fears for the country's unity were more seriously roused by a rebellion in the eastern district of Kivu. Early in the year the government had made a weak attempt to encourage the Hutu refugees, more than a million in number, who had crossed the border from Rwanda into Kivu province in 1994, to return home. The effort came to nothing because the sympathies of the government lay with the Hutu, even though their presence was imposing an unbearable burden on the inhabitants and resources of the eastern region. In any event, the Hutu guerrilla leaders and their forces, who had been responsible for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Tutsi in Rwanda, lived among the refugees and discouraged them from returning home.

      At the same time, the refugees launched a campaign to drive some thousands of Tutsi, who had lived in Zaire for many years, over the border into Rwanda so that they themselves could settle permanently in the fertile Masisi region of northern Kivu. After some early success the Hutu turned their attention to southern Kivu, and the Banyamulenge, people of Tutsi descent who had inhabited the region for 200 years, began to arm in order to defend themselves. When in early October the deputy governor of southern Kivu told the Banyamulenge to leave or to be treated as rebels, the latter opened their campaign and quickly seized the town of Bukavu. Farther north other Tutsi turned on their attackers and captured the town of Goma.

      Parliament responded by ordering that all ethnic Tutsi be expelled from the army, civil service, and state-owned companies, and a large mob attacked and looted Tutsi-owned property in Kinshasa. In Kivu the Hutu refugees and the Zairean army retired before the Tutsi advance, leaving the plight of the refugees more desperate than before the fighting began. Many began returning to Rwanda. (KENNETH INGHAM)

      This article updates Congo, history of (Congo).

▪ 1996

      The republic of Zaire is located in central Africa with a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 43,901,000 (excluding 1.1 million Rwandan refugees). Cap.: Kinshasa. Monetary unit: new zaïre, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 5,422 new zaïres to U.S. $1 (8,572 new zaïres = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Mobutu Sese Seko; first state commissioner (prime minister), Joseph Kengo Wa Dondo.

      In his 1995 New Year message, Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko said that the future prosperity of the country depended upon putting an end to political confusion. Soon afterward direct talks began between government representatives and members of the Sacred Union of the Radical Opposition and Allies (USORAS), which led to an announcement of cooperation by opposition leader and former prime minister Étienne Tshisekedi on January 7. The press was more skeptical, accusing members of the national legislature of devoting more time to political squabbles than to legislative business, and by January 27 USORAS was demanding that the Supreme Court annul the appointment of Kengo Wa Dondo as prime minister. Yet it was Kengo's appointment that encouraged foreign governments, including the U.S., to look more favourably on relations with Zaire. Meanwhile, none appeared capable of halting or even of slowing down the galloping inflation that had driven the majority of people to rely on barter. The prime minister's efforts to bring the banks back into operation were foundering owing to a shortage of cash.

      Concern for the political stability of the country was briefly pushed aside in May by news of deaths from the Ebola virus in Kikwit, 500 km (310 mi) east of Kinshasa. The outbreak, the origin of which remained obscure, was quickly contained, and fewer than 300 people died from the disease. The speed with which the infection overwhelmed its victims and the dreadful nature of its progress caused widespread disquiet, however.

      The announcement that the transitional government would continue in office for an additional two years because it was impossible to arrange elections in time to meet the deadline previously set gave rise to another wave of unrest. Clashes on July 29 between security forces and demonstrators loyal to the memory of assassinated former prime minister Patrice Lumumba resulted in the deaths of nine civilians and one police officer. Leaders of USORAS, while dissociating themselves from the Lumumbist cause, insisted that the clashes would not deter them from conducting a campaign to oust Kengo Wa Dondo and to reinstate Tshisekedi as prime minister. A rally called to launch the campaign on August 6 took place peacefully.

      Later in August attention became focused on the more than one million refugees from Rwanda and Burundi who were living in camps just inside the country's eastern border. The local population had for some time complained of food shortages in the region and said that the refugees were cutting down vast numbers of trees to use for firewood and as building materials. In June and July more than 100 Zaireans were reported to have been killed in clashes with the refugees, which prompted the prime minister to ask the refugees to return home. The government was gravely concerned about the security problems created by the existence of the camps and was dissatisfied with the inadequate provisions made for the refugees by the international community. When the UN Security Council resolved on August 16 to end its embargo on the sale of arms to Rwanda, the government protested. It argued that this could only lead to attacks on the camps by Rwandan soldiers seeking reprisals against those responsible for the massacres in Rwanda that had led to the revolution there.

      Zaire's response was to begin the forcible repatriation of refugees on August 19. This caused an international outcry, but representatives of aid agencies in the camps recognized that the government's action had encouraged many of the refugees who wanted to go home to say so openly. Previously, they had been afraid to act because of rumours that they would be arrested or killed if they did so. As a result, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees offered on August 24 to transform the expulsion program into a scheme for voluntary repatriation, an offer that the government readily accepted. (KENNETH INGHAM)

      This updates the article Congo, history of (Congo).

▪ 1995

      The republic of Zaire is located in central Africa with a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 2,345,095 sq km (905,446 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 43,775,000 (excluding 1.5 million to 2 million Rwandan refugees in late August). Cap.: Kinshasa. Monetary unit: new zaïre, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 2,022 new zaïres to U.S. $1 (3,216 new zaïres = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Mobutu Sese Seko; first state commissioners (prime ministers), Faustin Birindwa until January 14 and, from July 6, Joseph Kengo Wa Dondo.

      With the economy of Zaire plunging into ever deeper trouble in 1994, the struggle for political power continued unabated. On January 14 Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko announced that the National Assembly, which he himself had created, and the High Council of the Republic (HCR), the brainchild of the former national sovereign conference, would be reconstituted as a single body, the High Council of the Republic-Parliament of Transition (HCR-PT), and that the new body would choose either his own candidate, Mulumba Lukoji, or Étienne Tshisekedi, leader of one of the opposition parties, as prime minister. Tshisekedi opposed the announcement on two counts. The president, he said, had no authority to disband the HCR, and he himself was already prime minister, having been legally elected to that office by the national conference in August 1992. On the first count Tshisekedi had the backing of other opposition parties, and when he summoned an all-out one-day strike in Kinshasa for January 19, his call met with an almost total response.

      Nevertheless, the HCR-PT met the same week and appointed Msgr. Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, the former chairman of the HCR, as its president. After prolonged discussion a new Transitional Constitutional Act was endorsed on April 8 and was promulgated by Mobutu the following day. The act stated that the period of transition to a democracy should not exceed 15 months. During that time a constitutional referendum as well as presidential and legislative elections would take place, and the HCR-PT rather than the president would have control of the armed forces and the central bank. The HCR-PT also decided to call on all parties to submit the names of candidates for the office of prime minister. This latter proposal caused a split among the opposition groups constituting the Sacred Union coalition because Tshisekedi and his Union for Democracy and Social Progress were angered when other parties proposed their own candidates in opposition to him. However, Tshisekedi's candidacy was rejected by the HCR-PT because he had not applied to be a candidate for election but had sought reconfirmation as prime minister. The choice of a former prime minister, Joseph Kengo Wa Dondo, to hold office was vigorously challenged by opposition parties, which again organized a 24-hour strike, for July 8.

      This was the political background to a series of economic disasters, outbreaks of unrest, and the invasion of the country by more than a million refugees from neighbouring Rwanda. In spite of the monetary reforms introduced in October 1993, the Bank of Zaire had to be closed to the public on January 31 because of a shortage of banknotes in its vaults. The governor of the bank, Buhendwa Bwa Mushaba, was dismissed by Mobutu the following day.

      He was succeeded by Ndiang Kaboul, who was himself suspended by the government of Kengo Wa Dondo in July after millions of newly minted Zairean notes flooded the black market, reducing the value of the new zaïre, introduced in October 1993 at a rate of three to the U.S. dollar, to 1,300 to the dollar. As a countermeasure the government decided in September to cancel all currency-printing contracts and to suspend the printing of banknotes. The World Bank, despairing of any improvement in the government's handling of Zaire's economy, had already closed its office in Kinshasa on February 1, declaring the country insolvent.

      Friction between the rebel Movement of Farmers and Workers and government troops in the eastern Kivu region led to a flight of refugees to Uganda in January. Meanwhile, ethnic warfare continued in Shaba province in the southeast, resulting in an additional movement of refugees to the Kasai region. Still worse was the influx of refugees from Rwanda, which began in July when supporters of the former Hutu government fled before the advance of their rivals, the Tutsi. Inadequate provision for the vast numbers involved led to an outbreak of cholera in the refugee camps.

      Many relief agencies, finding it increasingly difficult to carry on their work, threatened to depart because Hutu soldiers were terrorizing fellow refugees, stealing supplies and forcibly recruiting young men to swell their ranks. In late November Zairean commandos moved into Katale camp after 19 Rwandans had been killed. The troops deported 37 Hutu to Rwanda, but the military force was too small to handle hundreds of thousands of refugees. The UN considered, then rejected, a plan to send peacekeepers to the camps, but it agreed to support Zaire's own personnel.

      (KENNETH INGHAM)

      This updates the article Congo, history of (Congo).

▪ 1994

      The republic of Zaire is located in central Africa with a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 2,345,095 sq km (905,446 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 42,473,000. Cap.: Kinshasa. Monetary unit: zaïre, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 8,751,200 zaïres to U.S. $1 (13,258,000 zaïres = £ 1 sterling). President in 1993, Mobutu Sese Seko; first state commissioners (prime ministers), Étienne Tshisekedi plus, from March 18, Faustin Birindwa.

      Attacked by critics inside and outside Zaire, Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko continued in 1993 to play a game of survival by using well-tried tactics with a confidence that gave the impression it was his opponents who were embattled rather than himself. On January 15 a general strike called by the opposition coalition, the Sacred Union, virtually shut down Kinshasa. A few days later Mobutu paid his troops with 5 million-zaïre notes, which Prime Minister Étienne Tshisekedi, who was anxious to challenge the president's control of the economy, immediately condemned as inflationary and, therefore, worthless. In response to the prime minister's warning, shopkeepers in most towns refused to accept them. The disgruntled troops rioted, and for more than a week the capital was subjected to looting and violence in the course of which many lives were lost, including that of the French ambassador. Mobutu sent his presidential guard to crush the revolt, their loyalty ensured by their being paid in hard currency. They were eventually effective in restoring a semblance of order, although skirmishing between rival groups continued. Outside Kinshasa the soldiers were not so easily restrained. In a number of towns businessmen, terrorized by threats of looting or even death, were forced to collect large sums of money in small-denomination notes to pay off the troops.

      In a joint communiqué issued on February 3, the U.S., France, and Belgium called upon Mobutu to transfer his power to Tshisekedi, who had been elected by a national pro-democracy conference in August 1992 and who had appealed to the three countries to intervene militarily. Mobutu, who had frequently employed rioting troops to disconcert his opponents, contemptuously responded by accusing Tshisekedi of being incapable of forming a government and by calling upon the self-elected transitional parliament, the High Council of the Republic (HCR), to submit the name of a new prime minister. Tshisekedi replied that since Mobutu had not appointed him, he could not dismiss him. He was supported by the HCR, which rejected Mobutu's order. But the members of the HCR themselves were harassed by impoverished troops, who on February 24 blocked the streets leading to the parliament building and demanded that the 5 million-zaïre notes be officially recognized.

      A roundtable session called by Mobutu on March 9 to resolve the conflict was boycotted by the Sacred Union, which had already decided three days earlier that it would attend only a conference summoned by the HCR. Mobutu reacted by appointing Faustin Birindwa prime minister, thus leaving the country with two prime ministers. On April 2, Birindwa announced the membership of his Cabinet, which included another former prime minister, Nguza Karl-I-Bond, who became deputy prime minister responsible for defense. Mobutu, meanwhile, ordered troops to search the houses of leading members of the opposition, ostensibly to recover government property. The Sacred Union, renamed the Innovative Forces of the Sacred Union (FONUS), called a one-day strike in Kinshasa to protest against the appointment of Birindwa. The European Community also refused to recognize the new prime minister. The party supporting Mobutu, the Popular Movement for Renewal (MPR), then called on Birindwa's government to break off diplomatic relations with the U.S., France, and Belgium, accusing those countries of pursuing a policy of neocolonialism.

      Birindwa took the initiative in May by designating July 30 as the day on which a constitutional referendum would be held, to be followed three months later by general elections. Tshisekedi's government immediately called for a boycott of the referendum. Meanwhile, serious developments were taking place in the southeast of the country. In September 1992 a governor appointed by Mobutu in Shaba province had launched a campaign to rid the province of many thousands of members of Tshisekedi's Kasai tribe. By 1993 the campaign had spread to North Kivu province, resulting, it was reported, in more than 1,000 deaths. In mid-December it was reported that Shaba province (which had seceded once before, after Congolese independence in 1960) had declared its autonomy under its former name of Katanga. The two Kasai provinces—loyal to Tshisekedi, who was still considered prime minister—were reportedly thinking of following suit.

      On July 5, Mobutu banned Tshisekedi's party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, but Birindwa also came under criticism from the MPR for failing to make progress. A meeting between Mobutu's representatives and the Sacred Union, scheduled for August 13, did not take place because the president's men did not turn up. On September 5, Tshisekedi was unanimously appointed head of a new opposition group that called itself the Democratic Forces of Congo-Kinshasa. Five days later talks began between Mobutu's representatives and members of the opposition; after 20 days of discussion, they resulted in an agreement to put an end to parallel institutions and to adopt a single constitutional text for the transition period. The talks hit a snag in October, however, and the UN special envoy left Kinshasa without a protocol having been signed.

      The apparently unending political turmoil had a disastrous impact upon the economy. On October 21 the government attempted to introduce a new currency with a value of 1 new zaïre to 3 million old zaïres, but the monetary structure promptly collapsed, and scattered rioting broke out yet again. In June the World Food Program had begun assisting vulnerable groups, especially children, in Kinshasa. (KENNETH INGHAM)

      This updates the article Congo, history of (Congo).

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Universalium. 2010.

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