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[VIDEO] HISTORICAL: The Day Mobutu Abandoned Zaire

On Wednesday, 17 May 1997, President Mobutu Sese Seko departed Kinshasa for Gabon taking with him his family and high-ranking aides. He was supposedly en route to a summit of regional francophone leaders. Upon his departure, General Kpama Baramoto, the President’s brother-in-law and former Army Chief of Staff left for South Africa. Several other ministers also fled Zaire. On 17 May 1997, President Mobutu departed Zaire for the last time, declaring that he was no longer involved in matters of state. One prominent cabinet minister, the vice-president of Mobutu’s party, Banza Mukalay Nsungu, voluntarily remained behind in Kinshasa, believing that he could be of assistance to Mr. Laurent Desire Kabila.

Mobutu led Congo with an iron fist for 32 years. He renamed it Zaire. During his rule, he held such titles as “Father of the Nation”, “Messiah”, “Guide of the Revolution”, “Helmsman”, “Founder”, “Savior of the People”, and “Supreme Combatant”. In the 1996 documentary of the 1974 Foreman-Ali fight in Zaire, dancers receiving the fighters can be heard chanting “Sese Seko, Sese Seko”. At one point, in early 1975, the media were forbidden to refer to anyone other than Mobutu by name; others were referred to only by the positions they held. Despite the fact almost all the population of Congolese was living in dare poverty, Mobutu was a “messiah.”



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