Mobutu’s early life was marred by instability and transience, his father died when Mobutu was eight, leaving him without a father figure – a crucial lack of authority and guidance in his formative years. (Some say he spent much of his 20s and early 30s subconsciously looking for his father) His single mother struggled to provide them and moved often, meaning Mobutu didn’t have the grounding effect of a group of close friends either. He was sent to a catholic boarding school, where he was rebellious and constantly in trouble with the priests who ran the school. The Catholic Church said he was a smart man but lacked morality- Mobutu remained antagonistic to the Church his whole life, even refusing to have a Catholic wedding. Mobutu’s power began when he enlisted into the army, as punishment for his behavior in high school. He made a lot of connections and found a lot of supporters in the army. His roots here would be critical to his ascent to ‘the president’s office’. Very ambitious, and charismatic, his rise to power, though propelled by his merit was greatly facilitated by external forces, the cold war was at its height, and with memories of the Cuban missile crisis still fresh, the CIA was eager to have a staging point for possible operations in Africa; consequently they supported Mobutu providing him with military and financial support. Mobutu saw Lumumba as the father he never had (at least subconsciously) and was eager to help him, but turned on him quickly, envious of his position. Later on he declared him a national hero.
2.0 The Fall |
Possible Causes of Failure |
There are a few causes of Mobutu’s failure, and they were a combination of his corrupted and selfish personal attributes that led him to make decisions only for his self-gain. This section of the essay will discuss some of his characteristics that ultimately resulted in his demise. 2.1.1
Greed & Self Service |
Mobutu was very greedy and self-serving in his leadership style. He exploited his position for financial gain resulting in Zairians barely being able to survive while he sails around in his yacht and relaxes in his palace. Through his greed he allowed Zaire’s economy to collapse. Mineral exports declined, copper price dropped and agricultural exports declined due to uncompetitive price (McCormick, 1994). 17-20% of Zaire’s budget was dedicated to “Presidential Services” and after death; the wealth Mobutu had stolen from his people was estimated at $8 billion (Brief Biographies, 2011).
Mobutu possessed a colossal ego. This was not the case in the beginning where he sought advice from highly intelligent student at Zaire’s university community. However over time he became obsessed with his power and praise, resulting in his leadership being very narrow-minded and absolute. Anyone who opposed his rule was killed, such as the four Cabinet ministers he had hanged in front of 50,000 people 6 months into his reign (French, 1997). His egocentric ways result in his ideology “Mobutuism”, which was taught instead of religious education at school. His devote followers called him the Messiah and towns/villages associated with his career were designated as “places of meditation” (Brief Biographies, 2011).
Paranoia & Insecurity |
Several attempts were made on Mobutu’s life early on in his reign. This resulted in Mobutu become increasingly suspicious of his competitors and those that opposed him, as well heightening his corruption (Gale Encyclopaedia of Biography, 2011). For example, he executed Pierre Mulele, the rebel’s leader in 1968 when he returned to Zaire after Mobutu had granted him forgiveness. He also had executed 150 university students who were protesting against Mobutu’s reign (Gale Encyclopaedia of Biography, 2011).
Mobutu lacked morality in his character and was very skeptical about human rights. This led to the alienation of many of Mobutu’s...
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