7 September 1997: Mobutu, or the death of a dinosaur

By Philippe Gaillard
Posted on Wednesday, 7 September 2022 12:57

Mobutu celebrates the sixth anniversary of the country's independence in Kinshasa, 30 June 1966 ©G. Dupuy/Jeune Afrique

Megalomania, extravagant spending, collaboration with the CIA... After the death of the former president of Zaire, Philippe Gaillard retraces his career for us. With implacable lucidity.

Fallen from grace, abandoned by his courtiers, Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko, the “founding president” of Zaire, died in Rabat, in a foreign land, “following a long and painful illness”, as people used to say.

The worst reproach that history will make of him will perhaps be that he refused to understand that he had to hand over the power that had been reduced to a simulacrum and to the means of exercising its munificence since he had fled the real world to take refuge in the theatrical scenery that was his palace in Gbadolite and on Kamanyola, his river yacht. That was in 1990 after a deluge of memoranda – which he had instigated in the belief that it would help channel the flood of recriminations – had revealed the extent of extreme discontent in all classes of society.