Managing the Military
Mobutu's regime emerged from a coup but is not a
regime because it has never given priority to the
interests of the
military. Since 1965 Mobutu has continued to manage the
forces by the same methods he used, as chief of staff, to
them after 1960, i.e., by tying individual units and
him. Rather than a traditional pyramidal organization, the
security forces resemble a wheel with Mobutu at the hub.
again, when existing units have proven to be unreliable,
created new units trained by foreigners
(see Armed Forces
Missions and Organization
, ch. 5).
In addition, Mobutu has been careful both to keep the
under his personal control and to minimize military
in the civilian government. He has usually been the only
man in the cabinet, filling the role of minister of
The reforms announced in April 1990 ostensibly included
depoliticization of the armed forces, presumably to
elimination of the official MPR presence within the
had annoyed many of the officers. But in a broader sense,
course, the military services remain political in that
under the control of President Mobutu. As one part of that
Mobutu's cronies and relatives head key military units.
Nevertheless, despite the military's role as the
the regime, it is also a potential Achilles' heel.
attempts were reported in 1975, 1978, and 1984. For
there were no further reports of coup attempts. Then in
1987, the Voice of Zaire (La Voix du Zaïre) announced that
cache of arms and ammunition brought illegally into the
been discovered in a military camp in Kinshasa. Each of
coup attempts was followed by a major purge of high
officers. These purges, as well as Mobutu's general
policy, made it clear that political reliability would be
higher priority than military effectiveness.
The events of September 1991, in which unpaid
mutinied and engaged in a frenzy of looting throughout
cast into doubt the morale and loyalty of the military.
were reinforced by the periodic bouts of looting that
throughout 1992 and 1993, as well as an exchange of fire
paratroopers and the Civil Guard in June 1992, prompting
many armed forces elements were beyond any control.
Nevertheless, Mobutu has shrewdly retained the loyalty
most important military units, the DSP in particular. In
1990s, the beleaguered Mobutu reportedly continued to
of newly printed currency flown in from abroad, which he
to key military personnel.
Data as of December 1993