World Country Zaire

About the world country Zaire, its location, size, population, and who is in power.

NATIONS OF THE WORLD

ZAIRE

Location: Equatorial Africa, touching the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the Zaire (Congo) River. Size: 905,563 sq. mi. (2,345,409 sq. km.). Population: 30,181,000.

Who Really Rules: Since 1965, when the CIA helped Lt. Gen. Mobutu Sese Seko seize power, Zaire has been under Mobutu's personal rule. He maintains control by permitting government officials to siphon off public funds and by suppressing both reformist and revolutionary opposition. Zaire's foreign debt is nearing $5 billion. Consequently, foreign creditors, organized into the "Paris Club," have been able to impose economic policies upon Zaire, requiring cuts in government expenditures and other actions causing hardship for Zairians.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Zaire is the creation of Belgian colonialism. Mobutu has limited control over, and little popularity with, many of the two hundred ethnic groups. Shaba, the southern highlands once known as Katanga, has been the site of recurring rebellions. The predominant Lunda ethnic tribe, also important in Angola and Zambia, does not recognize the Zaire central government. In 1977 and 1978, soldiers of the Congo National Liberation Front (FLNC) occupied much of Shaba, but were driven out by Moroccan and French troops supporting Mobutu. Although FLNC troops have been allied in the past with Belgian economic interests and the Portuguese colonial army, today the Front is considered leftist. Extremely popular in the Shaba region, it hopes to overthrow Mobutu throughout the country.

Shaba is important to Zaire, and Western nations as well, because it is the richest section of the country, with valuable copper and cobalt deposits. Zaire needs its Shaba mining income to pay off its huge foreign debt.

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