Mobutu Sésé Seko

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If you want to steal, steal a little in a nice way. But if you steal too much to become rich overnight, you'll be caught.

Mobutu Sésé Seko kuku ngbendu wa za Banga (or Mobutu Sese Seko Koko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga; October 14, 1930 – September 7, 1997) was the President of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) from 1965 to 1997.


  • The very existence of the Nation was threatened. Threatened on all sides, from the interior and exterior.
    From the interior, by the sterile conflicts of politicians who sacrificed the country and their compatriots to their own interests.
Nothing counted for them but power...and what the exercise of power could bring them. Fill their own pockets, exploit the Congo and the Congolese, this was their trademark.
Given such examples, both national and provincial administrations were mired in inertia, inefficiency, and worse yet, corruption.
At all levels, many of those in our country who held a morsel of public power allowed themselves to be corrupted, served individuals and companies who paid bribes and neglected the others...
...certain politicians, to maintain themselves in power or to regain it, did not hesitate to seek help from foreign powers...
...the social, economic and financial situation of the country is catastrophic.
  • Positive non-alignment, or indiscriminate openmindedness to the world, is a fundamental feature of Zaire's foreign policy. To this end, we are exerting ourselves in a bid to promote genuine cooperation among all countries that are willing to accept Zaire for what it is...The debacles that Zaire has faced and continues to face in various areas - colonization, alienation, exploitation, secession, rebellion - are due to the imperialist policies of the superpowers who have assumed the right to govern the world. Thus, we do not want to be involved directly or indirectly in any attempt to subjugate a state or group of states.
  • In our African tradition, there are never two chiefs; there is sometimes a natural heir to the chief, but can anyone tell me that he has ever known a village that has two chiefs? That is why we Congolese, in the desire to conform to the traditions of our continent, have resolved to group all the energies of the citizens of our country under the banner of a single national party.
  • We are resorting to this authenticity in order to rediscover our soul, which colonization had almost erased from our memories and which we are seeking in the tradition of our ancestors.
  • We are seeking our own authenticity, and we will find it because we wish, in the innermost fibers of our being to discover it.
    • Sean Kelly, America's Tyrant: The CIA and Mobutu of Zaire, p. 194
  • Clearly, I would be lying if I said I do not have a bank account in Europe; I do. I would be lying if I said I do not have considerable money in my account; I do. Yes, I do have a fair amount of money. However, I would estimate it to total less than 50 million dollars. What is that for twenty-two years as head of state in such a big country?
  • In a word, everything is for sale, anything can be bought in our country. And in this flow, he who holds the slightest cover of public authority uses it illegally to acquire money, goods, prestige or to avoid obligations. The right to be recognized by a public servant, to have one's children enrolled in school, to obtain medical care, etc. ...are all subject to this tax which, though invisible, is known and expected by all.
    • November 25, 1977. D.J. Gould, "Patrons and Clients: The Role of the Military in Zaire Politics," in Isaac Mowoe, ed., The Performance of Soldiers as Governors, p. 485
The chief is the chief. He is the eagle who flies high and cannot be touched by the spit of the toad.
  • If you want to steal, steal a little in a nice way. But if you steal too much to become rich overnight, you'll be caught.
    • D.J. Gould, "Patrons and Clients: The Role of the Military in Zaire Politics," in Isaac Mowoe, ed., The Performance of Soldiers as Governors, p. 485
  • Treating me as a thief is a grave, unacceptable, intolerable insult which stems from contempt and racist condescension.
  • As regards George Bush, I've met him thirteen times. We know each other from way back. He was in charge of the CIA and knew Zaire's problems backwards. He received me at his home in Maine with his mother, wife and children and grandchildren. I met him again recently at the funeral of Emperor Hirohito. He is an intelligent, open and sensitive man, with strong convictions.
  • The chief is the chief. He is the eagle who flies high and cannot be touched by the spit of the toad.
  • If I could do it all again, I'd be a farmer.
  • I cannot sleep at all on a plane and I am terribly scared of sleeping pills. To accuse me of wasting money - no, I am sorry. Just think of the time I save.
  • Democracy is not for Africa. There was only one African chief and here in Zaire we must make unity.
    • George B. N. Ayittey, Africa Betrayed, p. 65
  • I know my people. They like grandeur. They want us to have respect abroad in the eyes of other countries.
  • We in Zaire spent a lot of time building a strong central state which could resist Soviet aggression quickly and effectively. This enabled us to decisively make the uniform decisions that were necessary to fulfill our national defense obligations and our commitments to the United States.
    • George B. N. Ayittey, Africa in Chaos, p. 113


  • Who taught us corruption? I believe it was you, frankly... It's an import.

Quotes about Mobutu[edit]

  • Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several sham elections, as well as through brutal force. Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA.
  • Only one man, previously noted for his outstanding services to his country, can assure the well-being of each one of us and create the conditions propitious of the people's moral and spiritual growth, and offer them a common ideal, the feelings of a joint destiny and the knowledge of belonging to one country.
  • This man has spoken; he has written, set forth orientation and decrees. The sum total of his actions constitutes Mobutism, just as the sum total of Mao's teachings constitutes Maoism...The President and Founder of the MPR repeats incessantly that a people aiming for greatness should neither repudiate other nations nor copy them.
  • In our religion, we have our own theologians. In all religions, and at all times, there are prophets. Why not today? God has sent a great prophet, our prestigious Guide Mobutu - this prophet is our liberator, our Messiah. Our Church is the MPR. Its chief is Mobutu, we respect him like one respects a Pope. Our gospel is Mobutism. This is why the crucifixes must be replaced by the image of our Messiah. And party militants will want to place at its side his glorious mother, Mama Yemo, who gave birth to such a son.
  • There just is no effective control over the financial transactions of the Presidency; one does not differentiate between official and personal expenses in this office...All endeavors to improve budgetary control in Zaire had to stop short before the operations of the central governing authority: La Présidence!
    The corruptive system in Zaire with all its wicked and ugly manifestations, its mismanagement and fraud will destroy all endeavors of international institutions, of friendly governments, and of the commercial banks towards recovery and rehabilitation of Zaire's economy. Sure, there will be new promises by Mobutu, by members of his government, rescheduling and rescheduling again of a growing public debt, but no - repeat - no prospect of Zaire's creditors to get their money back in any foreseeable future.
    There was, and there still is, one sole obstacle that negates all prospect: the corruption of the team in power.
  • We know how allergic you are to candor and truth...For fifteen years now we have obeyed you. What have we done, during this time, to be useful and agreeable to you? We have sung, danced, animated, in short, we have been subjected to all sorts of humiliation, all forms of subjugation which even foreign colonization never made us suffer...
    After fifteen years of the power you have exercised alone, we find ourselves divided into two absolutely distinct camps. On one side, a few scandalously rich persons. On the other, the mass of people suffering the darkest misery.
    • Group of dissident parliamentarians, cataloguing the abuses of Mobutu's regime and demanding reforms, 1980. Meredith, p. 306[specific citation needed]
  • I have come to appreciate the dynamism that is so characteristic of Zaire and Zairians and to respect your dedication to fairness and reason. I have come to admire, Mr. President, your personal courage and leadership in Africa.
  • Zaire is among America's oldest friends, and its president - President Mobutu - one of our most valued friends...And so I was honored to invite President Mobutu to be the first African head of state to come to the United States for an official visit during my presidency.
  • The strong ties of friendship between Zaire and the United States endure and prosper. And we are proud and very, very pleased to have you with us today.

External links[edit]