How Mobutu Sese Seko Plundered Congo’s Resources
The stunted growth of African states is largely due to the large-scale corruption perpetrated by their leaders. Despite Democratic Republic of Congo’s enormous resources, and having large deposits of Diamond in the World, the central African country is still battling with challenges. In a shocking revelation about the future of Congo, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently predicted that 40% of World’s poorest will live in Congo and Nigeria by 2050.
What resulted in Congo’s problems? Before the independence of Congo in 1960, many opined that the underdevelopment of Congo is due to the colonization of the country by Belgium. Truth be told, King Leopold of Belgium and the Belgians stole the national patrimony of the country. But after Congo was declared a self-governing status, their own leaders continued with the brazen festival of thievery and steal while the citizens wallow in abject poverty and untold hardship.
One of Africa’s most brutal dictators is Joseph Mobutu, also known as Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu once referred to himself as the “All Powerful Warrior”. His role in deepening poverty cannot be quickly forgotten. Mobutu forcefully took power with the help of Western powers from the hands of Patrice Lumumba in 1965. From 1965 till 1997 when Mobutu was in charge of Congo, he presided over humongous corruption in the land. He renamed the country to “Zaire”. Mobutu and his associates used the state resources for their personal enrichment. In his town, Gbadolite, Mobutu constructed three mansions. His palace contained a fleet of Mercedes, a hydroelectric plant, sports facilities and he even built an airport large enough to land a Supersonic Concord Jet, the plane he always rented from Air France to gallivant around the World. Mobutu constructed mind-boggling mansions around European countries for his personal use.
Mobutu Sese Seko was admired by the Western powers, particularly the United States of America. He was backed by the hegemons to take over power forcefully from Patrice Lumumba. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) supported Mobutu to overthrow Lumumba because the latter was perceived of having a closer tie with the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). As Congo’s President, he was known for frolicking with the United States of America and was a friend of the White House. He had access to loans from Brookings Institutions because Congo was a base for covert operations by CIA at the height of Cold War between USA and USSR in Congo’s neighboring countries, particularly Angola.
In 1987, USA forced the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to give Congo’s Mobutu millions of dollars under the guise that the fund will be used for the development of the Congolese state. Unfortunately, Mobutu stashed the funds in overseas banks. He also got $187 million from IMF again in 1989. Surprisingly another $87 million came from the World Bank. The “All Powerful Warrior” converted all these loans for his personal use, and he lived largely.
After the end of Cold War, the USA Congress cut aid to Congo because the country was no longer useful and consequential anymore. The IMF later issued an official declaration of non-cooperation in February of 1992 making the country ineligible for further borrowing. Congo was declared insolvent by World Bank in 1994, and it was later suspended from IMF. A rebellion was later sponsored in the eastern part of the country and he later fled the country and relinquished power.
Laurent Kabila emerged as the new leader of Congo after he fled. Mobutu died while on exile in September 1997 in Rabat, Morocco. The foreign debt Mobutu Sese Seko left behind in the Democratic Republic of Congo is around $14 billion. He presided in the creation of extractive political and economic institutions in the land. Congo is still paying the outrageous debt he left behind.
Today the place in Gbadolite, where he built his personal airport, mansions and other luxury buildings is lying fallow. Africa must free itself from the grips of oppressors to climb the ladder of greatness.