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The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State

Crawford Young and Thomas Edwin Turner

Publication Year: 2012

Zaire, apparently strong and stable under Presdident Mobutu in the early 1970s, was bankrupt and discredited by the end of that decade, beset by hyperinflation and mass corruption, the populace forced into abject poverty. Why and how, in a new african state strategically located in Central Africa and rich in mineral resources, did this happen? How did the Zairian state become a “parasitic predator” upon its own people?

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

Illustrations and Figures

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pp. vii-9


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pp. ix-11


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

A tortuous trail stretched between commencement and completion of this work. When we embarked upon our journey, the distance and difficulty of the path were mercifully concealed from us. Had we anticipated either the length of the odyssey or the greatly altered circumstances at its conclusion, we wonder whether we would have had the fortitude to set forth. ...


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pp. xvii-xix

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1. The State in Zaire: An Introductory Perspective

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pp. 3-46

On the walls of hundreds of Zairian homes in southern Shaba, some of them quite modest, hang oil paintings.1 This urban folk art is truly syncretic. The medium is European in origin, although the "canvas" typically is flour-sacking; the motifs are Mrican, chosen to appeal to a local audience. ...

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2. Zaire in the Mobutu Years: An Overview, 1965–1980

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pp. 47-77

This homage to President Mobutu captures crucial characteristics of the Zairian state at the apogee of the New Regime: its personalism, its presidentialism, its relentless quest for an elusive grandeur. At the beginning of the 1980s, the hollow ring of these adulatory words reflects the distance traveled from the zenith ...

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3. The State and Civil Society: Capital, Town, and Countryside

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pp. 78-99

The changing character of the state, from Bula Matari to pagaille, from ascent to decline in the Mobutu years, interacted with remarkable transformations in civil society. The Bula Matari hegemon ruled over an essentially rural subject population, until its final years. Its central places were basically ...

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4. The Dynamics of Inequality: Class Formation

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pp. 100-137

The Butembo parable projects as a genesis fable a contemporary folk perception of social cleavage. To the Zairian anthropologist who encountered it on returning to his home area after a five-year absence, the parable was new. Indeed, it rested upon a novel configuration of locally dominant classes. In Butembo a new group of locally recruited, successful merchants ...

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5. The Ethnic Dimension of Civil Society

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pp. 138-163

We have argued, in other works, that ethnicity in Zaire needs to be conceptualized within a dynamic framework. It can be easily demonstrated that many of the cultural labels in common use today did not exist a century ago, or that some collective designations are applied to social aggregates whose boundaries are very difficult from what they once were. ...

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6. The Patrimonial State and Personal Rule

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pp. 164-184

In our initial chapter we suggested that patrimonial patterns of rule have characterized many post-colonial Arican states. Since the days of Leopold, Zaire has regularly illustrated these general patterns in exaggerated, even caricatural form; they have found new confirmation in the exceptional patrimonialization and personalization of the state in the Second Republic ...

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7. In Pursuit of Legitimacy: Party and Ideology

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pp. 185-220

In our opening chapter we suggested that the pursuit of legitimacy is a prime imperative conditioning the action of the state. A certain prescriptive legitimacy may reside in the simple prolonged exercise of state power by rulers whose authority appears beyond challenge. The elements of tacit legitimacy enjoyed by the Bula Matari state rested essentially upon the ...

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8. Regional Administration

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pp. 221-247

If there is a striking resemblance between the Mobutist state and its Bula Matari predecessor it is to be found in the regional administration. The territorial administration of the Second Republic has as its major function the control of the population. It counts the people, regulates their movements, ...

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9. The Seventh Scourge: The Security Forces

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pp. 248-275

In 1977, following the invasion of Shaba by Katangans from Angola, President Mobutu declared that the Forces Armees Zairoises had suffered a "moral defeat" because of the discouragement of the soldiers, caused in turn by the "negligence of certain of their leaders, irresponsible and greedy, not always devoted to the national cause."1 Even earlier Mobutu had ...

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10. Economic Policy during the Mobutu Years

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pp. 276-325

The ideological charter of the New Regime included not only the construction of a unified, centralized nation-state, but the restoration of economic order and fulfillment of the manifest destiny of rapid development which its rich natural resource base seemed to promise. As well, the resurrected state would obey the impulse to autonomy by decolonization of its ...

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11. Zairianization and Radicalization: Anatomy of a Disaster

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pp. 326-362

The sweeping measures announced by President Mobutu on 30 November 1973 appeared to be a breathtaking bid for economic independence. Soon to be dubbed "Zairianization," these decisions provided for the seizure of a vast swath of the economy which had remained in foreign hands: ...

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12. Zaire in the International Arena

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pp. 363-395

Zaire, as a territorial entity, was created in 1885 by the international (then European) community, at the Berlin Congress. From 1885 to 1908, as the Congo Free State, it was held under the personal sovereignty of King Leopold II, with no other formal link with Belgium than the common monarch. In his dying days, in 1908, Leopold bequeathed his sprawling ...

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13. Conclusion: Crisis of the Zairian State

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pp. 396-406

In its early years, from 1965 to 1973, the New Regime pursued a statebuilding strategy which closely conformed to the behavioral imperatives of state reason sketched in chapter 1.2 The unchallenged hegemony of the state was reasserted, fusing the models of the absolutist Leopoldian bureaucratic autocracy and the post-colonial unitary, nationalist, one-party ...


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pp. 409-468


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pp. 469-500

E-ISBN-13: 9780299101138
E-ISBN-10: 0299101134
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299101145
Print-ISBN-10: 0299101142

Page Count: 522
Illustrations: 2 illus., 3 maps
Publication Year: 2012