Belgium and Mobutu’s Zaïre : Analysis of an Eventful Era

This article addresses the relations between Belgium and Zaire during the time of Mobutu Sese Seko’s rule of Congo/Zaire between 1965 and 1997. Several authors have focussed on the importance of the Cold War, or the existence of Zaire’s dependency relationship with Belgium. This study, however, argues that the Cold War was not the singular decisive factor. Through his foreign policy, Mobutu approached his African neighbours, Eastern European countries, China and North Korea, in order to actively shape his own policy whereby he sometimes acted against the interests of his Western allies. Similarly, the dependency relationship must also be reconsidered, because Mobutu skilfully made use of Belgium’s fractured political landscape, and of his personal relations with his own Ministers, Belgian Ministers, and the King of the Belgians.