The Political Role of the Military: An International Handbook

By Constantine P. Danopoulos; Cynthia Watson | Go to book overview

ZAIRE

Frederic Belle Torimoro

In the wake of the growing democratization movements, Africa's political leaders are compelled to take stock of their right to rule. They are increasingly faced with the serious challenge of staying in power by either accepting or rejecting the resurgence of social and political values strongly linked to the idea of rule by the many. Under these circumstances, Africans presently at the helm of government "must secure some degree of internal support in order to survive, let alone achieve political stability."1 Their behavior toward any kind of political change or commitment to control its pace and direction brings a special attention to the role of the military. Understanding the full range of the attitude and contribution of the military toward politics in Africa clearly lends support to any meaningful discussion on civil-military relations.

Zaire is now one of several African states pressured to rearrange its political fabric. With a population of over thirty-six million people who speak about seven hundred different languages and are from approximately 250 distinct ethnic groups, the political leadership must confront demands emanating from various sectors. It appears that for General Sese Seko Mobutu political survivability is marked by his ability to organize and control rising expectations as well as to achieve military compliance with personal authority. The pursuit of politics, democratic or otherwise, therefore harbors elements that may be perceived by Mobutu as threatening to his political well-being or to the interests of the military.

This chapter examines the political role of the Zairian military. In doing so, it attempts to appreciate the extent to which the political history of Zaire has been visibly influenced by the military. The cycle of political development and decay is therefore evaluated in terms of the character of civil-military relations. A useful analysis of Zaire's political landscape must take into account the disposition of the military. In other words, is it possible simply to see the military as the central instrument of state coercion? Is it equipped to champion the public

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