- historical event:
- In northern Zaire, near his family's hometown of
- Gbadolite, Mobutu built magnificent jungle palaces, so that some people called the place the “Versailles of the Jungle”.
One of the best-known dictators of the 20th century, African leader Mobutu Sese Seko, was born on this day in 1930. He ruled the large African country of Congo/Zaire for over 30 years. It was he who enacted the decision to rename the Democratic Republic of Congo into Zaire in 1971. This was in accordance with his policy of introducing “authentic” African names and abolishing the “colonial” ones. Thus the capital city of his state was renamed from Léopoldville to Kinshasa.
Mobutu’s plan had an even greater effect on the people of his state, who had to change their Christian names into “African” ones. Mobutu himself changed his name from Joseph-Désiré Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (usually shortened to Mobutu Sese Seko).
In accordance with Mobutu’s policy of removing “colonialist” attributes, the people were forbidden from wearing western-style suits and ties. Mobutu became known throughout the world for wearing a leopard skin hat.
He was also known for his extravagant behavior. For example, he rented a French supersonic Concorde jet for his personal use. He even used the Concorde for shopping in Paris, and at one point flew to New York, to hold a speech at the UN, using the same plane.
His portrait was depicted on all of Zaire’s banknotes, and some estimate that he “redirected” billions of dollars from the state treasury into his own pocket. In northern Zaire, near his family’s hometown of Gbadolite, Mobutu built magnificent jungle palaces, so that some people called the place the “Versailles of the Jungle”. He also built a large airport nearby, where even Concorde jets could land.