- historical event:
- The initiative to rename the country originated from President Mobutu. His goal was to introduce “authentic” Congolese names.
On this day the state of Congo was renamed Zaire. The latter word is derived from nzere or nzadi, which means “the river that swallows all rivers”. This is in fact an alternative name for the Congo River, which dominates the geography of that country.
The initiative to rename the country originated from President Mobutu. His goal was to introduce “authentic” Congolese names. He even changed his own name, from Joseph-Désiré to Mobutu Sésé Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga, which can be roughly translated as “The All-Conquering Warrior who Goes from Triumph to Triumph”. From then on, he became known as Mobutu Sésé Seko in the West.
The other inhabitants of Zaire were forced to take “authentic” names. Inspired by Mao Zedong’s China, they first stated their surnames, followed by their first names. Many cities were also renamed. For example, the capital, Léopoldville, was renamed Kinshasa, after the village that was once located there. Similarly, Stanleyville was renamed Kisangani, while Elisabethville became Lubumbashi. After Mobutu lost power, his country was renamed back to Congo, but the cities retained their new names.