General issues: Republic 1971-1997
Country name on general issues: Zaire
Currency: 1 Zaire = 100 Makuta = 10,000 Sengi 1971-1997
Population: 22 296 000 in 1971, 46 709 000 in 1997
Political history Zaire
Zaire is located in central Africa. Zaire is the name given to Congo (Kinshasa) from 1971 to 1997. Congo has been, from 1885 until 1908, the Congo Free State, ruled in personal union by the Belgian king Leopold II. From 1908 until 1960, Congo is a Belgian colony. As Belgian Congo gains independence in 1960, it is confronted with what is called the ‘Congo crisis’. In parts of the country, opposition governments are established, other parts of the country declare full independence – Katanga, South Kasai. In 1965, when Joseph-Désiré Mobutu comes to power, he manages to unite the country and put an end to the Congo crisis.
In subsequent years, one of the policies of Mobutu will be to strengthen the African identity of the country. As part of this policy, the name of the country is changed to Zaire. Likewise, city names are changed, the currency is changed and private persons are expected to change their names. Mobutu himself assumes the name of Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga – ‘the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake’.
Mobutu establishes a one party political system in which all power is concentrated in his own person. The regime will be accused of ever growing corruption and abuse of power. External support wanes when the Cold War comes to an end. Internally, the opposition turns into armed opposition. From 1996 to 1997, the First Congo War is fought that leads to the resignation of Mobutu. The newly established government will change the name of the country back to Congo.
The resignation of Mobutu will not bring stability to Congo. From 1998 to 2002, the Second Congo War escalates into the largest military conflict in the history of Africa – due also to the involvement of several African countries supporting the different factions in Congo. Although a peace agreement is signed in 2002, a number of successive militias will, until today, be in armed conflict with the government – conflicts that are often linked to conflicts in neighboring countries.
Postal history Zaire
The first stamps to be issued in Zaire are those of Congo Free State from 1886 – superseded from 1908 by the issues from Belgian Congo. Independent Congo has issued stamps from 1960. Stamps are issued in the name of Zaire from 1971 until 1997. These are, from 1998, superseded by issues in the name of Congo.