September 7, 2021 will mark exactly 24 years since the death of former Zaire ruler Mobutu Sese Seko after losing a long battle to prostrate cancer.
However, for the man who ruled Zaire unchallenged for 32 years, his secret burial at the Christian cemetery in Rabat, Morocco on September 24, 1997, may not be what he had wished during his political heydays.
At the peak of his political career, after the early days of the chaos that greated Congo's independence from the Belgians, Mobutu ran the show in his vast country with an iron fist following his ascension to power in 1965 when he staged a second coup d'etat that ousted President Joseph Kasavubu and Prime Minister Evariste Kimba.
Mobutu and former USA President George Hurber Bush ( Photo Courtesy)
During his reign, Mobutu emerged as the darling of the West with world's most powerful men flocking the mineral-rich country to meet the man who came to be known as the Leopard of Zaire.
He was a great of nearly all USA Presidents who served during his long reign: From John F Kennedy to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George Hubert Bush. But in death, his old allies shunned him. None could even attend his funeral in person or even send a representative.
In Europe, Mobutu was a darling of France. From President Charles de Gaulle to Valéry Giscard to Jacques Chirac, the Leopard of Zaire was one of the closet allies of the French. But that friendship stopped immediately he was toppled from power by a rebellion of Laurent Désire Kabila.
Mobutu and former French President Jacques Chirac ( Photo Courtesy)
After his ouster, it was Morocco that offered Mobutu shelter on humanitarian grounds. And in death, it was the North African nation that was there to give him a place to be buried.
But it was his funeral that left the world in shock. How could the once powerful man be accorded such undignified burial? A darling of the West, with all the riches!
With no military, religious and even diplomatic presence during his secret but security-tight funeral, perhaps Mobutu deserved a more dignified final send-off.
For 24 years now since his death, Mobutu's remains are still in Morocco. Will he be repatriated to the land of his ancestors, the country he ruled for 32 years?
But for African dictators and rulers, perhaps this should be a reminder that power is temporary.
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