But even in death, Mobutu continues to divide opinion. How will history judge this man? Where does he rank among Africa's Presidents? And what legacy does he leave behind?
For a continent that has produced some of the greatest leaders like Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere, it always becomes very difficult to fit Mobutu into that cadre of leaders. But sometimes, if you are keen student of African politics, you may be forced to think otherwise.
Former South Africa President and anti- apartheid hero Nelson Mandela ( Photo Courtesy)
Though the likes of Mandela get much credit for the good things that they did during their days, Mobutu and others have been denied this privilege. Often, they are only associated with bad things that have happened in Africa. But are they treated unfairly?
It is true that Mobutu had his excesses as President. But this does not mean that nothing good happened during his 32-year reign of Zaire.
Mobutu Sese Seko and Idi Amin Dada of Uganda ( Photo Courtesy)
In Zaire, much development happened during the reign of Mobutu. The iconic Inga Dam was constructed when Marechal was in-charge. The modem Stadium of Martyrs was constructed during his reign. The imposing Palace of the People was built by the Leopard of Zaire.
Put simply, Mobutu his best for Zaire when he was President. But his failures have often made people forget about this.
Most importantly, Mobutu restored order in the divided nation and Zaire remained peaceful for 32 years. This is no mean achievement considering the anarchy that preceded his reign. And even after his ouster in 1997, the country sank into chaos that dragged on for the next 6 years until 2003.
In the African continent, Mobutu was a stalwart. At one point, he served as Organization of African Unity ( OAU) chairman. This is a rare privilege and perhaps a confirmation that he commanded respect among his peers.
Yes, Mobutu made many mistakes as President. But at the same time, he also recorded some successes. But unfortunately, most historians only tell the negative side of the man who was once the darling of the West.
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