Mobutu, Roi du Zaïre



The last of the "Negro kings", Mobutu Sese Seko was the oldest and most unfaltering of African despots. A Machiavellian monarch, often portrayed as diabolical, the Zairian President was one of the last dictators born from the cold war and from decolonisation. Having come to power with the 1965 coup he imposed a peace founded on fear, violence and the repression on his people. Throughout the 30 years of his rule, Mobutu Sese Seko Wa Zabanga, Marshal of Zaire, was lead by unrestrained pride and was known equally well under the names of "The Revolution Leader", "The Unifier", "The Peacemaker" or "The Father of the Country". As an ally of the West, with its secret services and its "promoters" from Europe and America, Mobutu builds up a pyramid of despotic and predatory power, fortified by money and corruption. For over a third of a century he rules alone over the ruins of a devastated country, handing out favours and disgrace. On 17 May 1997, defeated by triumphant rebels, Mobutu flees his country into a miserable exile. A few months later he dies of cancer amidst indifference and contempt in Rabat, Morocco. But how was the son of a cook and young sergeant in the colonial army able to become one of the richest men in the world? On what logic did he build his power? What was the key to such a long political career? How can Zaire, a veritable gold mine of minerals and precious materials, be one of the world's poorest countries today? To all these questions the film "Mobutu, king of Zaire" will provide an answer, describing the story of a character worthy of a great Shakespearean tragedy. Indeed, Mobutu is not the "monster" that many accused him of being. He is merely one of us, with our ambitions and grandeur, our cowardice and baseness, our betrayals and our fidelity.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Thierry Michel

Nominations and Awards

  • European Documentary 1999