The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal


TITLE:  ZAIRE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


President Mobutu Sese Seko has dominated an authoritarian 
governmental system since 1965, when he took power in a 
military coup.  Although forced by opponents to announce in 
1990 an end to the one-party state, Mobutu has steadfastly 
refused to permit a transition to democracy.  A National 
Conference was convened, composed of 2,800 delegates and 
chaired by the Archbishop of Kisangani, Laurent Monsengwo 
Pasinya.  The Conference, which closed under pressure from 
Mobutu in December 1992, investigated official wrongdoings, 
drafted a new constitution (intended to be ratified by a 
referendum), extended President Mobutu's term of office for 2 
years, to December 1993, and selected Etienne Tshisekedi Wa 
Mulumba, Mobutu's most implacable foe, as Prime Minister.  In 
the Transitional Act the Conference also decided to establish a 
High Council of the Republic (HCR) to exercise legislative 
functions and to ensure the implementation of conference 
decisions.  Archbishop Monsengwo was chosen as its President.

However, since the end of the Conference, President Mobutu has 
contested Prime Minister Tshisekedi's authority and has also 
taken actions which challenged the authority and the decisions 
of the National Conference.  On April 1, Mobutu announced 
Tshisekedi's dismissal as Prime Minister and appointed a 
defector from Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social 
Progress (UDPS) party, Faustin Birindwa, to run a parallel 
government.  Tshisekedi refused to recognize the President's 
authority to remove him from office, although Mobutu's control 
of the security apparatus permitted him easily to evict the 
Tshisekedi ministers from their offices and to maintain de 
facto control of government operations.  At year's end, 
negotiations to break the political deadlock between the "dual 
governments" were still in progress.  The core questions, which 
the Zairian political class is unable to resolve, are Mobutu's 
role and who will lead the transition to democracy as Prime 

Control of the security forces continued to be of crucial 
importance in the ongoing struggle over the transition 
process.  Mobutu has built up overlapping forces.  The elite 
forces of the Civil Guard, headed by President Mobutu's 
brother-in-law, General Baramoto Kpama Kpata, and the Special 
Presidential Division (DSP), under his ethnic kinsman General 
Nzimbi Ngbale, remained generally loyal to the Chief of State.  
The DSP, in particular, was implicated in many human rights 
abuses during the year, yet the President took no action 
against its commander.  The 70,000-person regular armed forces 
became both perpetrator and victim of human rights abuses.  
Compensation for these forces continued to be at the center of 
incidents of military indiscipline and abuse of civilians.  
Looting by soldiers broke out at the end of January in Kinshasa 
after President Mobutu ordered the troops paid with newly 
issued 5,000,000 (then worth about $2) Zaire notes, which Prime 
Minister Tshisekedi had earlier proclaimed "demonetized," and 
which then were not accepted in commerce.

Subsistence agriculture has long been the base of Zaire's 
economy, but its minerals and mining output--especially 
copper--traditionally generated the hard currency revenue.  
Throughout 1993, however, Zaire continued to suffer sharp 
economic contraction.  Diamond exports, mainly outside 
regulated channels, became the mainstay of Zaire's hard 
currency revenues, while the output of the rest of the mining 
sector, hobbled by the lack of new investment, dwindled into 

With public employees unpaid for months at a time, and with 
little investment or maintenance, Zaire's infrastructure has 
continued to deteriorate.  At the same time, corruption, 
blackmail, extortion, and embezzlement remained endemic.  
Inflation slowed to an annualized rate of between 300 and 400 
percent during the first 9 months of the year, but accelerated 
at a hyperinflationary pace during the final 3 months of 1993 
in the wake of the Birindwa Government's so-called monetary 
reform in late October.  Average annual inflation for the year 
is estimated close to 9,000 percent, compared with just over 
3,000 percent in 1992.  About 70 percent of the population is 
rural, mainly engaged in subsistence farming; this, along with 
a deeply rooted extended family system, has permitted people to 
survive the current economic crisis.

Zaire is undergoing its worst human rights crisis since the end 
of the civil war in the early 1960's.  There were massive human 
rights violations, especially by the Mobutu Government in 
blocking democratic reform.  It used a variety of brutal 
techniques, including assassination and unlawful detention, to 
hit at opposition politicians, labor officials, journalists, 
and human rights monitors.  It continued to incite ethnic 
violence to cause loss of life and massive internal 
displacement of thousands of persons in Shaba province.  
Although there was no hard evidence of direct government 
involvement, there was extensive additional ethnic violence in 
the province of North Kivu, with resulting heavy loss of life 
and property.  Throughout the year, an atmosphere of insecurity 
plagued Zaire, with frequent nighttime violence by military 
elements, disrupting many aspects of government, including 
judicial operations.  Prison conditions, already seriously 
health threatening, deteriorated further during the year.

Hundreds of people lost their lives during the January armed 
forces uprising, both as a result of the rioting and during the 
suppression of the looting by loyal elements of the armed 
forces.  No prosecutions resulted from the January mutiny.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There was a pattern of attacks by security forces in 1993, some 
of them lethal, against opposition party activists.  Security 
forces killed the 28-year-old son of UDPS party leader 
Frederick Kibassa Maliba, and wounded two of his other 
children, in an attack on Maliba's home during the January 

Thirteen gendarmes were implicated in the January 3 death of 
another politician, Nyamwisi Mwingi of the Federalist Christian 
Democratic Party, while he was investigating reports of 
disturbances in the eastern town of Butembo.  There were no 
reports of legal prosecution of the gendarmes arrested in this 

The most serious incident of extrajudicial killing stemmed from 
an armed forces mutiny that broke out in Kinshasa on January 
28.  Elements of the SARM (Military Intelligence Unit), the 
Civil Guard, and the DSP, who remained loyal to President 
Mobutu, summarily executed up to several hundred soldiers from 
the regular armed forces during the course of their efforts to 
suppress military looting.  Bodies were observed unburied at 
roadsides in Kinshasa in the days following the uprising.

The Zairian Association for the Defense of Human Rights 
(AZADHO) a local human rights group, estimated the number of 
dead at 259; other estimates ranged as high as 1,000.  The dead 
were largely mutinous military personnel; however civilian 
deaths included the French Ambassador, who was shot while 
standing at the window of his office; a Zairian employee of the 
French Embassy killed at the same time; and several foreign 
businessmen killed while trying to protect their property.  No 
one was prosecuted for the murders committed during the 
uprising.  Press accounts reported, however, that a military 
council convicted 34 commandos in late November for their role 
in a 1992 uprising in Kisangani.

Several people were reported killed in Kinshasa July 4 when 
police forces put down a rally by the opposition UDPS party; 
some eyewitnesses said police shot directly into the crowd.  A 
priest was killed in late November when security forces looted 
a Catholic center and a warehouse for relief supplies in the 
provincial town of Kananga.

Poorly paid and undisciplined, the security forces are 
frequently accused of robbing and intimidating civilians, 
sometimes using lethal force.  One example of violence and 
retaliation between undisciplined troops and civilians occurred 
in February in the Kinshasa neighborhood of Kingasani, when 
soldiers reportedly killed a well-known sports trainer.  
Civilians killed a soldier in retaliation, and troops, probably 
DSP, responded by firing on the funeral procession and the 
surrounding neighborhood, leaving 20 to 50 people dead.

Local human rights groups report several incidents per month in 
which uniformed personnel assumed to be security forces shoot 
or beat a civilian to death, often during the course of a 
robbery.  It was not always possible to obtain independent 
verification of these incidents or of armed forces 
participation in them.  Given the remoteness of much of Zaire's 
territory, many other incidents in the interior undoubtedly 
went unreported.  While it was impossible to determine with any 
precision how many deaths can be attributed to armed forces 
indiscipline, there is enough consistency in the reports to 
indicate that such deaths are a fairly regular occurrence.

Few, if any, of these cases are ever legally prosecuted.  The 
critically underfunded judiciary system has nearly ground to a 
halt, hampering prosecutions.  Furthermore, local human rights 
groups and others suspect that a degree of Government 
complicity in the January pillage has caused even more than the 
usual footdragging in prosecutions of soldiers involved in 
pillage-related abuses.

There are occasional allegations that extremist elements of the 
Holy Union Opposition Coalition, which backs Tshisekedi, 
intimidate political opponents, although it was difficult to 
confirm these incidents.  The pro-Mobutu MPR party and a human 
rights organization, Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), report that 
Makoba Bidimu, the MPR's Assistant Secretary General for 
Information, died following a confrontation with a group of 
militants from the Holy Union's UDPS party.

     b.  Disappearance

Given the breakdown of administration throughout Zaire, some 
reports of disappearances may be attributable to common 
crimes.  While security forces frequently held detainees 
incommunicado or in secret jails, (see Section 1.d.), they 
typically have not attempted to conceal the fact of detention.

While the number of disappearances may have declined in 1993, 
there are indications the practice nonetheless persists.  
Amnesty International reported that at least one person, Emile 
Nkombo, disappeared in the aftermath of the UDPS demonstration 
repressed by security forces on July 4.  A second UDPS 
supporter, Rene Kanda, was seized by men in plainclothes in 
July; he has not been seen since.  Occasionally, unidentified 
bodies are reported floating in the Zaire River near Kinshasa.

Disappearances in 1993 and in previous years are widely 
attributed to secret special intervention forces (or 
"antiterrorist" units) composed of elements of the DSP or the 
Civil Guard.  These forces, popularly called the "hiboux," or 
"owls," are believed to have been given the mission of 
intimidating the political opposition.

Human rights monitors had no further information on the 62 
Zairian Air Force personnel detained in 1992, allegedly for 
engaging in pillaging.  The Government has ignored repeated 
requests to allow visits or to disclose these prisoners' 

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
         Treatment or Punishment

Although torture is forbidden by Zairian law, its use is 
widespread.  Security personnel routinely beat suspects during 
criminal interrogations, and there are credible reports of 
cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment aimed at punishing and 
humiliating those suspected of supporting President Mobutu's 
opponents.  Claims of torture are virtually never investigated 
by the authorities, including the judiciary.

Throughout 1993 security forces subjected numerous politicians, 
armed forces personnel, and journalists associated with the 
opposition to intimidation.  Security forces ransacked their 
homes, subjected them to obvious surveillance, or beat them.  
Uniformed men shot and wounded the Counselor for Security to 
the transitional Prime Minister during a late September attack 
in his home.  Press sources and human rights groups reported 
that ordinary citizens were frequently subjected to random acts 
of violence and intimidation as undisciplined and often unpaid 
security forces resorted to robbery and extortion.

Appalling conditions in most of Zaire's 220 prisons are a 
serious threat to health.  Conditions in Kinshasa's Makala 
Central Prison are typical:  Inmates sleep on the floor and 
have no access to sanitation, potable water, or adequate health 
care.  Meals are of poor quality, scanty, and sporadic.  In 
September the prisoners went for over a week without being fed 
at all, except by visiting relatives or from the produce of 
small-scale gardening on the prison grounds.  Malnutrition is 
rampant, as are tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.  
The Zairian Prison Fellowship and the International Committee 
of the Red Cross (ICRC) report that they have regular access to 
the prisons nationwide.  Women and juveniles are housed in 
separate quarters in Makala, but human rights monitors report 
that controls are inadequate and rapes sometimes occur.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Under Zairian law for serious offenses, punishable by more than 
6 months' imprisonment, a warrant is not required for the 
arrest of a suspect.  Any law enforcement officer having the 
status of "judicial police officer" is empowered to authorize 
arrest.  This status is also vested in senior officers of each 
of the security services.  The law provides that detainees be 
brought before a magistrate for a hearing within the first 48 
hours of arrest.  If grounds for arrest are presented, the 
magistrate may order detention for an initial period of 15 days 
followed by renewable 30-day periods.

In practice, the Mobutu Government continued to use arbitrary 
arrest and detention as a means to intimidate political 
opponents.  In April Mobutu's security forces interrogated the 
transition Government's Foreign Minister, Pierre Lumbi, for 2 
days, then kept him under house arrest for several weeks, in 
connection with the President's contested attempt to replace 
the transitional Government and force its members to relinquish 
government documents and seals.  

According to Amnesty International, AZADHO, and other 
organizations, the Mobutu forces made over two dozen 
politically motivated arrests of journalists, labor activists, 
and opposition party leaders.  Many of these arrests occurred 
in a sweep in late March.  A second round of arrests, mostly 
involving midlevel opposition party officials, began in late 
October after the Birindwa Government introduced a new currency 
and decreed imprisonment for anyone who counseled against 
accepting the new notes.  Typically, Mobutu security units held 
these detainees incommunicado for several weeks or months on 
accusations that their writings and political activities 
threatened national security, then granted them a conditional 
release.  The SARM (military intelligence) kept a journalist, 
Kalala Mbenga Kaleo, in custody from his August 25 arrest 
through September 22, apparently in connection with an article 
he wrote for the newspaper La Tempete Des Tropiques, in which 
he listed the ethnic backgrounds and educational achievements 
of Zaire's generals and admirals.  He was never charged with a 

In February government troops surrounded the People's Palace, 
where the High Council of the Republic, the Parliament 
established under the Transitional Act, was in session.  The 
troops detained HCR members and others in the building without 
food or potable water for a period of over 48 hours.

According to AZADHO's September records, about 66 percent of 
the inmates of Makala Prison were awaiting trial.  This figure 
represents some improvement over the previous year, when an 
estimated 85 percent of Makala's inmates were awaiting trial.  
However, human rights and religious groups report that 
approximately 80 percent of inmates in Zaire's prisons are 
still awaiting trial.  Many have been imprisoned without trial 
for several years, in some cases for periods of time longer 
than the maximum period for which they could have been 
sentenced if convicted.

The number of political detainees and political prisoners held 
by Mobutu's security forces at year's end was unknown.  In 
December there were 21 people in detention as a result of 
recent Lumumbist party political demonstrations.  There were no 
known detainees still in detention for opposition to the 
October "monetary reform."  Persons detained in Zaire for 
political reasons have traditionally been held under 
administrative detention or house arrest.  Many of them are 
held clandestinely or in military prisons.  Human rights 
organizations estimate there are 40 such prisons in Kinshasa 
alone.  The Government has never implemented the National 
Security Council guidelines issued in 1990 to end unlawful 
incommunicado detentions and the practice of internal exile.  
The law mandates judicial oversight of detention centers, but 
such oversight rarely occurs, due to official indifference and 
to a lack of personnel, materiel, and transport.

There were no known cases of internal or external exile in 1993.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the amended 1977 Constitution and the proposed new 1992 
constitution provide for an independent judiciary, in practice 
the judiciary is not independent of the executive branch and 
has consistently been responsive to priorities and objectives 
set by the President and his Government.  Zaire's Civil and 
Criminal Codes are based on Belgian and customary law.  Its 
legal system includes lower courts, appellate courts, the 
Supreme Court, and the Court of State Security.  Most cases are 
initiated at the local level, and many disputes are adjudicated 
by local administrative officials or traditional authorities.  
Adherence to acceptable legal procedures varies in most 
instances.  Charges of misconduct against senior government 
officials must be filed directly with the Supreme Court.

The Constitution provides defendants with the right to a public 
trial and counsel.  The right of appeal is provided in all 
cases except cases involving national security, armed robbery, 
and smuggling, which are adjudicated by the Court of State 
Security.  When a defendant is unable to afford a lawyer, the 
law provides for court-appointed counsel at state expense in 
capital cases, in all proceedings before the Supreme Court, and 
in other cases when requested by a court.  In practice, these 
protections are frequently ignored.  Many defendants never meet 
their counsel or do so only after months of detention and 

Tshisekedi's transitional Government had vowed to improve 
Zaire's judicial system and deliver fair and impartial 
justice.  However, it has been powerless do so since Mobutu 
dismissed it and installed the rival Birindwa Government early 
in 1993.  The judicial system is hobbled by a continuing 
shortage of trained and motivated personnel, a scarcity of 
essential supplies, continued intimidation of justices, and 
other constraints.  In particular, magistrates, like many other 
Zairians, suffer from inflation-ravaged wages and poor working 
conditions, a situation that gives rise to corruption.  The 
magistrates were on strike for a substantial part of 1993 as a 
result of the Government's failure to pay them.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Security forces routinely ignored legal provisions that require 
a warrant before searching a home and entered and searched 
residences at will.  The attack on UDPS party leader Kibassa 
Maliba's home is only one of the more blatant examples of a 
pattern of intimidation carried out against opposition 
supporters in their homes.  The homes of several of the 
political activists who were arrested in March were searched 
and ransacked, as was the home of transitional Prime Minister 
Etienne Tshisekedi.  Undisciplined security forces also 
continued to beat, rob, rape, and kill citizens in their own 
homes.  Hundreds of such cases occurred during armed forces' 
looting in January.  It is widely assumed that the Government 
monitors mail and telephone communications.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

Zaire's continuing political crisis greatly exacerbated ethnic 
tensions and regional disputes, resulting in many violations of 
humanitarian law.  In particular, government officials 
continued to provoke ethnic clashes in Shaba province and to 
expel members of certain ethnic groups from that area.  
Provincial Governor Gabriel Kyungu Wa Kumwanza publicly blamed 
Shaba's economic problems on the inhabitants originally from 
the neighboring provinces of eastern and western Kasai 
(Tshisekedi's region), many of whom have lived in Shaba for 
several generations.  Kyungu proclaimed any Kasaians who had 
not left Shaba by the end of July would be killed or 
imprisoned.  Militant members of Kyungu's Party of the Union of 
Independent Republicans (UFERI), which had led several violent 
attacks against Kasaians in 1992, reinforced these statements 
by leading several additional clashes in 1993, including in 
Kolwezi in March, which left several people dead and many 
houses destroyed.  As a result, Kasaians continued to leave 
Shaba province throughout 1993.  At year's end, credible 
sources estimated that about 600,000 people had been displaced 
since the conflict began in 1992.

Throughout the year, tens of thousands of people waited for 
transportation to the Kasais at railroad stations in the Shaba 
towns of Kolwezi, Likasi, and Kamina, often for weeks at a 
time.  Conditions in the makeshift railway station camps and on 
the trains were extremely poor, leading to cases of 
malnutrition, illness, and death from exposure.  Deaths were 
recorded on every train taking Kasaians from Shaba.  Many 
people, robbed or charged extortionate fees for transportation, 
arrived destitute in eastern and western Kasai.

Interethnic violence in western Shaba province resulted in the 
reported burning alive of 25 people in Kalemie village on 
October 11 and the burning of 15 houses in Moba village on 
October 29.  Human rights organizations called for an 
investigation to determine the perpetrators of these abuses.

Ethnic strife broke out in March between residents native to 
North Kivu province and "Banyarwandan" residents who have 
immigrated to Zaire from Rwanda in several successive waves 
beginning in the last century.  Hostilities between the rival 
groups in Kivu had resulted in up to 6,000 dead and 230,000 
displaced between the outbreak of violence in March and the end 
of July, when the violence mostly subsided.  Opposition 
leaders' allegations of central (i.e. Mobutu) Government 
involvement in provoking ethnic conflict in North Kivu have not 
been verified, although it is generally assumed that local 
officials, including the vice governor, were implicated.  
However, hostilities continued virtually unchecked for almost 4 
months until the Government sent DSP troops to quell the 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides citizens the right to express their 
opinions freely.  Although there is no prior censorship of the 
media, there is a requirement that newspaper publishers deposit 
copies of each issue prior to publication with the Minister of 
Information and Broadcasting.  The print media are also subject 
to an ambiguous ordinance on "press freedom" promulgated on 
April 20, 1981, which fails to define "freedom of the press"  
and is intimidating to journalists.

The Mobutu Government's control of the Zairian Radio and 
Television Office (OZRT), the only media organ capable of 
reaching audiences nationwide, and its increasing harassment 
and intimidation of journalists and other outspoken figures of 
the opposition tended to repress free expression and encourage 
self-censorship during the year.  Twelve OZRT employees were 
suspended in 1993 in what was almost certainly a clampdown on 
excessive independence in reporting.

Although numerous newpapers were published in Kinshasa in 1993, 
the impact of the press remained largely confined to Kinshasa 
as the lack of transport and other obstacles limited 
distribution of private newspapers to rural areas.

The Mobutu Government continued to harass and intimidate the 
print media.  It arrested journalists from the opposition- 
linked Le Potentiel, Le Phare, La Tempete Des Tropiques, Umoja, 
and the Kasai-based Les Petites Annonces De La Semaine in 
connection with articles they had published.  All were granted 
conditional liberty after several weeks or months of 
imprisonment.  In addition, the Government announced a 3-month 
suspension of the Kinshasa newspaper Les Palmares on August 4, 
apparently in connection with a special edition that was 
considered to have insulted President Mobutu.  No law was cited 
in the order mandating the suspension.  The authorities 
arrested at least one person for possession of the issue.  They 
banned completely another newspaper, L'Interprete, and declared 
its possession a crime following the publication of a single, 
highly scatological issue.

Subsequent to the October 24 "monetary reform," a Government 
decree threatened suspension of all periodicals that advised 
against acceptance of the new currency.  The Birindwa 
Government suspended Umoja, its sister publication La 
Renaissance, Elima, and Salongo under this decree.  All of 
these periodicals resumed publication within days, in defiance 
of the ban.

As of the end of the year, those responsible for the 1992 
destruction of printing equipment belonging to an opposition 
newspaper as well as the firebombing of a printing plant that 
published opposition newspapers had neither been charged nor 
brought to trial.

Security forces also reportedly resorted to direct action 
against the distribution of opposition newspapers in Kinshasa 
and in the interior, particularly during the months of March 
and April, when several vendors were beaten and their 
newspapers confiscated.  At the same time, the Government 
prevented six journalists selected to attend a seminar in 
Brazzaville from departing Zaire.

The Government allowed many foreign journalists into Zaire to 
report on developments throughout the year.  However, the local 
human rights group, Voice of the Voiceless, reported that 
several foreign journalists in possession of valid visas were 
either denied entry or had their visas revoked shortly after 
their arrival.  Furthermore, the Mobutu authorities arrested 
two American free lance journalists, forced them to leave Shaba 
province, and held them under house arrest in Kinshasa for 
several days after they made contact with Kasaian political 
figures in Shaba.

Free discussion is generally respected within the university, 
although the right to publish is restricted.  Public 
universities were in operation from January through the end of 
the academic year in September, even though professors were not 
paid during that time.  At year's end, it appeared unlikely 
that the universities would reopen.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The right of the people to assemble peacefully has never been 
firmly established in Zaire.  Under previously existing law, 
the Government requires all organizers of public meetings to 
apply for a permit.  Many opposition parties complained that 
the Mobutu Government continued to deny them permission to hold 
demonstrations.  In July security forces forcibly repressed a 
UDPS party demonstration in Kinshasa, leaving between one and 
five persons dead (See Section 1.a.).  Government troops rioted 
outside of the Catholic Interdiocesan Center February 26; they 
destroyed several vehicles parked there when several members of 
the High Council of the Republic, released from captivity at 
the People's Palace, had gathered to greet the Assembly's 
President Archbishop Monsengwo.  Twenty-one people were 
arrested and several more were injured in early December when 
security forces broke up a series of demonstrations by the 
Lumumbist Palu Party.

A wide range of private organizations concerned with civic and 
other affairs have been free to organize and conduct their 
affairs peacefully, without constraints being imposed upon them 
by the Government.  However, leaders of political parties and 
other groups, most notably human rights organizations, are 
routinely subject to harassment (see Section 4).

     c.  Freedom of Religion

About 50 percent of the population is Catholic, 40 percent 
Protestant and Kimbanguist (a Zairian Christian church), and 5 
percent Muslim.  The remainder profess indigenous or other 
religious beliefs.  There is no legally favored church or 
religion in Zaire, but the Constitution limits religious 
freedom by authorizing the Government to regulate religious 
sects by law.

The 1971 law regulating religious organizations grants to civil 
servants the power to establish or dissolve religious groups.  
Under this law the process for becoming recognized is 
restrictive; however, officially recognized religions are free 
to establish places of worship and to train clergy.  Most 
recognized churches have external ties, and foreign nationals 
are allowed to proselytize.  In a remarkable decision in March, 
the Supreme Court overturned President Mobutu's 1986 order 
banning the Jehovah's Witnesses.  While the Court acknowledged 
that the President had authority to ban the Church under the 
Constitution and laws in force, it held that he had not 
sufficiently specified the dangers to national interests that 
compelled him to ban the group.  The Court ordered the 
Government to pay damages to the Church.  At year's end, the 
Government had not paid the damages, but it had apparently 
ceased persecuting Witnesses.  The Government does not 
generally interfere with foreign proselytizers.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

All citizens, refugees, and permanent residents must carry 
identity cards.  Police and soldiers erect checkpoints on major 
roads to inspect papers.

Passports and exit permits are available, in principle, to all 
citizens (often at exorbitant cost from corrupt officials), but 
the Government has regularly prevented individual travel by 
withholding such documents or by arbitrarily preventing 
departures.  In 1993 human rights groups also reported several 
incidents in which the Government blocked journalists, 
opposition politicians, and human rights monitors from leaving 

Government treatment of refugees has been generally benign and 
asylum has been liberally granted.  (However, disputes over the 
citizenship rights of Rwandan immigrants or their descendants 
appear to be at the root of ethnic disputes in Kivu.)  Most 
refugees in Zaire do not live in camps.  Many have settled in 
already existing Zairian villages and towns, and Angolan 
refugees, especially in Bas Zaire, live in villages they have 
settled.  Two indigenous nongovernmental organizations, the 
Church of Christ of Zaire and the Committee for Intervention 
and Assistance to Refugees, provide assistance in conjunction 
with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 
which maintains an office in Kinshasa.  Doctors Without Borders 
of Belgium serves Angolan refugees in western Shaba province.  
Doctors Without Borders of Holland is assisting Burundian and 
Rwandan refugees in the Kivu region.  As of November, the UNHCR 
estimated there were about 465,000 refugees in Zaire, including 
about 200,000 Angolans, 125,000 Sudanese, and 50,000 Rwandans.  
In October and November, Zaire received an influx of 40,000 
Burundian refugees following an attempted coup and ethnic 
conflict in Burundi.  They are receiving UNHCR assistance.  
There were no known instances of forced repatriation in 1993.

Some 60,000 Zairians have sought asylum in neighboring 
countries.  Prospective returnees are dealt with individually, 
and there is no evidence of discrimination against them.  The 
continual and worsening economic, political, and social crises 
stimulated increasing numbers of asylum requests at Western 
embassies in Kinshasa and abroad.  Most of these Zairians 
seeking asylum have been interviewed by UNHCR and have been 
found to be economic rather than political refugees.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens
           to Change Their Government

The Mobutu regime has never permitted Zairian citizens to 
exercise their right to change their government.  In 1993 
President Mobutu maintained de facto authority over government 
operations through his control of key units of the military and 
the administration, including the central bank, and by 
co-opting as Prime Minister one of the well-known opposition 

He effectively blocked the 2-year program of transition to 
democracy adopted by the Sovereign National Conference in 1992 
in a series of moves:  In January he barred Tskisekedi's 
cabinet members from their offices and named senior civil 
servants as an interim government; in February he prevented the 
functioning of the High Council of the Republic (HCR), the 
highest authority established by the National Conference, by 
having his security forces surround the Peoples' Palace (the 
High Council's seat), and virtually holding hostage the HCR 
members for over 48 hours; in March he announced the formation 
of a new government, headed by Prime Minister Faustin Birindwa, 
a member of UDPS, and reconvened the old National Assembly, 
which was elected under the previous one-party system and whose 
electoral mandate had expired.

Nevertheless, in the face of the President's moves, the 
Tshisekedi Government refused to step down, protesting that 
only the HCR had the authority to dismiss the transitional 
Government, and throughout the year continued to have backing 
from most of the democratic opposition (known as the Holy 
Union) and diplomatic support from the international donor 

Several attempts to negotiate a compromise failed to end the 
impasse.  In March HCR President Monsengwo called for a 
"conclave" to discuss potential resolutions, but he and the 
opposition leaders subsequently decided to boycott the 
conclave, objecting to the lack of security guarantees.  The 
conclave, dominated by Mobutu supporters, then selected Faustin 
Birindwa as Prime Minister.  Negotiations between 
representatives of the conclave and the Holy Union began again 
on September 10, resulting in a draft agreement on the 
institutional framework of the transition.  The accord remains 
unsigned, and on December 3, the Holy Union announced a 
unilateral rupture of its participation in the talks.

There is no official discrimination against the participation 
of women or minorities in politics.  However, the rival 
Tshisekedi and Birindwa Governments each include only 1 woman 
in their 32-member Cabinets, and the indigenous Pygmies living 
in remote areas take little part in the political process.  The 
Pygmies did not participate in the National Conference, but 
their interests were represented and their plight was debated 
in plenary sessions.  The Conference voted that all Pygmies 
should be considered Zairian citizens with full citizenship.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Several nongovernmental Zairian human rights organizations have 
been active in the country since 1990.  These include the 
Zairian League of Human Rights (LIZADHO), the Voice of the 
Voiceless (VSV), the Zairian Association for the Defense of 
Human Rights (AZADHO), the Zairian Elector's League, the Amos 
Group, and the Zairian Prison Fellowship.  All have reported 
and documented human rights abuses and issued reports on the 
Government's attitude regarding its responsibility to protect 
these rights and to meet the basic human needs of the 
population.  Justice Ministry officials threatened AZADHO with 
closure in September on the grounds that some of its branch 
offices were not formally registered; for its part AZADHO notes 
that the organization's applications for legal standing have 
met with unexplained delays.  Representatives of LIZADHO and 
the Voice of the Voiceless, among others deemed politically 
sensitive, were prevented from leaving Zaire in the first half 
of the year.  After several rebuffs, U.N. envoy Darko Silovic 
finally received permission August 22 to lead a 2-week mission 
to assess the need for humanitarian assistance.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Both the Constitution of the Second Republic and that drafted 
by the National Conference forbid discrimination based on 
ethnicity, sex, or religious affiliation.  Despite these 
constitutional provisions, women are in practice relegated to a 
secondary role in Zaire's traditional society.  They are the 
primary farm laborers and small traders and are exclusively 
responsible for childrearing.  In the nontraditional sector, 
women commonly receive less pay for equal work.  Women in Zaire 
tend to receive less education than men; a recent U.N. study 
indicates that females in Zaire receive only one-third of the 
schooling given males.  Although women are represented in the 
professions and the civil service, only rarely do women occupy 
positions that permit them to exercise authority over male 
professionals.  Few have attained positions of high 

Women are required by law to obtain their spouse's permission 
before engaging in routine legal transactions, such as selling 
or renting real estate, opening a bank account, accepting 
employment, or applying for a passport.  A 1987 revision of the 
Family Code permits a widow to inherit her husband's property, 
to control her own property, and to receive a property 
settlement in the event of divorce.

The Government did not address the issues of discrimination and 
domestic violence against women in 1993.  The question of 
domestic violence has generally been ignored by the press and 
human rights groups despite acknowledgment that it occurs and 
may indeed be common.


The sharp decline in public spending--the Government has not 
even published a budget for several years--has had a 
significant impact on programs addressing children's welfare.  
Most schools, for example, only function in areas where parents 
have formed cooperatives to pay teacher salaries.  There are no 
documented cases in which security forces or others target 
children for specific abuse, although children suffer from the 
same conditions of generalized social disorder and widespread 
disregard for human rights that affect society as a whole.

Female genital mutilation (circumcision) is not widespread in 
Zaire, but it is practiced on young females among isolated 
groups in northern Zaire.

     Indigenous People

Discrimination against Zaire's Pygmy population, estimated at 
between 6,000 and 10,000, continues.  There were conflicts over 
land between the nomadic Pygmies and the agrarian populations 
in the Kivu provinces, and such clashes may have resulted in 
some deaths in 1993.  The 1992 National Conference proposed a 
census of the diminishing Pygmy population, with a view toward 
the eventual establishment of territorial reserves.  No further 
action was taken on this measure in 1993, as the political 
impasse blocked most National Conference initiatives.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Zaire's population of about 40 million includes over 200 
separate ethnic groups.  Four indigenous languages have 
national status.  French is the language of government, 
commerce, and education.  Political offices have generally been 
proportionally allocated among the various ethnic groups, but 
members of President Mobutu's Ngbandi ethnic group are 
disproportionately represented at the highest levels of the 
security and intelligence services.  Ngbandi predominate at all 
levels within the Special Presidential Division, the best 
equipped and trained unit of the armed forces.

     People with Disabilities

The Government has not mandated any law or expenditures to 
improve access for the disabled and has not passed legislation 
specifically forbidding discrimination against disabled 
persons.  A network of privately and publicly funded specialty 
schools provide education and vocational training to blind and 
physically disabled students.  These schools, however, suffer 
from the same critical funding shortfalls that have devastated 
the educational system as a whole.  Continued economic decline 
and a consequent dearth of investment in roads, sidewalks, 
public buildings, and transportation has rendered public 
facilities increasingly inaccessible to everyone, regardless of 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right of workers to form and join trade unions is provided 
for in the Constitution and in legislation, but there are two 
exceptions.  Magistrates and other employees of the judicial 
system are governed by a statute which stipulates that they may 
not create their own union.  In addition, all military 
personnel (including gendarmes or the national police) are 
subject to a statute which states that they, too, cannot 
establish a union.

Before April 1990, all trade unions were required by statute to 
affiliate with the National Union of Zairian Workers (UNTZA), 
the single legally recognized labor confederation which was an 
integral part of the only political party then allowed, 
President Mobutu's the Popular Movement for the Revolution 
(MPR).  After April 24, 1990, when political pluralism was 
permitted, the UNTZA disaffiliated itself from the MPR and 
reorganized under new leadership chosen through elections 
deemed fair by outside observers.  Other independent labor 
unions and nascent confederations emerged in the ensuing 
months, most of which organized along occupational or party 
lines.  Some of these have antecedents which existed in the 
early years of Zaire's independence.  Between 80 to 85 such 
organizations are now officially registered with the Labor 
Ministry, although many exist only on paper.  

Among some of the more prominent union centrals are UNTZA, 
considered relatively independent of the MPR since its latest 
internal elections; Organization of United Zairian Workers 
(OTUZ), which is directed by the former pro-MPR leaders of 
UNTZA; the Democratic Confederation of Labor (CDT), which 
includes the two major public employees unions and is 
associated with the opposition UDPS party; and the pro-PDSC 
(Social Democrat) Union Central of Zaire (CZA).

The rapid contraction of the Zairian economy in the last 3 
years has decimated the formal (wage earning) sector of the 
economy.  According to one estimate, only 1 million of Zaire's 
40 million population held wage-paying jobs at the end of 1992; 
the figure was probably lower at the end of 1993.  Although 
there are no reliable statistics, it is probably safe to assume 
that most of the rest of the population, with the exception of 
the very young or the very old, is engaged in productive but 
nonwage earning activity.  Most of these nonwage workers are 
employed in subsistence agriculture; in urban areas, many are 
employed in small-scale retailing, services, or workshops.  
UNTZA, still the largest labor confederation in terms of 
membership, claims about 300,000 members.  Traditionally, the 
bulk of unionized jobs have been clustered in urban or 
mineral-producing areas and are concentrated in key economic 
sectors such as ports and transportation, mining, large-scale 
manufacturing, and the public sector.  These sectors, and their 
corresponding unions, have been among the hardest hit in the 
ongoing economic contraction.

The right to strike is recognized in Zairian law; however, 
"legal" strikes rarely occur since the law requires prior 
resort to lengthy mandatory arbitration and appeal procedures.  
Labor unions have not effectively defended the rights of 
workers in the deteriorating economic environment.  The wildcat 
strikes against the Matadi Port and the quasi-legal strike 
against the Onatra Transportation Company ended with negotiated 
wage increases; a legal strike against the Zaire SEP Petroleum 
Products Distribution Company, however, ended with the firing 
of several workers.  Public employees, most of whom were unpaid 
for a period ranging from 9 to 12 months, were on strike 
legally for most of the year.  The Vice President of the 
Dinafet Public Employees Union was arrested and held for 2 
months on charges of "inciting revolt" after he called on 
public employees to demonstrate to protest the nonpayment of 
their salaries.

UNTZA participates actively in the Organization of African 
Trade Union Unity, and the Confederation of Zairian Syndicates 
(CSZ) is affiliated with the World Confederation of Labor 
(WLC).  Several other confederations have expressed an interest 
in an affiliation with the International Confederation of Free 
Trade Unions (ICFTU).  The Konrad Adenaur and Fredrich Ebert 
Foundations administer trade union programs.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Legislation provides for the right to bargain collectively, and 
an agreement between the UNTZA and the Employers Association 
(ANEZA) provided for wages and prices to be negotiated jointly 
each year under minimal government supervision.  This system, 
which functioned until 1991, broke down as a result of the 
rapid depreciation of Zaire's national currency and has not 
been replaced by an alternative system.  Continuing 
hyperinflation has encouraged a return to pay rates 
individually arranged between employers and employees; 
collective bargaining still exists, at most, on the level of 
the individual enterprise.  Economic deterioration has also 
resulted in a decline in the influence of unions, a tendency to 
ignore existing labor regulations, and a buyer's market for 
labor.  The Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination, 
although this regulation is not strongly enforced.  The 
Government has not yet promulgated modifications to the Labor 
Code that would strengthen provisions safeguarding the right to 
form unions and to bargain collectively.  In the public sector, 
wages are established by decree, with public sector unions 
acting only in an informal advisory capacity.

There are no export processing zones in Zaire.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by law in Zaire and is not 
practiced.  However, the International Labor Organization's 
(ILO) Committee of Experts (COE) in 1993 continued to express 
concern about Zairian laws dating to 1971 and 1976 requiring 
able-bodied citizens not otherwise employed to perform 
agricultural and development work as determined by the 
Government and providing for imprisonment with compulsory labor 
for persons determined to be delinquent on tax payments. These 
laws have not been enforced in recent years.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age for employment is 18 years.  Minors 14 
years and older may be employed legally with the consent of a 
parent or guardian.  Employment of children of all ages is 
common in the informal economic sector and in subsistence 
agriculture.  Neither the Ministry of Labor, which is 
responsible for enforcement, nor the labor unions make an 
effort to enforce child labor laws.  Larger enterprises do not 
commonly exploit child labor.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Most Zairians are engaged in subsistence agriculture or 
commerce outside the formal wage sector.  The minimum wage, 
last adjusted by government decree in 1990, became totally 
irrelevant as high inflation continued throughout 1993.  Most 
workers relied on the extended family and informal economic 
activity to survive.

The maximum legal workweek (excluding voluntary overtime) is 48 
hours.  One 24-hour rest period is required every 7 days.  The 
Labor Code specifies health and safety standards.

The Ministry of Labor is officially charged with enforcement of 
these standards.  However, in 1993 the COE expressed concern 
about the inadequacy of reporting during the previous 3 years, 
blaming this unsatisfactory performance on the dearth of human 
and material resources provided to the Ministry.  There are no 
provisions in the Labor Code permitting workers to remove 
themselves from dangerous work situations without penalty.

[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.