Congo, Democratic Republic of the (Formerly Zaïre)
King Leopold II of the Belgians took the lead in exploring and exploiting the Congo Basin. In 1908 the country was annexed to Belgium as the Belgian Congo. After gaining independence in June 1960, the country’s name was changed to Zaïre in 1971. Mobutu Sésé Séko came to power in a coup in 1965. At first he was seen as a strongman who could hold together a huge, unstable country comprising hundreds of tribes and language groups. In the 1970s he was feted by the USA which used Zaïre as a springboard for operations into neighbouring Angola where western-backed Unita rebels were locked in civil war with a Cuban and Soviet backed government. Because Mobutu was useful in the fight against Communism the brutality and repressiveness of his regime was ignored.
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