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Vol 38 No 10

Published 9th May 1997


New fingers on Zaïre's trigger

Ending Mobutuism has divided Africa and its allies; the new government will need broad-based support to move ahead

The shape of Africa resembles a revolver, wrote Algeria's Franz Fanon, 'and Zaïre is the trigger'. Over 30 years after Fanon's assessment, new fingers are on the trigger but the analogy holds true. The future of Zaïre is the most important question for Africa since the end of apartheid in South Africa. With nine neighbours and more than twice the size of France and Germany combined, Zaïre is Africa's third largest state. An effective government in Kinshasa accepting the devolution of power to Zaïre's regions could help rebuild the national and regional economy. It is also key to resolving conflicts in Rwanda, Burundi and Angola and, if it brings trade and investment, could help stabilise the shaky governments across Africa's midriff. Conversely, continuing economic decay and dictatorship would open the region's frail state system to more conflict and instability, fanning the flames of rebellion across the Zaïre River through Congo-Brazzaville up to West Africa.

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