Shaba I

Shaba I was a conflict in Zaire's Shaba (Katanga) Province lasting from March 8 to May 26, 1977. The conflict began when the Front for the National Liberation of the Congo (FNLC), a group of about 2,000 Katangan Congolese soldiers who were veterans of the Congo Crisis, the Angolan War of Independence, and the Angolan Civil War, crossed the border into Shaba from Angola. The FNLC made quick progress through the region because of the sympathizing locals and the disorganization of the Zairian military (Forces Armées Zaïroises, or FAZ). Travelling east from Zaire's border with Angola, the rebels reached Mutshatsha, a small town near the key mining town of Kolwezi.

Shaba I
Part of the Shaba Invasions and the Cold War

Zairian troops with a beret-wearing Moroccan military advisor
DateMarch 8 – May 26, 1977 (2 months, 2 weeks and 4 days)

Zairian victory

  • FNLC expelled from Shaba

Supported by:

Front for the National Liberation of the Congo (FNLC)
Supported by:

Commanders and leaders
Mobutu Sese Seko
Mampa Ngakwe Salamay
Anwar El-Sadat
Abdelkader Loubaris[7]
Hamidou Laanigri[8]
Ahmed Dlimi[9][10]
Leo Tindemans
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
Nathaniel Mbumba
1,300[1]–1,500 paratroopers
50 Pilots and Technicians[12]
20-65 soldiers[1]
80 soldiers[1]
1,600–3,000 FNLC fighters
Casualties and losses
8 killed[7]
Katanga Province, renamed by Mobutu in 1972 as Shaba Province because of its copper wealth

Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko accused Angola, East Germany,[6] Cuba and the Soviet Union of sponsoring the rebels. Motivated by anticommunism and by economic interests, both the Western Bloc and China sent assistance to support the Mobutu regime. The most significant intervention, orchestrated by the Safari Club, featured a French airlift of Moroccan troops into the war zone. The intervention turned the tide of the conflict.[13] US President Jimmy Carter approved the shipment of supplies to Zaire but refused to send weapons or troops and maintained that there was no evidence of Cuban involvement.

The FAZ terrorized the population of the province during and after the war. Bombing and other acts of violence led 50,000 to 70,000 refugees to flee into Angola and Zambia. Journalists were prevented from entering the province, and several were arrested. However, Mobutu won a public relations victory and ensured continuing economic assistance from governments, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and a group of private lenders led by Citibank.

The FAZ and outside powers clashed again with insurgents in a 1978 conflict, Shaba II.

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