Zaire (/zɑːˈɪər/, also UK: /zˈɪər/), officially the Republic of Zaire (French: République du Zaïre, [ʁepyblik dy zaiʁ]), was a Congolese state from 1971 to 1997 in Central Africa that was previously and is now again known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Zaire was, by area, the third-largest country in Africa (after Sudan and Algeria), and the 11th-largest country in the world. With a population of over 23 million inhabitants, Zaire was the most-populous officially Francophone country in Africa, as well as one of the most populous in Africa.

Republic of Zaire[lower-alpha 1]
République du Zaïre (French)
Repubilika ya Zaïre (Kituba)
Republíki ya Zaïre (Lingala)
Jamhuri ya Zaïre (Swahili)
Ditunga dia Zaïre (Luba-Lulua)
Motto: Paix — Justice — Travail[1]  
"Peace — Justice — Work"
Anthem: La Zaïroise
"The Song of Zaire"
and largest city
Kinshasa[lower-alpha 2]
4°19′S 15°19′E
Official languagesFrench
Recognised national languages
Ethnic groups
See Ethnic groups section below
GovernmentUnitary Mobutist one-party[lower-alpha 4] presidential republic under a totalitarian military dictatorship
Mobutu Sese Seko
Prime Minister 
 1977–1979 (first)
Mpinga Kasenda
 1997 (last)
Likulia Bolongo
LegislatureLegislative Council
Historical eraCold War
24 November 1965
 Country renamed
27 October 1971
15 August 1974
16 May 1997
 Death of Mobutu
7 September 1997
2,345,409 km2 (905,567 sq mi)
 Water (%)
GDP (nominal)1983 estimate
$83 billion[2]
HDI (1990 formula)0.294[6]
CurrencyZaïre (ZRN)
Time zoneUTC+1 to +2 (WAT and CAT)
Driving sideright
Calling code+243
ISO 3166 codeZR
Internet TLD.zr
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Today part ofDemocratic Republic of the Congo
  1. Renamed from "Democratic Republic of the Congo" (République démocratique du Congo) on 27 October 1971.
  2. Changed from Léopoldville in 1966.
  3. The term "Kikongo" in the Constitution was actually referring to the Kituba language – which is known as Kikongo ya leta by its speakers – not the Kongo language proper. The confusion arose from the fact that the government of the Zaire officially recognized and referred to the language simply as "Kikongo".
  4. Zaire became a de jure one-party state on 23 December 1970,[3] but had been a de facto one-party state since 20 May 1967, the date on which the MPR (Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution) was established. Zaire formally adopted a multiparty system on 24 April 1990,[4] when Mobutu delivered a speech proclaiming the end of the one-party system. The country adopted a three-party system de jure with the enactment of Law No. 90-002 of 5 July 1990, which amended its constitution accordingly, but retained the one-party system of the MPR de facto.[citation needed]

The country was a one-party totalitarian military dictatorship, run by Mobutu Sese Seko and his ruling Popular Movement of the Revolution party. Zaire was established following Mobutu's seizure of power in a military coup in 1965, following five years of political upheaval following independence from Belgium known as the Congo Crisis. Zaire had a strongly centralist constitution, and foreign assets were nationalized. The period is sometimes referred to as the Second Congolese Republic.

A wider campaign of Authenticité, ridding the country of the influences from the colonial era of the Belgian Congo, was also launched under Mobutu's direction. Weakened by the termination of American support after the end of the Cold War, Mobutu was forced to declare a new republic in 1990 to cope with demands for change. By the time of its downfall, Zaire was characterised by widespread cronyism, corruption and economic mismanagement.

Zaire collapsed in the 1990s, amid the destabilization of the eastern parts of the country in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and growing ethnic violence. In 1996, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the head of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) militia, led a popular rebellion against Mobutu. With rebel forces successfully making gains westward, Mobutu fled the country, leaving Kabila's forces in charge as the country restored its name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo the following year, and he died less than four months later while in exile in Morocco.

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