Today in history… September 7, 1997… Congo/Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, died in exile in Morocco, from prostate cancer.
On film, you’ll find Mobutu (played by Alex Descas) in Raoul Peck’s 2000 film, Lumumba – the story of the rise to power and brutal assassination of the formerly vilified and later redeemed leader of independent Congo, Patrice Lumumba – a film that’s been previously mentioned on this blog. Mobutu isn’t prominently featured, as it is Lumumba’s story; the film ends with Mobutu seizing power and taking control of the region, on September 14, 1960, in a coup backed by the American CIA (Lumumba was eventually assassinated, as the film shows).
He renamed the country Zaire, and thus began his 30-year long totalitarian reign of violence, repression, and corruption, as he became one of the richest and most feared men in the world.
Also worth noting is that Mobutu also was instrumental in bringing the famous Rumble in the Jungle fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman to Zaire on October 30, 1974. According to the documentary When We Were Kings, Mobutu, wanting to improve on the image of his nation, put up the $10 million prize money, as promised to the fighters by promoter Don King.
Mobutu was also the subject of the three-part 1999 documentary titled, Mobutu, King of Zaire by Thierry Michel. I couldn’t find it on any mainstream movie rental or purchase sites. Although, you can buy it used, via Amazon’s marketplace.
Here’s its trailer: