Here we see Mobutu’s first depiction on the canvas as an earnest looking young journalist turned party activist, standing right at the back of the Congolese nationalists, a position that reflects his stature at the time. Joseph-Désiré Mobutu had only recently joined Patrice Lumumba’s Mouvement National Congolais party, working as Lumumba’s secretary during the 1960 roundtable talks on Congolese independence in Brussels. His name does not feature in the press coverage at the time, in archive footage he is only briefly visible. None could have predicted that this would be the man to take total power in the Congo and reshape the country in his image.
In this essay we are discussing how Mobutu practiced power in the Congo and how this was received by Congolese people. To do so we are following the historic path Mobutu walked as drawn by Sapin Makengele. This means that we will cover the points that Sapin Makengele thought were worth drawing. We will cover who Mobutu was after the Congo gained independence from Belgium and how he seized the power of the Congo and how he would govern the country through the creation of Authenticité and Mobutisme. We will explore Mobutu’s approach to legitimation politics during his time in power.
To get an impression of how Mobutu was perceived by Congolese people, we will be analysing the works of art by three different artists. Of course, these three artists do not represent the entire Congolese population. It is also worth noting that we kept in mind that art is subjective and that everyone interprets art in their own way. Nevertheless, we believe that our analyses may offer a glimpse into the perception of Mobutu at least some Congolese people have.