Leading up to the 1984 presidential elections, the Congolese government sponsored a Franco record that was meant to raise support for Mobutu.[1]The record contains only a single song, which – with its exceptionable length of 26 minutes – fills both sides of the LP. “Candidat na biso Mobutu”, as the Lingala song is called, was composed by Franco and performed by him and O.K. Jazz. The front of the LP sleeve shows a characteristic picture of Mobutu: he wears an abacost, a leopard-skin toque and raises his walking stick. The back of the sleeve contains a text in French by Sakombi Inongi, the Minister of information, mobilisation, propaganda and animation politique. This text praises Mobutu as a “clairvoyant Guide” and explains that the record is intended to raise support for Mobutu’s re-election.

The beginning of the song addresses the people of Zaire and urges them to publicly support Mobutu’s candidacy:

Zairean women and men
Go to the streets
Spread yourself in the zones
Shout loud like thunder
For the Marshall’s candidacy
Mobutu Sese Seko[2]

Similar statements to mobilise the people will recur throughout the song. There is, however, a refrain that returns at various moments in the song and which does not only spur people to vote for Mobutu, but also alerts them to the existence of people who are not loyal to Mobutu, who are referred to as “sorcerers”:

Our candidate, Mobutu Sese
Our candidate, Mobutu Sese, Mobutu
God sent you eh
Central committee watch out for sorcerers
Their provocations have not stopped

After you vote for him again
Look one another in the eyes
Mobutu, sorcerers are still there

By alerting the listener to the existence of people disloyal to Mobutu, the song promotes a form of active social control. This can, furthermore, also be understood as a warning to those who did not support Mobutu. After all, other listeners of the song have also heard this message and they will be alert to people who possibly are disloyal to Mobutu. As these two strophes recur thirteen times throughout the song, their twofold message is hard to neglect. They, on the one hand, present Mobutu as “our candidate”, creating a sense of community, and as God-given. On the other hand, there is this focus on “sorcerers”, both warning those loyal to Mobutu and those critical of his rule.

An important theme in the song is the sense of national unity that Mobutu supposedly brought to the country. Frequently, this national feeling is combined with the vastness of Zaire to underline the scale of Mobutu’s achievements:

Shout, shout the name Mobutu
It will cost you nothing
Mobutu restored national unity
Travel all over Zaire
Speak in any language
There is no one who will question you
Was it like this in the past?
This is the good feeling of national unity

The message of these lines seems to be that people all over Zaire support Mobutu. It is striking that the song claims that Mobutu “restored” national unity (Lingala: zongisa), but asks in the same verse: “Was it like this in the past?” Hence, the song both evokes the presumed historicity of Zairean national unity – Mobutu brought restoration rather than revolution – but also hints at the progress supposedly achieved by Mobutu. Later in the song, the vastness and the modernity of the country are underlined by references to various means of transport: buses, cars, trains and ships, but also airplanes, which hint at the supposed modernity of Zaire.

The sense of national unity and pride of the country is supplemented by a distrust of foreign interference. Foreign praise for Zaire may hide economic motives that lay at the basis of a feigned fondness for Zaire:

Zairean people, no one should deceive you
There is nobody who can love Zaire more than you
If you see someone who claims to love your country
Ask him where he came from
Maybe he is interested in getting minerals:
Cobalt and copper in Shaba;
The MIBA diamond Mbuji-Mayi;
Oil in Bas Zaire

Of course, the fact that foreign investors may be interested in Zaire’s natural resources shows not merely that the people of Zaire should be careful when talking to foreigners who are interested in their country. It also shows that the people of Zaire can be proud of the natural resources of the country. Foreign investors may, after all, be interested in these resources. Once again, the message of the song is twofold: It warns, but it also instils pride.

One area of life which may hamper national unity is religion. Hence, the song addresses the religious diversity of Zaire. It catalogues various religions and denominations and implores these to pray for divine approval of Mobutu’s candidacy:

Ask, ask God
Mobutu for our candidate
Catholics and Muslim Kibanguists
Our candidate is Mobutu
Protestants, Maikari, Salvation Army
Bima ya-Mpeve Longo
Our candidate is Mobutu
Pray God to prolong his days
So he stays and rescues Zaire

“Candidat na biso Mobutu” is a song that clearly seems to be intended to raise support for Mobutu’s candidacy. The fact that it was sponsored by the government and approved by the Minister responsible for information and propaganda shows how music was used by the Zairean government to unite the country and, in a somewhat subtler way, also to warn critics not to openly criticise Mobutu. The lyrics of the song, moreover, show how music can be used to support political aims. In this case, the supposed richness, modernity and unity of Congo are stressed, while possible divisions, such as religious diversity, are downplayed, since all religions are supposed to be unified in their support for Mobutu.

[1]White, Rumba Rules, 81.

[2]The lyrics of the song and the English translation have been taken from http://kenyapage.net/commentary/songs/candidat-na-biso-mobutu-by-franco-lyrics-and-translation/(accessed 31 January 2019). We have made a few minor changes in the English translation, but only where this improves its readability. A slightly different translation can be found at https://lingalainstitute.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/candidat-na-biso-mobutu-by-franco-luambo-makiadi-english-translation/(accessed 31 January 2019).