Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1991

President Mobutu Sese Seko, having ruled Zaire for 26 years,
has molded a highly personalized and centralized governmental
system. Until 1990 his Popular Movement of the Revolution
(MPR) was the sole legal party, and all government institutions
were considered its organs. Faced with rising popular
dissatisfaction, he announced in April 1990 the beginning of
democratic reform that would lead to a new constitution and
three-party elections. However, opposition discontent
continued and resulted in the President's acceptance of less
restricted pluralism. By the end of 1991, approximately 300
political parties had registered. Many of the new parties, it
was charged, were created at the instigation of the Government
itself to divide the opposition.
During this period, the opposition also pressured President
Mobutu into accepting a National Conference (NC) which,
following a series of postponements, was convened in August.
From the start, the NC was stymied by boycotts and by
widespread suspicion of delegate-rigging and rules
manipulation. In September an army mutiny and civil riots
followed by countrywide disturbances exacerbated the sense of
governmental crisis. Attempts to organize an opposition-led
coalition government were aborted when President Mobutu
dismissed Prime Minister-designate Etienne Tshisekedi. The
latter refused to acknowledge Mobutu's 1974 Constitution.
Following the dissolution of a short-lived administration under
Prime Minister Bernard Mungul Diaka, President Mobutu named
Nguz A Karl-I-Bond Prime Minister. At year's end, serious
doubt existed as to the ability of the Nguz Government to lead
the country and about the willingness of President Mobutu to
cooperate with opposition forces in solving the governmental
crisis. The National Conference, which had been suspended,
reconvened in December, but it is unclear to what extent it
will be allowed to exercise sovereignty and chart the political
future of Zaire.
In addition to the armed security forces (including "elite"
units, such as the Special Presidential Division-DSP), security
services include the National Service for Intelligence and
Protection (SNIP), the Military Intelligence and Security
Service (SARM), the Civil Guard, and the National Gendarmerie.
The Gendarmerie, while a branch of the military, is charged
with providing basic police services in the absence of national
or local police forces. Elements from virtually all of these
forces engaged in looting during the mutinies in September and
October. As a result of these incidents, there remained
serious questions as to what de facto or de jure chain of
command existed within the armed forces. All of these
agencies, along with the armed forces' DSP, were employed to
quell internal dissent and were responsible for human rights
abuses, including arbitrary harassment, physical mistreatment,
and unauthorized detention. There are unconfirmed reports of a
secret, special operations force (see Section l.b.). While
human rights guidelines were issued to the security forces in
1990, there has been no discernible improvement in their
observance of human rights.
Zaire's mixed economy has been stagnant for an extended period
owing to crumbling infrastructure, mismanagement, capital
depletion in the state-owned corporations, and official
corruption. In 1991 export earnings declined precipitously.
The inflation rate at the end of the year was almost 4,000
percent, and annual per capita income had fallen to less than
$100. The September 23-24 riots included systematic looting
and ransacking of commercial and industrial sites, thus
undermining investor confidence and resulting in the loss of at
least 100,000 wage-paying jobs in the Kinshasa area alone.
Human rights in Zaire remained seriously restricted in 1991.
As in previous years, Zairians remained subject to arbitrary
detention and physical mistreatment. The justice system was
crippled by political interference, a shortage of trained
personnel, and a prolonged magistrates' strike. Despite
increased openness in the political dialog, politically
motivated violence and harassment continued. In early
September, Kinshasa party offices of two opposition parties,
the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and the
Union of Federalists and Independent Republicans (UFERI), were
attacked in separate incidents, resulting in loss of life,
multiple injuries, and property damage. During the violence of
September 23-24 and subsequent rioting in October, a large
share of looting and plundering was carried out by security
forces. Although over 1,000 military personnel and deserters
were subsequently arrested by authorities, security personnel
nonetheless have continued to victimize and dispossess private
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Zairian security forces have often employed excessive force in
responding to public demonstrations. Protests by the political
opposition and others opposed to conditions in Zaire have
frequently resulted in loss of life; the frequency of these
incidents and the rarity of disciplinary action indicate that
the use of excessive and lethal force is condoned by the
Controversy continues to surround the University of Lubumbashi
incident of May 1990, in which masked commandos assaulted
students in a nighttime raid and inflicted an unknown number of
deaths and injuries. The Government resisted an independent
inquiry to determine the actual number of casualties or fully
identify the perpetrators. The Government eventually
acknowledged that one student had been killed (independent
estimates vary widely, with some alleging over 100 deaths). As
a result of the official government investigation, 15
government officials were brought to trial in March 1991 on
charges ranging from murder to failure to assist persons in
danger. In May the Zairian Supreme Court handed down
convictions for 10 of the 15, including the former governor of
Shaba, Kogalialo Ngbase (sentenced to 15 years for murder),
former regional commander Lokiyo (12 years), former
documentation officer Uba (10 years), and former immigration
officer Gata (13 years). A student activist, Digekisa Piluka,
was also tried in the same proceeding but escaped detention and
fled to asylum in Belgium prior to his conviction and
sentencing to 13 years and 6 months in prison. Despite these
convictions, the extent of the involvement of security forces
in the Lubumbashi attack has not been and may never be
adequately addressed, leaving considerable question as to
whether all those responsible have been brought to account.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) was
permitted to send an investigator to conduct a closely
monitored 1-day inquiry. The UNHRC Report has not yet been
Several additional incidents of violent suppression of protest
or unrest occurred during 1991. In the Shaba region community
of Luena, seven persons were killed and six wounded in a
confrontation with gendarmes on July 16. The victims had
assembled at Gendarmerie headquarters to protest the arrest
hours earlier of a member of the youthwing of UFERI . Although
Gendarmerie officials later claimed to have fired into the
crowd in self-defense and insisted they had been faced with a
well-armed mob, these claims are widely disputed by credible
On September 2, Civil Guard troops and gendarmes responded with
lethal force to disperse opposition party militants who had
formed a march and blocked streets to protest stalemate at the
National Conference. At least two persons were killed in the
random gunfire employed by security forces. Gendarmerie troops
also invaded a UDPS office on the same afternoon, wounding two
persons, one fatally, in the ensuing melee.
      b. Disappearance
Reports of disappearance in Zaire are frequent but, by their
nature, difficult to verify. There is widespread belief among
the Kinshasa population that security forces employ short-term
abduction as a means to intimidate the population. Following
disturbances in Kinshasa, on December 3, 1990, human rights
groups reported the disappearance of some 170 young activists
who had taken part in the protests. While many of these were
later released, as many as 50 were still in government custody
in February 1991 without having been formally charged.
Similarly, after the 1990 Lubumbashi assault, there were
reports of missing students. Many of these students were
subsequently accounted for. However, as the incident has never
been adequately investigated to the satisfaction of independent
observers, it has been impossible to ascertain whether any of
the students remain missing.
The independent press, human rights observers, and private
citizens attributed mysterious disappearances during the year
to a secret special operations force, allegedly formed within
the security services, with the mission of carrying out
abductions and other forms of intimidation. The existence of
the unit, popularly known as "Les Hiboux" (the owls—a name
shared by a unit of the DSP) has not been acknowledged by the
Government in any context or otherwise verified.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Torture is forbidden by Zairian law, and its use is proscribed
by official policy. However, it is common for security
personnel to employ beating and other forms of mistreatment in
routine criminal interrogations. As noted above,
disproportionate force is frequently used to disperse public
demonstrations. One of the most unusual reports of cruel
treatment in 1991 involved the use by security forces in April
of an apparently modified water cannon to spray scalding water
on demonstrators in the Limete district of Kinshasa. Doctors
at Kinshasa Mama Yemo hospital reported dozens of admissions
for water-burn treatment following the incident.
Private citizens continue to be beaten and robbed by security
officials. Security personnel were reported to have taken
advantage of a curfew imposed following the September 23-24
disturbances to enter private homes and remove occupants'
belongings. Reports of physical abuse and robbery by security
personnel have persisted since the lifting of the curfew.
Prisons in Zaire are primitive, ill-equipped, underfinanced,
and overcrowded. Illness and malnutrition constitute the most
immediate threat to the well-being of inmates. In July the
national radio service broadcast a report indicating that
prisoners in the Bandundu central prison had not been provided
with food or medical care for the previous 2 months and that
"many" had died as a result.
The human rights organization Voice of the Voiceless (VSV) , in
a report issued in January, cited deteriorating conditions in
prisons across the country as a cause of increased prisoner
morbidity. VSV reported that, in a 2-week period during
November 1990, 10 deaths were recorded in Makala prison in
Kinshasa and 51 in Kassapa and Bolono prisons in Lubumbashi,
mainly due to poor nutrition and primitive conditions. In May
the Zairian League of Human Rights (LZDH) noted that Makala
prison had been unable to provide food to prisoners for a
period of 5 consecutive days during that month and alleged that
"several" prisoners had died each day during the period. The
LZDH report also cited the lack of medical treatment at Makala
and reported that at least 42 prisoners were in urgent need of
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Under Zairian law, a warrant is not required for the arrest of
a suspect for a crime punishable by more than 6 months
imprisonment. Any law enforcement officer having the status of
"judicial police officer" is empowered to authorize arrest.
This status is vested in senior officers of each of the
security services. The law also provides that arrestees must
be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours for a hearing.
If sufficient grounds for arrest are presented, the magistrate
may order continued detention for an initial period of 15 days,
followed by renewable 30-day periods.
In practice, these safeguards against arbitrary detention have
not had a significant effect, and long periods of detention
without recourse to due process or judicial review are common.
Judicial oversight of detention centers is mandated by law but
is largely nonexistent. This chronic shortcoming, due in part
to a lack of personnel and material infrastructure, was
exacerbated by a magistrates strike in May over inflationravaged
wages and poor working conditions (see Section I.e.).
National Security Council guidelines issued in 1990 to end
unlawful and incommunicado detentions and the practice of
internal exile await implementation and thus have had minimal
impact on security force behavior. While military judicial
procedures carry roughly the same legal safeguards as those
provided for civilians, these too are frequently disregarded.
Traditionally, persons detained for political reasons have been
held by nonjudicial means such as administrative detention,
house arrest, or internal exile. These cases are rarely
brought to trial.
Long periods of incarceration without trial (or even charges
being filed) are common for many detainees. In May the LZDH
reported that it had identified 91 prisoners in Makala prison
who had been held for 1 year or more without charge. In the
same report, it cited 116 cases where inmates recommended for
conditional release by the authorities nonetheless remained in
As many political detainees are held for only short periods, it
is impossible to determine the actual number of political
detainees or prisoners at any given moment. Although the
National Security Council, in its 1990 reform declaration,
acknowledged the existence of political detainees for the first
time, the Government has never provided an accounting of the
extent of the practice.
Internal exile appears to be losing favor as a means of
detention—there were no known new cases in 1990 or 1991.
Also, in mid-1991 former army chief of staff General Mukobo
Mudende was released from a 1987 banishment order restricting
him to the remote village of Isangi.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judiciary is not independent of the executive branch and
has been consistently responsive to priorities and objectives
set by the Government and the Presidency.
The capacity of the judicial system to deliver fair and
impartial justice in civil and criminal disputes has been
further compromised by a longstanding pattern of corruption and
intimidation by central government authorities, especially in
politically sensitive cases and those involving property «nd
labor disputes. These limitations of the system were
compounded in 1991 by the magistrates' strike which placed the
courts in a state of general paralysis, effectively eliminating
them as an avenue of recourse for most citizens. Magistrates
continued to perform duties in cases deemed important and
operated a duty officer system to provide minimal court
functions but otherwise largely ceased to perform their
duties. The strike ended in December, but the conditions
giving rise to it remained largely unresolved at year's end.
The Zairian legal system is based on Belgian and customary
law. It includes the district courts, appellate courts in each
region, the Supreme Court, and the Court of State Security.
While most cases are initiated at the local level, charges of
misconduct filed against "high officials" (e.g., ministers and
governors) are taken directly to the Supreme Court.
The Constitution provides defendants with the right to a public
trial and defense counsel. The right of appeal is provided in
all cases except for national security, armed robbery, and
smuggling cases adjudicated by the Court of State Security.
When a defendant is unable to afford his own lawyer, the law
provides for court-appointed defense counsel at state expense
in capital cases, all proceedings before the Supreme Court, and
other cases where requested by the court concerned. In
practice, these guarantees are applied unevenly at best. Many
defendants may never meet counsel or, if so, only after months
of detention and interrogation. With only 500 lawyers and 600
magistrates in all of Zaire, the modern legal system is unable
to meet the country's judicial needs, even when functioning
effectively. The majority of legal disputes in Zaire are,
therefore, adjudicated by local administrative officials or
traditional authorities with predictably varying compliance
with acceptable procedure. The Ministry of Citizens' Rights
and Liberties, created in 1986 to act as the ultimate guarantor
of human rights in Zaire, had virtually no impact as a watchdog
against human rights abuses and focused instead on industrial
and property conflicts and civil disputes. It was absorbed by
the Ministry of Justice in 1991.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
While the law requires security forces to have a warrant prior
to searching a home, security forces in practice enter and
search private homes at will. The privacy of homes and offices
of political opposition leaders is routinely violated (see
Section 2 . b . ).
In the aftermath of the nationwide urban rioting and looting of
late September-October 1991, security forces entered the homes
of private citizens under the guise of seeking recovery of
stolen goods and seized personal possessions for their own use.
Although it is widely believed that Zairian security services
open private mail and tap telephone conversations, these
practices have not been documented.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
These rights suffered serious setbacks in 1991. While the
Constitution provides for the citizen's right to express
opinions and feelings freely, these rights are subordinate to
"public order and good conduct." Until the recent past, these
limitations had a chilling effect on public discourse.
Beginning in 1990, the limits of political dialog and debate
expanded considerably. Although the broadcast media remained
under government control, an energetic free press emerged in
Kinshasa and, to a lesser extent, in other cities. Over a
dozen independent newspapers in Kinshasa began aggressively
reporting on national and international events.
The sincerity of President Mobutu's commitment to democratic
reform, his personal finances, governing style, and 26-year
record in power were the frequent targets of scrutiny by the
independent press. The views of opposition party leaders and
democratic reformers were openly discussed and debated.
The impact of an independent press, however, was largely
limited to Kinshasa. Distribution to the interior is severely
limited by transportation and other obstacles, and very few
papers leave the city limits. Moreover, the security services
blocked wider distribution in the interior, in some cases, by
buying up any surplus copies which may have been available for
distribution by air.
The Government's tolerance of print medium independence
diminished in 1991. There were serious incidents of harassment
of editors and publishers, apparently with the intent of
influencing treatment of the news through intimidation.
Security forces vandalized the offices of several Kinshasa
newspapers and detained and held for interrogation members of
their staffs.
The most concerted intimidation effort was directed against
editor Essolomwa Khoy and the staff of Elima, a Kinshasa daily
which was arguably the most professionally run- paper in the
country and also a harsh critic of President Mobutu.
Essolomwa, who had been arrested in 1990, was arrested again in
May 1991 after having published an article critical of the
conduct of the 'Zairian armed forces in Rwanda. On October 16,
uniform-clad persons ransacked Elima offices and started a
fire. Essolomwa vowed to continue publishing, but on October
27 the Elima press room was completely destroyed by a massive
explosion of unexplained origin. In the aftermath, many
smaller independent papers vanished temporarily because print
shops did not want to risk servicing them.
Radio and television, the only media which are capable of
reaching nationwide audiences, remain under the control of the
Government. Nightly newscasts report government activities in
the most favorable light and, with some short-lived exceptions,
assume a proregime and pro-Mobutu slant when reporting on
controversial subjects. Perhaps in reaction to the
liberalizing trends in the print sector early in the year, some
individual broadcast journalists attempted to sway policy at
the Office of Zairian Radio and Television (OZRT) toward more
liberal treatment of the news. OZRT increased, albeit
meagerly, its presentation of alternative views in radio and
television broadcasts in 1991, broadcasting in July a two-part
debate focused on the planned National Conference. During the
aborted October effort to forge a coalition government, parties
aligned against the MPR received increased coverage on nightly
In the confusion surrounding the foreclosing of negotiations
for a coalition government, dissident telejournalists seized
control of broadcast facilities in late October, apologized on
the air for biased coverage, and demanded the resignation of
the president of OZRT. For 1 day a standard videotape of the
President, which normally opened and closed all news
broadcasts, was taken off the air. Authorities acted quickly
to reassert control, however, temporarily replacing dissidents
with military personnel and a few loyalist journalists willing
to resume past broadcasting practices.
Foreign journalists are permitted to operate in Zaire. In
spite of the confused situation in Zaire since September 23,
foreign journalists have been able to enter Zaire to report on
the security and government crisis.
The university system in Zaire was largely disf unctional in
1991 due to student unrest and the Government's inability to
pay faculty. The 1991 university year had not begun at year's
end. While scholars continue to publish independent works,
government tolerance of academic freedom was largely untested
in 1991.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The right of the people to assemble peaceably has never been
firmly established in Zaire. Nonetheless, in 1991 political
movements were allowed sufficient freedom to build party
organizations, hold rallies, and otherwise conduct their
affairs in an open fashion. While less common than in the
past, there continued to be incidents of harassment and
violence perpetrated against independent groups, creating an
atmosphere of uncertainty concerning the security of public and
private gatherings. In September party offices of the UDPS and
UFERI parties were ransacked in two separate incidents.
Security forces in the first case and MPR activists in the
second appeared to have seized on the general urban unrest as
an opportunity to assault and intimidate political opponents of
the status quo.
Zairian security forces are not trained to perform effective
crowd control and often respond to unsanctioned gatherings
(either organized or spontaneous) with unwarranted or
disproportionate force as a preemptive measure or out of
concern for their own well-being. On October 21, an orderly,
peaceful march by 15,000 opposition supporters, expressing
solidarity with embattled erstwhile Prime Minister-designate
Etienne Tshisekedi, was subjected to a tear gas attack by
security forces even though it posed no apparent threat to
public safety. In the ensuing panic, several persons were
injured, some seriously.
President Mobutu's disestablishment of the MPR as the nation's
sole legal political movement (with mandatory universal
membership) has freed private organizations of some
constraints, and they are now free to organize and conduct
their affairs without political obligations being imposed upon
them by the Government.
      c. Freedom of Religion
Religious freedom is recognized in the Constitution, but there
are significant restrictions on some groups. The population is
about 50 percent Catholic, 36 percent Protestant and
Kimbanguist (a Zairian Christian church), and 5 percent Muslim.
Indigenous beliefs and religious traditions are also strong.
Officially recognized religions are free to establish places of
worship and to train clergy, but the process for becoming
officially recognized is fairly restrictive. The Jehovah's
Witnesses and a number of other small religious groups and
sects, banned in 1986 on charges of subversive activities or
fraud, remained banned in 1991. Most recognized churches have
external ties and expatriates are allowed to proselytize.
There is no legally favored church or religion.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
All citizens, refugees, and permanent residents must carry
identity cards, and police and soldiers sometime set up
checkpoints on major roads to inspect papers. While passports
and exit permits are in principle available to all citizens,
the Government has interfered with individual travel in the
past by denying these documents.
The Government has practiced a liberal asylum policy,
permitting refugees and other displaced persons to enter freely
and providing adequate land for refugee camps or resettlement.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
maintains a permanent office in Kinshasa and is the lead
international agency on refugee affairs. There were no known
incidents of forced repatriation of genuine refugees in 1991.
Some 465,000 refugees and other displaced persons are currently
in Zaire, including about 300,000 Angolans. The number of
Sudanese refugees in the northeastern corner of Zaire rose from
40,000 to over 110,000 in 1991 and was still growing, while the
number of Burundis rose from 13,000 to 43,000.
Approximately 61,000 Zairians are registered as refugees in
neighboring countries. An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 persons,
many of them non-Zairian, fled from Zaire to the Congo during
the September civil unrest. Would-be returnees are dealt with
an a case by case basis.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Citizens still did not have this right in 1991. However, moved
in part by political reform efforts in neighboring countries,
they signified their desire for change through demonstrations
and support for the emerging opposition parties, notably the
"Holy Union" alliance of several of the larger opposition
parties such as UDPS, the Christian Social Democratic Party,
and (for a time) UFERI . At year's end. President Mobutu,
backed by the military and the MRP, still continued to control
the Government, even though his power was ebbing in the face of
the worsening economic crisis and continuing public and
international demands for reform. In responding throughout the
year, the President moved to control the pace of political
reform, in part by splitting the opposition. In October, for
example, at a crucial moment in the process he dismissed Prime
Minister-designate and UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who had
been charged with forming a government of national unity, and
instead nominated Bernard Mungul Diaka, the head of a small
party with disputed opposition credentials. Mobutu resisted
calls for a National Conference through the first half of the
1991. Once the National Conference was under way, the
Presidency, the MPR, and the United Democratic Front (FDU-a new
Mobutuist political grouping) engaged in intensive
behind-the-scenes efforts to exert control over the process.
Thus, at the end of 1991, while over 300 political parties had
been formed and the President had promised freely contested
elections for all offices, including the Presidency, it
remained an open question whether this would actually occur.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Several independent Zairian human rights organizations have
been active since early 1990, including the Zairian League of
Human Rights, the Voice of the Voiceless, and the Zairian
Association for the Defense of Human Rights. All of these have
been aggressive in reporting and documenting human rights
abuses as well as in issuing reports on the Government's
ability to provide the population with basic human needs
(health care, education, etc.). These organizations operate
openly and have not been subject to harassment despite the
consistently critical tone of their reports.
The Government has consistently rejected efforts by
international and private human rights organizations to
investigate individual cases of alleged human rights abuse.
The refusal to permit an outside incjuiry concerning the
Lubumbashi incident of 1990, despite demands by the Government
of Belgium, local officials, and others, is an example of the
Government's willingness to endure international criticism
rather than allow independent investigation. The International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) maintains a resident office
in Kinshasa and monitors general conditions in Zairian
prisons. At times, ICRC access to prisons has been impeded by
the Government.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Zaire's diverse population of 34 million includes over 200
separate ethnic groups. Four indigenous languages have been
accorded official status, while French is the language of
government, commerce, and education. The President has been
careful to divide political offices among ethnic groups, but
members of his own Ngbandi tribe are disproportionately
represented at the highest levels of the security and
intelligence services. In addition, the Special Presidential
Division, the best equipped and trained element of the armed
services, is overwhelmingly dominated by members of the
President's ethnic group.
Women occupy a secondary role in traditional Zairian life.
They are the primary farm laborers and small traders while also
exclusively responsible for chi Idrear ing . In the
nontradit ional sector, it is common for women to receive less
pay for equal work while few can aspire to positions of high
responsibility and salary. Women receive less education than
men. A recent U.N. study indicates that females in Zaire
receive only one-third of the schooling of males. While women
are represented in the professions and civil service and have
held cabinet positions in the past, it remains rare for a woman
to occupy a position in which she would exercise authority over
male professionals.
Women are required by law to obtain their spouse's permission
prior to engaging in routine legal transactions, such as
selling or renting real estate, opening a bank account,
accepting employment, or applying for a passport. A 1987
revision to the family code does permit a widow to inherit her
husband's property and provides some protection for a married
woman's right to control her own property and receive a
property settlement in the event of divorce.
Neither the Government nor women's organizations have addressed
the issue of domestic violence. This issue has also been
ignored by the press and human rights groups, despite general
acknowledgement that it occurs and indeed may be common.
Female circumcision is not generally practiced in Zaire, but it
is believed to occur to some extent among some isolated groups
in northern Zaire.
 Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
Before 1990 the labor movement was limited by statute to the
National Union of Zairian Workers (UNTZa), which was an
integral part of the MPR. After the President promised on
April 24, 1990, to allow labor pluralism to coincide with the
promised political liberalization, the UNTZa declared itself
independent of the MPR and reorganized itself with new
leadership chosen through elections which were deemed by most
outside observers to be relatively free and fair.
Several new labor organizations emerged in 1990-91, most of
which are organized according to occupational groups. Some
have antecedents in labor organizations which existed in the
early years of Zaire's independence. While most have yet to
receive official government recognition, several have already
had an impact in the workplace by employing various means
(including wildcat strikes) to push for improvements in pay and
The right to strike is recognized in Zairian law, but, because
the law also provides for lengthy (and mandatory) arbitration
and appeal proqedures, legal strikes have been rare.
Nonetheless, strikes have occurred. The most important strike
in 1991 was the magistrates' strike and a civil service work
stoppage. The civil servants' strike has since ended. While
the Government has used force to put down strikes in the past,
there were no attempts to coerce workers to return to their
jobs in 1991.
UNTZa participates actively in the continentwide official trade
union body, the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, and
maintains ties with a number of foreign trade union
organizations. The new unions are only beginning to explore
establishing foreign labor ties.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Over the past several years, the UNTZa has negotiated nearly
1,000 collective bargaining agreements. Under an existing
arrangement between the UNTZa and the Zairian Employers
Association (ANEZA) , wages and prices have been fixed jointly
on an annual basis with only minimal government supervision.
This system, which had functioned fairly well prior to 1991,
broke down as a result of the rapidly depreciating purchasing
power of Zaire's national currency and at year's end had not
yet been replaced by an alternate system. Neither the UNTZa
nor the emerging new unions have demonstrated the capability to
protect worker interests or defend worker rights in the current
The Government has yet to promulgate revisions to the Labor
Code promised in 1990, which would strengthen provisions of the
law safeguarding the right to form unions and bargain
collectively. These revisions also would protect workers
against antiunion discrimination. While UNTZa has gained a
large measure of credibility since its break from the MPR, its
inability to generate revenue and internal competition for
positions of authority have weakened its capacity to
effectively represent workers.
There are no export processing zones.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced labor is prohibited by law in Zaire, and there is no
indication that it is imposed extralegally.
d. Minimum Age and Employment of Children
The legislated minimum age for employment is 18 years, although
minors 14 years and older may be legally employed with the
consent of a parent or guardian. Employment of children of all
ages is common in the informal economic sector and in family
subsistence agriculture. Neither the labor unions nor the
Ministry of Labor make an effort to enforce child labor laws;
however, larger enterprises do not commonly exploit child labor.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The majority of Zairians are engaged in subsistence agriculture
or small-scale commerce outside the formal sector. In 1991
already meager wage levels in the modern economy were
devastated by inflation rates measured in four digits. The
minimum legal daily wage do3s not provide a decent living for
employees and their families, and workers must rely on the
extended family and subsistence agriculture to survive. Public
sector remuneration for all but the highest level does not
approach a minimum subsistence wage; public employees typically
work at a second "real" job or resort to corrupt activities.
The maximum legal workweek in Zaire is 48 hours with one
24-hour rest period reguired every 7 days. The Labor Code
specifies health and safety standards, ostensibly enforced by
the Ministry of Labor, but there is little enforcement in
practice. Minimum wage, safety, and health standards are not
applied to employees engaged in subsistence agriculture.