Authenticité (Zaire)

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Authenticity (French: authenticité) was defined as consciousness of one's personality and values and being at home in one's culture. As part of the authenticity campaign, Mobutu decreed that men were forbidden from wearing Western-style suits. Henceforth, men were to don a Mao-style tunic of Mobutu's creation known as an abacost (short for à bas le costume, or "down with the suit" in French); men who defied this by wearing ties found themselves being branded as subversives, and more often than not had their ties snipped off. As for women, they were required to drop the provocative miniskirts they had previously donned, and replace them with African pagnes, or wraps, and to drop wigs in favor of natural coiffure. Mobutu further decreed that all citizens drop their Christian and European names in place of African ones. Priests were warned that anyone caught baptizing a child with a Christian or European name would face a five year jail sentence. Mobutu himself set a spectacular example by dropping his first and middle name, Joseph-Désiré, and christening himself Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga. In Ngbandi, this translated to: "The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake." In Tshiluba, this translated to: "Invincible warrior: cock who leaves no chick contact." With similar fervor, Mobutu renamed the country (previously called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) Zaire, a Portuguese mispronunciation of the Kikongo word nzere or nzadi, which translates to: "the river that swallows all rivers." The nation's currency and the Congo River were also renamed: the new currency was also called the zaire, and the Congo River became the Zaire River. Cities with European names were also given African names.

As Mobutu's personality cult continued to swell, it was not long before "authenticity" devolved into "Mobutism."

[edit] References

  • Harden, Blaine. Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0395597463
  • Meditz, Sandra W. and Tim Merrill. Zaire: A Country Study. Claitor's Law Books and Publishing Division. ISBN 1579801625
  • Meredith, Martin. The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair, a History of Fifty Years of Independence. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1586483986
  • Young, Crawford, and Thomas Turner. The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 029910110X

Authenticité (Zaire)

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