Death of a dictator Zaire's Mobutu: He looted his country, then was deposed, and now is barely mourned.

September 11, 1997

THE UNITED STATES will not soon live down its long support of one of the world's more brutal and venal dictators, Mobutu Sese Seko, who died Sunday, at age 66, while in exile in Morocco.

None of the countries that propped up his brutal reign over the years would provide medical treatment for him in his final months. It marked a symbolic end of the era of the Big Man in Africa, though a few still remain.

Abandoned by the United States at Cold War's end, befriended by France seeking influence in a former Belgian colony, Mr. Mobutu had looted gigantic Zaire with an iron hand for 31 years. He kept it weak. In the end, he fell at the first pressure from what was an essentially foreign army.

He renamed Congo Zaire but his successor, Laurent Kabila, quickly renamed it Democratic Republic of Congo and doesn't listen much to U.S. advice. Small wonder.

Pub Date: 9/11/97

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