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The ties that bind Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo

By Amos Kareithi | April 23rd 2021
President Kenyatta and President Mobutu seen during their consultive meeting at State House [COURTESY]

When the President of the Republic of Zaire, Joseph Desire Mobutu met his Kenyan counterpart, Jomo Kenyatta, he was so inspired by Kanu’s red cockerel, which could hold a battleaxe.

When he visited Kenya in February 1971, he was treated like an African king. And in a picture uncharacteristic of him without his trademark leopard hat and Chinese collarless shirts, he solemnly shook hands with dignitaries who had turned up.

When he ultimately left Kenya, he changed his country’s name in October 1971 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Republic of Zaire. The country reclaimed its old name in 1997.

Five months later, Mobutu was at it again when in January 1972, he changed his name from Joseph-Désiré Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Koko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga; meaning the all-powerful warrior. He further decreed that all Congolese drop their European names. Mobutu had seized power in a coup in 1965. 

Although the founding fathers of the two countries are dead, the ties they established still bind their people together. President Uhuru Kenyatta was instrumental in brokering a peace deal in 2013 between the government and M23, a rebel group that had been fighting to seize power.

This week Uhuru flew to DRC where, among other things, the two countries signed four framework cooperation agreements covering several economic sectors, including maritime transport.


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