Military Wiki
Shaba I
Part of the Cold War
Zairian troops with a Moroccan military advisor
Zairian troops with a beret-wearing Moroccan military advisor
DateMarch 8-May 26, 1977
  • Shaba Province, Zaire
Result FNCL expelled from Katanga
  •  Zaire
  •  Morocco
  •  Egypt
  •  Belgium
  •  France

Supported by:

Front for the National Liberation of the Congo (FNLC)
Commanders and leaders
Zaire Mobutu Sese SekoZaire Colonel Mampa Ngakwe Salamay
Morocco Hassan II
Morocco General Ahmed Dlimi
Belgium Leo Tindemans
France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
Nathaniel Mbumba
Zaire: 3,000-4,000[3]
Morocco: 1,300[1]–1,500 Paratroopers
Egypt: ~50[citation needed]
France: 20-65[1]
Belgium: 80[1]
1,600–3,000 FNLC fighters
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

Katanga Province, renamed by Mobutu in 1972 as Shaba Province because of its copper wealth

Shaba I was a conflict in Zaire's Shaba (Katanga) Province lasting from March 8, 1977 to May 26, 1977. The conflict began when the Front for the National Liberation of the Congo (FNLC), a group of about 2,000 Katangan Congolese soldiers (veterans of the Congo Crisis, the Angolan War of Independence, and the Angolan Civil War) crossed the border into Shaba from Angola. The FNLC made quick progress through the region, due to sympathizing locals and to the disorganization of the Zairian military (Forces Armées Zairoise, or FAZ). Traveling east from Zaire's border with Angola, the rebels reached Mutshatsha, a small town near to the key mining town of Kolwezi.

President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire accused Angola, Cuba, and the Soviet Union of sponsoring the rebels. Motivated by anti-Communism and by economic interests, the Western Bloc and China sent assistance to support the Mobutu regime. The most significant intervention, orchestrated by the Safari Club, featured a French airlift of Moroccan troops into the war zone. This intervention turned the tide of the conflict.[4] U.S. President Jimmy Carter approved the shipment of supplies to Zaire, but refused to send weapons or troops and maintained that there was no evidence of Cuban involvement.

The FAZ and the Moroccan troops terrorized the population of the province during and after the war. Bombing and other acts of violence led 50,000–70,000 refugees to flee into Angola and Zambia. Journalists were prevented from entering the Province and several were arrested. Mobutu nevertheless won a public relations victory, and ensured continuing economic assistance from governments, from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and from a group of private lenders led by Citibank.

The FAZ and outside powers clashed again with insurgents in the 1978 conflict called Shaba II.



A former Belgian colony, the Congo gained independence during the Year of Africa. The State of Katanga, led by Moise Tshombe soon announced secession, supported by Belgian business interests, the Belgian military, and indirectly by France.[5]

The country was soon plunged into crisis after the assassination of Pan-Africanist leader Patrice Lumumba. After six years of war, power was seized by Joseph Mobutu with help from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and support from the Western Bloc. Mobutu changed the name of Katanga Province to Shaba Province, after the Swahili word for copper.

Mobutu with Nixon, 1973

Mobutu's Zaire maintained good relations with Western powers. Belgium had the largest investments in the country (worth $750 million–$1 billion), followed by the United States ($200 million) and France ($20 million). Franco-Zairian relations were nevertheless improving, and the Zaire government had recently been snubbing Belgium in favor of France—awarding the country a $500 million telecommunications contract in 1975. This contract, negotiated by French President Giscard d'Estaing, went to Thomson-CSF International with finances from the Banque Française du Commerce Extérieur—both institutions headed by members of d'Estaing's family. When Mobutu asked for international assistance, it was France under d'Estaing that organized the military response.[5][6][7]

Zaire received more military aid from the United States than did any other sub-Saharan nation,[8] with its $30 million worth of annual assistance representing half of all military aid to the area.[9]

Zaire was the world's primary exporter of cobalt, sourcing 60% of the global supply.[10] The country also exported 7% of world copper and 33% of industrial diamonds. Many of the mines for these resources were located in Shaba,[9] and the copper mines in this area provided 65–75% of the country's overall wealth from imports.[11]


The FNLC were mostly Lunda people, also the ethnicity of many people in Katanga (renamed Shaba in 1972). In 1976, they began to recruit youth in Katanga to join their fighting force.[12]


Included in the invading force was a small remnant of the Katangan gendarmes that had supported the secession of Katanga from 1960. When Kasavubu recalled Katanganese leader Moise Tshombe from exile in 1964, elements of this force had been incorporated into the Armee Nationale Congolaise (ANC) to help fight the insurrections simmering throughout the country. After Tshombe disappeared from the political scene, the Katangan contingent mutinied in 1966 and again in 1967. When these uprisings failed, most of the contingent left for Angola under Nathaniel Mbumba's leadership. During the late 1960s, the former gendarmes began to congregate in Angola along Zaire's southern border, and during the late 1960s and early 1970s, they fought for the Portuguese against Angolan nationalist movements. After the Portuguese departed in 1975, the Katangan gendarmes fought with the MPLA in the Angolan Civil War. The MPLA won control of the country and provided the gendarmes with relative autonomy in their area on the border with Zaire. This group—about 4000 people total, 2000 deemed able to fight—formed the Front for the National Liberation of the Congo (FNLC) and styled themselves as left-wing.[13]

Cuban involvement

The FNLC had earlier asked Cuba directly for assistance. Cuba, already seeking to withdraw from Angola and not convinced of the FNLC's sincerity, declined.[14] The extent of MPLA support for the invasion is unclear; it did not seem provide much direct assistance, but also did not act to prevent the attack.[15] Cuba did not support the FNLC in this invasion.[16]


FNLC movements, 1977

The invaders launched a three-pronged attack on March 8, 1977, crossing the Angola–Zaire border on bicycles.[12] No casualties were reported in the first week after their arrival.[17]

Zaire's response

Mobutu condemned the invasion, saying on March 10 that Kissenge, Dilolo, and Kapanga had been "bombed" by "mercenaries".[18] He accused the Cuban government of involvement, and requested assistance from Western powers.[19] The U.S. Embassy confirmed that these towns had been captured and announced that eight American missionaries in Kapanga were under house arrest.[20] The actions of Zaire's armed forces, the FAZ, were largely ineffective.[12] The first unit to make contact—the 11th Brigade of the Kaymanyola Division—was newly trained, and it fell apart soon after meeting the FNLC force.[21] However, the popular uprising hoped for by the FNLC also did not materialize. Although most towns were more favorable to the FNLC forces than to the government army,[22] people were generally afraid of violence and stayed home.[23]

International response

United States

US President Jimmy Carter with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance

On March 15, the United States sent 35 tons of communications equipment and medical supplies, and other materials—worth a total of $2 million—using chartered DC-8s.[8][24] President Jimmy Carter, in his first year of office, was less enthusiastic about Mobutu than his predecessors and decided against sending weapons or troops.[25][26] He also stated that there was no evidence to substantiate Cuban involvement, and he maintained this position throughout the conflict.[26] Officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) agreed.[27] The State Department accused the Angolan government of providing the rebels with "logistic support"[28] but maintained that there was "no hard evidence" of Cuban support.[29]

The U.S. House Committee on International Relations questioned the importance of aid and moved to halve Zaire's arms credits from $30 million to $15 million.[30] Americans were evacuated from the area.[17] Secretary of State Cyrus Vance sought to justify the aid based on the importance of copper and cobalt mining.[31][32]

Announcements seeking to hire American mercenaries to fight in Zaire appeared in California. A man named David Bufkin was identified as doing this recruiting. These announcements were later traced to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)[33][34]

Other countries

Fidel Castro denied accusations of Cuban involvement in Zaire, calling Mobutu "desperate" for Western assistance

Belgium sent weapons to the Zaire government[35] but declined Mobutu's request for military assistance.[36] China sent 30 tons of weapons.[35] France sent weapons and ammunition.[37][38]

The US asked for Nigeria's help with diplomatic mediation between Zaire and Angola. Nigeria agreed, but urged outside powers not to provide arms.[39][40]

Cuban President Fidel Castro denied that Cuba was involved in the conflict, calling Mobutu "desperate" and calling the accusation "a pretext to get military assistance from imperialism so he can continue to oppress the people of Zaire".[41]


Zaire had already been overdue on its loan payments, and the conflict increased the uncertainty of international banks of its ability to repay.[42] A group of 98 banks, led by Citibank, had agreed in November 1976 to offer Zaire a $250 million loan if the country promised to implement economic austerity. These banks hoped that the additional loan would help Zaire develop its economy and pay back the $400 million it already owned.[43] Now, the banks feared that the war would bankrupt the Zaire government.[44][45] Citibank announced on behalf of the group that this loan would be suspended until Zaire could resolve its internal problems, which would have jeopardized repayment.[46]

Invasion continues

Copper-rich malachite from Kolwezi

The FNLC progressed into Katanga. In a battle in Kasaji on March 18, the FAZ killed fifteen of the FNLC soldiers while losing four of their own.[47] On March 25 the FAZ abandoned Mutshatsha and the FNLC entered it. This was a town with railway access, 130 kilometres from the Kolwezi— home to the Musonoi Mine, a major source of copper for Gécamines. The capture of Mutshatsha led observers to perceive a serious threat from the invading force.[48][49][50] (Despite its economic importance, Kolwezi was not particularly well-defended. A Belgian manager suggested: "No one would dare to touch us. We are essential to whoever governs this area, so we are not worried.")[51] Americans in Kolwezi, mostly workers for Morrison-Knudsen were evacuated.[52]

Perception of the rebels' power increased as reports suggested they were beginning to provide social assistance to local people in the Shaba province.[53] The FNLC began to establish a regional administration and distribute identity cards for a nation called "The Democratic Republic of the Congo".[54] According to later reports from missionaries in the area, the rebels—whose primary agenda was freedom from Mobutu, not ethnic or tribal warfare—were welcomed by locals in Katanga.[55]

The government held a poorly-attended rally in a Kinshasa stadium: soldiers prevented the already small crowd from leaving after, and the rally ended when the crowd refused to applaud.[56][57]

Zaire launched bombing raids in the area, which it said were targeting the invaders. The Zairian Air Force used Mirage jets from France to bomb Kisengi, which it called the headquarters for the rebel uprising.[58] Along with other residents, 28 missionaries (from Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain) fled from these bombing raids, eventually taking refuge in Angola.[55][59]

Angola reported that Zaire had bombed its towns of Shilumbo and Camafuafa.[60] The Zairian military claimed to have killed Russian, Portuguese, and Cuban soldiers participating in the invasion.[61][62] Zaire cut diplomatic ties with Cuba and then with the Soviet Union.[63]

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat warned Carter about Communist intervention in Zaire. Egypt would join with other members of the Safari Club to intervene militarily when the U.S. would not.

On a diplomatic visit to Washington, D.C., Egyptian President Anwar Sadat emphasized this claim to Carter, who maintained throughout the conflict that there was no evidence of outside involvement.[61][64] King Hassan II of Morocco said he possessed "absolutely certain" proof that Cuban soldiers were fighting in Shaba.[65] Andrew Young, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged calm, saying "Americans shouldn't get paranoid about communism" in Africa.[66]

Mobutu reproached the United States in a Newsweek interview, saying he was "bitterly disappointed by America's attitude"[67] and: "If you have decided to surrender piecemeal to the Soviet-Cuban grand design in Africa, I think you owe it to us and to your friends to have the frankness to admit it."[17] Former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger also blamed the Soviet Union, saying, "Whatever the details of the current invasion of Zaire, it is clear that the attack took place across a sovereign border from a country in which the government was installed by Soviet arms and the military personnel of a Soviet client state. It could not have taken place—and it could not continue—without the material support or acquiescence of the Soviet Union—whether or not Cuban troops are present."[68] China concurred, provoking unpleasantness with Soviet ambassadors in Beijing[69] and later calling the FNLC invasion "a new offensive drive in the Soviet Union's political and military aggression in Africa".[70]

Meanwhile, Carter was also criticized for the support he did give to Zaire, in contrast with his support for human rights. Senator Dick Clark, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, publicly opposed the US involvement, writing in an op-ed:

In my judgment, U.S. involvement in Zaire defies justification. It is true that the U.S. has not utilized the full measure of resources available for Zaire, nor responded to Mobutu's requests for arms and ammunition. This restraint by the Administration is commendable, but if Mobutu qualifies for neither arms nor ammunition, then he should not qualify for any form of military assistance, lest the United States be drawn into the hapless conflict in Zaire, inch by inch.[71]

John Stockwell—who grew up in Katanga and joined the CIA, eventually becoming head of the agency's Angola Task Force—publicly resigned his position, blaming the conflict on unsuccessful CIA interventions. In an open letter to CIA Director Stansfield Turner published in the Washington Post, Stockwell argued that American intervention in Zaire and Angola was triggering a backlash in the Third World:[7][72][73] "In death [Lumumba] became an eternal martyr and by installing Mobutu in the Zairian presidency we committed ourselves to the 'other side', the losing side in central and southern Africa. We cast ourselves as the dull-witted Goliath, in a world of eager young Davids."[74] Stockwell expanded on his claims of CIA abuses in a 1978 book titled In Search of Enemies.

Carter acknowledged problems with human rights in Zaire, but said that "our friendship and aid historically for Zaire has not been predicated on their perfection in dealing with human rights."[64][75]

Confusion and censorship

Journalists reported confusion and difficulty with finding credible information.[76][77] American news sources reported that Kolwezi had been captured,[78][79] then retracted this claim.[76][80] Reportedly, even the U.S. CIA, which operated a station in Kinshasa, was not collecting intelligence directly in the Shaba region.[77] Reliable information became even more difficult to obtain after the FAZ abandoned Mutshatsha and Mobutu declared the right to censor all news reports.[81] Journalist Michael Goldsmith was expelled from Zaire on April 4 after reporting that the aforementioned rally in Kinshasa had been lackluster.[82] More journalists were arrested, and films—taken in Kinshasa—were seized by the Zaire government.[53]

The press of Zaire ignored the Shaba conflict entirely.[53]

Meanwhile, the FNLC did not seem to have press contacts.[77]

The Zairian military

Zairian troops in Southern Shaba

Mobutu relieved Colonel Salamaya, who six days earlier he had placed in charge of defending Shaba; soon after, he relieved Salamaya's replacement.[83] Mobutu blamed the success of the rebel attack on high-ranking traitors in the Zairian military.[84]

FAZ casualties remained low, with many FAZ forces apparently unwilling to fight.[85] Many of the Zairian soldiers had not recently been paid[76] and there were numerous reported desertions and defections.[50] One missionary reported FAZ soldiers intentionally wounding themselves in order to avoid battle.[55]

A Belgian engineer in Kolwezi, discussing the apparent unpreparedness of FAZ forces there, told a reporter: "Ah, it's an African war. What can you expect? If the Katangans get really close, many of these soldiers will run anyway. All it takes is a loud bang, and off they go."[51]

Safari Club intervention

King Hassan II of Morocco sent 1,500 paratroopers to fight for Mobutu

On April 7, plans were announced to support the government of Zaire with Moroccan troops. This operation was coordinated by a covert multi-national organization called the Safari Club, an anti-Communist alliance including France, Morocco, Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.[86][87] On April 9, Moroccan troops were airlifted into Kolwezi on eleven French Transall C-160s from the network of French bases remaining on the African continent.[35][88][89] Egypt also provided 50 pilots and technicians, which operated Mirage jets from the Zairian Air Force.[90] France also assisted the FAZ with additional Mirage planes, Panhard Véhicule Blindé Légers, and Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma helicopters.[89]

After Western military support had arrived in Kolwezi, Zambia said that Zaire had bombed the village of Shingamjunji Mangango and the Kaleni Hill mission hospital.[91][92] Angola also reported a naval attack.[93]

Diplomacy and media

A French liaison was deployed to coordinate with the Zairian forces.[83] The French operation (code name "Verveine"),[88] was commanded by Colonel Yves Gras, head of the French Military Mission in Zaire.[94] Morocco provided 1,300–1,500 combat troops, Egypt contributed pilots and technical support, and Saudi Arabia backed the operation financially.[94] Moroccan troops increased the perception that the operation was internal to Africa,[89] with Zaire originally announcing that Morocco and "another African country" were coming to its assistance.[95] The American government also described the intervention as intra-African, with Carter announcing "We are not taking a position on such action by one African state at this point in response to requests for aid from another African state. Our position on outside intervention is well known. We are against such intervention. The affairs of Africa should be settled by Africans."[96] The French announcement that it would provide the airlift, made on April 10, "came as a surprise to all observers".[97] D'Estaing emphasized France's independence in conducting the operation and specified that the U.S. had not been consulted beforehand.[98]

Idi Amin visits Mobutu

The U.S. announced an additional $13 million of aid, including a C-130 transport plane, communications equipment, fuel, and spare parts.[99] Andrew Young, who advised restraint throughout the conflict, said that the U.S. was trying to "align ourselves with the … concept of territorial integrity in Zaire, and of self-determination by the people of Zaire, but not get ourselves in the military conflict."[100] Carter continued to state that there was no evidence of Cuban involvement. He acknowledged that Zaire was not a "defender of human rights" and said "our military aid for Zaire has been very modest".[64]

South Africa's South African Bureau for State Security was also in contact with Zaire and provided fuel and money.[101] West Germany send $2 million worth of medicine and food.[102]

Some African states, particularly former colonies of France, supported Zaire diplomatically. Idi Amin and a symbolic "suicide striking force" of the Ugandan military visited Kolwezi in late April—then flew back to Uganda.[61][103]

Initial reactions

The FNLC began to make contact with the press and issued several announcements. A representative of the Katanganese rebels, speaking in Paris, criticized the intervention as economically self-serving, saying that "the stake of French multinationals such as Alsthom and Thomson, and concessions for prospecting the mineral riches" had led France to support "a corrupt regime".[97] Jean Tshombé, son of former Katanganese secessionist leader Moise Tshombé, also criticized the intervention and reaffirmed that Angola, Cuba, and the Soviet Union were not involved.[104] The FNLC subsequently announced specific military successes, saying it had defeated Zairian military forces 15 miles from Kolwezi, seizing vehicles and weapons.[102][105] It also claimed to have killed two French soldiers—a claim quickly denied as impossible by France, which said that no French soldiers were present.[106] The group wrote a letter to the International Press Service:[107]

In contrast with published statements of with published statements by President Giscard D'Estaing, French troops are directly involved in the fighting currently taking place in the Shaba province of Zaire. This Friday, April 15, at 2 p.m., the fighting spread on the outskirts of Kolwezi. A French military man died amid these engagements.

The FLNC strongly protests this French military intervention in Congo's domestic affairs and declined any responsibility for the consequences it may bring upon the French Government.

The FLNC calls on the French people, to whom it expresses its trust and friendly feelings, to demand the immediate termination of the aggression deliberately carried out against the Congolese people.

Angola declared the invaders "responsible for the grave consequences that may result from their intervention in the conflict", warning that "if the objective is to attack Angola, the Popular Republic of Angola warns Africa and the world that it will not tolerate any foreign intervention".[108] The Soviet Union condemned the Western Bloc and China for interfering in a "strictly internal conflict which need not concern anyone outside [Zaire]."[109]

The alleged Zairian bombings of Angola and Zambia also became an issue, with Mobutu accusing the Soviet Union of bombing these countries as a false flag attack.[105]

French President Giscard d'Estaing ordered the French military to airlift Moroccan troops into battle

French intervention met with left-wing criticism, domestically and internationally.[110][111] President Giscard d'Estaing responded that the action was protecting the sovereignty of a friendly state. Foreign Minister Louis de Guiringaud said it was necessary to check Soviet influence.[112] The French government denied claims that "military advisors" had participated in the fighting.[113]

Belgium denied a claim, made by Mobutu and quoted in Newsweek, that it was involved in the conflict, saying that the only assistance it had delivered was already planned.[114]


The war itself seemed to be in a stalemate, with foreign troops and the FAZ now massed in Kolwezi, but little fighting taking place.[115] On April 14, Moroccan General Ahmed Dlimi arrived in Kolwezi, and a combined Zairian and Moroccan force counter-attacked.[54][116] 30 FAZ casualties were reported after a fortnight of quiet.[70] They were joined by a unit of Pygmy archers.[117]

The government and supporting forces reported capturing rebel supplies, including counterfeit money and Portuguese- and Soviet-manufactured weapons. Two captured Kantangan soldiers said that there were 1,600 soldiers in Shaba, that their leader was Nathaniel Mbumba, and that they were not being assisted by Cuba.[118] One said, "First we were trained by the Portuguese and after that by the Cubans"—but "there are no Cubans now".[119]

The government displayed the two captives in another stadium rally. At this rally, Mobutu again condemned Soviet and Cuban involvement, and ordered $60,000 worth of Coca-Cola to go along with rations for FAZ soldiers.[119][120][121] Mobutu flew with diplomats and journalists to Kolwezi, where he was met by dancing girls and announced a "total rout" of the insurgents.[122]

The pro-government alliance recaptured Mutshatsha on April 25.[75][123] The village was nearly deserted when it was captured, but observers assigned symbolic importance to its recapture.[124][125] Mobutu held a press conference and parade in Mutshatsha, telling 47 international journalists that he would continue to battle Soviet influence in Africa. That day, the International Monetary Fund said it would loan Zaire $85 million—perhaps, it was speculated, to deter a group of private banks from canceling the already loan of planned $250 million.[75][126] At the request of France and the United States, the World Bank announced an upcoming convention to solicit additional loans for Zaire.[44]

David Bufkin's mercenaries were reported ready to fly to Zaire to join the anti-FNLC coalition.[127] The CIA denied a request from the Department of Justice to provide information about its involvement.[128] Bufkin and the CIA denied the claim.[111][129] The operation was aborted after the Safari Club intervention proved rapidly successful.[130]

Conclusion of the war

More confusion

The situation was confusing, chaotic, and difficult to assess. Observers were unsure of whether the war had ended, with a victory for the Zaire government, or instead devolved into a guerrilla war.[131] Journalists continued to face restrictions and intimidation.[132] Seven European journalists (including Colin Smith) had been arrested in April and accused of illegally entering the Shaba province.[133][134] A spokesperson for the Zaire military stated: "In the normal way these people should have been treated as mercenaries and shot immediately. It is a miracle they are still alive."[135] These journalists were removed from Zaire after being imprisoned for two weeks.[136]

According to a contemporary news report:

Newsmen in Kinshasa, 1,500 miles from the Kolwei battlegrounds, repeatedly refused permission to visit Shaba province, finally received permission to visit the region and after a 10 day visit reported that they had not heard a single shot fired. In Kolwezi's hospital only two slightly wounded Zairian soldiers had been seen.

If there was a war going on nobody seemed to know where the front was. Nevertheless the general staff of the Zaire army was claiming to have begun a general offensive against the enemy and claimed to have surrounded the town of Mutshatsha.

Mobutu's patchwork army of reluctant unemployed urban youths, displaced farmers' sons, the restless Morroccans and the Pygmies face an estimated 100 battle groups, each consisting of 30 well trained and well armed men operating deep inside friendly trail areas.[121]

The sympathies of the local people were also in question, with observers unsure of how many residents of Shaba supported the rebels. The image of the FAZ–Moroccan forces deteriorated when three Moroccan troops stabbed a Kolwezi woman to death and beat her babies after she denied them sex.[116] (It was later determined that the soldiers raped the woman and killed her babies on bayonetes; they were executed after military tribunal held in Shaba.)[137][138] Local people were threatened, imprisoned, and killed by the Zairian military in an effort to discourage them from joining the rebels.[139] The European (and Australian and Candian) missionaries who surfaced after fleeing to Angola said that locals supported the rebels, none of whom were Cuban or Angolan, because they opposed Mobutu.[55][59]

Final military actions

The Moroccan and Zairian troops moved on, bolstered by additional forces from France, Egypt, and Belgium.[140] This coalition retook the area with occasional fighting—suffering some casualties from an FNLC ambush in Kasaji (10°22′0″S 23°27′0″E / 10.366667°S 23.45°E / -10.366667; 23.45).[141]

American workers returned to Kolwezi soon after the capture of Mutshatsha.[142]

On May 21, the government announced that Diolo had been captured.[143] It said that 100 rebels were killed in simultaneous attacks at Kapanga and Sandoa.[144] The war was declared over.[145][146] Kapanga was declared captured on May 26, 1977.[147]


As the FAZ, France, Morocco, Egypt, and Belgium were driving the rebels out of Zaire, the Ethio-Somali War created another international crisis involving the United States, the Safari Club, Cuba, and the Soviet Union.[148][149]

In July 1977, Mobutu disclosed that Saudi Arabia had provided an undisclosed form of aid during the conflict.[150]


The FNLC withdrew to Angola, and possibly to Zambia, and began to regroup for another attack. The group gained many new recruits, and left behind contacts within Shaba Province.[23]

The Katanganese

Military terror against Lunda people in the region (who shared this ethnicity with the gendarmes) led 50,000–70,000 people to flee Zaire for Angola.[151] In February 1978, the FAZ entered the town of Idiofa, killed between 500–3,000 people, hanged fourteen "ringleaders", and burnt villages.[121][152]


The military reported 219 casualties during the course of the war.[153]

The poor performance of Zaire's military during Shaba I gave evidence of chronic weaknesses. One problem was that some of the Zairian soldiers in the area had not received pay for extended periods. Senior officers often kept the money intended for the soldiers, typifying a generally disreputable and inept senior leadership in the FAZ. As a result many soldiers simply deserted rather than fight. Others stayed with their units but were ineffective.[citation needed]

During the months following the Shaba invasion, Mobutu sought solutions to the military problems that had contributed to the army's dismal performance. Foreign Minister Jean Nguza Karl-i-Bond—the country's second-ranking official, an expert on international law, and a member of the Lunda ethnic group—was accused of treason[154][155] sentenced to death,[156][157] reprieved by Mobutu, and sentenced to life in prison.[158] (He was later pardoned and reappointed Foreign Minister.) A former Zairian military officer and a former governor were condemned to death in August 1977, also charged with aiding the FNLC.[153] Subsequent trials in 1978 implicated 68 military officers, dispensing 19 death penalties and numerous imprisonments.[23] Mobutu also reorganized the FAZ, and began training for the Kaymanyola division in Kolwezi. This training was assisted by French, Belgian, and American military advisors.[159] In this reorganization, Mobutu dismissed a Belgian officer named Van Melle from his own intelligence services. Van Melle was a key contact for European and American intelligence agencies, and his dismissal made reliable information even harder for them to find.[160]

Mobutu merged the military general staff with his own presidential staff and appointed himself chief of staff again, in addition to the positions of minister of defence and supreme commander that he already held. He redeployed his forces throughout the country instead of keeping them close to Kinshasa, as had previously been the case. The Kamanyola Division, at the time considered the army's best unit and referred to as the president's own, was assigned permanently to Shaba. In addition to these changes, the army's strength was reduced by 25%, presumably to eliminate disloyal and ineffective elements. Zaire's allies provided a large influx of military equipment, and Belgian, French, and American advisers assisted in rebuilding and retraining the force.[citation needed]

Shaba I was a major public relations victory for Mobutu, securing his regime and winning continued military and economic assistance from the Western Bloc.[132][161][162] The group of private lenders, led by Citibank, were close to delivering the $250 million loan in early 1978.[163] The Shaba II conflict began in May 1978.


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  2. 2.0 2.1 A Little Help from His Friends Time, 04/25/1977, Vol. 109 Issue 17, p.57
  3. Katangan Gendarmes Leigh Ingram-Seal
  4. Chris Cook and John Stevenson. The Routledge Companion to World History Since 1914, 2005. Pages 321-322.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "France Is Again Strengthening Ties With Zaire", New York Times, 17 April 1977, p. E1; accessed via ProQuest. "Although France did not officially support the secessionists, their leader, Moise Tshombe, employed French advisers and mercenaries and received support from the neighboring Government of Congo, a former French colony. Economic interests: After the Kantanganese rebellion ended in 1963, France expended considerable aid and effort to improve relations with Zaire. French companies now have important mining interests in the country, producer of copper, cobalt and industrial diamonds."
  6. Odom, Shaba II (1993), p. 27–28.
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  10. "A Cobalt Undercurrent in Zaire", New York Times, 20 March 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
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  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Odom, Shaba II (1993), p. 17.
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  15. Gleijeses, "Truth or Credibility" (2010), p. 99–100.
  16. Ogunbadejo, "Conflict in Africa" (1979), p. 225. "All these points show that Angola was never deeply involved in the invasion. Not even the American Central Intelligence Agency was able to prove any serious involvement, and it is unlikely that, given President Neto's numerous internal problems (political and economic), his government or even his Cuban allies would have dissipated their forces in an attack on Shaba.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "Zaire preparing major push to confront Shaba guerrillas", Baltimore Sun (AP), 14 March 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
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  33. Ernest Volkman, "CIA backs mercenary recruiting", Boston Globe, 17 April 1977, p. 49; accessed via ProQuest. "Officially, the sources say, both Bufkin and the British mercenaries are recruiting on behalf of Mobutu, who is providing the money for the operation. However, the CIA is actually bankrolling the operation, the sources say."
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  40. "Nigeria Appeals on Arms", New York Times, 24 March 1977, p. A7; accessed via ProQuest.
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  67. Gleijeses, "Truth or Credibility" (2010), p. 78.
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  70. 70.0 70.1 "Renewed fighting flares in Zaire; rebels wound 30", Chicago Tribune, 16 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
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  72. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Political Economy of Human Rights: After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology, Black Rose Books, 1979; p. 308.
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  74. John Stockwell, "Why I Am Leaving The CIA", Washington Post", 10 April 1977.
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  78. "Key Copper-Mining Center in Zaire Reported Taken by Rebel Invaders, New York Times (AP), 18 March 1977, p. A1; accessed via ProQuest.
  79. Henry L. Trewhitt, "U.S. arms aid to Zaire considered: Congress consulted as rebel troops seize copper center", Baltimore Sun, 18 March 1977, p. A1; accessed via ProQuest.
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  82. "Zaire Orders Expulsion Of AP Correspondent", Washington Post, 5 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
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  86. Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terrorism; New York: Pantheon, 2004; ISBN 0-375-42285-4; p. 85. "The club's first success was in the Congo. Faced with a rebellion in mineral-rich Katanga (now Shaba) province in April 1977 and a plea for help from French and Belgian mining interests conveyed through their close ally Mobutu, the club combined French air transport with logistical support from diverse sources to bring Moroccan and Egyptian troops to fight the rebellion."
  87. Helmy Sharawi, "Israeli Policy in Africa"; in The Arabs and Africa, ed. Khair El-Din El-Din Haseeb, Milton Park: Routledge, 2012; ISBN 9780415623957; p. 305.
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  93. "Merchant ship hit: Fierce new fighting in Angola reported", Chicago Tribune, 14 April 1977, p. 12; accessed via ProQuest.
  94. 94.0 94.1 Odom, Shaba II (1993), p. 25.
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  96. Graham Hovey, "Washington Seems To Favor Assistance Given Zaire Regime", New York Times, 9 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  97. 97.0 97.1 Andreas Freund, "France airlifting Moroccan soldiers to help out in Zaire: Unexpected Announcement Asserts Paris Made Decision to Aid Fight Against 'Outsiders'", New York Times, 11 April 1977, p. 1; accessed via ProQuest.
  98. Jim Browning, "Giscard assures French: no Vietnam in Zaire: France acted independently, he asserts", Christian Science Monitor, 14 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  99. "U.S. Will Send Nonlethal Aid to Zaire Army", Los Angeles Times, 12 April 1977, p. A1; accessed via ProQuest.
  100. "U.S. 'In Support Position' On Zaire, Young Says", Washington Post, 15 April 1977, p. A12; accessed via ProQuest.
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  102. 102.0 102.1 "W. Germany Sends Zaire Aid as Invaders Claim Big Win", Hartford Courant (AP), 15 April 1977; accessed [via ProQuest.
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  104. "Rebel forces renew fight in Angola", Baltimore Sun, 14 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  105. 105.0 105.1 "Nearing Key Town, Zaire Invaders Say", Los Angeles Times, 15 April 1977, p. B7; accessed via ProQuest.
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  109. "Russ Accuse West, China of Interference in Zaire", Los Angeles Times, 13 April 1977, p. B7; accessed via ProQuest.
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  120. George C. Wilson, "Zaire Asks For Planeload Of Coca-Cola", Washington Post, 20 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  121. 121.0 121.1 121.2 Laura Parks, "Copper is queen of Zaire's Shaba", Tri–State Defender, 21 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest. "The towns will provide the operating base from which raids against the battle groups will be launched, if they can be found, more than likely the raids will degenerate into punitive expeditions against the village of Shaba province where that guerrilla battle groups might be suspected of receiving support."
  122. "Mobutu Flies to Zaire Copper Belt To Visit Troops Fighting Invaders", New York Times (UPI), 24 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
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  126. "Zaire Gets $85 Million In Loans", Hartford Courant, 27 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  127. "Americans Reported Zaire-Bound", New York Times, 17 April 1977, p. 33; accessed via ProQuest .
  128. Ernest Volkman, "'CIA links' with Zaire" The Guardian, 18 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest. "The Central Intelligence Agency is covertly supporting efforts now under way to recruit several hundred mercenaries in the United States and Britain to fight on behalf of President Mobutu of Zaire against Katanganese invaders. The CIA has strong links with a Californian who is in charge of the American recruitment, according to intelligence sources, and had backed the operation with funds. It also has passed word quietly to the US Justice Department that it will not cooperate in a pending investigation of the American recruiter's activities."
  129. "Mercenaries' Recruiter denies link with C.I.A.", New York Times (AP), 20 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  130. Tendayi Kumbula, "'Bad Boy' Mercenary Tells of Adventures", Los Angeles Times, 25 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  131. Jonathan C. Randal, "Mobuto Riding High, But Possibility Raised Of Guerrilla Warfare", Washington Post, 28 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
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  133. "Zaire reports Shaba fighting lull", Baltimore Sun, 6 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest. "In another development, four Western European ambassadors met with presidential aides and Foreign Ministry officials in attempts to convince the government to cancel plans to exhibit seven Western journalists arrested in Shaba last month. They have been accused of espionage and violating a ban on journalists in the province."
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  136. David Lamb, "Zaire Expels Seven Journalists Held as POWs", Los Angeles Times, 7 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  137. "3 Moroccan Soldiers Executed for Rape", Hartford Courant (AP), 25 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  138. "Rape case soldiers executed", The Guardian, 25 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  139. Robin Wright, "Tribesmen in Troubled Province Become Victims of Zaire Army", Washington Post, 21 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest. "There are several confirmed reports that six persons have been killed from beating or stabbing incidents and that the local detention centers hold at least 100 Africans. There are unconfirmed reports of other deaths and imprisonment. There are also widespread reports of Lunda families being repeatedly threatened if money, food or clothing is not provided to government troops. The campaign is apparently designed in part to discourage the Lunda people from cooperating with Katangan rebels who are also from the Lunda tribe, according to several highly reliable sources in Kolwezi. […] The constant harassment and threats of bodily harm have further alienated already suspicious local residents to the point that a growing number of blacks and Europeans now openly say they would welcome the Katangans merely to avoid further incidents and increasing tribal friction."
  140. David Lamb, "Zaire's War Now in Others' Hands: 4 Nations Filling Main Battle, Support Roles", Los Angeles Times, 4 May 1977, p. B1; accessed via ProQuest.
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  142. "American workers to return to Zaire", Los Angeles Times, 28 April 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  143. "Zaire Reports Recapturing Strategic Town Near Angola", Los Angeles Times, 22 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  144. "Zaire reports Shaba victory", Baltimore Sun, 22 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  145. Geoffrey Godwell, "Mobutu, Morocco end threat in Shaba; big powers kept out", Christian Science Monitor, 24 May 1977, accessed via ProQuest.
  146. "Morocco's Mission in Zaire War Is Over, Foreign Minister Says", Los Angeles Times, 24 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  147. "Zaire resistance falls", Baltimore Sun, 27 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  148. "War clouds threaten horn: Turmoil in Ethiopia altering area alliances", Baltimore Sun, 17 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  149. "US says Cuban advisers in Ethiopia", Boston Globe, 26 May 1977, p. 17; accessed via ProQuest.
  150. "Zaire Says Saudis Gave War Aid", Washington Post, 21 July 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  151. Gleijeses, "Truth or Credibility" (2010), pp. 80–81. "Towards the end of the crisis, Mobutu had declared that the Lunda people, from whom most of the rebels hailed, had 'no reason to fear any repression whatsoever from the armed forces of Zaire. But following the rebels' retreat, a well-informed journalist reprorted that 'the behavior of the Zairean army in Shaba was even more hateful than usual. Tens of thousands of Zaireans sought refuge in Angola, and all their testimonies agree: "the army has looted, robbed, raped. They have burned our villages and perpetrated wholesale massacres."'"
  152. Gleijeses, "Truth or Credibility" (2010), p. 81.
  153. 153.0 153.1 "Zaire Condemns Two Men It Links to Shaba Invasion", New York Times, 19 August 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  154. "Zaire's No. 2 Official Ousted, Will Face Charge of Treason", Washington Post, 14 August 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  155. "Treason charge shakes Zaire", The Guardian (AP), 15 August 1977, p. 6; accessed via ProQuest.
  156. "Zaire Aide Gets Death", Los Angeles Times, 13 September 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  157. "Former Zaire Aide, Guilty of Treason, Is Sentenced to Die", New York Times, 14 September 1977; accessed via ProQuest
  158. "Mobutu reprieves former Minister", The Guardian, 16 September 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  159. Odom, Shaba II (1993), pp. 28–29.
  160. Odom, Shaba II (1993), p. 34.
  161. Odom, Shaba II (1993), p. 30.
  162. Richard R. Leger, "The Other War: Conflict Is on Wane, But Zaire Still Fights Poverty, Bankruptcy: Lack of Foreign Exchange Plagues Overseas Firms; Mobutu in Firm Control", Wall Street Journal, 24 May 1977; accessed via ProQuest.
  163. Tom Herman, "Major Loan to Zaire Up to $250 Million Nearing Completion", Wall Street Journal, 24 February 1978; accessed via ProQuest.


Further reading

  • Roger Glickson, 'The Shaba Crisis: Stumbling to Victory,' Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1994.

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