country in Africa now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Zaire, officially the Republic of Zaire (French: République du Zaïre) was the name of a country that is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It used this name from 27 November 1971 to 17 May 1997. The name "Zaire" comes from a Portuguese corruption of the Kongo word nzare, meaning "river".

Republic of Zairea
République du Zaïre
Repubuliki ya Zaïre
Jamhuri ya Zaïre
Coat of arms of Zaire
Coat of arms
Motto: Paix – Justice – Travail[1]  
"Peace – Justice – Work"
Anthem: La Zaïroise
"The Song of Zaire"
Location of Zaire
Common languagesFrench
Lingala · Kongo
Swahili · Tshiluba
Christianity, Baluba religion, Bantu religion
GovernmentMobutist one-party republicc[2]
under a de facto military dictatorshipd
• 1971–1997
Mobutu Sese Seko
Historical eraCold War
25 November 1965
• Country renamed
27 October 1971
16 May 1997
• Death of Mobutu
7 September 1997
19962,345,410 km2 (905,570 sq mi)
• 1996
Time zoneCET / EET
Calling code243
Internet TLD.zr
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville)
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Today part of DR Congo
a. Renamed from "Democratic Republic of the Congo" (République démocratique du Congo) on 27 October 1971.
b. Changed from "Léopoldville" in 1966.
c. Zaire became a de jure one-party state on December 23, 1970,[3] but had been a de facto one-party state since May 20, 1967, the date on which the MPR (Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution) was established. Zaire formally adopted a multiparty system on April 24, 1990,[4] when Mobutu delivered a speech proclaiming the end of the one-party system. The country adopted multipartyism de jure with the passage of Law No. 90-002 of July 5, 1990, which amended its constitution accordingly.[5]
d. 1990–1997.


  1. Constitution de la République du Zaïre, article 5: "Sa devise est : Paix — Justice — Travail". Source: Journal Officiel de la République du Zaïre (N. 1 du 1er janvier 1983)
  2. Thomas Turner, "Flying High Above the Toads: Mobutu and Stalemated Democracy", in Political Reform in Francophone Africa (1997), ed. John F. Clark and David E. Gardinier, page 70.
  3. Kaplan, Irving (ed.). Zaire: A Country Study. Third Edition, First Printing. 1979.
  4. Sandra W. Meditz and Tim Merrill (eds.). Zaire: A Country Study. Fourth Edition. 1993.
  5. Complete text of the Zairian constitution after the enactment of Law No. 90-002 of July 5, 1990 concerning the modification of certain provisions of the Constitution