The Protestant Church in Congo: The Mobutu Years and their Impact

in Journal of Religion in Africa
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This paper examines the Protestant Church in Congo/Zaire during the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko. It reviews its origins as a loose affiliation of denominations during the days of the Belgian colony and the changes which came about under Bokeleale—its driving force and central figure. His goal was to do away with the autonomy of the denominations and create a super Protestant Church in the nation. With the help of government legislation, forced union and centralisation took place. It is the purpose here to highlight some of the forces that were at work and to decide what the consequences were in this marriage of the Protestant Church and the state in Zaire. Not all Protestants yielded to the pressures of state and church and by the 1990s new expressions of faith were emerging in the nation. What then were the outcomes?

The Protestant Church in Congo: The Mobutu Years and their Impact

in Journal of Religion in Africa



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See Martin 1975; Young 199466; Sundkler and Steed 2000 780-783; cf. Schatzberg 1991 122. He questions the figures usually presented (5000000); having done my own research I would agree with him. I reckon that there were likely around 500000 at most at the end of the Mobutu years.


See Sundkler and Steed 2000968. It is evident from the way in which Bokeleale’s governance of the Church of Christ of Congo/Zaire was maintained that he as with his patron Mobutu in the political sphere left little room for meaningful input into the running of the ECC/ECZ from any who were not totally behind his goals. Kabongo-Mbaya (1992 224) says that Bokeleale’s tactics to dominate in every area were present in what he calls his ambition to become a mini-Pope over all the communities; see his comments regarding this authority (235f.) and his considerable powers as viewed by the ECZ (362). Kabongo-Mbaya (1991 87) underlines the fact that even his own second-in-charge: Masamba Ma Mpolo who opposed the ‘episcopalianisation’ of the ECZ was forced to stand down and leave the country only to return later and become the cofounder of a political party called the Christian Democratic and Social Party (PDSC).


See Hastings 1979191-193; Willame et al. 1997 67ff.; Sundkler and Steed 2000 965-68; Young 1994 67ff.


See Martin 1976; Irvine 1971; Asch 2000.


For the earliest period see Slade 195912.


See Kabongo-Mbaya 1992100.


On Lovic see Kabongo-Mbaya 1992260f.


See Gifford 1994a528 on the matter of churches either backing or opposing political reform.


Sundkler and Steed 2000968.


Boyenge 197210f.; Makanzu 1973 20f. 31.


Kabongo-Mbaya 1992223f.


See Kabongo-Mbaya 1992297.


Kabongo-Mbaya 1992305.


See Ande 201048-52.


Editor 197525f.


See Kabongo-Mbaya 1992352356.


See Young 1994323 for the figures on inflation from 1967-1983 when the Zaire (the name of the currency) went from being worth $2 to $0.03.


See Ande 201031.


See Kabongo-Mbaya 199181.


See Kabongo-Mbaya 1992394.


See Goosens 2000243245f.


Willame et al. 19975.


Willame et al. 19975.


See parallels with Gifford 1994b521.


See Kabongo-Mbaya 1992328-344405.


Kabongo-Mbaya 1992330-334.


See Gifford 1994b521 who discusses the unwillingness to engage the question of abuses in society.


See Fabian 1971. Much depends on the way in which the term Charismatic is defined. For his definition of ‘charismatic’ see his article 1966 545. Interestingly much of what Fabian describes as exclusive to the Jamaa dream is not; it is part of the thinking of numbers of the ethnic groups in this area of the Congo. The Jamaa have merely put their particular religious interpretation on certain aspects of dreams. For more on dreams in a Congo setting see Pype 2011 81-96.

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