The Kleptocracy is Still Winning

Last year I read a paper by a fellow grad student — not a very good one, but interesting nonetheless — about Mobutu Sese Seko, the late dictator of Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo). With the backing of the CIA Mobutu came to power through a coup, and held onto it for over thirty years, before he was deposed by a group of revolutionaries.  He was a pretty terrible fellow, who squirreled millions away for himself and his family while the country he ran suffered famine, poverty, and the like.  If I recall an anecdote from the grad paper, he had something like twenty homes all over the world and loved to take his humongous family to Disney World and other vacation destinations.  Very weird, and very sad.

In a distressing turn of events, it looks like millions of dollars Mobutu smuggled/stole/obtained by illegitimate means may be returned to members of his family, unfrozen now from Mobutu’s Swiss accounts — apparently the Swiss statuate of limitations for such things (bank accounts of criminals, in the simplest terms) is ten years, and no sustainable law suit has been filed by the Democratic Republic of Congo.  This is largely because members of Mobutu’s family are powerful politicians/leaders in the DRC and have prevented such law suits from being filed and holding water.  So, through the cycle of corruption, they may finally get the dirty money.

That is a terrible shame. We spend so much time in this country discussing liberty and tyranny, completely unaware that such horrible abuses of power take place just around the globe.

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