Thirty-five years ago, Pat Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which laid the foundation for his financial empire. Using CBN resources, Robertson launched numerous other business ventures, including: the Family Channel, designed to distribute "The 700 Club," which became International Family Entertainment in 1990; Northstar Entertainment; Broadcast Equities; CBN Travel; American Sales Corporation; International Charter Jet; Kalo-Vita; and the Founders Inn and Conference Center.
Under International Family Entertainment, a for-profit organization, Chairman Robertson and his son, Tim, received over $1.1 million in salaries and bonuses in 1993 alone. According to Robertson, his close relationship with God has given him the insider's scoop on successfully using what he calls "God's marvelous system of money management". With so many projects to run, Robertson seems to have his hands full (with cash, that is).
Although the financial success of CBN is well-known, one of Robertson's lesser known organizations is his African Development Company (ADC). ADC is a private venture that invests in various land-based operations in Africa, such as mining and agriculture, with the stated goal of redirecting profits toward humanitarian projects. In Zaire, the ADC operates a diamond-mining project in the center of Zaire's prime diamond mines and forestry concessions.
Zaire is a country with a population of approximately 43 million, most of whom live in poverty. At the same time, Zaire's head of government, Mobutu Sese Seko, a dictator who has plundered the wealth of his nation for over thirty years, is able to live luxuriously surrounded by the comforts of vacation homes, yachts, and champagne. Corruption, health concerns, and human rights abuses in Zaire have long been an international concern, causing many countries, including the U.S., to turn a diplomatic cold shoulder toward Mobutu.
U.S. intelligence agencies have reported that billions of dollars in aid given to Zaire during the Cold War now find a comfortable home in Mobutu's personal bank accounts. Human rights groups around the world have campaigned against the numerous atrocities committed against the Zairians during his thirty-year reign, including the deaths of tens of thousands of citizens. Mobutu has refused to implement any democratic reform that would lessen his power.
President Mobutu continuously campaigns to distance himself from his appalling human-rights record, which has earned him more foes than friends. However, despite the innumerable strikes against him, it seems that Mobutu has attained a new trading partner, Pat Robertson. Mobutu's partnership with Robertson is another of Mobutu's attempts to build ties between his illegitimate regime and the U.S., as a way of gaining international acceptance.
Robertson, the former U.S. presidential candidate, has shown that he is not the least bit uneasy with utilizing Mobutu's personal fleet of planes and yachts, which were purchased off the backs of Zaire's oppressed citizens. Dr. Makau Mutua, projects director of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, in the February 27, 1995 issue of TIME magazine observed that "Robertson is Mobutu's biggest American catch."
When presented with more of the facts surrounding ADC, one is forced question the nature of Robertson's relationship with such a dictator. Should a "good Christian" profit from diamonds and lumber mined by the functional equivalent of slave labor? While other Christian relief programs donate aid to Zaire via private organizations to avoid any connection with Mobutu's corrupt government, Robertson rushes forth with open arms towards Mobutu.
On February 16, 1992, Zairian Protestants and Catholics held a demonstration asking for reform. Mobutu's troops opened fire on the demonstrators. Despite the bloody massacre that followed, coupled with criticism by the U.S. State Department, Pat Robertson was among the first in line to wine and dine with Mobutu in Zaire.
Perhaps Robertson's financial gains are enough for him to ignore any humanitarian pleas for reform in Zaire. Not only does Robertson profit handsomely off of his tidy diamond-mining operation, but Mobutu also makes his own, more than satisfactory income, through his country's $300 million-a-year mineral trade. Although Robertson has supported a number of dubious causes, his relationship with a character like Mobutu is one that may lead to more questions than Robertson is willing to answer. The love (of money) relationship between Robertson and Mobutu may leave Robertson's associates feeling a bit more than uncomfortable.
Ju-lan Kim, an IFAS intern, is a student at Simon's Rock College of Bard.