IACMC MILITARIA FORUM

Would you like to react to this message? Create an account in a few clicks or log in to continue.

3 posters

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia

    TennoHeikaNate
    TennoHeikaNate
    Senior Sergeant
    Senior Sergeant


    Name : Nate
    Location : USA
    Registration date : 2013-10-16
    Number of posts : 339

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Empty Zairean Leopard and Insignia

    Post by TennoHeikaNate Tue Mar 26, 2024 2:04 am

    Was very pleased to acquire this set from the collection of Mr. Hotokezaka/camouniform.militaryblog.jp, which was displayed on his site for a long time (but seems to have since been removed).
    A rather fine condition, not heavily used set featuring a shirt with more of a khaki/tannish base color and a pair of trousers with the more typical, iconic green base color.

    These leopard camouflage uniforms were worn by several units of the Zairean Army, including their commandos, Division Spéciale Présidentielle (Special Presidential Brigade, later increased to Division), 31e Brigade Parachutiste, "elite" Kamanyola Infantry Division, the Civil Guard, and among others.
    Other African militaries have used leopard patterns like this, or even copied and recolored versions, but based on photograph dates I believe the Zairean pattern was the first one introduced.
    My theory is that it was developed and introduced somewhere between 1974-1976 with the creation of the Kamanyola Division, which was supposed to be the most elite unit of the FAZ as Mobutu himself had personally led an attack in the Kamanyola region for which the division was named and based at back in 1964, but supposed poor training and equipment from North Korea led to very poor performance and desertion by the unit in actual combat.
    The earliest photos I've seen so far of the leopard pattern date to a 1976 parade, and also sometime in the mid-70's a bright yellowish leopard pattern appeared among Garde Presidentielle/Presidental Guards of the Chadian Armed Forces during their civil war, who were supported by Zaire.
    The FAZ performed quite poorly during the Shaba I and II conflicts (1977 and '78, respectively) despite being trained and supplied by multiple foreign militaries including the US, France, Belgium, Cuba, Morocco, and North Korea, and by the 90's were rife with desertion and riots as lack of pay and care to their state of being ultimately helped lead to the collapse of Mobutu's Zaire.
    The leopard pattern saw service during both Shaba Conflicts, and was still sporadically being worn by the mid-late 90's during the First Congo War which saw the dissolution of Zaire and its FAZ by 1997, with the leopard pattern and other Zairean uniforms and equipment fading away in the years after.


    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea10
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea11
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea12


    Starting with the shirt!

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea13
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea14

    The chest pockets, cuffs, and trouser pockets all close with these smaller, lighter colored covered buttons. The right cuff is missing its button.
    Note the underside of the pockets were sewn with green base material, and there's the slightly signs of a patch over the left chest pocket, likely an FAZ ("Forces Armées Zaïroises"/Zairean Armed Forces) tape.


    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea17
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea16


    The edge of the buttonhole side of the main closure is sewn with curious bright green/teal thread, and the shirt itself is closed with large, flat, olive buttons.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea15


    The only marking is this fabric tag made of matching camouflage fabric with "5.79" stamped on it. Price of the shirt to manufacture? Price to the soldier to pay for? Obscure sizing system?

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea18


    And finally, the epaulets are secured with brass buttons emblazoned with leopards. The leopard was a major symbol to Mobutu to say the least!
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea19


    Now onto the trousers. They feature a button waist and fly, five large belt loops that can fit a web belt, two single covered button leg cargo pockets, and a single rear exposed button pocket.
    There are no reinforcements or ankle drawstrings.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea20
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea21


    There is a single camo fabric tag inside the trousers again, but this time with a simple "2", likely inspired from French uniform sizing.
    I wear a US Small-Regular trouser and these are too small in the waist for me.
    Also note that opposite the shirt, the inner fly fabric and underside of the leg cargo pocket flaps are sewn with the tan-base color fabric.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea22
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea23


    Now for some insignia!
    First up, from the collection of a long-time US-based insignia collector, a Commando Instructor patch, said to have been traded for back in 1989.
    He had several other Zairean patches and pocket hangers, but this was the only one I could get. The quality strikes me as a Belgian or other foreign made one.
    I've seen a couple of patches like this one sewn to the right sleeves of both leopard and jigsaw camouflage shirts.
    If anybody knows more about Zairean insignia and can shed light on them, I'd be highly grateful!

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea24


    And second, a very recent addition, a commando's epaulet or pocket hanger patch, not sure on how this was supposed to be worn.
    This one came out of France and was traded by a French soldier who brought it back.
    From what I can scrape and translate from a French collector forum thread, supposedly these hangers were handmade by tailors for graduating commandos, and there only exists the exact number of hangers for the number of commando graduates there were. Whether that's true or not I can't say, but I've seen at least 7 or 8 of these over the years and all were equally "field made" looking, unlike the previous instructor patch.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea25
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea26
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea27
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea28


    And finally, some good ol' reference pics! I have more of other uniforms and equipment being worn as well for anyone interested.
    "4-20-1977- Kinshasa, Zaire. Two prisoners, captured by Zairean forces in the Shaba insurrection, stand dejectedly on display at a rally held in support of Zaire's President Mobutu Sese Seko (L)."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 4-20-110

    Interesting pic of perhaps another brighter color type of leopard being worn, maybe one similar to the Chadian or Libyan types.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 0f55cd11
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Mobutu11

    Unknown date. This cap has an interesting darker coloration, perhaps from sweat or just the dye. There seems to have been one, possibly two types of field cap made in the leopard pattern.
    They have a low crown, floppy, stitched bill, vent holes, and wraparound fold down external ear flap, though some photos show caps without earflaps, perhaps there were summer and winter version caps or perhaps some soldiers simply cut the flaps off. These caps would normally have been fit with a full color enamel cockade to the front depicting an arm holding a torch, as seen on the flag of Zaire.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 5f0b9210

    "20 April 1977,Zairean president Mobutu Sese Seko, brandishing his sculpted stick, acknowledges a cheering crowd at a rally in Kinshasa."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 20_apr10

    Visiting wounded soldiers.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 20r10
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 30r10

    Unloading a Zairean Air Force cargo plane, maybe a Transall C-160?.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 38miss10

    Mobutu and some unknown general officers.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 18674810

    Standing in front of a cargo plane, one of the Shaba conflicts.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 20091310

    Unknown general officer.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia 14527810
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Image010

    Captured rebel munitions during one of the Shaba conflicts.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Arme210

    "Commandos from the Zaire Armed Forces on a street during fighting between FLNC rebels and French and Belgian paratroopers in the city of Kolwezi, Shaba II, May 1978." The two men far right have leopard caps.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Comman11

    A Zairean commando prepares to jump. Note his French para helmet, US SWD goggles, and full color green commando patch on his right shoulder.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Cqhbep10

    Zairean commandos during an exercise. Note their US ALICE webbing and radio packs. They also have some sort of green epaulet slides with metal insignia on them, and the man on the right has some sort of arch tab on his left sleeve that I can't quite read but looks like gold on black "Commando".
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Cqhbhp10

    Kamanyola Infantry Division on parade, unknown date.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Cqxj5e10

    General Kikunda, Colonel Ikuku, General Singa, and Mobutu.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Gen-ki10

    Idi Amin and Mobutu.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Idi_am10

    "Zaire Armed Forces guard President of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko as he visits the city of Kolwezi following fighting between FLNC rebels and French and Belgian paratroopers, Shaba II, 1978."
    Note the US supplied M16's and OG utilities worn right. The man closest to the camera has an olive uniform that seems to be in the same cut as the leopard uniform.
    The general officer to the rear left is wearing leopard, with bright red epaulet rank slides and para wings over his right pocket.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zaire_13

    Colonel Loubaris with Mobutu.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Le_col10
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Le_col11

    FAZ during Shaba I.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Lega2110
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Lega4110

    "French Legionnaires of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment talking with soldiers of the Zairian army during the Battle of Kolwezi, Shaba II, June 2, 1978."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Legion10

    Moroccan Army Lt. Colonel Ben Abdelwahed. Morocco provided heavy troop and material support during Shaba I.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Lt-col10

    "May 05, 1977 Zaire, Mutshatsha. President Mobutu Sese Seko speaks to his soldiers when he visited front-line posts."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia May_0510

    "May 05, 1977 - Zaire, (Near Mutshatsha) Zaire troops guard all bridges they recaptured in the war-torn Shaba Province."
    The man left with his foot on the jeep is wearing leopard and a beret, maybe a paratrooper, his FAL looks to either have a folding or perhaps even missing its stock.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia May_0511

    "Meeting between Moroccan and Zairian soldiers in Katanga, during the first Shaba war, April 20, 1977."
    Note that despite his epaulet being torn loose, he still has the torch cockade on his cap.
    Also note the Moroccan soldier between the handshake wearing what looks to be an early plated body armor vest.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Meetin10

    Unknown, seems to be from the same book as the color Kamanyola parade photo.
    The only context was the filename "Mercenary", which you'll notice at least two white men, one mustached behind the leopard-clad Zairean soldier, and another wearing sunglasses behind the pack.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Mercen10

    "Military parade for the 11th Anniversary of the Second Republic in Kinshasa, November 24, 1976 in Zaire."
    The earliest date I've seen of the leopard pattern being worn.
    Note the torch cockades on their caps, and none of them have "FAZ ##" tapes over their left pockets, which actually seem to be quite rare in photographs.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Milita17
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Milita17
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Milita18
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Milita19

    From the same parade, female soldiers. They wear a fascinating female uniform with a dress style cap, short sleeve jacket, and long knee-length skirts.
    These must be exceedingly rare as these photos are the only evidence I've ever seen of female leopard uniforms even existing, and I doubt many were made and even fewer, if any, survived the collapse of Zaire.

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Milita20
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Milita21

    "Mobutu Sese Seko visits the Zairean army in the province of Shaba in April 1977, Zaire."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Mobutu10

    An unknown officer.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Office15
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Office14

    "President Mobutu chats with Commander of the Moroccan troops Colonel Loubaris."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Presid10

    "Zairean paratrooper of the 31e Brigade Parachutiste monitoring Kolwezi airport on March 24, 1977."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Soldie28

    "Zairean troops monitoring Kolwezi airport on March 24, 1977."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Soldie30
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Soldie29

    "Soldiers of the Zairian Civil Guard during a speech by General Mahele, between 1991-1993."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Soldie12

    The only photo I've seen of the bush hat being worn. It's a copy of the French Mle-1949 ‘Le Chapeau de Brousse' with snap up sides and a chinstrap.
    I've seen maybe two or three of these in collections, the last one I saw sold for some $250+...

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zaire_10

    An unknown white soldier, perhaps an advisor or mercenary.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zaire_11

    Female soldiers wearing the standard leopard uniform.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zaire_12

    "Zairean soldiers armed with bow and arrows and automatic weapons cheer after their continuing victory in Shaba Province, April 1977."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zaire_14
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea31
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairia13

    "Zairean soldier showing inscriptions on a wall in the private chambers of General Katangais M'Bumba April 1977, Zaire."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea29

    "Zairean soldier typing at the typewriter during the occupation of General Katangais M'Bumba's private quarters, April 1977, Zaire."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea30

    "Zairean soldiers occupying the headquarters of General Katangese M'Bumba April 1977, Zaire."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairia10
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairia11

    "Zairean soldiers on the front of Mutshatsha in the province of Shaba on April 25, 1977, Zaire."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea32
    April 20th.
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairia12

    "Zairean forces capture a rebel stronghold."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairea33

    "Zairean troops in Southern Shaba, Shaba I 1977."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairia14

    "Zairean troops with a beret-wearing Moroccan military advisor, Shaba I, 1977."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairia15

    "Zairean soldier steals from a Rwandan civilian on July 17, before he crosses the country, fleeing from RPF forces, 1996 or '97."
    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Zairia16


    That's all for now, enjoy!
    -Nate


    Guessologist likes this post

    ripcord
    ripcord
    Colonel
    Colonel


    Location : USA
    Registration date : 2012-12-29
    Number of posts : 2820

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Empty Re: Zairean Leopard and Insignia

    Post by ripcord Tue Mar 26, 2024 1:42 pm

    Outstanding !!

    As usual, a thorough and super interesting post...Thanks !
    Camonut314
    Camonut314
    Sergeant Major
    Sergeant Major


    Location : California
    Registration date : 2011-12-12
    Number of posts : 401

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Empty Re: Zairean Leopard and Insignia

    Post by Camonut314 Tue Mar 26, 2024 10:03 pm

    Fabulous... still one of my favorites- one might even say a holy grail. Once again, my thanks and congratulations.
    TennoHeikaNate
    TennoHeikaNate
    Senior Sergeant
    Senior Sergeant


    Name : Nate
    Location : USA
    Registration date : 2013-10-16
    Number of posts : 339

    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Empty Re: Zairean Leopard and Insignia

    Post by TennoHeikaNate Thu Mar 28, 2024 8:22 am

    Thanks guys, yes I can certainly say this has been on my grail list for well over ten years now, hopefully one day some more pieces of it will appear!
    I'm surprised at the quality of manufacture of the uniform, allegedly earlier ones were made possibly in Europe and late ones in Asia, but I don't know any way of telling.

    ripcord likes this post


    Sponsored content


    Zairean Leopard and Insignia Empty Re: Zairean Leopard and Insignia

    Post by Sponsored content


      Current date/time is Sun Jul 14, 2024 7:24 am