Laurent-Désiré Kabila

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Laurent Desire Kabila

In office
May 17, 1997 – January 16, 2001 (assassinated)
Preceded by Mobutu Sese Seko
Succeeded by Joseph Kabila Kabange

Born November 27, 1939
Likasi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
(then known as Jadotville, Belgian Congo
Political party AFDL
Spouse Sifa Mahanya


Laurent-Désiré Kabila (November 27, 1939January 18, 2001) was President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from May 1997, when he overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko until his assassination in January 2001. He was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila.

[edit] Early history and Congo Crisis

Kabila was born a member of the Luba tribe in Jadotville (present-day Likasi) in the Belgian Congo, Katanga province. His father was Luba, while his mother was Lunda. Kabila studied political philosophy in France and attended the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

When the Congo gained independence in 1960 and the Congo Crisis began, Kabila was a "deputy commander" in the Jeunesses Balubakat, the youth wing of the Patrice Lumumba-aligned General Association of the Baluba People of Katanga (Balubakat), actively fighting the secessionist forces of Moise Tshombe. Lumumba was overthrown by Joseph Mobutu within months, and by 1962, Kabila was appointed to the provincial assembly for North Katanga and was chief of cabinet for Minister of Information Ferdinand Tumba. He established himself as a supporter of hard-line Lumumbist Prosper Mwamba Ilunga. When the Lumumbists formed the Conseil National de Libération, he was sent to eastern Congo to help organize a revolution, in particular in the Kivu and North Katanga provinces. In 1965, Kabila has set up a cross-border rebel operation from Kigoma, Tanzania, across Lake Tanganyika.<ref name=Dunn54>Kevin C. Dunn, "A Survival Guide to Kinshasa: Lessons of the Father, Passed Down to the Son" in John F. Clark, ed., The African Stakes of the Congo War, Palgrave MacMillan: New York, 2004, ISBN 1403967237, p. 54</ref>

Che Guevara assisted Kabila for a short time in 1965. Guevara had appeared in the Congo with approximately 100 men who planned to bring about a Cuban style revolution. In Guevara's opinion, Kabila (then 26) was "not the man of the hour" he had alluded to, with Kabila being one who was more interested in consuming alcohol and bedding women. This, in Guevara's opinion, was the reason that Kabila would show up days late at times to provide supplies, aid, or backup to Guevara's men. The lack of cooperation between Kabila and Guevara led to the revolt being suppressed that same year.[citation needed]

In 1967, Kabila and his remnant of supported moved their operation into the mountainous Fizi-Baraka area of South Kivu and founded the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP). With the support of the People's Republic of China the PRP created a secessionist Marxist state in South Kivu province, west of Lake Tanganyika. The mini-state included collective agriculture, extortion and mineral smuggling. The local military commanders were aware of the PRP enclave and reportedly traded military supplies in exchange for a cut of the extortion and robbery profits. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kabila had amassed considerable wealth and established houses in Dar es Salaam and Kampala. While in Kampala, he reportedly met Yoweri Museveni, the future leader of Uganda. Museveni and former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere later introduced Kabila to Paul Kagame, who would become president of Rwanda. These personal contacts became vital in mid-1990s, when Uganda and Rwanda were looking for a Congolese face for their intervention in Zaire.<ref>Dunn, p. 55</ref> The PRP state came to an end in 1988 and Kabila disappeared and was widely believed to be dead.

[edit] War and presidency

Kabila returned in October 1996, leading ethnic Tutsis from South Kivu against Hutu forces, marking the beginning of the First Congo War. With support from Burundi, Uganda and the Rwandan Tutsi government, Kabila pushed his forces into a full-scale rebellion against Mobutu as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL). By mid-1997, the ADFL had made significant gains and following failed peace talks in May 1997, Mobutu fled the country, and Kabila entered Kinshasa on May 20. Kabila made himself head of state, created the Public Salvation Government and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Image:Flag of Congo Kinshasa 1997.svg
Flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo used by Kabila

Kabila had been a committed Marxist, but his policies at this point were a mix of capitalism and collectivism. While some in the West hailed Kabila as representing a "new breed" of African leadership, critics charged that Kabila's policies differed little from his predecessor's, being characterised by authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights abuses. Kabila was also accused of self-aggrandizing tendencies, including trying to set up a personality cult, with the help of Mobutu's former Minister of Information, Dominique Sakombi Inongo.

By 1998, Kabila's former allies in Uganda and Rwanda had turned against him and backed a new rebellion of the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD). Kabila found new allies in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola and managed to hold on in the south and west of the country and in July 1999 peace talks led to the withdrawal of most foreign forces.

However, the rebellion continued and Kabila was shot during the afternoon of January 16, 2001 by one of his own staff, Rashidi Kasereka, who was also killed. The assassination was part of a failed coup attempt which was crushed and Kabila, who may have been still alive, was flown to Zimbabwe for medical treatment. His death was confirmed there on 18 January. One week later, his body was returned to Congo for a state funeral and his son, Joseph Kabila Kabange, became president on 26 January.

The investigation into the assassination led to 135 people being tried before a special military tribunal. The alleged ringleader, a cousin of Kabila Colonel Eddy Kapend, and 25 others were sentenced to death in January 2003. Of the other defendants 64 were jailed, with sentences from six months to life, and 45 were exonerated.

[edit] Notes and references

<references />

Preceded by:
Mobutu Sese Seko
as President of Zaire
President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
1997–2001
Succeeded by:
Joseph Kabila
ar:لوران كابيلا

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Laurent-Désiré Kabila

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