Laurent-Désiré Kabila

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Laurent-Désiré Kabila (November 27, 1939 – January 18, 2001) was President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from May 17, 1997, when he overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko until his assassination by his bodyguards on January 18, 2001. He was succeeded by his supposedly adopted son Joseph eight days later.


Early life

Kabila was born to a member of the Luba tribe in Baudoinville, Katanga, (Now Moba, Tanganyika Province) in the Belgian Congo. His father was a Luba and his mother was a Lunda. He studied political philosophy in France and attended the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Congo Crisis

When the Congo gained independence from Belgium on June 30, 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. Within months, Lumumba was overthrown by Joseph Mobutu, and in 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 set up a cross-border rebel operation from Kigoma, Tanzania, across Lake Tanganyika.[1]

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, being 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.[2] In Guevara's view, of all of the people he met during his campaign in Congo, Kabila was the only man who had "genuine qualities of a mass leader" but castigated him for a lack of "revolutionary seriousness"(cf page 244 Ernesto "Che" Guevara The African Dream - Publisher: Harvill Panther).

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