Kabila, Joseph


Kabila, Joseph
▪ 2002

      On Jan. 26, 2001, Joseph Kabila was inaugurated as the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was the eldest son of the former president, Laurent Kabila, who had been shot by a bodyguard and apparently killed on January 16, although the death was not announced until two days later. (See Obituaries (Kabila, Laurent-Desire ).) The son—named interim president on January 17 and subsequently chosen to succeed his father—inherited a country that, for the most part, was without a functioning government or basic services and whose economy had largely been ruined during two and a half years of civil war. Almost nothing was known about the new president either inside or outside the country, and the first assessment was that his father's advisers had chosen him as a figurehead. During the following months, however, the son surprised many people by taking the initiative and turning the policies of the government in a different direction.

      Kabila was born on June 4, 1971, in Sud-Kivu province and grew up and was educated in Tanzania. He came to speak primarily English and Swahili but was not fluent in French, which along with English was an official language of the DRC. When his father deposed Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, the son followed him to Kinshasa. In 1998 he was sent to Rwanda and then to China for military training. Upon his return, he became head of the country's armed forces, with the rank of major general.

      Less than a week after being sworn in, Kabila made his first trip abroad as president. He conferred with government leaders in France and Belgium and also traveled to the U.S., where he met with Secretary of State Colin Powell (q.v. (Powell, Colin Luther )) and with officials of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations. While in the U.S., he also met with Paul Kagame, head of Rwanda, who had been one of his father's principal opponents. In a meeting in Zambia later in February, the new president agreed to begin the implementation of a cease-fire agreement that had been signed in Lusaka in July 1999 but that his father had refused to honour. As part of the agreement, he held talks with rebel groups, and the governments of five neighbouring countries—Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia—that had troops in the country agreed to begin their withdrawal. UN peacekeepers arrived at the end of March to monitor the cease-fire and the pullback of troops. On April 14 Kabila, having dismissed the cabinet that had been held over from his father's administration, named his own group of ministers.

Robert Rauch

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Universalium. 2010.

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