Laurent Désiré Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, was born on 27 November 1939 in Baudouinville (Moba), in the Belgian Congo. He was one of the Baluba people.

He studied political philosophy in Paris and East Germany, and on returning to independent Congo became part of the de facto Haut-Katanga government, first as chef du cabinet then as public works minister.

Forced into exile in Brazzaville, he joined the armed struggle against Mobutu, already effective ruler of Congo. When Christophe Gbenye declared the Popular Republic of Congo, a rival government based in Stanleyville, Kabila became secretary of state for foreign affairs. This regime was eventually defeated by Mobutu, and Kabila despite the support of Julius Nyerere and Che Guevara was temporarily forced into exile again; although for some of this time he managed to hold onto a fiefdom in Kivu province.

"Nothing leads me to believe he is the man of the hour," Che said.

He remained out of sight until the final rebellion against Mobutu supported by Rwanda and Uganda. He had maintained his integrity as never having "eaten with Mobutu", and was a good orator in several Zaïrean languages. Kabila became president on 17 May 1997.

He was assassinated on 16 January 2001 in confused events in his palace. His assassin has been named as Rashidi Kasereka, a longtime follower from Bukavu in eastern Zaïre. His son Major-General Joseph Kabila, about 31, succeeded him.

< Mobutu Sese Seko - Democratic Republic of the Congo - Joseph Kabila >

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