In-depth: The death of Laurent Desire Kabila

DRC: Introduction - The death of Laurent Desire Kabila

Photo: AP
The late DRC president Laurent Desire Kabila
NAIROBI, 12 February 2001 (IRIN) - On 16 January 2001, President Laurent-Desire Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was gunned down by one of his bodyguards, plunging the war-torn country into a period of uncertainty and speculation.

It took the DRC government two days to officially announce Kabila's death, after first stating that he was wounded but still alive. Kabila's body was flown back to the DRC from Zimbabwe, where he was taken after the shooting, and he was buried with full military honours in Kinshasa on 23 January.

Now, all eyes are on his 31 year-old son Joseph Kabila who takes on the mantle of president and supreme commander of the armed forces. In his first address to the nation after his inauguration on 26 January, the younger Kabila appeared to adopt a more conciliatory tone than his father. While sticking to the line that the "aggressors" (Rwanda and Uganda) must be removed from Congolese territory, he nevertheless pledged to find ways of implementing the stalled Lusaka peace process, aimed at ending the ongoing conflict in DRC.

The war pitches Uganda- and Rwanda-backed rebels based in the east and northwest against DRC troops, supported by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. The rebels have rejected Kabila as president, and stated that his inaugural speech "contained nothing new". Diplomats are scrambling to harness the slight ray of hope hanging over DRC politics. Otherwise the country risks descending into greater chaos than before, which the young, inexperienced leader will be hard-pressed to contain. Kabila himself has already embarked on a tour to Europe and the US.