Laurent Kabila became president of the Central African nation of Zaire on May 17, 1997, after overthrowing Dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in a military coup. After taking the helm of the war-torn nation, Kabila swiftly restored the country’s former name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Kabila was born in the Belgian-controlled Congo on Nov. 27, 1939, and went on to study various political philosophies and military strategies in countries such as France, Serbia and China. Despite promising a new era of democracy following Mobutu’s rule, Kabila was heavily criticized for maintaining a totalitarian rule of law and perpetrating human rights abuses. He was assassinated by one of his guards on Jan. 18, 2001, at the age of 61.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)