Congo. The Tutsid-dominated army, led by the old
guerrilla warrior Laurent-Désiré Kabila, which in September
1996 initiated an uprising in eastern Zaire, marched west
without a major problem in the winter. In March, the rebels
occupied Kisangani, the largest city in the eastern part of
the country. At the same time as the rebel army was
advancing, reports showed that up to 500,000 Rwandan hut
refugees, including large parts of the old Rwandan army,
were fleeing the jungle and suffered severe distress.
At the beginning of April, the rebels had captured the
mineral-rich provinces of Shaba and Western and Eastern
Kasai, thus controlling the country's economy. Both France
and the United States now called on President Mobutu Sese
Seko to step down.
Countryaah, South African President Nelson Mandela succeeded in
getting May Mobutu and Kabila to negotiate on a South
African warship off the coast of Angola in early May. Mobutu
offered to step down, but sought to establish a transitional
government led by Zaire's Catholic Archbishop, which Kabila
refused to accept. The rebels now moved ever closer to the
capital Kinshasa, and on May 16 Mobutu resigned and left the
country. The next day, the rebels marched into Kinshasa, and
Kabila proclaimed president. The country now regained its
old name of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The hopes that Kabila would appoint a broad unity
government with the old Mobuti-hostile opposition came to
shame and soon a dissatisfaction with the new regime spread.
Anti-government demonstrations were hard-fought. UN agencies
and foreign aid organizations claimed that Kabila's soldiers
employed massacres on Rwandan refugees in the east, but only
in late autumn did Kabila agree that a UN commission should
investigate the charges.
In September, the cancer-sick Mobutu died in Morocco. By
then, the Swiss authorities had already blocked his bank
accounts and seized his real estate at the request of the
new regime. Presumed accounts in five other European
countries had also been requested to be blocked. Mobutu was
considered one of the most corrupt dictators in the world
and he is believed to have made a multimillion fortune by
plundering his own country.