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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Yearbook 1997

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.

1997 Democratic Republic of the Congo

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.

According to 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.

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