Chapter 10 A Road not Taken? The Biography of Laurent Kabila (1939–2001)

In: The Individual in African History
Erik Kennes
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With the death of Laurent Kabila in 2001, a generational cycle in Congolese politics ended. Mobutu’s victory over Lumumbist forces in 1965 did not deter some of the latter from continuing their resistance activities in remote areas. Laurent Kabila developed one of these movements into a Marxist guerrilla group that maintained its autonomy against Mobutist hegemony until 1986. When Kabila took power in 1997, an entire generation representing the hidden part of the history of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) took centre stage again, but the new regime was unable to implement its political programme. From the presidency of his son Joseph, a post-independence generation ruled the country. This begs the question whether the rebel movements from the 1960s embodied a possible alternative for the country, or a road not taken. The answer to this question is not clear. If Laurent Kabila’s presidency was, in a sense, the truth of the resistance movements of the 1960s, it represented the possibility of an alternative road and a source of inspiration. Further comparative biographical research of past and present leaders and their political thought could yield elements for the construction of a more elaborate political alternative for the DRC.

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