Who killed Kabila? The new issue of the Chronic presents this query as the starting point for an in-depth investigation into power, territory and the creative imagination by writers from the Congo and other countries involved in the conflict. 8 years after the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, rumours still proliferate. But who killed Kabila is not A or B or C. But rather A and B and C. All options are both true and necessary – it’s the coming together of all these individuals, groups and circumstances, on one day, within the proliferating course of the history, that does it.
The cast list of actors and character who make an appearance in the issue includes everyone from Cuban revolutionary leader Ché Guevara and psychiatrist, political theorist and freedom fighter, Frantz Fanon, to Rashidi Muzele, the assassin who pulled the trigger; Leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) from 1966 to 2002, Jonas Savimbi, as well as Angolan art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo; to Billy Rautenbach, a Zimbabwean businessman with strong ties to the ruling ZANU-PF and Larry Devlin, aCIA field officer stationed for many years in Africa; as well as Grand Maître of Congolese modern music Franco, Congolese dancer and choreographer based, Faustin Linyekula and many, many, many more.
Joseph Kabila: Son of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He attended secondary school in Tanzania and, briefly, Makerere University in Uganda. He was part of the ADFL, shadowing Commanding Officer James Kabarebe. Following the ADFL’s victory, and his father’s rise to the presidency, Kabila received further military training in China. Upon his return to the Congo he was one of the military leaders in charge of government troops during the time of the Second Congo War. Joseph’s first reported fall-out with his father was after the defeat at Pweto in 2000, upon which he fled to South Africa. At the time of his father’s assassination, Joseph was reported to be in Lubumbashi. Taking over the presidency from his father, Joseph Kabila was the president of the DRC from 2001 to 2018. Several theories point to Joseph Kabila as the greatest beneficiary of his father’s death. The fact that his politics were diametrically opposed to the anti-western stance of his father is referred to as further evidence.
Masyaga Matinyi: Joseph Kabila’s childhood friend and desk mate at Zanaki Secondary School in Dar es Salaam. He is currently working as editor of Mtanzania newspaper. Shortly after Joseph Kabila succeeded Laurent as president of the DRC, Matinyi published an article in Rai, a Tanzanian journal, illustrated with a photograph showing himself and Kabila as schoolmates in Dar in 1987. The article and photograph subsequently sparked a row in DRC over the origins of Joseph Kabila.
Patrick Karegeya: Former head of military intelligence of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Karegeya met Laurent-Désiré Kabila in 1995 in Dar es Salaam to recruit him as leader of the ADFL. After being handed two prison sentences in Rwanda, Karegeya went into exile in 2007. He was killed in Johannesburg on 31 December 2013.
Ché Guevara: Cuban revolutionary leader, who first met Laurent-Désiré Kabila in 1965 in Dar es Salaam to plan a Cuban intervention in the Congo as part of the global anti-imperialist struggle. The Cuban military mission in Kabila’s Fizi maquis from April to November 1965 turned out to be a failure. Ché’s impressions of his time in the Congo, as contained in his Congo Diary, have either been interpreted as proving that Kabila was inherently inept as a leader, or that he had stayed true to the radical anti-colonial struggle.
Julius Nyerere: First President of Tanzania, Nyerere granted Laurent-Désiré Kabila and his family exile in Tanzania following the failure of the Simba rebellion, of which Kabila was part and to which Tanzania provided significant military support. Nyerere and Kabila fell out after Kabila’s PRP rebel group took a group of American researchers hostage in 1975. However, in the lead-up of the ADFL campaign, Nyerere played a central role in suggesting Kabila as one of the leaders of the ADFL.
Ernest Wamba dia Wamba: Following a career as an academic and political theorist, Wamba dia Wamba, was recruited as head of the rebel RCD (Rally for Congolese Democracy) movement, which was backed by Uganda and Rwanda, and aimed at overthrowing the government of Laurent-Désiré Kabila during the Second Congo War. In the course of the conflict, the RCD split into several factions. Wamba dia Wamba was in charge of the faction known as the Movement for Liberation (RCD-ML), RCD-Kisangani, or RCD-Wamba and in opposition to the larger RCD-Goma faction. At the end of the war, Wamba dia Wamba became part of the DRC government led by Joseph Kabila.
Pierre Mulele: Leader of the Simba Rebellion of 1964, one that Laurent-Désiré Kabila also participated in. Mulele had been Minister of Education in Patrice Lumumba’s cabinet and carried on his political project after Lumumba’s assassination in 1961. Mulele controlled the Kwilu maquis for several years and achieved a mythic status due to his military skills in opposition to Mobutu. He was captured and publicly executed by the Mobutu regime in 1968.
Yoweri Museveni: President of Uganda since 1986. Museveni first met Laurent-Désiré Kabila in Tanzania, while studying political science at the University of Dar es Salaam. When Museveni stormed to power after a five-year bloody guerrilla war, the bulk of NRA (since renamed UPDF) senior army officers were Rwandans refugees, including Paul Kagame, who headed military intelligence. Both Kagame and Museveni were the founding sponsors of the Kabila-led ADFL, which toppled the Mobutu regime in 1997. And they both turned against Kabila to start the Second Congo War only a year later, which ended with the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila in 2001.
Frantz Fanon: Psychiatrist, political theorist and freedom fighter, Frantz Fanon joined the Algerian National Liberation Front in the decolonial war against France. Fanon met Patrice Lumumba at the First All-African People’s Conference in Accra in 1958. Following their interactions, Fanon wrote in Towards the African Revolution, “The enemies of Africa had understood. They had realized quite clearly that Lumumba was sold – sold to Africa, of course. In other words, he was no longer to be bought.” The quote “Africa is shaped like a gun and Congo is the trigger”, is attributed to Fanon.
Patrice Lumumba: Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo from June until September 1960. He was assassinated in 1961 by CIA agents working together with Belgian colonial officers and the Mobutu regime. Lumumba’s nationalist and Pan-African political vision greatly influenced Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who came of age during Lumumba’s assassination. On a symbolic level, the fact that Kabila was assassinated almost exactly 40 years after Lumumba, on January 16 2001, has been referred to as an indication that Kabila’s politics was in line with Lumumba’s legacy.
Moise Tshombe: President of the secessionist State of Katanga from 1960 to 1963 and prime minister of the Congo from 1964 to 1965. Tshombe founded the Confédération des associations tribales du Katanga (Conakat), a pro-western and regionalist political party. Failing to gain official recognition of the state of Katanga, and following the intervention of the UN in 1963, Tshombe fled to Spain. While plotting his return (with the support of South Africa and Rhodesia), Tshombe was kidnapped and taken to Algeria. He remained under house arrest near Algiers, where he died of a heart attack in 1969. The Katangese secession led by Tshombe, which was also supported by Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s father, was an important influence on Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s political career.
Godefroid Munongo: Co-founder of Conakat with Moise Tshombe, Munongo was the grandson of King Msiri, the founder of the Yeke Kingdom in eastern Katanga, who controlled the trade routes from the Atlantic coast to Lake Tanganyika in the mid-19th century. For several months in 1961, Munongo was interim president of Katanga Province. It has been claimed he was involved in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. The Katangese secession, led by Tshombe and Munongo, had a crucial influence on Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s political outlook.
Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja: Professor of African Studies at the University of North Carolina and at Howard University in Washington, DC. Nzongola-Ntalaja served as a delegate to the Sovereign National Conference of Congo-Kinshasa; as Diplomatic Adviser to the Conference’s elected Prime Minister Etienne Tshisekedi in 1992–93; and as Deputy President of the National Electoral Commission in 1996. Having a low opinion about what he considered Kabila’s anti-democratic leadership style, he rejected Kabila’s offer to join his government in 1997. He is the author of the book The Congo From Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History, considered a canonical account of the recent Congolese history.
Dag Hammarskjöld: Former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash on the way to ceasefire negotiations in Zambia in 1961, during the so-called Congo Crisis. Hammarskjöld insisted that Lumumba should be released from jail, but had not protested against his removal from the presidency. His death is widely linked to the “White Redoubt” project, a covert coalition between South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal, to defend white supremacy in Southern Africa.
Kwame Nkrumah: First president of Ghana. He urged Patrice Lumumba to join the Ghana-Guinea-Mali union once he became prime minister of the Congo in June 1960. Nkrumah and Lumumba first met at the All-African People’s Conference in Accra in 1958. On a state visit to Accra, Lumumba signed a secret agreement of union with Nkrumah, but the Union never came into effect. During the Congo Crisis, Nkrumah supported Lumumba by sending 2000 Ghanaian troops to the Congo through UN channels. In order to replace Belgian personnel that had left the Congo after independence, Nkrumah also sent policemen, nurses, doctors, engineers, electricians and other artisans to Kinshasa.
Dwight D. Eisenhower: US President from 1953 to 1961. At a White House meeting in August 1960 Eisenhower told Allen Dulles, then director of the CIA, that Lumumba “should be eliminated”. Johnson, who kept the notes of their meeting, only revealed the exchange in 1975.
Marcelino dos Santos: A founding member of the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Frelimo), Dos Santos served as the party’s deputy president at the time when Ché Guevara was in Dar es Salaam to rally forces for an intervention in the Congo alongside Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s PRP. Frelimo rejected the idea, preferring instead to focus all its energies on the liberation of Mozambique.
Pablo Rivalta: Cuban Ambassador to Tanzania in 1965. Among Rivalta’s functions was the coordination of the national liberation movements in Africa. After Ché had made an agreement with Kabila that the Cubans would assist the Simba rebellion, Rivalta helped Ché Guevara and his soldiers to infiltrate the Congo from Tanzania.
Dihur Godefroid Tchamlesso: Childhood friend of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. Tchamlesso was part of Kabila’s first meeting with Ché Guevara in Dar es Salaam, and translated for Ché as the Tanzanian representative of the Simba rebellion. Tchamlesso moved to Cuba, where he worked as a reporter for the Prensa Latina news agency, and Granma newspaper, the official publication of the Cuban Communist Party.
Taratibu Désiré Kabila: Father of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. Taratibu worked as a post office clerk and used his contacts in the government administration to gain evolué status. He was a keen supporter of Moise Tshombe’s Conakat party and the Katanga secession, while his son Laurent was part of the Balubakat Youth, the youth wing of the Patrice Lumumba-aligned General Association of the Baluba People of Katanga. Taratibu died during an attack by the Balubakat, of whom Laurent was Deputy Commander.
Carrie J. Hunter, Barbara Smuts, Kenneth S. Smith and Emilie Bergman: Hostages of Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s PRP. In 1975 Kabila’s troops crossed Lake Tanganyika to kidnap a group of US students and a Dutch administrator from the Gombe Stream Reserve, a primate research centre. The hostages were ordered to write letters to their embassies in Tanzania and to President Julius Nyerere demanding weapons, free passage across the Lake, the release of PRP guerrillas in Tanzanian jails, and money. Neither Nyerere, nor the US or Dutch embassies gave into the PRP’s demands but the families of the hostages managed to raise the USD460,000 ransom. Kabila lost Nyerere’s support following the Gombe kidnappings. Nyerere only agreed to meet Kabila again in 1996, during the negotiations leading to the formation of the ADFL.
Idi Amin: President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. The ousting of Amin at the hands of the Tanzanian army was perhaps the first case in postcolonial Africa of foreign-led regime change in a neighbouring country. Ugandan troops had invaded Tanzanian territory and Nyerere sent 150,000 troops (including exiled groups such as Yoweri Museveni’s Fronasa) to Uganda in response, pushing Amin’s army back and capturing Kampala in 1979, forcing Amin to flee into exile.
Walter Rodney: Historian, political activist and academic from Guyana. Rodney taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania from 1966 to 1974, a time during which he published How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Rodney was influential in radical Pan-African intellectual circles during the time when Laurent-Désiré Kabila stayed in Dar es Salaam with his family. Yoweri Museveni, the current President of Uganda and one of the founding sponsors of ADFL was also one of his students. Rodney was assassinated in Guyana in 1980.
Didier Kazadi Nyembwe: Close associate of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. The collaboration between Kazadi Nyembwe and Kabila dates back to Kabila’s years in Dar es Salaam. Kazadi Nyembwe was named Kabila’s special adviser on security during his presidency, before serving in the regime of Joseph Kabila. He was the head of the National Security Agency, when he was dismissed by Joseph Kabila in 2002 due to his involvement in diversion of funds to the Congolese company Hydrocarbons Cohydro, when he was the head of state enterprise. Before his presidency came to an end in 2018, Joseph Kabila ordinated Kazadi Nyembwe as the DRC’s ambassador to Angola.
Déogratias Bugera: A Congolese Tutsi, Bugera is the only survivor among the four co-founders of ADFL. As the movement’s secretary-general, Bugera was a prominent representative during the campaign through Zaire and the Kinshasa takeover. He reportedly lost most of his power during the first year of Laurent Kabila’s regime, but was eventually nominated state minister to the presidency. He escaped Kinshasa shortly after Kabila’s order that all foreign troops should leave the Congo – one aimed specifically at Rwandan troops. He joined the Rwanda-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RDC), a rebel movement which fought to depose Kabila. Deogratias Bugera joined anti-Kabila rebels in 1998 and later left for South Africa, where he now lives.
Anselme Masasu Nindaga: Leader of the Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Zaire (MRLZ), one of the four major groups that joined to form the ADFL, and that brought Laurent-Désiré Kabila to power. Upon seizing Kinshasa in May 1997, Masasu was appointed Kabila’s army chief of staff. However, he was arrested in November 1997 on charges of setting up a private militia while conducting a campaign to integrate kadogos (child-soldiers) into the new Congolese army. He was replaced by the Rwandan James Kabarebe. In November 2000 Masasu was killed in Pweto, allegedly by Eddy Kapend and other members of the Katanga wing of Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s regime; his murder sparked a rebellion among former kadogos in the Congolese army. Laurent-Désiré Kabila was murdered less than a month later. Of the original founding quartet, only Kabila and Masasu had remained in Congo. Kisase Ngandu, the movement’s first chief of staff, was found dead shortly after the 1996 rebellion started.
Gérard Prunier: French academic and historian who specialises in the Great Lakes region. Prunier’s books on the Rwandan genocide are considered canonical in political science circles. In his book Africa’s World War, Prunier places particular emphasis on the “Kivu trail” implicating the kadogo soldiers closest to Kabila, and the “Angola trail”, as the actors most likely responsible for Kabila’s assassination.
James Kabarebe: Commanding officer of a Rwandan-led army that crossed into Zaire to defeat the ex-FAR and Interahamwe, Hutu militia groups. As chief military strategist in Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s rebel ADFL, Kabarebe helped engineer the capture of Kinshasa in 1997, and the defeat of Mobutu Sese Seko. At the end of this mission he was appointed head of the Congolese Army by Kabila. However, in July 1998, Kabila dismissed him from the post – ordering the departure of all foreign troops. Kabarebe came back a month later, this time as the head of a rebel army to topple Kabila. In October 2002, President Paul Kagame appointed James Kabarebe to the position of Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwandan Defence Forces (formerly Rwandan Patriotic Army). Since 2018 he has served as a Senior Presidential Adviser on security matters in the government of Rwanda.
Kofi Annan: Secretary-General of the United Nations at the time of the ADFL’s invasion of Zaire and Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s presidency. Following large-scale attacks on Hutu refugee camps in Zaire, Annan accused the ADFL of committing “slow-motion extermination” and “genocide by starvation”. Kabila’s government initially authorised a UN inquiry into the disappearance of refugees on Congolese territory, but then obstructed the investigations by the UN commission, leading to a fall-out between Kabila and western countries, whom Kabila accused of leading a campaign of lies against the ADFL.
Dennis B. Hankins: Political Counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa from 1996 to 1998. In the lead up to the ADFL’s military campaign, Hankins was dispatched to Goma. He allegedly accompanied the rebels into eastern Zaire, together with a CIA officer. Hankins later became chief military counsellor of the ADFL. Hankins briefed Bill Richardson, Clinton’s special Africa representative. Hankins is currently the US Ambassador in Mali.
Bob Denard: French mercenary. Denard was infamous for his work for the neocolonial Françafrique network. Mobutu contacted Denard once the ADFL’s invasion became a serious threat to his regime. Denard recruited a group of mercenaries known as Legion Blanc.The Legion Blanc never ended up fighting the ADFL because Mobutu’s regime was not able to pay Denard the requested amount.
Chris Smith: US Congressman. Smith repeatedly called for an investigation into the US role in the massacres perpetrated by Rwandan government forces on the territory of the DRC.
Faustin Linyekula: Dancer and choreographer based in Kisangani, DRC. In 1997 he co-founded the first contemporary dance company in Kenya, the Gàara company. He created Studios Kabako in Kinshasa in 2001 and has presented over fifteen works with the group, among them, more more more . . . future (2009), a rock-opera-ndombolo featuring text by Antoine Vumilia, a poet and writer who was sentenced to life imprisonment for supposed involvement in Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s assassination.
J.B. Mpiana: Rumba musician and co-founder of Wenge Musica. He performed with Wenge Musica alongside Didier Masela, Werrason, Adolphe Dominguez, Alain Makaba and Blaise Bula, until his dislocation in 1997. After that he founded Wenge BCBG, leaving Werrason, Didier Masela and Adolphe Dominguez to create Wenge Musica Maison Mere. Mpiana made his solo mark in 1997 with the album Feux de l’amour, now regarded as a flagship ndombolo title.
Bill Richardson: US ambassador to the United Nations between 1997 and 1998, Richardson, was dispatched to Zaire by then President Bill Clinton, to arrange a meeting between Mobutu and Kabila, and facilitate a handover of power. He is the author (with Kevin Bleyer) of How to Sweet-Talk a Shark: Strategies and Stories from a Master Negotiator.
General Andre Kisase Ngandu: Leader of the Conseil National de Resistance Pour la Democratie (CNRD), and member of the founding quartet of the ADFL and the movement’s first military head. Ngandu was opposed to the massacre of Hutu refugees in Congolese camps. He was killed (allegedly by Rwandan soldiers at the instigation of Kabila) shortly after the war to topple Mobutu started.
Eddy Kapend: Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s aide-de-camp. Colonel Kapend, a former Katangan Tiger and Angolan army officer, was generally seen as Angola’s man in Kabila’s inner circle. He killed Rashidi Kasereka (Muzele), the bodyguard who allegedly shot Kabila. Shortly after the shooting, he went on television to appeal for calm and announce the closing of borders. Following the assassination, he was arrested and sentenced to death. His sentence has not been executed and he remains in prison in the Congo.
Rashidi Muzele (formerly identified as Rashidi Kasereka): A lieutenant and bodyguard of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, and, allegedly, the assassin who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed him. He was initially recruited from the eastern province of North Kivu as one of Mzee’s kadogos, who supported the ADFL rebellion in 1996–1997 against Mobutu. Muzele was killed by Kabila’s aide-de-camp, Eddy Kapend, when he tried to escape.
Emile Mota: Economics advisor of Laurent-Désiré Kabila and one of the few eyewitnesses to the assassination of the president. He was also member of parliament and Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries under Joseph Kabila.
Lieutenant Jean Chiribagula: A member of Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s presidential guard, on duty at the time of the assassination.
Lieutenant Annie Kalumbu: A young security officer in Laurent-Désiré Kabila president’s service. After the assassination, Kalumbu was amongst those jailed for allegedly plotting against the president. She was granted amnesty and left the country in 2005.
Colonel Charles Alamba: A former military prosecutor in the government of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, Alamba was infamous for conducting trials during the night and executing those found guilty before dawn. A senior figure involved in the trial of those suspected of murdering the late president, Alamba kept his job under the presidency of Joseph Kabila. In 2004 he was found guilty of the murder of a government official and received the same fate as many of those he prosecuted after being sentenced to death by a military court.
Arnaud Zajtman and Marlène Rabaud: Together, Zajtman and Rabaud directed Murder in Kinshasa, an investigative documentary about the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila and Out of Hell, a portrait of Antoine Vumilia’s life in prison and then in exile, which won Al Jazeera’s Public Liberty and Human Rights Award in 2014.
Milo Rau: Swiss theatre director, journalist, essayist and lecturer. In 2007, Rau founded the theatre and film production company International Institute of Political Murder (IIPM) which he has been running ever since. His theatre and film project, The Congo Tribunal, examines the causes and backgrounds for the war now ongoing for almost 20 years in the Great Lakes region.
Dan Gertler: Israeli businessman and the founder and President of the DGI (Dan Gertler International) Group of Companies. He has diamond and copper mining interests in the DRC and has invested in iron ore, gold, cobalt, oil, agriculture, and banking. As of 2015 his fortune was estimated at $1.26 billion by Forbes. In 2000, shortly after coming to power Laurent-Désiré Kabila offered a monopoly on Congolese diamonds to Gertler’s International Diamond Industries (IDI) allegedly in exchange for Israeli military assistance to his new government. The original Gertler-Kabila deal fell through after Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assassinated, but Gertler and his associates formed DGI to advance their Congo plan. By 2002 Gertler’s company was the leading exporter of Congolese gems, controlling a diamond mining franchise worth about $US1 billion annually. In December 2017, the US Department of the Treasury specifically named Dan Gertler in the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) financial sanctions list for serious human rights abuse and corruption and blocked his US-based assets.
Jonas Savimbi: Leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) from 1966 to 2002. Savimbi first waged a guerrilla war against Portuguese colonial rule and then engaged the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) during the nearly 30-year Angolan Civil War, during which he was killed by Angolan government troops. Savimbi was allegedly involved in diamond trades with Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s regime. His assassination is said to be the result of a trade-off between the Angolan and the US governments, which saw the assassination of Kabila for US-interests in return for the killing of Savimbi for Angolan interests.
Bilal Héritier: Lebanese diamond dealer with close connections to the pro-Rwandan RCD rebellion and suspected to have played an important role in the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. The only one of the 11 Lebanese nationals arrested who wasn’t executed, he set up a business in Kigali immediately after the assassination, and now lives the life of a millionaire in South Africa. Journalist Arnaud Zajtman claims Héritier provided logistics support for the assassination.
Georges Mirindi: Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s bodyguard and alleged co-conspirator of Rashidi Muzele in the assassination. According to the official version of the DRC government, Mirindi was waiting for Rashidi outside the presidential palace in a getaway car when the lethal shots were fired. Mirindi left without Rashidi once he realised that their plan had failed. Mirindi and Rashidi were part of a military group from Kivu that was loyal to Commander Masasu (killed by Kabila’s regime in November 2000). According to journalist Arnaud Zajtman, on the night of the assassination Mirindi is said to have fled to the house of Bilal Héritier. Mirindi and Héritier then fled to Goma, which at the time was controlled
by Rwandan forces. Mirindi currently lives in exile in Sweden.
Paul Kagame: President of Rwanda, and Rwanda’s chief military commander during the formation of the ADFL in 1996. Kagame started his career as head of military intelligence in Yoweri Museveni’s NRA. He later led the RPF rebellion that ended the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Claiming an imminent threat of a large-scale rearmament of Hutu génocidaires in Congolese refugee camps, Kagame set-up the ADFL rebellion that brought Kabila into power in 1997, with support from Uganda, Burundi and the US. Dissatisfied with Kabila’s anti-Rwandan and anti-western stance during his presidency, Kagame launched a new rebellion, the RCD, with the aim of ousting the Congolese president. Kagame is said to have provided protection to Kabila’s assassins, notably the alleged co-conspirators Georges Mirindi and Bilal Héritier.
Jihan El-Tahri: Egyptian filmmaker, writer and visual artist. El-Tahri started her career as a foreign correspondent covering Middle East politics. In 1990 she began directing and producing award- winning documentaries, including L’Afrique En Morceaux (The Tragedy of the Great Lakes), a chronicle of the birth, rise and death of the ADFL. L’Afrique En Morceaux was filmed at the height of the Second Congo War and featured key political and military players in the conflict, including Kabila, Kagame, Museveni, and Kabarebe.
Larry Devlin: CIA field officer stationed for many years in Africa. Devlin was central in the US government’s covert political program in the Congo, aimed at eliminating Patrice Lumumba and replacing him with Joseph Mobutu, who Devlin described as “the best possible solution”. Later, Devlin served as station chief in Laos, and then as chief, Africa Division. He retired from service with the CIA in 1974 and settled with his wife in the Congo and became the business agent of Maurice Tempelsman, who advised the Mobutu regime on its dealings with the De Beers diamond cartel in Kinshasa. Devlin’s book Chief of Station, Congo (2007) is his firsthand account of his experiences and observations in the Congo during the Cold War.
Pierre Victor Mpoyo: Painter, art dealer, businessman. He was minister of state for the economy, industry and foreign trade in the first Laurent-Désiré Kabila government, and then minister of state in charge of oil. After Mzee’s death he was appointed minister of state without portfolio for Joseph Kabila before distancing himself from the government. He was a friend of Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro and José Eduardo dos Santos, among other heads of state.
Nelly Twite Ngoie: Known as “Mama Nelly”, she was Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s private secretary. Following his assassination, she was one of the scores of suspects arrested. She remains in prison in the Congo, along with Nono Lutula (former special adviser), Georges Leta Mangasa (former boss of the ANR), and Eddy Kapend (former aide to the head of state).
Richard Holbrooke: American diplomat and investment banker. Holbrooke replaced Bill Richardson, the US representative to the United Nations, and was part of the UN Security Council mission visit to the DRC to save the July 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.
Joseph Bideri: Former head of Orinfor, Office Rwandais d’Information, Rwanda’s state-owned media house, and Editor-in-Chief of The New Times Publications. Prior to his appointment as Orinfor boss in 1999, he had served as the Rwandan presidential advisor on media and public relations and as director of information in then vice president Paul Kagame’s office.
Innocent Bisangwa: Former deputy principal private secretary to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Under Museveni’s instructions, Bisangwa contacted Laurent-Désiré Kabila in Tanzania and introduced him to Kagame. He later stepped down after he was arrested in the US for involvement in illegally trying to export antitank missiles and launchers to Uganda.
Bizima Karaha: Foreign minister in Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s government. While originally Banyamulenge Tutsi, he was widely seen as Rwanda’s man in Congo rather than a spokesman for the Banyamulenge community. In 1998, after falling out with Kabila, he became the spokesman and head of security and the interior for the Rwanda-backed RDC. An influential powerbroker and businessman in Goma, and more recently South Africa, he has also served as a special envoy to the African Union.
Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba: Opposition leader and founder of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). While Tshisekedi served as prime minister in Mobutu Sese Seko’s regime on three brief occasions (1991, 1992–1993, and 1997), he remained an outspoken critic and he was also one of few politicians who challenged the dictator. With Tshisekedi still at the helm, the UDPS continued as an oppositional voice under Joseph Kabila. In 2006, the party, boycotted the elections on claims that they were rigged. Tshisekedi stood again in 2011 but lost to the incumbent. Tshisekedi nevertheless declared himself the elected president of Congo and was subsequently placed under house arrest. He died in 2017. His son Felix is the current president of the DRC.
Christophe Gbenye: Trade unionist, and rebel who, along with Pierre Mulele and Gaston Soumialot, led the Simba Rebellion, an anti-government insurrection during the Congo Crisis, between 1964 and 1965. From 1966 to 1971, Gbenye lived in exile in Uganda.
Jean-Raymond Boulle: Mauritian citizen living in Monaco. Founder of four publicly traded companies with deposits of nickel, cobalt, copper, zinc, titanium and diamonds. At the end of the First Congo War, as it became clear that Mobutu’s 32-year reign was ending, Boulle dropped the mining ventures he was working on with the Mobutu regime and approached the then rebel leader, Laurent-Désiré Kabila. Hiring a Turkish pilot to fly a Challenger 601R into rebel headquarters in Goma on 27 March 1997, Boulle and an associate, Joseph Martin, bought diamonds produced in ADFL-captured territory. Boulle, however, was after bigger game. He and Martin came away in April 1997 with concessions on two valuable mining properties for their flagship company, America Mineral Fields Inc. The company was subsequently included in a draft of a UN report on the illegal exploitation of resources from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Jean-Pierre Bemba: Former assistant to Mobutu Sese Seko. In 1998, Bemba began the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) with support from Yoweri Museveni. In 2003 he became vice-president to Joseph Kabila under the peace deal. In 2006 he lost the run-off election to Kabila but got most votes in western DR Congo, including Kinshasa. He fled to Belgium in 2007 after clashes in Kinshasa and was arrested and handed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2008. In 2016 he was found guilty of war crimes, but the conviction was overturned on appeal two years later. In 2018, Bemba returned to DR Congo to run for president but after he was barred by the electoral commission, he gave his support to Martin Fayulu.
Isabel dos Santos: Businesswoman and the eldest child of Angola’s former President José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled the country from 1979 to 2017. Dos Santos is Africa’s richest woman. According to research by Forbes, her net worth is more than USD2 billion, making her Africa’s first billionaire woman. She is married to Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman.
Sindika Dokolo: Art collector and businessman, Dokolo owns one of the most important contemporary African art collections. He has also invested in various sectors, including diamonds, oil, real estate and telecommunications, in Angola, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Mozambique. In an interview with Jeune Afrique, he stated that his aim is not “to build a large integrated group”, but rather to have the opportunity to see “a Luanda-Kinshasa axis that could create a counterweight to South African supremacy.” He’s married to Isabel dos Santos.
Sylvain Bamani: Journalist. Deputy Executive Director of Congolese private television channel, Digital Congo, Bamani recently ran as a candidate in the province of Maindombe, for Joseph Kabila’s coalition, the Common Front for Congo (FCC).
General Geraldo Sachipengo Nunda: Former UNITA officer who changed camps and joined the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) in 1998. He was appointed FAA Chief of Staff in 2000. Nunda was a senior FAA officer in the final combat against Jonas Savimbi, his former commander in 2002. Angola’s newly elected President João Lourenço exonerated General Nunda in April 2018, due to an alleged implication in a USD50 billion scam led by a Thai businessman.
Da Silva Sango Mena and Antonio Justino Luís: Officers of FAA and part of the Angolan presidential guard of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. Sango Mena and Luís were accused of participating in Kabila’s assassination in the murder trial and sentenced to 20 years in prison. They re-joined FAA upon release in 2009.
Gaetan Kakudji: Cousin of Laurent-Désiré Kabila and his collaborator since Kabila’s time in the Fizi maquis in the 1960s. Kakudji was named minister of interior in Kabila’s regime in 1997 and became involved in mining operations in Katanga province. He was part of the “crisis committee” that met after Kabila’s death and designated Joseph as his successor. Kakudji initially aspired to become president himself, but was considered too close to Angola.
Jean-Paul Mfinda Nzolameso: Current Deputy Chief of Military Intelligence of the DRC Armed Forces.
Marien Ngouabi: President of the Republic of the Congo from 1969 to 1977. Ngouabi was assassinated on March 18, 1977.
Agostinho Neto: Co-founder of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and first President of Angola (1975–1979). Neto sought to connect the Front for Congolese National Liberation (FLNC), a rebel group from Katanga emerging in the 1970s, with Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP), due to their shared communist orientation. Neto had first met Kabila in 1974 in the course of his stay in Tanzania, where Nyerere supported Kabila and his family. The leader of the FLNC, Nathaniel Mbumba, was however unimpressed by the PRP’s offensive capacity, and refused to collaborate with Kabila.
Colette Braeckman: Belgian journalist working for the Le Soir newspaper. In her book Les Nouveaux Prédateurs, Braeckman presents the thesis of several overlapping plots to assassinate Laurent-Désiré Kabila. She puts particular emphasis on the alleged involvement of former Mobutists based in Brazzaville, who collaborated with the US government and the French secret service.
José Eduardo dos Santos: President of Angola from 1979 to 2017. After lending crucial military support to the ADFL and protecting Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s regime against military attack by the RCD, Dos Santos is said to have lost faith in Kabila’s ability to bring an end to the war in Congo that would be favourable to Angola. According to different versions, Dos Santos agreed to have Kabila assassinated in a deal with the US that included the killing of Jonas Savimbi, or when he found out that Kabila engaged in diamond trades with Savimbi’s UNITA.
General Fernando Garcia Miala: Having joined the government of president Dos Santos in 1979 as chief of foreign Intelligence, Miala became a leading advisor to the president. At the time of Kabila’s assassination in 2001, Garcia Miala was at the peak of his influence and running Angola’s National Security Council. He was seen by many as Dos Santos’ potential successor before he was convicted of plotting the assassination of Dos Santos in 2006. Angola’s new president, João Lourenço, controversially named General Miala the head of Secret Services in 2017.
Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias Jr: Known by the nickname “Kopelipa”, Dias Jr was the Angolan head of the intelligence bureau at the presidency from 1995–2017 and minister of state from 2010–2017. Kopelipa visited Kigali to discuss Angolan participation in the creation of the ADFL and later actively supported Laurent-Désiré Kabila against the RCD rebels. He is also said to have accompanied Joseph Kabila on his first official visit to the US. He has been accused of corruption under Angola’s new government.
Yav Nawej: Commander of the Kinshasa military region when Kabila was assassinated, Nawej was known to have close ties to Angola. The day before the assassination, General Nawej ordered the disarmament of several garrisons in Kinshasa, and within hours of the assassination he ordered the execution of eleven Lebanese, including six minors, belonging to the diamond trading Héritier family. Nawej was convicted to life imprisonment as a leading conspirator of the assassination. He died in Makala prison in May 2013.
Joao Baptista Mawete: Angolan ambassador in the DRC at the time of Kabila’s assassination. Mawete is said to have introduced Eddy Kapend to Laurent-Désiré Kabila. Mawete is currently the Provincial Governor of the Cabinda enclave.
Jeannot Mwenze Kongolo: Kongolo was working as a bail-processing clerk in Philadelphia (USA) and led the All North America Conference on Zaire (Anacoza) association before joining the ADFL in 1996. He served as minister of interior and minister of justice under Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He is said to have close ties to Angola and to have been the one who suggested Joseph as successor to his father. He has since broken ties with Joseph Kabila and founded his own party, the Patriotes Kabilistes (PK).
Jean-Calvin Kondolo: A close aide of Kabila, Commandant Kondolo was given the task to contact one of Savimbi’s diamond traders in August 2000. Kondolo was charged with conspiring to overthrow President Laurent-Désiré Kabila.
Bill Clinton: The former US president is said to have approved of Kabila’s appointment as leader of the ADFL in 1997, and his removal as president of the DRC in 2001. American Mineral Fields (AMFI), a consortium based originally in Hope, Arkansas, Bill Clinton’s hometown, is a big player in exploiting Congo’s mineral wealth. In 1997, just a month before the ousting of Mobutu, it signed contracts with Laurent-Désiré Kabila and his Rwandan and Ugandan allies for almost USD1 billion investments in copper, cobalt and zinc mines and processing plants in Kolwezi and Kipushi.
Robert Mugabe: A staunch ally of both president Laurent-Désiré Kabila and his son Joseph. Served as prime minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and then as president from 1987 to 2017.
Emmerson ‘the crocodile’ Dambudzo Mnangagwa: Securocrat and key strategist for the Zimbabwean branch of the elite network operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ascended to the position of President following the ousting of Robert Mugabe in a coup d’état in November 2017.
General Vitalis Zvinavashe: Former commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and Executive Chairman of COSLEG; a joint venture company formed by a Democratic Republic of Congo-based entity, Congo Comiex, and the ZDF’s company, Operation Sovereign Legitimacy (OSLEG). COSLEG was established with the sole intent of pursuing business opportunities in timber and minerals found in Congo’s Katanga Province.
Colonel Francis Zvinavashe: Brother to army head, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, and representative of OSLEG in the DRC.
Major General Charles Dauramanzi: Retired army general and one of COSLEG’s directors. Died in 2003.
Air Marshall Perence Shiri: Retired air officer now serving as Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement in President Mnangagwa’s cabinet since the November 2017 coup d’état. Shiri was heavily involved in military procurement and formed part of the inner circle of ZDF diamond traders who turned Harare into a significant illicit diamond-trading centre.
Lt. General Constantine Chiwenga: Former Army Chief who led the November 2017 coup against Robert Mugabe, now serving as Deputy President in Mnangagwa’s cabinet.
Lt. General Sibusiso Busi Moyo: Retired General Officer now serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in President Mnangagwa’s cabinet after announcing the November 2017 coup d’état on Zimbabwe’s state television. Former Director General of COSLEG and advisor of both Tremalt and Oryx Natural Resources, which represented covert Zimbabwean military financial interests in negotiations with state mining companies of the DRC.
Air Commodore Mike Tichafa Karakadzai: Former Deputy Secretary of COSLEG, responsible for directing policy and procurement. Played a key role in arranging the Tremalt cobalt and copper deal.
Sydney Sekeramayi: Member of cabinet in successive Robert Mugabe administrations from independence in 1980. Former minister of defence and former security minister. COSLEG shareholder.
Job Whabira: Former chair of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (2016–2019). Former permanent secretary in the defence ministry and a shareholder in COSLEG.
Onesimo Moyo: Chief Executive and General Manager of Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe and a shareholder in COSLEG.
Isaiah Ruzengwe: Former CEO of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and a shareholder in COSLEG.
Billy Rautenbach: Businessman with strong ties to the ruling ZANU-PF. Appointed to head Gecamines, the DRC state-owned cobalt mining company, in a deal forged at a meeting in Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s office in 1998, at which Rautenbach and Emmerson Mnangagwa were among those purported to be representing Zimbabwean interests.
John Bredenkamp: Businessman with strong ties to the ruling ZANU-PF and one of the benefactors of the generous mining concessions granted by the DRC to figures in the Zimbabwe political and business elite. Blacklisted by the US Treasury in 2008.
Colonel Lionel Dyck: A “super soldier” in the colonial Rhodesian army and in the Zimbabwe Defence Force following independence. Dyck retired from the military and founded Mine Tech, a landmine clearance company.
Moven Mahachi: Minister of defence at the time of his death in a suspicious car accident in 2001. Rumour has it Mahachi was eliminated because of his robust opposition to ZANU-PF’s looting of diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Major General Mike Nyambuya: In charge of SADC troops fighting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but then had a falling out with Zimbabwe’s top brass for opposing the prolonged stay of the country’s troops in the DRC.
Masipula Sithole: Zimbabwean scholar, political scientist, and author. Despite being the younger brother to Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, one of the founders of ZANU-PF, Sithole was a long-time critic of the party and its leader, Robert Mugabe. He died in 2003.
Thomas ‘Mukanya’ Mapfumo: Legendary Zimbabwean musician who made no secret of his opposition to the country’s intervention in the DRC.
Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto: Respectively the Editor and chief writer of the Zimbabwean weekly, The Standard. The pair were detained and tortured by the military in 1999 after publishing of an article that reported on widespread unrest within the rank and file over the deployment of up to 14,000 troops to the DRC. Chavunduka died in 2002, at the age of 36.
Iden Wetherell: Former editor in chief of the Zimbabwe Independent; a weekly title published by the same newspaper group as The Standard.
Morgan Tsvangirai: Former Zimbabwean opposition leader who rose to prominence on the back of wide-spread unhappiness about Zimbabwe’s involvement in the DRC.
Nelson Mandela: South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and head of state. As president, he strongly opposed Robert Mugabe’s plans to intervene in the DRC.
Peter Longworth: British High Commissioner to Zimbabwe (1998–2001)
African Jazz: Congo–s first major rumba band, founded by Joseph –Le Grand Kallé–Kabasele in 1953. African Jazz are best known for the anthem of African independence, “Independence Cha Cha” (1960).
François Luambo Luanzo Makiadi aka –Franco: Grand Maître of Congolese modern music and one of Africa’s most prolific composers and bandleaders. By 1965, with President Mobutu in power, his band TPOK Jazz was the top name in the country. Aside from music, he proved to be an adept businessman, forming an empire to control his music. He died in 1989, sparking four days of national mourning in Zaire.
Freddy Mayaula Mayoni: Best known for his composition “Cherie Bondowe”, which presented the life of a prostitute from her point of view, and which landed TPOK Jazz in trouble with the authorities.
Wendo Kolosoy, aka Papa Wendo: One of the first international stars of Congolese rumba, which swept Africa in the mid-20th century. He had his first and biggest hit in 1948 with “Marie-Louise”, the song credited with introducing the “sebene”, Congolese rumba’s instrumental bridge, which allows musicians and dancers to stretch out and improvise.
Tabu Ley Rochereau: Franco’s main rival. In the early 1960’s Rochereau broke away from African Jazz to form African Fiesta and later Orchestre Afrisa International. After Mobutu came to power, he adopted the name Tabu Ley as part of “Zairianization” but later contested Mobutu and went into exile in France. When Mobutu was deposed, Tabu Ley returned to Kinshasa and took up a position in the government of President Laurent-Désiré Kabila.
Papa Wemba: Zaiko Langa Langa alumni and founder of Viva la Musica in 1977. In line with Mobutu’s authenticity campaign, Wemba advocated for the use of traditional instruments in modern music. One of the sharpest dressers in Congolese music, he became one of the central figures in promoting La Sape.
Wenge Musica: the flagship group of the fifth generation of Congolese modern music that emerged in the 1990s. Unlike most well-known groups in Kinshasa, Wenge was led by a group of co-founders instead of by a single charismatic leader. However, in 1996, the singer JB Mpiana drove a decisive wedge between himself and his long-time rival and fellow band member Werrason. This led to the first of 18 dislocations – the many Wenge dislocations ran parallel to the great war in Congo. Wenge Musica maintained close ties with Mobutu’s son Kongolo (aka, “Saddam Hussein”), who was probably the most powerful figure in the music industry of the 1990s.
Koffi Olomide: Former songwriter for Papa Wemba. The Koffi Olomide formula (a combination of sentimental ballads and slickly produced high-energy dance music) raised the bar in terms of compositional quality and sound-recording technology. He remains a dominant figure in African music today.
Tshala Muana: In 1984 she recorded her first album, Kami, which popularised the mutuashi rhythm of the Luba. She was one of Mobutu’s favourite praise singers – she later sang for Laurent-Désiré Kabila and Joseph Kabila.
Werrason: One of the emblematic figures of the group Wenge Musica, the self-styled King of the Jungle is one of Kinshasa’s most dominant music figures. He recently turned to politics, vying for parliament in Kikwit in south-western DRC in the 2018 election, but failed to win the seat.
Colonal Tharcisse Renzaho: Former senior police officer in Kigali who is accused by Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) of directing the slaughter of thousands of Tutsis in 1994. Following the collapse of the interim government and the victory of the RPF, Renzaho fled to the Congo and joined Kabila’s army. He was one of the officers who led Congolese troops in Pweto. He was arrested in 2002 and turned over the ICTR on 29 September. He was sentenced to life in prison at the UN War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania in July 2009.
Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye: Commander among the Burundi Hutu rebels, Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (FDD), long supported by Laurent-Désiré Kabila against Major Pierre Buyoya’s government in Bujumbura. Yet six days before his murder on 16 January, Kabila attended a surprise meeting in Libreville, Gabon, to discuss a Burundi ceasefire. Kabila and Buyoya met Ndayikengurukiye. Kabila said it was a success; Buyoya agreed that a ceasefire would be good. Due to a split in the FDD in 2005 Ngendakurukiye now leads KAZE-FDD is a small, predominantly ethnic Hutu political party in Burundi.
Lunda Bululu: Cabinet director and prime minister in the first transitional government under Mobutu. He later joined the opposition and became a political coordinator for Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s forces in the First Congo war. In 1998 he joined RDC-Goma faction that united to oust Kabila, alongside Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. Criticising the RCD, he was suspended in April 2000 and arrested in Goma for “subversive remarks undermining to the interests of the movement”. He later defected to Brussels but returned to the country and politics after the assassination of Kabila.
Lambert Mende Obalanga: Former Mobutist who allied with Laurent-Désiré Kabila, and later joined Joseph Kabila–s government, where he served as minister of information.
Émile Ilunga Kalambo: A former Katangan Tiger and Laurent-Désiré Kabila ally. He went on to lead RDC-Goma, but was ousted by Wamba dia Wamba. Uganda backed dia Wamba’s leadership while Rwanda backed Kalambo.