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Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 22:32 GMT
Profile: Joseph Kabila
Joseph Kabila
Joseph Kabila: Low-profile figure
Joseph Kabila, appointed as acting head of government in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a quiet soldier who accompanied his father as he led his rebel army towards Kinshasa in 1997.

He was rewarded with the title of major-general, and a post at the head of the DR Congo armed forces.

Less than two years later he had gone from fighting with the rebels to fighting against them, as Rwandan-backed guerrillas sought to oust his father from power.

Heading the military campaign against the rebels has been Joseph Kabila's main concern since then.

Laurent Kabila in Kisangani, 1997
Laurent Kabila's rebel campaign launched his son's military career
His supporters hail him as a military hero - his detractors remark that his presence in a frontline town has usually preceded that town's capture by rebel forces.

Certainly, any military victories against the rebels have largely been the work of the Zimbabwean or Angolan armies, rather than Congo's own forces.

But Joseph Kabila is said to enjoy a particularly close relationship with Angolan military commanders in DR Congo - whose continued support for the Kinshasa government will be essential in keeping the rebels from attempting a fresh assault on the capital.

Eldest son

Described as shy, the 31-year-old Joseph cuts an unassuming figure alongside his rotund and extrovert father.

He is thought to be the oldest of at least 10 children fathered by Laurent Kabila from several mothers.

Born to a Tutsi woman while his father was in exile, he communicates more easily in the English and Swahili spoken in much of East Africa than in the French and Lingala spoken in Kinshasa.

Observers say the Congolese population at large will not be happy with the idea of a Kabila family succession in the presidential palace.

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See also:

17 Jan 01 | Africa
Cameroon talks overshadowed
17 Jan 01 | Africa
Belgium prepares Congo evacuation
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