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Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 08:31 GMT
Profile: Laurent Kabila
Kabila with rebel troops in Goma
Rebel leader: His promises came to nothing
Laurent Kabila seemed like a saviour when he and his supporters fought their way across what was then the devastated nation called Zaire in 1996 and 1997.

Adoring crowds saluted him everywhere he went - they believed the little-known Laurent Kabila would set them free from the poverty and corruption of the decades of dictatorship under former President Mobutu Sese Seko.

But things quickly turned sour. After only a few months of hopeful peace, a new war began.

DR Congo soldiers
Civil war still grips the country
In 1998, Laurent Kabila's former allies, Uganda and Rwanda, turned against him.

Their fighters reached the edges of the capital, Kinshasa.

It was only when other neighbours - Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe - came to his aid that President Kabila survived.

But still Uganda and Rwanda, with the support of several Congolese rebel groups, control half of the country. A peace agreement was reached last year, but fighting has never stopped.

Donors stay away

It is the Congolese people who have suffered most, reduced to even greater poverty.

And their hopes of freedom, of full inclusion in the international community, have remained unfulfilled.

Laurent Kabila
Headed rebellion for decades before coming to power
Laurent Kabila quickly alienated himself from aid donors and investors as he surrounded himself with friends and family members and became increasingly secretive.

After coming to power he banned all political parties except his own and promised elections that were never held, and he refused to restart payments on the country's $14 billion debt.

When he blocked a United Nations investigation into the massacre of tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees during his march to power, the international community lost much faith in him too.

In recent months, his control of the army had grown increasingly fragile. Three generals were arrested last week on suspicion of planning a revolt over soldiers' pay demands.

Studied political philosophy

Laurent Desire Kabila was born about 60 years ago in what was then Belgian Congo.

He studied political philosophy at a French university and when Congo achieved independence in 1960, he became active in politics.
Laurent Kabila
Laurent Kabila with rebel soldiers

The South American revolutionary, Che Guevara, backed him briefly in the early 1960s when he came to fight in eastern Zaire, but then dismissed him as a serious force.

''Nothing leads me to believe he is the man of the hour,'' Che Guevara wrote.

Decades of fighting

Laurent Kabila joined a rebellion in 1965 which was put down by Mobutu Sese Seko.

He waged what many saw as a half-hearted war against Mobutu in the eastern part of the country, spending much of his time in neighbouring Tanzania.

When he finally achieved his goal of toppling President Mobutu after more than 30 years of fighting, he told Reuters, ''My long years of struggle were like spreading fertiliser on a field. But now it is time to harvest''.

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