Joseph Kabila Kabange (known commonly as Joseph Kabila, born 4 June 1971) is a Congolese politician who has been President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since January 2001.
He took office ten days after the assassination of his father, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He was elected as President in 2006. In 2011, he was re-elected for a second term.
Early life and education
Joseph Kabila Kabange was born on 4 June 1971 at Hewabora, a small village in the Fizi territory of the South Kivu province, in eastern Congo. He is the son of long time rebel, former AFDL leader and president of the Congo Laurent-Désiré Kabila and Sifa Mahanya.
Guerrilla and army years
Following high school, Joseph Kabila followed a military curriculum in Tanzania, then at Makerere University in Uganda. In October 1996, Laurent-Désiré Kabila launched the campaign in Zaire to oust the Mobutu regime. Joseph became the commander of the infamous army of “kadogos” (child soldiers) and played a key role in major battles on the road to Kinshasa. The liberation army received logistical and military support from regional armies from Rwanda, Uganda, Angola and Zimbabwe. Following the AFDL’s victory, and Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s rise to the presidency, Joseph Kabila went on to get further training at the PLA National Defense University, in Beijing, China. When he returned from China, Kabila was awarded the rank of Major-General, and appointed Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1998. He was later, in 2000, appointed Chief of Staff of the Land Forces, a position he held until the elder President Kabila’s assassination in January 2001. As chief of staff, he was one of the main military leaders in charge of Government troops during the time of the Second Congo War (1998–2003).
Kabila in 2002, with Thabo Mbeki, George W. Bush, and Paul Kagame.
Joseph Kabila rose to the Presidency on 26 January 2001 after the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, becoming the world’s first head of government born in the 1970s. He remained the world’s youngest head of government until Roosevelt Skerrit became Prime Minister of Dominica in January 2004. At age 30, he was considered young and inexperienced. He subsequently attempted to end the ongoing civil war by negotiating peace agreements with rebel groups who were backed by Rwanda and Uganda, the same regional armies who brought Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s rebel group to power three years before. The 2002 peace agreement signed at the Inter-Congolese Dialogue in Sun City, South Africa, which nominally ended the Second Congo War, maintained Joseph Kabila as President and head of state of the Congo. An interim administration was set up under him, including the leaders of the country’s two main rebel groups as vice-presidents (two other vice-presidents were representatives of the civilian opposition and government supporters respectively). On 28 March 2003, an apparent coup attempt or mutiny around the capital Kinshasa, allegedly on the part of members of the former guard of former president Mobutu Sese Seko (who had been ousted by Kabila’s father in 1997 and died in the same year), failed. On 11 June 2004, coup plotters led by Major Eric Lenge allegedly attempted to take power and announced on state radio that the transitional government was suspended, but were defeated by loyalist troops.
The ceremonial first train on the newly reconstructed Lubumbashi-Kindu railway, 2004, bearing a portrait of Joseph Kabila.
In December 2005, a partial referendum approved a new constitution, and a presidential election was held on 30 July 2006 (having been delayed from an earlier date in June). The new constitution lowered the minimum age of presidential candidates from 35 to 30; Kabila turned 35 shortly before the election. In March 2006, he registered as a candidate. Although Kabila registered as an independent, he is the “initiator” of the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), which chose him as their candidate to the election. Although the new constitution stipulates that a debate be held between the two remaining candidates for the presidency, no debates took place and this was declared by many as unconstitutional.
According to widely disputed provisional results announced on 20 August, Kabila won 45% of the vote; his main opponent, vice-president and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, won 20%. The irregularities surrounding the elections results prompted a run-off vote between Kabila and Bemba which was held on 29 October. On 15 November, the electoral commission announced the official results and Kabila was declared the winner, with 58.05% of the vote. These results were confirmed by the Supreme Court on 27 November 2006, and Kabila was inaugurated on 6 December 2006 as the country’s newly elected President. He named Antoine Gizenga, who placed third in the first round of the presidential election (and then backed Kabila in the second round) as prime minister on 30 December.
In December 2011, Kabila was re-elected for a second term as president. After the results were announced on 9 December, there was violent unrest in Kinshasa and Mbuji-Mayi, where official tallies showed that a strong majority had voted for the opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi.Official observers from the Carter Center reported that returns from almost 2,000 polling stations in areas where support for Tshisekedi was strong had been lost and not included in the official results. They described the election as lacking credibility. On 20 December, Kabila was sworn in for a second term, promising to invest in infrastructure and public services. However, Tshisekedi maintained that the result of the election was illegitimate and said that he intended also to “swear himself in” as president.
In January 2012, Catholic Bishops in DR Congo also condemned the elections, complaining of “treachery, lies and terror”, and calling on the election commission to correct “serious errors”.
On 19 January 2015 protests led by students at the University of Kinshasa broke out. The protests began following the announcement of a proposed law that would allow Kabila to remain in power until a national census can be conducted (elections had been planned for 2016). By Wednesday 21 January clashes between police and protesters had claimed at least 42 lives (although the government claimed only 15 people had been killed).
In 2006, Kabila responded to evidence of widespread sex crimes committed by the Congolese military by describing the acts as “simply unforgivable”. He pointed out that 300 soldiers had been convicted of sex crimes, although he added that this was not enough.
Kabila married Olive Lembe di Sita, on 1 June 2006. The wedding ceremonies took place on 17 June 2006. Kabila and his spouse have a daughter, born in 2001, named Sifa, after Kabila’s mother.
As President Kabila is Protestant and Ms Lembe di Sita is Catholic, the wedding ceremonies were ecumenical, and were therefore officiated by both the Catholic Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Frederic Etsou Bamungwabi, and Pierre Marini Bodho – Presiding Bishop of the Church of Christ in Congo, the umbrella church for most denominations in the Congo, known within the country simply as “The Protestant Church”.
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