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Rebellion, Kabila’s Government
AFDL, International Rescue Committee, privation, transitional government, public sentiment
On May 16, 1997, with the rebels nearing Kinshasa, Mobutu relinquished power and left the capital. He fled the country for Morocco, where he died in exile in September. Days after Mobutu’s flight the AFDL captured Kinshasa with minimal resistance, and the rebels found themselves in control of the country, which they renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Kabila declared himself president with sweeping powers and promised to establish a democratic system of government. Almost immediately, Tshisekedi’s UDPS clashed with the new regime, demanding a leading role in a transitional government, which Kabila rejected. Tshisekedi, who had long struggled against Mobutu, accused Kabila of lacking commitment to democracy. Breaking up opposition demonstrations with troops, Kabila’s popularity and the euphoria generated by Mobutu’s ouster waned rapidly.
In 1997 and 1998 the Kabila administration faced international condemnation for obstructing UN investigations of alleged massacres of Hutu refugees by the AFDL during its takeover of the country. At the same time, Kabila alienated his former allies Rwanda and Uganda. In response to public sentiment that he was a puppet of the Rwandan Tutsi elite, Kabila expelled Rwandan military advisors from the DRC and systematically removed Tutsi from positions within the DRC administration. In mid-1998 a string of events occurred that were strikingly similar to those of late 1996. The DRC government sought to strip the eastern Banyamulenge Tutsi of Congolese citizenship, and the Banyamulenge rose up in armed revolt with the help of Rwandan soldiers expelled by Kabila. Kabila accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the rebels, who began capturing towns in eastern DRC with the stated aim of overthrowing Kabila. Kabila was successful in rallying military support from a number of regional allies, including Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and Sudan, and repulsed rebel advances into other parts of the DRC in late 1998 and early 1999. However, the rebellion became extremely costly for the DRC, both economically and in terms of human lives. In 2001 the International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimated that 2.5 million people died in eastern DRC between mid-1998 and early 2001 due to violence and starvation, disease, and privation caused by the conflict.
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