In 1998, there was another conflict brewing in the former Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of Congo. Zaire was run by the well-known dictator Mobuto Sese Seko, who had plundered the country and had run it completely down. During his time of mismanagement and terror, he was supported by western countries like the United States, Britain, Belgium and France, because of his so-called anti-communist attitude.
Now this man was challenged by neighbouring countries, like Rwanda, which had this horrific genocide behind it. A lot of the Hutu militias had found refuge in neighbouring Zaire, and so were posing quite a formidable threat to the government under Paul Kagame. Uganda was unhappy because there was also shelter for the Lord’s Resistance Army in north-eastern Zaire so there were common interests of neighbouring countries to get a regime change.
Now Kabila was in opposition to the Government for many years. He was part of the opposition movement after independence against the Government in, at that time it was called Leopoldville, the capital of Congo. He was in the opposition stronghold Stanleyville, which is now Kisangani.
However, it is quite interesting that when Che Guevara, who is certainly one of the most impressive persons when it comes to liberation movements, went to Congo in 1964, he described Kabila as a totally useless fellow who spent most of the time in the red light district of Dar Es Salaam, and not concentrating on what he saw as the most important part, getting rid of the Government under Mobotu Sese Seko.
So when this guy came into power, very soon it came out that he was as corrupt and incompetent as his predecessor. So Rwanda and Uganda decided to get rid of him, which is certainly not their job.
Mugabe saw a chance to expand his influence. so he sent his troops into Congo after the rebellion had started and was actually 20km outside the capital city of Kinshasa. In this situation Mugabe, who was out of the limelight after Nelson Mandela took over, saw a chance to reinstate himself as one of the most important persons in southern Africa, even though he was warned by Nelson Mandela not to do it, because Mandela could see that this was a war that would drain the resources and the armies of the surrounding countries.
Interestingly, it was Mandela who negotiated a settlement between Kabila and Mobuto Sese Seko’s so-called exit plane on a battleship off the coast of Angola in 1997, and at that time Mandela obviously got the impression already that Kabila was a totally useless fellow.