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This Day for Africa – former DRC president Laurent Kabila assassinated; shot by own bodyguard

Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the former president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was assassinated in his office inside his official residence at the Palais de Marbre [fr], Kinshasa on 16 January 2001.

The assassin who killed him was his 18-year-old bodyguard named Rashidi Mizele [fr], who has also been previously identified as Rashidi Kasereka. Mizele was later shot dead. It was believed that some former child soldiers (kadogos) were part of this plan.

Kabila was responsible for the deaths of many kadogos in the time leading up to his assassination. The day before his assassination, Kabila had overseen the execution of 47 kadogos who were accused of plotting to kill him. Kabila’s military standing had deteriorated, and his life was in jeopardy.

In November 2000, Kabila thought that he had discovered a plot against him, and had arrested, tormented, and killed soldiers loyal to Commandant Anselme Masasu Nindaga, who had days earlier made a speech at a reunion for 1,200 kadogos in Kinshasa.

The conspiracy to murder Kabila began in early January 2001, when a group of kadogos traveled to Brazzaville and prepared Operation Mbongo Zero.

The conspirators’ scheme, known as Operation Mbongo Zero, outlined how they would infiltrate important buildings in the capital, such as the Marble Palace. Mbongo means “bull” in Swahili. After gaining access to the palace, the penetrators would approach the president with a revolver and fire at him. This group of perpetrators were kadogos who had fought with Kabila against Mobutu Sese Seko’s military dictatorship. Kasereka was reported to have said “I will kill him”.

On 16 January 2001, the assassin entered the president’s office as Kabila was discussing with an economics adviser, Emile Mota, about a forthcoming summit meeting with France, which he hoped would protect his presidency of the Congo. The assassin bent over Kabila, and, when the president leaned towards him, assuming the bodyguard wanted to speak to him, pulled out a revolver and shot the president four times in the abdomen. The assassin escaped the palace with other conspirators amidst gunfire.

Former Health Minister Leonard Mashako Mamba was next door to the office when Kabila was shot, and arrived immediately after the assassination. Mwenze Kongolo had been waiting for admission to the palace at 1:45 pm and heard gunshots being fired inside the building. Other bodyguards rushed into the room and fired at the assassin, who was hit first in the leg, then twice more to make sure he was dead.[6] After 15 minutes, Kabila was in a helicopter headed to a clinic in Gombe, Kinshasa. Curfew that day started at 6 pm, and after 8 hours, a motorcade set off from the clinic for the long drive to N’djili Airport, escorting the ambulance

Kabila was rushed in a helicopter to Harare, Zimbabwe for medical treatment, but was declared dead on 18 January 2001 at 10 am.

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