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Congo’s Slide Into Chaos

How a State Fails

Blood in the streets: at a protest against Kabila in Kinshasa, September 2016. KENNY KATOMBE / REUTERS

On January 16, 2001, the Democratic Republic of the Congo tumbled into uncertainty. The country’s president, Laurent Kabila, had been sitting in his office at his marble palace in Kinshasa, the capital, when one of his teenage bodyguards entered, drew his pistol, aimed it at Kabila, and fired several times.

Kabila had installed himself as president in 1997, after overthrowing Mobutu Sese Seko, the cancer-stricken dictator of what was then known as Zaire. He had begun fighting Mobutu back in the 1960s, leading a Marxist rebellion in the eastern half of the country before, in the 1980s, fleeing to nearby Uganda and Tanzania, where he raised his children under false names. After years of dodging Mobutu’s intelligence agents, Kabila finally got the chance to remove his nemesis, riding in on an invasion backed by eight nations to take the presidency, if not control, of the country he rechristened the Democratic Republic

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