In May 1997, as rebel forces approached Kinshasa -- the capital city of the vast African country then known as Zaire -- Mobutu Sese Seko fled the city to his palace in the north. Near the airport, a surface-to-air missile sat mounted on a jeep, waiting to shoot down the plane carrying the brutal dictator of 32 years. Just such a missile had killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in April 1994, touching off a chain of events that eventually included invasion, civil war, genocide, and massive refugee flows into Zaire, all of which helped lead to Mobutu's downfall.
This time the plot failed. The missile was there on the orders of Mobutu's own cousin, a Zairian general named Nzimbi Ngbale. But Mobutu had been tipped off in advance, and his plane circled away from the waiting jeep on takeoff.
The dictator made it to his lavish palace in Gbadolite unharmed. But
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