Laurent-Desire Kabila was born in Baudoinville, Belgian Congo on 27 November 1939 to an Anglican Luba father and a Lunda mother. Kabila studied in France, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Tanzania before becoming a soldier in the army of Congo-Leopoldville during the Congo Crisis. Kabila was a strong supporter of Patrice Lumumba and an opponent of Joseph-Desire Mobutu from the start, and he attempted to lead a 1965 uprising against Mobutu. Communist revolutionary Che Guevara claimed that Kabila was distracted, as he always showed up late with supplies, aid, or backup whenever Guevara needed him, and Kabila's uprising was put down. From 1967 to 1988, he led a Marxist mini-state in South Kivu, and he went into exile in Uganda. General Yoweri Museveni introduced Kabila to Rwandan Patriotic Front leader Paul Kagame, and Kabila became the face for the Ugandan-Rwandan intervention in Zaire in 1997. Kabila led Congolese rebels in an invasion of Mobutu's "Zaire" during the First Congo War, taking over Kinshasa and becoming President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 17 May 1997.
Kabila, once a committed Marxist, combined capitalism and collectivism, and he was accused of being another Mobutu due to continued authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights abuses. Kabila declared that elections would be held off for two years, as he had to restore order to the Congo, and Uganda and Rwanda allied with the Rally for Congolese Democracy rebel group with the goal of overthrowing Kabila, who was no longer controlled by them. Kabila, by now the leader of a personality cult, allied with Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe against the Ugandan and Rwandan-backed RCD rebels during the Second Congo War, and he managed to retain control of the south and west of the country. On the afternoon of 16 January 2001, Kabila was shot by his bodyguard Rashidi Muzele, who was killed while trying to flee Kabila's residence. Eleven Lebanese nationals were executed for their alleged handling of the logistics of the operation. Kabila's son Joseph Kabila succeeded him as president.