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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Joseph Kabila

By Keren Mikva Published: February 6, 2014, 09:24am


Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, came into power following the assassination of his father in 2001. But even before his sudden rise to power, Kabila was a player on the Congolese political stage. Quickly becoming an integral member of the DRC military, Kabila helped his father rise to power before beginning his own rise. Here’s some things you didn’t know about Joseph Kabila.


Kabila spent the majority of his childhood in Tanzania

As a result, he spoke Kiswahili and English better than French or Lingala, the two main langauges in Kinshasa. This worked against him later in his career, as he had to learn those languages on the job. Some believe he grew up in Tanzania in order to avoid the attention of former president Mobutu Sese Seko’s intelligence service.

His childhood nickname was ‘War Bus’

Growing up, Joseph was a big fan of war films and martial arts, earning him the nickname “War Bus” from his schoolmates in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Given the amount of conflict Kabila has been involved in throughout his career, the nickname was pretty spot on.

Following the AFDL’s victory, Joseph went to China for further training

Joseph continued his army training with the People’s Liberation Army after the victory of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL), studying at the PLA National Defense University in Beijing, China. After returning to the DRC, he was awarded the rank of major general and appointed deputy chief of staff of the armed forces of the DRC.

Kabila was one of the main leaders of the Second Congo War

Appointed chief of staff of the land forces in 2000, Joseph was one of the main military leaders in charge of government forces in the Second Congo War. As he assumed the presidency in the midst of the war, he was also responsible for negotiating peace agreements to end the war.

By Keren Mikva Published: February 6, 2014, 09:24am

Joseph became the world’s first head of government born in the 1970s

His young age was due to the assassination of his father, Laurent-Désiré Kabila on January 26, 2001. At 30, he remained the youngest leader in the world until Roosevelt Skerrit became the Prime Minister of Dominica three years later.

Kabila is considered to be shy by many Congolese

Joseph often tries to keep a lower profile than other politicians in the country. Many of his constituents believe he shies away from public speaking. His aides insist he is just reserved, — a result of his Swahili upbringing.

Joseph married long-time girlfriend Olive Lembe di Sita in 2006

As Kabila is Anglican and his wife, Olive Lembe di Sita is Catholic, the wedding ceremonies were ecumenical and officiated by members of both religions. The couple has a daughter together — Sifa, born in 2001 — and a son, Laurent-Desire. Both children are named after Joseph’s parents.

Kabila is a big motorcross fan

On the weekends, the president often heads to his farm just on the outskirts of Kinshasa, where he is an avid motorcross rider.

His close circle of advisors are known as ‘the Kabila boys’

Since the civil war came to an end, the Kabila boys have been implicated in numerous shady dealings involving the abuse of natural resource mining and war profiteering. Kabila himself has managed to remain separate from many of these scandals, but few believe he had no involvement.

Many international observers believe Kabila is losing his grip on power

The International Crisis Group has observed that the president relies on “governance by substitution,” in which security must be supplied by outside forces as too little loyalty remains inside the administration. With continuing policies of decentralization, the future of Kabila’s presidency in the Democratic Republic

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