Message by Nelson Mandela on death of President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo

17 January 2001

It was with great shock that we learnt of the reported death of President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The resort to violence for the settling of disputes and for the elimination of political opponents cannot be condoned in any circumstances.

We think of the family of President Kabila and offer them our condolences. We particularly think of the people of the DRC, hoping that these events will not lead to the intensification of strife, conflict and disruption.

We had worked with President Kabila from the period before he became President of the DRC. After he had captured Kisangani and Lubumbashi Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and I met with him and gave him our support in the efforts to bring change to the political situation in Zaire. We prevailed upon Mr Kabila and President Mobutu Sese Seko to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Zaire and to avoid bloodshed in a battle over Kinshasha. We spent much effort in persuading President Mobutu to step down from office and hand over power.

After Mr Kabila took over the political leadership of the DRC we frequently defended him on international forums. We hoped that he would abide by the agreed programme of establishing an inclusive interim government that would lead the way to democratic elections within a reasonable period. Unfortunately for the people of the DRC as well as for the wider region this did not happen and the situation did not stabilise or improve in the expected manner.

When South Africa was asked to join those countries that intervened in the DRC on the side of President Kabila's government we declined and warned against such a course of action. We pointed out that in a country such as the DRC it was unlikely that any one side could win such a war. All that would be achieved was the destruction of the infrastructure of the country, the slaughter of innocent civilians and an end to possibilities of development. Unfortunately, once more, these pleas fell on deaf ears.

One would nevertheless never wish such forms of violent death to befall any President of a country. We throughout persisted to encourage all parties involved to continue negotiations with President Kabila and his government. It is our fervent hope that reason shall now prevail and that all concerned will revert to negotiations and a committed search for peace.

Tragic as the violent death of President Kabila is, we trust that this provides the opportunity for the government, the armed opposition and the unarmed opposition in the DRC to sit down as compatriots and place the common good of their country's people paramount in their considerations.

We must conclude by expressing appreciation to President Mbeki, as well as the other heads of states involved, for their unstinting efforts to bring peace to the DRC.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation