Key events in Mobutu Sese Seko’s three-decade dictatorship in Zaire:
1960: Zaire - then known as Congo - is declared independent from Belgium; Joseph Kasavubu becomes president; he is ousted by Col. Joseph Desire Mobutu on Sept. 14.
1961: Mobutu returns power to Kasavubu in February, vows to return if political squabbling continues.
1965: Mobutu ousts civilian government on Nov. 24, assumes all executive powers, has some former government ministers executed.
1970: Presidential elections held; Mobutu is the only candidate.
1971: Mobutu gives country its current name.
1972: Mobutu changes his own name to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga - loosely, “The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.” Urges all Zairians to assume African names.
1978: French paratroopers help Mobutu defeat exiled Zairians invading from neighboring Angola.
1983: Amnesty International accuses government of human rights violations.
1990: Mobutu promises presidential elections in 1991, legislative elections in 1992. Neither promise is kept.
1992: Mobutu dismisses Prime Minister Etienne Tshisekedi when he refuses to swear allegiance to the president. Tshisekedi calls Mobutu “human monster.”
1994: Mobutu dissolves Legislature formed two years earlier with limited powers.
1995: Opposition increases; Mobutu spends most of his time at palace in Gbadolite in northern Zaire. Mobutu’s troops battle opposition supporters, killing nine civilians and one army officer.
1996: Mobutu leaves for cancer treatment in Switzerland in July. In eastern Zaire, ethnic Tutsis rebel in September after local officials tried to expel them. Laurent Kabila becomes rebellion’s leader.
1997: With Kabila’s rebels in control of three-quarters of Zaire, Mobutu and Kabila meet aboard South African warship for talks to end war.