Joseph Kabila, 35, is now the president of a vast, muddled, war-torn country that is the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC].
Born on June 4, 1971 in the Sud-Kivu province of eastern DRC, Kabila was schooled in Sud-Kivu and then in English-speaking Tanzania, where he grew up and underwent military training.
In 1996, he began law studies in the Ugandan capital Kampala, but that same year his father launched a rebel war to overthrow Mobutu Sese Seko, in what was then Zaire.
Kabila joined his father, who presented the young officer as his advisor. Joseph pursued his military career in the shadow of James Kabarebe, a Rwandan army officer who became army chief to the elder Kabila when he toppled the Mobutu regime and took power.
Already promoted general, Kabila was sent to China for further military training, but his studies came to an abrupt end when an insurgency broke out against his father on August 2, 1998.
Kabila senior's one-time allies Rwanda and Uganda were now backing rebel forces in the far east of a country the size of Western Europe.
After the murder of his father - who had secured military support from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe - Kabila called for peace with Rwanda and Uganda and the DRC war began to end with the signing of a global peace pact in Pretoria, South Africa, on December 17, 2002.
The young soldier made a rapid transition into politics, and was named under the accord to head a government including former armed foes like Bemba, whose rebels had enjoyed Ugandan support.
Though his detractors play up Kabila's years in exile and his poor command of Lingala, a main language in the west, he faced down allegations that he was directly involved in the allocation of lucrative mining contracts to foreign companies to the detriment of his plundered nation.
Kabila has often said that he acts for the good of the DRC, and that the people would judge his record at the polls.
An stern non-drinker and non-smoker, Joseph Kabila married Marie Olive Lembe di Sita, 27, with whom he has one daughter.