The Taking of Kinshasa, 20 Years On. Warning: graphic images • Gilles Peress • Magnum Photos

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Conflict

The Taking of Kinshasa, 20 Years On. Warning: graphic images

Gilles Peress’s forensic documentation of Laurent Kabila's rebel troops seizing the city in May 1997

Gilles Peress

Gilles Peress The scene in front of the Memling Hotel. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress A street vendor sells cigarettes and processed cheese. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Kabila created a ministry for the welfare of his young soldiers. The French press saw this as one more step in the creation of a praetorian guard of 'Khmer Noirs'. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress People in the street after rumours of Mobutu’s ousting spread across Kinshasa. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress On the airport road, corpses of 3 FAZ (Zairian army) officers killed by a crowd near their black car. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress On the airport road, corpses of 3 FAZ (Zairian army) officers killed by a crowd near their black car. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Nkokolo Military camp where 80-100 former Faz (Zairian army) in civilian clothing have been taken as prisoners by AFDL rebels of Kabila. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Soldiers of the victorious rebel movement of Congo's new president, Laurent Kabila, entering the capital. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Nkokolo Military camp where 80-100 former Faz (Zairian army) in civilian clothing have been taken as prisoners by AFDL rebels of Kabila. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress AFDL rebels (Kabila's rebel movement) take over Kinshasa. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Suspected members of the DSP within the Zaire army taken as prisoners by the AFDL. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Outside camp Mobutu, the local population defaces an image of Mobutu. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress FAZ Zairian soldier surrenders to the Kabila rebel army. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Civilians looting and searching the plundered house of Mobutu and his son. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Soldiers under Kabila guard Mobutu's home against looting. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Former FAZ soldiers and suspected members of Mobutu's elite DSP. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos
Gilles Peress Women outside the Kinshasa morgue. Kinshasa, Congo. 1997. © Gilles Peress | Magnum Photos

On Saturday May 17, 1997, rebel leader Laurent Kabila marched his soldiers into Zaire’s capital city Kinshasa and Zaire was officially renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was the country’s official name from 1964 to 1971. The war had begun in Zaire the previous autumn when, with support from Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, Kabila pushed his forces into a full-scale rebellion against president Sese Seko Mobutu as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire. Kabila used children in the conflict and it was estimated that up to 10,000 children served under him. After making his entrance into Kinshasa on May 20 and being sworn in on May 31, he remained president until he was assassinated on January 16, 2001. He was succeeded eight days later by his son Joseph.

Events were captured by Gilles Peress with an unflinching perspective on the brutal realities of the situation, presented here in his edit. Speaking in October 1997, Gilles Peress described his photographic approach at that time in his career: “I work much more like a forensic photographer in a certain way, collecting evidence. I’ve started to take more still lifes, like a police photographer, collecting evidence as a witness. I’ve started to borrow a different strategy than that of the classic photojournalist.”