Kolwezi is a strategically important, minerally rich mining town in southeastern Zaire, located in the copper-rich Shaba region (formerly known as Katanga). The population is approximately 418,000 and includes a significant population of expatriates. In addition to copper and cobalt, there are uranium, radium, oxide ores, and lime deposits. The town has an airport, a railway to Lubumbashi (the regional capital), and the Inga-Shaba hydroelectric plant.
The city became the focus of world attention in May 1978, when, during the Shaba II invasion, rebels of the FLNC (Front pour la Libération Nationale du Congo, or "Front for the National Liberation of the Congo" in English) captured the town. The performance of the FAZ against the rebels was, like its attempt during Shaba I the previous year, pitiful, and again Mobutu was obliged to turn to his foreign allies for support. Paratroopers from Belgium and the French Foreign Legion, airlifted by the United States, arrived and took care of the rebels themselves; afterwards, a multinational African peace-keeping force remained for a year to maintain order.
The city's coordinates are 10°43′S 25°28′E.