A brief history of Congo's wars(Read article summary)
Key to understanding Congo today is understanding the violence that has defined the country's recent history. The Enough Project gives some background.
Editorâ€™s Note: This post is a brief history, intended to provide a contextual background for understanding the complex issues that the Enough Project works on. It is part of the seriesÂ Enough 101.
Acronyms to Know:
- RPF â€“ Rwandan Patriotic Front
- ALiR Â â€“ Army for the Liberation of Rwanda
- AFDL Â â€“ Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire
- MONUC â€“ United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The First Congo War: October 1996- May 1997
The post-Mobutu phase of the Congoâ€™s history cannot be understood without factoring in neighboring countries, and the 1994 Rwandan genocide was the spark that lit the regional fire. In the Rwandan genocide, Hutu-power groups (called theÂ InterahamweÂ and theÂ Impuzamugambi) led mass killings of Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus, murdering 800,000 people in approximately 100 days.Â
In response, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, or RPF, overthrew the Rwandan Hutu government.
During and after the genocide, an estimated two million refugees, mostly Hutu, poured over Rwandaâ€™s western border into the Congo.
The refugee camps in eastern Congo served as de facto army bases for the exiled Interhamwe and Army for the Liberation of Rwanda, or ALiR, genocidaires. They terrorized and robbed the local population with impunity untilÂ October 1996, when eastern Congolese Banyamulenge (Tutsi) led an uprising to force the Rwandans out of the Congo, sparking the First Congo War.
In response, Rwandan and Ugandan armies backing Laurent-DĂ©sirĂ© Kabila invaded the Congo. The combined effort was called theÂ Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, or AFDL. By December they controlled eastern Congo, and inÂ May 1997Â they marched into Kinshasa and overthrew Mobutuâ€™s government. The country was re-named the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kabila took over as president inÂ September 1997.
Second Congo War/The Great War of Africa: August 1998- July 2003
Despite the new government, the eastern CongoÂ continued to be an unstable war zone. Kabila turned on his former backers (Rwanda and Uganda) and allowed Hutu armies to regroup in eastern Congo. This resulted in a Rwandan/Ugandan joint invasion inÂ 1998.Â Neighboring countries came to Kabilaâ€™s rescue and temporarily halted the Rwandan and Ugandan troops. The five-year conflict pitted Congolese government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, against rebels and soldiers backed by Uganda and Rwanda.Â
InÂ July 1999, the seven countries involved signed the Lusaka Peace Accord and 5,000 United Nations peacekeepers (the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or MONUC) were sent to monitor the situation.
InÂ January 2001, President Kabila was assassinated by his bodyguard, and his son, Joseph Kabila, took over.
Joseph Kabila proved to be an adept negotiator and inÂ 2002Â completed successful peace deals that finally saw Rwandaâ€™s and Ugandaâ€™s withdrawal from the Congo.
InÂ December 2002, Kabila negotiated a peace deal with internal rebel groups, promising them a power-sharing interim government. This deal became official when Kabila signed a transitional constitution inÂ April 2003.
TheÂ International Rescue Committee saidÂ that betweenÂ August 1998Â andÂ April 2004Â (when a bulk of the fighting occurred) some 3.8 million people died in the Congo.
For more on the Congoâ€™s history, read last weekâ€™s Enough 101 post, â€śCongo: Colonialism through Dictatorship, 1400s-1997.â€ť
â€“ Mollie Zapata blogs for the Enough Project at Enough Said.