timeline4

DRC mainbanner (2013 02 10)960x232

DR CONGO — TIMELINE 1998-2003

SECOND CONGO WAR

laurent_kabila1FFeb 1998. Although the First Congolese War is officially over, ethnic conflict continues in the eastern areas bordering Uganda and Rwanda.

President Laurent Kabila bans political activity; Etienne Tshisekedi, the opposition leader and a former Prime Minister, is arrested in Kinshasa, the capital city.

Mar 1998. Local villagers attack UN investigators in Mbandaka after a mass grave is discovered. The UN is investigating allegations that rebel forces loyal to President Kabila massacred Rwandan Hutu refugees in 1996 and 1997 during the war. The UN subsequently pulls the investigators from the country due to safety concerns.

Jun 1998. President Kabila’s rule becomes increasingly dictatorial, repressive, and corrupt.

Jul 1998. President Kabila orders Uganda and Rwanda—his former allies—to withdraw all advisors and military personnel from the Congo.

In New York, the UN investigators accuse Congolese soldiers and their Rwandan Army allies of killing unarmed Hutu refugees in 1996 and 1997.

Etienne Tshisekedi is released from internal exile.

Aug 1998. The Second Congolese War erupts (also called the Great African War). Responding to the order to remove Ugandan and Rwandan soldier from the Congo, some Tutsi Congolese troops mutiny. A new Tutsi-led rebel group-the Rally for the Congolese Democracy (RCD) fight to overthrow Kabila’s government, as do Rwanda and Uganda. Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia enter the war to help Laurent Kabila defend against a Rwandan “invasion.”

Nov 1998. Rwanda admits for the first time that it is providing military support to the Congolese rebels. Rwanda says this is necessary to ensure stability in Rwanda and to stop “génocidaire” Kabila. The Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) headed by Jean-Pierre Bemba emerges in the north – reportedly backed by Uganda.

Ituri1Jun 1999. A new wave of inter-ethnic conflict erupts in northeastern Congo between the herding Hema and the farming Lendu peoples. in Ituri Province. The conflict starts over longstanding land ownership and grazing disputes–exacerbated by the 1973 Land Use law, which allows individuals to purchase property that others already live on).

In-fighting between leaders of the Rally for the Congolese Democracy (RCD) result in a split of the rebel group into two factions: RCD–Goma and RCD–ML.

Nov. 1999. The UN authorizes establishment of a new peacekeeping force (MONUC) for the DR Congo.

Feb 2000. With regional peace and security threatened, the UN authorizes 5,537 peacekeepers for MONUC, in addition to 500 military observers already sent to monitor the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.

In the past 7 months, the “war within a war” in Ituri Province leaves between 2,000 and 7,000 dead and thousands more internally displaced. The Hema are supported by ‘village defence’ Mai Mai fighters who back President Kabila, while the Lendu are believed to be supported by Ugandan soldiers who have crossed the border into the Ituri region (although Uganda says its soldiers are in the region to restore security).

DRC_Child_SoldiersThomas Lubanga heads Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), one of six militia groups fighting in the Ituri region. (In 2012 he is convicted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting child soldiers.)

Apr 2000. A new ceasefire agreement is signed by all parties —  the Congo Government, rebel leaders, Uganda and Rwanda (who back the rebels) and Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (who support the Congo Government).

May 2000. The Congo Government finally agrees to the deployment of the UN MONUC peacekeeping mission.

Aug 2000. African regional leaders blame Congo President Laurent Kabila for the failed peace process after he refuses to accept the proposed mediator, former Botswana President Ketumile Masire, whom Kabila accuses of being sympathetic to the rebels. (Some say President Kabila’s real goal is to avoid constitutional negotiations that with all Congolese parties – including the armed rebels.) President Kabila suspends the Lusaka Peace Accord amid accusations that Rwanda and Uganda are looting the country’s natural resources.

Evidence emerges that former US President Dwight Eisenhower had directly ordered the 1961 assassination of Congo’s independence leader, Patrice Lumumba.

MONUC2squareDec 2000. Over 200 MONUC observers are deployed to the Congo to record any non-application of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and any presence of foreign troops in the DRC. UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan says the remaining UN peacekeepers will not be deployed until the fighting has stopped and President Kabila has opened negotiations with the rebels.

The Rwanda-backed RCD (Congolese Rally for Democracy) rebel group demands an international inquiry into President Kabila’s alleged role in massacres of ethnic Tutsis in eastern Congo.

Jan 2001. President Laurent Kabila is assassinated. His son, 30-year old Joseph Kabila, succeeds him as president. Joseph Kabila inaugurationAlthough Joseph Kabila does not speak the national language and is viewed as weak and inexperienced, the death of Laurent Kabila is widely viewed as the removal of a longstanding obstacle to a peace agreement that includes rebel factions.

Feb 2001. The young President Joseph Kabila surprises many by undertaking a high level diplomatic tour, which included meetings with the US, UN, and Rwanda. President Joseph Kabila agrees to accept Ketumile Masire as the regional peace negotiator under the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.

Apr 2001. A UN Panel of Experts Report alleges that Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi have illegally and systematically exploited minerals in the DR Congo and recommends economic sanctions and an arms embargo against them. All three countries vigorously denounce the UN Report findings as “gossip.”

Jul 2001. President Joseph Kabila meets with Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, for the first time. Uganda announces it will withdraw its forces from the DR Congo as provided in the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.

More than 2300 MONUC peacekeepers are now in the DRC.

Jul 2002. Congo and Rwanda sign the Pretoria Agreement. In it, the DR Congo agrees to disarm and arrest Rwandan Hutu rebels (FDLR and Interahamwe) who are conducting cross-border attacks against Rwanda from the Congo, and in return, Rwanda agrees to withdraw its troops from the Congo. MORE

Aug 2002. After four years of war, Zimbabwe and Uganda begin withdrawing their troops from the DR Congo.

Sep 2002. The Congo government expels 25 leaders of the FDLR (Rwandan Hutu rebel group) from the country. The UN welcomes the decision, but Rwanda argues that the FDLR leaders should have been arrested, and not released and expelled. Rwanda begins its troop withdrawal.

Oct 2002. All remaining foreign troops (pro-government Zimbabwean, Angolan and Namibian troops and pro-rebel Rwandan and Ugandan troops) are withdrawn from the DR Congo.

Ituri2Nov 2002. It is reported that in Ankoro in Katanga Province, Government soldiers have killed more than 100 civilians in heavy fighting against the local Mai Mai (village defense) militia. The Mai Mai had been armed by the government during the war to help in the fight against Rwandan-backed rebels in eastern Congo. More than 75,000 civilians are displaced from their homes.

Dec 2002. The Inter-Congolese Dialogue in South Africa results in a Global and Inclusive Agreement signed by the DR Congo Government and the two main rebel groups—the Rwanda-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and the Uganda-backed Congo Liberation Movement (MLC).

The Agreement calls for a power sharing plan that keeps Joseph Kabila as president and adds four vice-presidents—one each from the current government, the political opposition, the Rwanda-backed RCD and the Uganda-backed MLC.

The UN authorizes an increase in the MONUC peacekeepers from 5,537 to 8,700. Just over 4000 MONUC soldiers are now in the DRC.

Mar 2003. Ugandan troops seize the mineral-rich town of Bunia in Ituri Province, as Ugandan and Rwandan proxy militias exacerbate the Hema-Landu ethnic conflict. The UN announces it will investigate reports of a Lendu massacre of 150-350 Hema villagers.

Ituri024_Tche Refugee CampblueApr 2003. The aid agency International Rescue Committee describes the four and half years of war in the Congo as “a humanitarian catastrophe of horrid and shocking proportion…” and the deadliest conflict since World War II.

The Congo Government and rebel groups finalize the peace agreement, which paves the way for a transitional power sharing administration until the elections can be held in 2005.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights indicates that those responsible for the massacre in Ituri province could face justice at the new International Criminal Court (ICC).

July 2003. Leaders of the main Congo rebel groups –the RCD-Goma, RCD-National, RCD-ML and the MLC—arrive in Kinshasa to take their seats in the new transitional administration, potentially signifying the end of the five-year war.


CONTINUE: Simmering Conflict in the East (2004-2011)

BACK TO: DR Congo timeline