The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

DR Congo’s mess continues to cross boundaries

DR Congo is a large country, which also happens to centrally located on the African continent. As such, its ongoing conflict has come to involve and affect as many as eight countries, both neighboring and far away. DR Congo borders Congo Brazaville, Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia and Angola. This blog looks at how some of these countries have tried to manipulate Congo’s conflict and how others have been pulled in by virtue of being African.
Hating President Mobutu Sese Seko’s self conceitedness and strong will, Uganda, Rwanda and Angola aided Laurent Kabila, a longtime opponent of Mobutu, to come to power. Kabila’s group, ADFLC, dominated by Congolese Tutsis (Banyamulenge), took over Kinshasa in May 1996. Ugandan and Rwandese governments most likely intended to use Kabila as a pawn in their exploitation of DR Congo’s resources, while Angola was just trying to ‘keep relative peace’ in the country, whose instability had made it a breeding ground for UNITA, a rebel group terrorizing Angola. These countries’ support would however wane, when they later felt like they weren’t receiving due appreciation from Kabila’s government. Noticing that their new president would potentially be used by his neighboring counterparts, Congolese complained to the point of Kabila having to dismiss the few Banyamulenge he had appointed in his government as a token of appreciation. James Kabarebe, a Rwandese initially appointed chief of staff, was sacked and replaced by a native Congolese. However, Rwandese viewed this move as unfair and not well rewarding. In August 1998 disgruntled Banyamulenge in Goma broke into violence and within weeks, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) was formed, backed by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. They took over productive Eastern and Northeastern including Goma and the Kivus, provoking Kabila into retaliation by supporting the Hutus (enemies of the Rwandese Tutsi dominated government). Weeks of man slaughter would then unravel on the streets of Kinshasa. Later, Uganda, while still backing RCD, created its own rebel group in Congo called the Movement for Liberation of Congo (MLC). The situation deteriorated into one of upheaval, where neighbors were taking over regions in Congo, financially supporting rebels and generally living at logger heads. At some point, as RCD approached Kinshasa, one would have announced Kabila’s quick down fall. Meanwhile back at home, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi faced criticism for mongering war in Congo and wasting state resources on less beneficial conflicts; the whole region was beginning to destabilize.
Kabila sought outside help, which he received from Zimbabwe, Angola (Hoped Kabila’s remaining in power would prevent a power vacuum in Congo, which might support UNITA’s actions), Namibia, Chad (provided some soldiers), Sudan (Backed rebels destabilizing Uganda, like the Lord’s resistance army and the Allied Democratic Forces, as a punishment for Uganda’s presence in Congo) and Libya (provided planes to transport soldiers from Chad). Within a year, over ten countries on the continent were feeling, participating in or trying to resolve Congo’s conflicts.
Behind closed doors, tension between Uganda and Rwanda over major mines and other productive areas in Eastern Congo led to clashes in Kisangani. The Congolese population would continue to suffer, this time not just at the hands of their own careless leadership, but at those of greedy and strategic neighbors. This war/conflict came to be dubbed the ‘African World War’ owing to its involvement of many countries and killing of over 5 million civilians between 1998 and 2003. Libya’s president, Muammar Gaddafi, would later, in 1999, mediate a ceasefire between Uganda’s President Museveni and Kabila; RCD and Rwanda boycotted this meeting. Additionally, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe agreed on a ceasefire at a summit in Windhoek, Namibia. But since RCD wasn’t invited to the summit though, fighting continued.
Today, the very LRA rebel group that Sudan financed to punish Uganda on behalf of Congo, has migrated into the Garamba forest and destabilized the North East. Uganda has long been out of Congo in terms of military personnel, while Rwanda recently teamed with Joseph Kabila’s government (Laurent Kabila was assassinated on January 16th 2001, and succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila) to arrest Lt. Nkunda, a notorious leader of the CNDP, formerly thought to be supported by Rwandese Tutsis. But as Burundi continues to be unstable while Darfur battles genocide and Chad chokes on refugees from both Niger and Darfur, the situation is worrying. These intertwined conflicts in which countries have invested for different reasons, put the central African region at the risk of an explosion; alliances, insecurity and pressures in the form of refugees are doing little to either resolve current conflicts or bring Africa as a continent anywhere near peace and unity.
Sharon Muhwezi,
STAND E-Team, DR Congo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>