Government supported by Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia

Rebels supported by Uganda, Rwanda





 Congo State




Observer Review


In the last years of President Mobutu, who seized power soon after the independence of the Congo, and renamed it Zaire, a rebel force backed by Uganda and Rwanda invaded the country and drove him from office. Soon after, he died. That was in 1998.

The rebel force was headed by Laurent Kabila, who had been a Marxist guerrilla, visited by Che Guevara in the 1960s, and had afterwards lived more or less in retirement in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He declared himself Head of State and said he would introduce democracy, but showed no sign of doing it. In fact he suppressed the existing opposition parties. Soon he repudiated the mainly Tutsi and Ugandan forces that had brought him to power.

Soon after, the leaders of Uganda and Rwanda started organising a rebel force to overthrow Kabila, in the name of democracy. Their aim was probably to safeguard the Tutsi dominated regime in Rwanda from attack by Hutu Interrahamwe guerrillas whom Kabila was now assisting. See also the war in Rwanda

Laurent Kabila was assassinated. At once his son was proclaimed President, showing that it was a dynastic regime. His armies are supported by forces from Zimbabwe and Angola.

This war has sucked in most of Congo's neighbors. There are now three main zones: one controlled by Kabila's forces; a second controlled by Rwanda forces; a third controlled by Uganda forces. The last two sometimes fight each other.

In some cases the wars seem to be mainly about getting access to Congo's mineral resources, such as Coltan, essential for mobile phones. Army officers in Zimbabwe and Uganda are known to have become extremely rich.

In theory the war is over. In practice many parts of the country are still being fought over by guerrilla armies, and the government has no presence in the north.

Some writers are calling this war "Africa's First World War". It is estimated that 6,000,000 people have already died.

In October 2008 serious fighting broke out again near the town of Goma. The leader of a Tutsi army occupied the town, scattering thousands of people from the town and the refugee camps around the town. Is this conflict linked to the massacre in Rwanda? The General Nkunda claims he is looking for the Hutu militias who escaped into Congo, and sparked off the Congo war. This war is by no means ended.

Interesting reading

John Le Carre - Mission Song
a novel set in and around the war.

The Mission Song

Observer Review

Last revised 3/09/11


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