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Second Congo War

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Second Congo War
DRC Rwanda line.jpg
Civilians waiting to cross the DRC-Rwanda border (2001)
Date 2 August 1998 – July 2003
Location Democratic Republic of the Congo
Result Withdrawal of Uganda and Rwanda; peace deal with internal combatants, beginning of the Kivu conflict
Democratic Republic of the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Flag of Namibia.svg Namibia,
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg Zimbabwe,
Flag of Angola.svg Angola,
Flag of Chad.svg Chad,
Hutu-aligned forces
Flag of Uganda.svg Uganda,
Flag of Rwanda.svg Rwanda,
Flag of Burundi.svg Burundi,
MLC.jpg Movement for the Liberation of Congo
Congolese Rally for Democracy
Tutsi-aligned forces
Commanders and leaders
Democratic Republic of the Congo Laurent-Désiré Kabila
Democratic Republic of the Congo Joseph Kabila
Namibia Sam Nujoma
Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe
Angola José Eduardo dos Santos
Chad Idriss Déby
Padiri (Mai-Mai),
Dunia (Mai-Mai)
Rwanda Paul Kagame
Burundi Pierre Buyoya
Uganda Yoweri Museveni
Ernest Wamba dia Wamba ( RCD)
Jean-Pierre Bemba (MLC)
Laurent Nkunda (Tutsi-militants)
Mai-Mai: 20–30,000 militia,
Interahamwe: 20,000+
RCD: Unknown,
Rwanda: 8,000+
Casualties and losses
3,900,000 killed in total

The Second Congo War, also known as Africa's World War and the Great War of Africa, began in August 1998 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly called Zaire), and officially ended in July 2003 when the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo took power (though hostilities continue to this day). The largest war in modern African history, it directly involved eight African nations, as well as about 25 armed groups. By 2008 the war and its aftermath had killed 5.4 million people, mostly from disease and starvation, making the Second Congo War the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II. Millions more were displaced from their homes or sought asylum in neighboring countries.

Despite a formal end to the war in July 2003 and an agreement by the former belligerents to create a government of national unity, 1,000 people died daily in 2004 from easily preventable cases of malnutrition and disease.


Given the fluid nature of the war, there have been numerous exceptions and caveats to the categorization below, and groups within a single category have violently clashed in the past over resources and territory.

Kinshasa-aligned forces included the Congolese national army under President Laurent-Désiré Kabila and later his son Joseph Kabila, various anti foreigner Mai-Mai groups, and allied nations such as Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan and Namibia. They control the west and south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The main goal is the creation of a strong state in control of its territory and borders, and thus regaining control of the natural resources.

Rwandan Patriotic Front-aligned forces included the national armies of the Tutsi-dominated governments of Rwanda and Burundi, the militia groups created by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge residing in the DRC and the Banyamulenge-dominated Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) rebel forces based in Goma. Tutsi-aligned forces inside the DRC are most active in North and South Kivu provinces, and have territory extending westward toward Kinshasa. Goals include protecting the national security of Rwanda and Burundi, defending Tutsis in the DRC, checking the influence of Uganda and exploiting natural resources.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda in Washington D.C, June 2003

Hutu-aligned forces included Rwandan Hutus responsible for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Burundian rebels seeking to overthrow their government, Congolese Hutus and affiliated Mai-Mai militias. The major Hutu group currently is the Forces Démocratiques de la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) operating in the Kivus. Goals include expelling foreign Tutsi forces, ethnic cleansing of the Banyamulenge, overthrowing the governments of Rwanda and Burundi, and gaining control of resources.

Uganda-aligned forces included Uganda's national army and various Uganda-backed rebel groups, such as the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, in control of much of the northeast and central north of the DRC. Stated goals include protecting the borders of Uganda from invasion by DRC-based armed groups such as the Allied Democratic Forces and People's Redemption Army, which may not exist, and destroying rebel bases in the DRC; Uganda had previously claimed that Joseph Kabila's government had failed to take action against these rebels. The United Nations has named Uganda as one country that illegally extracted natural resources from the DRC.

Kabila's march to Kinshasa

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire.

The First Congo War began in 1996 as Rwanda grew increasingly concerned that members of Rassemblement Démocratique pour le Rwanda militias, who were carrying out cross-border raids from Zaire, were planning an invasion. The new Tutsi-dominated government of Rwanda protested this violation of their territorial integrity and began to give arms to the ethnically Tutsi Banyamulenge of eastern Zaire. This intervention was vigorously denounced by the Mobutu government of Zaire, but he did not have any military capability to oppose, and little political capital to spend.

With active support from Rwanda, Uganda and Angola, Laurent-Désiré Kabila's rebel forces moved methodically down the Congo River, encountering only light resistance from Mobutu's crumbling regime based in Kinshasa. The bulk of Kabila's fighters were Tutsis and many were veterans from conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Kabila himself had credibility because he had been a longtime political opponent of Mobutu, and had been a follower of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent Congo who was murdered and overthrown from power by a combination of internal and external forces, to be replaced by the then- Lieutenant General Mobutu in 1965. Kabila had declared himself a Marxist and an admirer of Mao Zedong. He had been waging armed rebellion in eastern Zaire for nearly two decades, though, according to Che Guevara's account of the early years of the conflict, he was an uncommitted and uninspirational leader.

Kabila's army began a slow movement westward in December 1996 near the end of the Great Lakes refugee crisis, taking control of border towns and mines and solidifying control. There were reports of massacres and brutal repression by the rebel army. A UN human rights investigator published statements from witnesses claiming that Kabila's ADFLC engaged in massacres, and that as many as 60,000 civilians were killed by the advancing army (a claim strenuously denied by the ADFLC). Roberto Garreton stated that his investigation in Goma turned up allegations of disappearances, torture and killings. He quoted Moese Nyarugabo, an aide to Mobutu, as saying that killings and disappearances should be expected in wartime.

Kabila's forces launched an offensive in March 1997 and demanded the government surrender. On March 27 the rebels took Kasenga. The governments denied the rebel's success, starting a long pattern of false statements from the Defense Minister as to the progress and conduct of the war.

Negotiations were proposed in late March and on April 2 a new Prime Minister was installed, Etienne Tshisekedi, a long time rival of Mobutu. Kabila, by this point in rough control of one quarter of the country, dismissed this as irrelevant, and warned Tshisekedi that he would have no part in a new government if he accepted the post.

Throughout the month of April the ADFLC made consistent progress down the river, and by May were on the outskirts of Kinshasa. On May 16, 1997 the multinational army headed by Kabila battled to secure Lubumbashi airport after peace talks broke down and Mobutu fled the country. He died on September 7, 1997 in Morocco. After securing victory, Kabila controlled Kinshasa. He proclaimed himself President on the same day and immediately ordered a violent crackdown to restore order. He then began an attempt at reorganization of the nation.

Unwelcomed "support"

When Kabila gained control of the capital in May 1997, he faced substantial obstacles to governing the country that he renamed "the Democratic Republic of Congo" (DRC). Beyond political jostling among various groups to gain power and an enormous external debt, his foreign backers proved unwilling to leave when asked. The conspicuous Rwandan presence in the capital also rankled many Congolese, who were beginning to see Kabila as a pawn of foreign powers.

Tensions reached new heights on 14 July 1998, when Kabila dismissed his Rwandan chief of staff, James Kabarebe, and replaced him with a native Congolese, Celestin Kifwa. Apparently Kabila felt that he had solidified his Congolese political base enough to put some distance between himself and the nations who had put him into power. Although the move chilled what was already a troubled relationship with Rwanda, he softened the blow by making Kabarebe the military advisor to his successor.

Two weeks later Kabila abandoned such diplomatic steps. He thanked Rwanda for their help, and ordered all Rwandan and Ugandan military forces to leave the country. Within 24 hours Rwandan military advisors living in Kinshasa were unceremoniously flown out. The people most alarmed by this order were the Banyamulenge of eastern Congo. Their tensions with neighboring ethnic groups had been a contributing factor in the genesis of the First Congo War and they were also utilized by Rwanda to affect events across the border in the DRC. The Banyamulenge would again prove to be the spark of another conflagration.


The initial rebel offensive threatened the Kabila government in a matter of weeks. The government was only saved through the rapid intervention of a number of other African states. For a time it looked as if, as the rebel forces were forced back, an escalation in the conflict to a conventional war between multiple national armies loomed. Such an outcome was avoided as battle lines stabilized in 1999. After that, the conflict was fought for much of the time by irregular proxy forces with little change in the territories held by the various parties.

On 2 August 1998 the Banyamulenge in the town of Goma erupted into mutiny. Rwanda offered immediate assistance to the Banyamulenge and early in August a well-armed rebel group, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), composed primarily of Banyamulenge and backed by Rwanda and Uganda had emerged. This group quickly came to dominate the resource-rich eastern provinces and based its operations in the city of Goma. The RCD quickly took control of the towns of Bukavu and Uvira in the Kivus. The Tutsi-led Rwandan government allied with Uganda, and Burundi also retaliated, occupying a portion of northeastern Congo. To help remove the occupying Rwandans, President Kabila enlisted the aid of the Hutu militants in eastern Congo and began to agitate public opinion against the Tutsis, resulting in several public lynchings in the streets of Kinshasa. On 12 August a loyalist army major broadcast a message urging resistance from a radio station in Bunia in eastern Congo: "People must bring a machete, a spear, an arrow, a hoe, spades, rakes, nails, truncheons, electric irons, barbed wire, stones, and the like, in order, dear listeners, to kill the Rwandan Tutsis."

The Rwandan government also claimed a substantial part of eastern Congo as "historically Rwandan". The Rwandans alleged that Kabila was organizing a genocide against their Tutsi brethren in the Kivu region. The degree to which Rwandan intervention was motivated by a desire to protect the Banyamulenge, as opposed to using them as a smokescreen for its own regional aspirations, remains in question.

In a bold move, RCD rebels hijacked a plane and flew it to the government base of Kitona on the Atlantic coast, where other mutinous government soldiers joined them. More towns in the east and around Kitona fell in rapid succession as the combined RCD, Rwandan, Burundian and Ugandan soldiers overwhelmed the government forces amid a flurry of ineffectual diplomatic efforts by various African nations. By 13 August, less than two weeks after the revolt began, the rebels held the Inga hydroelectric station that provided power to Kinshasa as well as the port of Matadi through which most of the Kinshasa's food passed. The diamond centre of Kisangani fell into rebel hands on 23 August and forces advancing from the east had begun to threaten Kinshasa by late August. Uganda, while retaining joint support of the RCD with Rwanda, also created a rebel group that it supported exclusively, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC).

Despite the movement of the front lines, fighting continued throughout the country. Even as rebel forces advanced on Kinshasa, government forces continued to battle for control of towns in the east of the country. The Hutu militants with which Kabila was cooperating were also a significant force in the east. Nevertheless, the fall of the capital and Kabila, who had spent the previous weeks desperately seeking support from various African nations and Cuba, seemed increasingly certain.

The rebel offensive was abruptly reversed as Kabila's efforts at diplomacy bore fruit. Congolese in the east and west showed a strong nationalistic sense and rejection of the second invasion of Rwandan and Ugandan forces in two years. The first African countries to respond to Kabila's request for help were fellow members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). While officially the SADC members are bound to a mutual defense treaty in the case of outside aggression, many member nations took a neutral stance to the conflict. However, the governments of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola supported the Kabila government after a meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe on 19 August. Several more nations joined the conflict for Kabila in the following weeks: Chad, Libya and Sudan.

A multisided war thus began. In September 1998, Zimbabwean forces flown into Kinshasa held off a rebel advance that reached the outskirts of the capital city while Angolan units attacked northward from its borders and eastward from the Angolan territory of Cabinda, against the besieging rebel forces. This intervention by various nations saved the Kabila government, and pushed the rebel front lines away from the capital. However, it was unable to defeat the rebel forces, and the advance threatened to escalate into direct conflict with the national armies of Uganda and Rwanda that formed part of the rebel movement.

In November 1998 a new Ugandan-backed rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo was reported in the north of the country. On 6 November Rwandan President Paul Kagame admitted for the first time that Rwandan forces were assisting the RCD rebels for security reasons, apparently after a request by Nelson Mandela to advance peace talks. On January 18, 1999 Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe agreed on a ceasefire at a summit at Windhoek, Namibia but the RCD was not invited. Fighting thus continued.

Outside of Africa, most states remained neutral, but urged an end to the violence. Non-African states were extremely reluctant to send troops to the region. A number of Western mining and diamond companies, most notably from the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan supported the Kabila government in exchange for business deals in both wars. These actions attracted substantial criticism from human rights groups.

Foreign supporters of the Congo government


The Zimbabwean government sent troops to assist Kabila in 1998. President Robert Mugabe, lured by Congo's rich natural resources and a desire to increase his own power and prestige in Africa, was the most ardent supporter of intervention on Kabila's behalf. Kabila and Mugabe had signed a US$200 million contract involving corporations owned by Mugabe and his family, and there were several reports in 1998 of numerous mining contracts being negotiated with companies under the control of the Mugabe family. Mugabe resented being displaced by South African Nelson Mandela as the premier statesman of southern Africa. The war was a chance to confront another prominent African president, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. As the head of the SADC's Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Mugabe believed he could reclaim his position as southern Africa's premiere statesmen by aiding Kabila. Mugabe pitched the war as an effort to shore up a "democratically elected government." Involvement in the war triggered a precipitous decline in Zimbabwe's economic performance and the value of the Zimbabwean dollar. In addition, it caused severe shortages of hard currency.


The Angolan government had fought against Mobutu Sésé Seko in the First Congo War because of his support for rebel UNITA in the Angolan Civil War. The Angolan government wanted to eliminate UNITA operations in southern Congo, which exchanged diamonds extracted from rebel-held Angola for foreign weapons. Angola had no confidence that a new president would be more effective than Kabila, and feared that continued fighting would lead to a power vacuum that could only help UNITA. The intervention of the experienced Angolan forces was essential to decide the outcomes of both wars.


President Sam Nujoma had interests in Congo similar to that of Mugabe, with several family members deeply involved in Congolese mining. Namibia itself had few issues of national interest at stake in the war and the Namibian intervention was greeted with dismay and outrage by citizens and opposition politicians.


Kabila had originally discounted the possibility of support from Francophone Africa but after a summit meeting in Libreville, Gabon on 24 September, Chad agreed to send two thousand troops. France had encouraged Chad to join as a means of regaining influence in a region where the French had retreated in disgrace after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.


The government of Muammar al-Gaddafi provided the planes transporting the soldiers from Chad, which is surprising taking into consideration the uneasy relations between both countries. Qaddafi may have seen a way to profit financially, but is also likely to have been strongly influenced by a desire to break out the international isolation imposed on Libya by the United States after the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.


Unconfirmed reports in September indicated that Sudanese government forces were fighting rebels in Orientale province close to the Sudanese and Ugandan borders. However, Sudan did not establish a significant military presence inside the DRC, though it continued to offer extensive support to three Ugandan rebel groups—the Lord's Resistance Army, the Uganda National Rescue Front II and the Allied Democratic Forces—in retaliation for Ugandan support for the Sudan People's Liberation Army.


Estimate of territory held by factions in June 2003

On 5 April 1999 tensions within the RCD about the dominance of the Banyamulenge reached a peak when RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba moved his base from Goma to Uganda-controlled Kisangani to head a breakaway faction named Forces for Renewal. A further sign of a break occurred when Museveni of Uganda and Kabila signed a ceasefire accord on 18 April in Sirte, Libya following the mediation of Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi, and both the RCD and Rwanda refused to take part. On 16 May, Wamba was ousted as head of the RCD in favour of a pro-Rwanda figure. Seven days later the various factions of the RCD clashed over control of Kisangani. On 8 June rebel factions met to try and create a common front against Kabila. Despite these efforts, the creation by Uganda of the new province of Ituri sparked the ethnic clash of the Ituri conflict, sometimes referred to as a "war within a war".

Nevertheless, the diplomatic circumstances contributed to the first ceasefire of the war. In July 1999 the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement was signed by the six warring countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Uganda) and, on 1 August, the MLC. The RCD refused to sign. Under the agreement, forces from all sides, under a Joint Military Commission, would cooperate in tracking, disarming and documenting all armed groups in the Congo, especially those forces identified with the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Few provisions were made to actually disarm the militias.

The United Nations Security Council deployed about 90  liaison personnel in August 1999 to support the ceasefire. However, in the following months all sides accused the others of repeatedly breaking the cease-fire, and it became clear that small incidents could trigger attacks.

The tension between Uganda and Rwanda reached a breaking point in early August as units of the Uganda People’s Defense Force and the Rwandan Patriotic Army clashed in Kisangani. In November, government-controlled television in Kinshasa claimed that Kabila's army had been rebuilt and was now prepared to fulfill its "mission to liberate" the country. Rwandan forces launched a large offensive and approached Kinshasa before being repelled.

By February 24 2000, the UN authorized a force of 5,537 troops, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known by the French acronym, MONUC), to monitor the cease-fire. However, fighting continued between rebels and government forces, and between Rwandan and Ugandan forces. Numerous clashes and offensives occurred throughout the country, most notably heavy fighting between Uganda and Rwanda in Kisangani in May and June 2000. On 9 August 2000, a government offensive in Equateur Province was stopped along the Ubangui River near Libenge by MLC forces. Despite the failure of military operations, diplomatic efforts made bilaterally or through the United Nations, African Union and Southern African Development Community failed to make any headway.


A Congolese soldier with a PK machine gun near the Rwandan border, 2001

A bodyguard shot and wounded Laurent Kabila in an assassination attempt on 16 January 2001 in Zimbabwe. Two days later Kabila died from his injuries. It is unknown who ordered the killing but most feel Kabila's allies were to blame as they were tired of his duplicity, in particular his failure to implement a detailed timetable for the introduction of a new democratic constitution leading to free and fair elections. Angolan troops were highly visible at Kabila's funeral cortege in Kinshasa.

By unanimous vote of the Congolese parliament, his son, Joseph Kabila, was sworn in as president to replace him. This was largely as a result of Robert Mugabe's backing and the fact that most parliamentarians had been handpicked by the elder Kabila. In February, the new president met Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the United States. Rwanda, Uganda, and the rebels agreed to a UN pullout plan. Uganda and Rwanda began pulling troops back from the front line.

The Washington Post favorably contrasted Joseph Kabila—Western educated and English-speaking—with his father. Here was someone who made diplomats "hope that things have changed", whereas "Laurent Kabila stood as the major impediment to a peaceful settlement of the war launched in August 1998 to unseat him." The Lusaka peace deal "remained unfulfilled largely because he kept staging new offensives while blocking deployment of UN peacekeepers in government-held territory." An analyst from the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit is quoted saying "The only obstruction had been Kabila because the [Lusaka] accord called for the government's democratic transition and that was a threat to his power."

In April 2001 a UN panel of experts investigated the illegal exploitation of diamonds, cobalt, coltan, gold and other lucrative resources in the Congo. The report accused Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe of systematically exploiting Congolese resources and recommended the Security Council impose sanctions.

Despite frequent accusations of misdeeds in the Congo, the Rwandan government continued to receive substantially more international aid than went to the vastly larger Congo. Rwandan President Paul Kagame was also still respected internationally for his leadership in ending the Rwandan Genocide and for his efforts to rebuild and reuniting Rwanda.


A number of attempts to end the violence were made, but these were not successful. In 2002 Rwanda's situation began to worsen. Many members of the RCD either gave up fighting or decided to join Kabila's government. Moreover, the Banyamulenge, the backbone of Rwanda's militia forces, became increasingly tired of control from Kigali and the unending conflict. A number of them mutinied, leading to violent clashes between them and Rwandan forces. At the same time the western Congo was becoming increasingly secure under the younger Kabila. International aid was resumed as inflation was brought under control.

The Sun City Agreement was formalized on 19 April 2002. It was a framework for providing the Congo with a unified, multipartite government and democratic elections; however, critics noted that there were no stipulations regarding the unification of the army, which weakened the effectiveness of the agreement. There have been several reported breaches of the Sun City agreement, but it has seen a reduction in the fighting.

On 30 July 2002 Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a peace deal known as the Pretoria Agreement after five days of talks in Pretoria, South Africa. The talks centered on two issues. One was the withdrawal of the estimated 20,000 Rwandan soldiers in the Congo. The other was the rounding up of the ex-Rwandan soldiers and the dismantling of the Hutu militia known as Interahamwe, which took part in Rwanda's 1994 genocide and continues to operate out of eastern Congo. Rwanda had previously refused to withdraw until the Hutu militias were dealt with.

Signed on 6 September, the Luanda Agreement formalized peace between Congo and Uganda. The treaty aimed to get Uganda to withdraw their troops from Bunia and to improve the relationship between the two countries, but implementation proved troublesome. Eleven days later the first Rwandan soldiers were withdrawn from the eastern DRC. On 5 October Rwanda announced the completion of its withdrawal; MONUC confirmed the departure of over 20,000 Rwandan soldiers.

On 21 October the UN published its Expert Panel's Report of the pillage of natural resources by armed groups. Both Rwanda and Uganda rejected accusations that senior political and military figures were involved in illicit trafficking of plundered resources. Zimbabwe Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi says the Zimbabwean military withdrew from the DRC in October 2002, but in June 2006 reporters said a 50 man troop force had stayed in the DRC to protect Kabila.

On 17 December 2002 the Congolese parties of the Inter Congolese Dialogue, namely: the national government, the MLC, the RCD, the RCD-ML, the RCD-N, the domestic political opposition, representatives of civil society and the Mai Mai, signed the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement. The Agreement described a plan for transitional governance that should have resulted in legislative and presidential election within two years of its signing and marked the formal end of the Second Congo War.

2003 onwards: Transitional Government

On 18 July 2003, the Transitional Government came into being as specified in the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement out of the warring parties. The Agreement obliges the parties to carry out a plan to reunify the country, disarm and integrate the warring parties and hold elections. There have been numerous problems, resulting in continued instability in much of the country and a delay in the scheduled national elections from June 2005 to July 2006.

The main cause for the continued weakness of the Transitional Government is the refusal by the former warring parties to give up power to a centralized and neutral national administration. Some belligerents maintained administrative and military command-and-control structures separate from that of the Transitional Government, but as the International Crisis Group has reported, these have gradually been reduced. A high level of official corruption siphoning money away from civil servants, soldiers and infrastructure projects causes further instability.

On 30 July 2006 the first elections were held in the DRC after the populace approved a new constitution. A second round was held on 30 October.

Aftermath and legacy

Areas of continuing conflict

The fragility of the state has allowed continued violence and human rights abuses in the east. There are three significant centers of conflict: North and South Kivu, where a weakened FDLR continues to threaten the Rwandan border and the Banyamulenge, and where Rwanda supports RCD-Goma rebels against Kinshasa; Ituri, where MONUC has proved unable to contain the numerous militia and groups driving the Ituri conflict; and northern Katanga, where Mai-Mai created by Laurent Kabila slipped out of the control of Kinshasa.

The ethnic violence between Hutu- and Tutsi-aligned forces has been a driving impetus for much of the conflict, with people on both sides fearing their annihilation as a race. The Kinshasa- and Hutu-aligned forces enjoyed close relations as their interests in expelling the armies and proxy forces of Uganda and Rwanda dovetail. While the Uganda- and Rwanda-aligned forces worked closely together to gain territory at the expense of Kinshasa, competition over access to resources created a fissure in their relationship. There were reports that Uganda permitted Kinshasa to send arms to the Hutu FDLR via territory held by Uganda-backed rebels as Uganda, Kinshasa and the Hutus are all seeking, in varying degrees, to check the influence of Rwanda and its affiliates.

Rwanda's border security

Rwanda wants the DR Congo to stamp out the FDLR operating from its territory and has offered to send troops to help. The Kinshasa government is suspicious of Kigali's influence over the region and its forces seem unable to deal with the FDLR. Consequently Rwanda supports the continuing rebellion of General Nkunda. Final resolution will only happen when Rwanda feels its border is no longer threatened by Hutu rebels, and can stop supporting Nkunda: the two issues go hand in hand.


The Congo War has largely been one without large battles or clearly defined front lines. While significant numbers of trained soldiers from national armies have been involved, the rulers of those nations have been extremely loath to risk their forces in open combat. The equipment and training of the national armies represents a major investment for the poor states of the region and losses would be difficult to replace. The vast area of Congo dwarfs the armed groups, so military units have been based around strategically important strongholds such as ports, airfields, mining centers and the few passable roads, rather than guarding strictly defined areas of control.

As a result the war has largely been fought by loosely organized militia groups. These untrained and undisciplined forces have greatly contributed to the violence of the conflict by frequent looting, rape and ethnic cleansing. It has also made peace far harder to enforce as the militias continue operating despite cease-fires between their patrons. These uncontrolled militias and their government allies have killed many Congolese. Many more have died from disease and starvation brought about by the chaos in the region.


Effects within the DRC include the displacement of some 3.4 million people, as well as the impoverishment of hundreds of thousands. The majority of the displaced are from the eastern section of the country. Nearly 2 million others have been displaced in the neighboring countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.


The Pygmies are believed to be the original inhabitants of the vast equatorial forests of Central Africa. During the war, Pygmies were hunted down like game animals and eaten. Both sides of the war regarded them as "subhuman" and some say their flesh can confer magical powers. In neighbouring North Kivu province there has been cannibalism by a group known as Les Effacers (The Erasers) who wanted to clear the land of people to open it up for mineral exploitation. UN human rights activists reported in 2003 that rebels had carried out acts of cannibalism. Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, has asked the UN Security Council to recognise cannibalism as a crime against humanity and an act of genocide. According to Minority Rights Group International there is mass evidence of mass killings, cannibalism and rape of Pygmies and have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate a campaign of extermination against pygmies. Although, they have been targeted by virtually all the armed groups, much of the violence against Pygmies is attributed to the rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, which is part of the transitional government and still controls much of the north, and their allies.

Effects on wildlife

The devastating effects on the economy and social institutions have led to serious impacts on the wildlife of the region. In September 2005 a survey reported by the World Wide Fund for Nature showed the population of hippopotamuses in Virunga National Park's Lake Edward has plummeted to less than 900 individuals from an estimated 29,000 thirty years previously. The decline is attributed to poaching for meat as well as the teeth, which are used to produce illegal ivory. Additionally, about half of the world's 700 wild mountain gorillas live in the same park.

Legal consequences

On 19 December 2005 the United Nations International Court of Justice ruled that the DRC's sovereignty had been violated by Uganda, and that Uganda had looted billions of dollars worth of resources. The DRC government has asked for $10 billion in compensation.

Glossary of armed groups

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