Although Zaire is renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kabila regime is as authoritarian as Mobutu’s time. The multiparty system is abolished, a new constitution puts the president at the head of the executive, legislative and judicial powers. He is also the leader of the only authorized party (AFLD), army, administration and diplomacy and chooses ministers.
On July 26, 1998, Kabila’s flip-flop that breaks with these former foreign allies: Rwanda and Uganda. Both countries declare war on the DRC and then invade it. This is the beginning of the Second Congo War, sometimes called the Great African War24, because of the number of belligerent countries and deaths.
Completed in 2003, it is the deadliest conflict since the Second World War. It is however little covered by the media, surely embarrassed by the complexity of the conflict25. Unable to deal with the invasion, Kabila calls on the Angolan, Zimbabwean and Namibian armies for help. In Kinshasa, Didier Mumengi, Minister of Information and spokesman for the government, launches the slogan of popular resistance.
He invents the slogan “Peace is won” and organizes “Popular Self-Defense Forces” (FAP). The invaders are divided between the Uganda-supported MCD (Movement for the Liberation of Congo) of Jean-Pierre Bemba and Rwanda-supported RCD.
President Laurent-Désiré Kabila is assassinated by a bodyguard on January 16, 2001. His son Joseph Kabila, 28, succeeds him immediately.
In 2003, Kabila starts a democratic transition. A new constitution was adopted by referendum in 2005. The following year, the first free elections since 1966 confirmed Kabila as the head of the country. He won his second term in December 2011, with national and international election observers considering the elections as lacking in credibility and transparency. The country remains troubled in the east, in Kivu and Ituri, by armed gangs, dissidents and deserters.
July 5: a mutiny breaks out among the Congolese troops of the Public Force, with Belgian supervision. Tens of thousands of Belgians are fleeing the country.
July 8: Mobutu is appointed Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and undertakes the Africanization of military supervision.
July 11: Moses Tshombe proclaims the secession of the mining province of Katanga (southeast). The rebel province will only return to the central government in 1963.
July 14: Lumumba, who no longer controls the country, appeals to the UN and the Soviet Union and breaks diplomatic relations with Belgium. The day before, Belgian troops had landed in the capital Leopoldville.
August 8/9: Albert Kalondji proclaims the autonomous state of South Kasai, with support from Western countries. It is the beginning of the first civil war marked by the intervention of foreign mercenaries, a vast operation of policing under the aegis of the UN.
September 5: President Kasavubu removed Lumumba from the position of Prime Minister and already appealed to young Colonel Joseph-Desire Mobutu to “manage” the country. Antoine Gizenga, Lumumba’s fighting companion, creates the “People’s Republic of Congo” with “capital” Stanleyville (Kisangani), which will be recognized by fifteen or so states.
September 12: kasavubu installs a government led by Joseph Ileo.
September 14: Mobutu “neutralizes” Kasavubu and Lumumba and establishes a college of commissioners general instead of the government.
December 1: Patrice Lumumba is arrested by Mobutu’s troops in Kasai, while trying to reach Stanleyville.
December 12: Gizenga proclaims Stanleyville “provisional capital” of the country.
January 17: Lumumba is assassinated. According to the official version, this was a settling of accounts between Congolese and his death was announced on February 13th. Patrice Lumumba was in fact assassinated near Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi), capital of the then secessionist province of Katanga. Wounded by bullets, his body was never found, any more than those of two relatives killed with him, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo. A recent book by the Flemish sociologist Ludo De Witte, “The murder of Lumumba”, twisted his neck to this truth and assures, with evidence, that Belgium “bears the greatest responsibility” in this crime. According to the author, the goal of elimination was, in the middle of the Cold War, to keep Congo in the Western sphere of influence. Gerard Soete, Belgian police commissioner charged at the time to set up a “Katangan national police”, recognized in the year 2000, having transported the three bodies 220 kilometers from the place of execution, to bury them behind a termite mound, in full wooded savannah. Back in Elisabethville, however, he received “order” from the Katangese Minister of the Interior, Godefroid Munongo, to remove the corpses. What he did by cutting the bodies and then spraying them with acid þ A Belgian parliamentary commission of inquiry is soon to give the results of its investigations into the role of Belgium in the assassination of Lumumba. (The assassination of Lumumba, by Ludo De Witte- Karthala Editions)
The army and UN forces put an end to the Gizenga rebellion in January 1962 and a year later, in January 1963 to Katangese separatism.
A huge rebellion is setting the country on fire, killing at least 500,000, according to historians. It is mainly organized against the central power by parties of communist or lumumbist inspiration. It starts in the province of Kwilu (West) under the leadership of Pierre Mulele, who was Minister of Lumumba. Other rebels – Christophe Ngbenye, Gaston Soumialot, General Olenga and a “colonel” Kabila – in turn trigger the rebellion of the Eastern Simba, seize the Kivu-Maniema, the Orientale province, the North Katanga, Sankuru and part of Equateur province. Stanleyville falls under the control of Simba rebels.
July 1, 1964: Moses Tshombe is appointed Prime Minister by President Kasavubu, always with the blessing of Western countries, to try to stop these rebellions of communist inspiration. The culmination of this “reconquest” was the operation “Red Dragon”, which allowed government forces helped by mercenaries to regain control of Stanleyville (Kisangani). Moses Tshombe is dismissed from the post of Prime Minister and replaced by Evarsite Kimba. (In 1967, the plane in which is located Moses Tshombe, exiled in Spain, is “intercepted” strangely over Algeria, where he will be placed under house arrest, until his death a “crisis” in June 1969.)
November 24, 1965: coup d’état. At the time Colonel, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, commander of the army, overthrows the president Kasavubu. Mobutu appoints as prime minister a military man, Colonel Léonard Mulamba, and governs by “ordinances-laws”, without any control of the Parliament. All activities of political parties are suspended.
The capital Léopoldville takes the name of Kinshasa. Mobutu is proclaimed President of the Republic and begins, supported by his party-state People’s Movement of the Revolution (MPR, created April 17, 1967, formalized in May), a reign without sharing. Each Zairian becomes “member” of the MPR by birth. A whole program þ May: the “Pentecost plot”, in which the former Prime Minister Evariste Kimba is involved, gives the measure of what is awaiting the Congolese. Death sentences of conspirators, and public hangings in Kinshasa.
October: Pierre Mulele, who had taken refuge in Brazzaville, is captured in strange conditions, and executed in Zaire.
In 1970, General Puati, chief of staff of the army is sentenced to death. His successor, General Bangal, will also be sentenced to death a year later, in October 1971.
October 71: Africanization. The country becomes the Republic of Zaire and Joseph-Desire Mobutu takes the name Mobutu Sese Seko kuku Ngbendu Wa za Banga. Beginning of a crisis with the Vatican (Cardinal Albert Malula, accused of subversion, must go into exile for criticizing in his newspaper “Christian Africa” the replacement of Christian names by “authentic” names).
March 8: Shaba (former Katanga) is invaded by former “Katangese gendarmes” opposed to the Mobutu regime who come from Angola. The secessionists were led by General Nathanael Mbumba, former police commissioner in 1967 and who had gone into exile in Angola in 1968. Then recovered by the Portuguese, he served in commandos called “Black arrows”, forged by the Portuguese to eliminate the Angolan revolutionary rebels of the MPLA. Nathanael Mbumba attacks Shaba at the head of the National Liberation Front of Congo (FNLC), a movement created in June 1968. These secessionists will eventually be defeated by Zairian troops, helped by a Moroccan expeditionary force with the support logistics of the French army which serves for the air transport of Moroccan and Zairian troops. Mbumba is definitely defeated in May.
May: Second Shaba war. Invasion of Kolwezi by former Katangese gendarmes, this time from Zambia. The taking of European hostages gives the pretext for intervention by French and Belgian paratroopers who liberate foreign nationals and allow Zairian troops to take back the city.
June: A pan-African peacekeeping force (mostly Togolese) is sent to Shaba where it will stay for one year.
February 15: Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba founds clandestinely the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) which will become the spearhead of the challenge of the Mobutu regime. Tshisekedi had collaborated with Mobutu for years (see his biography).
November: Zairian exiles from Tanzania, led by Paul-Roger Mokede, who led the renovated Congolese National Movement, seize the town of Moba on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The Zairian forces, helped by French paratroopers, reduce this new coup.
February: violent incidents on the campuses of the universities of Mbandka and Kisangani. July: the forces of the rebellion of the Popular Revolutionary Party (PRP) Laurent-Desire Kabila attack for the second time in six months the city of Moba. The maquis of Kabila has been installed on the shores of Lake Tanganyika since the 1960s.
March: Amnesty International publishes an impressive report on multiple cases of “torture, murder and arrests”. September: Mobutu sends 350 paratroopers to rescue Togolese President Eyadema threatened with invasion from Ghana.
July: dozens of Zairian soldiers are killed in North Kivu, Kasindi. In this region, a multitude of rebel groups flourished at the time, among them, the Party for the Liberation of Congo (PLC), the Congolese Liberation Army (ACL), or groups claiming PRP Kabila or of the Congolese National Movement (MNC). They often operate from Uganda.
April 24: In a speech, Mobutu announces the end of the party-state and authorizes multiparty politics. A national conference is convened, but the country will experience a long period of transition and sink into political confusion and disorder. Night of May 10 to 11: a massacre of students takes place on the university campus of Lubumbashi, which would have officially made a death. Independent sources stick to the record of more than 100 killed.
May 19: All parties agree that the national conference will be sovereign and its decisions binding. April to July: Riots and demonstrations in the country. July 22: Tshisekedi is “appointed” by the presidency, as prime minister. The allies of the UDPS (PDSC and UFERI) protest. Under the pressure of the UDPS fighter, Tshisekedi refuses this presidential nomination. September: mutiny of soldiers followed by looting in Kinshasa and other cities: 117 dead. 9.000 foreign residents are evacuated by French and Belgian troops. October 1st: Tshisekedi is “elected” Prime Minister for a few days. He was quickly dismissed by Marshal Mobutu for refusing to sign the swearing-in passages relating to the head of state “guarantor of the nation”, a term he challenged. He is replaced on 23 October by Mungul Diaka, a former companion of Lumumba, president of the Rassemblement des Democrates Républicains (RDR), who lived in exile in Belgium. But his “opponent label” does not pass because, after the Lumumba years, he was several ministers of Mobutu, a member of the MPR, and his exile was due to a leak for embezzlement, in 1980. He had created his own party, the RDR, thanks to the multiparty system in 1990.
January 22: The government of new Prime Minister Nguz Karl I Bond has foiled a coup, obviously mounted to give Mobutu the authority over the country and especially his army which is becoming more uncontrolled, shaken by many desertions. February 3: Bishops publish a text in which they extol the merits of the Sovereign National Conference. February 16: the “march of the Christians”. 500,000 people taking to the streets in Kinshasa to demand the continuation of the process of democratization through the National Sovereign Conference (CNS), interrupted by the government of Nguz Karl I Bond. Balance, between 17 and 32 deaths, according to sources. August 14: Etienne Tshisekedi, the Kasaïen, is “elected” Prime Minister of Zaire by the Sovereign National Conference. The “nationalist” governor of the Zairian province of Shaba (formerly Katanga), Kyungu Wa Kumwanza and the deposed prime minister, Nguz Karl I Bond, founder of the Union of Independent Federalists and Republicans (UFERI), launch a “hunt for Kasaians “in the province of Katanga. This “ethnic cleansing” in Katanga has caused the death of dozens of people, led to the exodus of thousands of Kasaians to their region of origin in appalling humanitarian and health conditions. (An excellent cartoon of Tshibanda Wamuela Bujitu and Nsenga Kibwonga – “The repressed Katanga” Edit Impala – traces this bloody episode for Kasaïens) December 4: armored vehicles and troops of the Presidential Guard encircle and invest the offices of Prime Minister Tshisekedi, Mobutu reminding him “the legitimacy of the Head of State”.
January: New looting of the military in Kinshasa which makes between 300 and 1,000 dead and causes the departure of more than 2,000 foreign residents. Ethnic unrest in Shaba displaces nearly 100,000 people. Ethnic violence causes 2,000 deaths in the provinces of North Kivu. Etienne Tshisekedi is dismissed from his post as prime minister by Mobutu. The head of the government is entrusted to Faustin Birindwa, a radical opposition defector who is not even recognized by Western countries traditionally close to Zaire, United States, Belgium and France.
January: establishment of the Zaire Transitional Parliament (High Council of the Republic / Transitional Parliament -HCR / PT), the legislative body of the transition, whose role is notably to control the government’s action. The provisional constitution gives it extensive powers, including the power to decide in the last instance on the promulgation of laws in case of disagreement between the government and the Presidency. UNHCR / PT is established by decision of the Sovereign National Conference, which ends. The end of the transsition, “managed” by UNHCR / PT, is 9 July 1995. The HCR / PT is chaired by Monsignor Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kisangani. The 738 advisers who make up the UNHCR / PT, selected from the 2,800 participants in the National Sovereign Conference (SAC) completed in December 1992, have been nominated by political parties and civil society associations and have no legitimacy at all. popular. Their statute provides compensation in the order of $ 500 per month, a real fortune in Zaire, while an official or executive earns less than 50, when he is paid. The end of the constitutional transition in July 1995, but the general elections that were to take place before that date will never finally take place.
April 6: In Rwanda, returning from a summit of heads of state in Tanzania, Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane is shot down by “unidentified elements” in Kigali. The Rwandan president, his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira and ten others are killed. April 7, beginning of a very confused situation in Kigali where the Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, is killed by soldiers. Thousands of Rwandans, including Tutsis, are executed and 10 Belgian UNAMIR peacekeepers killed. This is the beginning of the genocide. On April 20, the UN Security Council only allows a symbolic presence of 270 peacekeepers. On May 23, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which will take power in Kigali, takes stock of the massacres: “between half a million and one million” people have been killed since April 6.
June 22: The UN Security Council gives France the green light for a military operation to protect civilians against massacres. The operation, dubbed “Turquoise”, will mobilize, until August 22, 2,500 French soldiers, as well as several African contingents, in the south-west of the country, as well as in the refugee camps of Zaire. End of June: Marshal Mobutu grants French troops the right to settle in Goma, in eastern Zaire, as part of the “Turquoise” operation. This operation will allow the Interahamwe micilists and former genocidal soldiers of the Rwandan army to find protection in Zaire. July: Kengo wa Dondo, who broke the radical opposition to Mobutu into two tendencies, one grouped behind Tshisekedi (the Union of the Radical Opposition – USOR) and his “moderate” and supported by Western countries , is appointed prime minister by the UNHCR / PT, appointment that triggers the permanent wrath of Tshisekedi. From 14 to 18 July: more than one million Hutu Rwandans take refuge in eastern Zaire, after the genocide in Rwanda and the capture of the capital Kigali, on July 4, by the RPF.
March 31: Etienne Tshisekedi calls for a monster march to obtain the resignation of Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo, President of the HCR / PT, accusing him of “treason”, “unbridled taste of power” and “tarnishing the image of mark of the Catholic Church “. The radical opposition, which brought Mgr Laurent Mossengwo to the pinnacle of political wisdom at the time of the National Sovereign Conference (CNS, 1991-1992) and then to the presidency of the UNHCR / PT, criticized him for having favored the appointment of Kengo Wa Dondo, as prime minister from the “moderate” opposition.
23 June: The Union of the Congolese Left (UGC), a cartel of “progressive” socialist and lumumbist parties, claims in a statement that “the executive power that was snatched from him by a coup in the mid-sixties is peacefully restored on 9 July, the date of the end of the transition “. The Supreme Court of Justice decides to extend the duration of the political transition for one year, originally scheduled for 9 July 1995. Mobutu signs a few weeks later to extend the two-year transition. The elections will have to be held before July 1997.
August 18: Thousands of people march in Kinshasa at the call of the Sacred Union of the Radical Zairean opposition (USOR) to protest “against foreign interference and that of France in particular” in the internal affairs of Zaire. September: From his home village of Gbadolite, Mobutu declares that “there is no longer any question that Zaire gives the impression that it wants to drive out those whom it has fraternally welcomed”, alluding to the presence in Zaire of more one million Rwandan and Burundian refugees.
October: UNHCR / PT parliamentarians award a monthly stipend of US $ 1,000 at closed-door meeting (university professor’s salary does not exceed US $ 10 per month) Young people activists of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), party of Tshisekedi, are accused of having indirectly (thrown stones) caused the death by heart attack of Roger Gisanga, founding member of the UDPS that they had been attacking in front of Tshisekedi’s home in Limete, on the outskirts of Kinshasa. These militiamen call themselves “standing parliamentarians”, as opposed to parliamentarians who sit in the transitional parliament.
November 24: Mobutu celebrates thirty years of power. The “radical” opposition led by Tshisekedi continues to demand the departure of Prime Minister Kengo and calls for a day “dead city” considering November 24 as a “day of mourning” to protest against “30 years of dictatorship”.
November – December: At least 100 people died in armed clashes in Masisi, in the east of the country, between the Zairian population Hunde and the Banyarwanda, émigré populations of Rwandan origin who arrived in the country long ago, the difference of the hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees since the 1994 genocide in the Goma region (further south). Since the arrival in Goma of soldiers of the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) in rout, the level of armament of the rival gangs, which initially oppose questions of ownership of the land, has increased considerably. Rwandan Hutu extremists reportedly intervened in the conflict and also threatened the Banyarwanda Tutsi in Masisi. The total population of Masisi is estimated at 600,000 people, 85% of whom are from Banyarwanda and 15% from Hunde, who consider themselves the only true indigenous.
December 25: 19 deaths in Goma, including a senior officer of the Civil Guard, as a result of violence between soldiers of different weapons and civilians.