- Congo, Democratic Republic of the
known as Congo (Kinshasa) formerly (1971–97) Republic of Zaire (1960–71) Congo (1908–60) Belgian Congo (1885–1908) Congo Free StateCountry, central Africa.Area: 905,356 sq mi (2,344,872 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 46,674,000. Capital: Kinshasa. Bantu speakers, including the Mongo, Kongo, and Luba, form a majority of the country's population; among non-Bantu speakers are Sudanese groups of the north. Languages: French, English (official). Religion: Christianity. Currency: Congolese franc. The country, with the third largest land area in Africa, occupies the heart of the Congo River basin, from which high plateaus rise in every direction. At its narrow strip of Atlantic coast the Congo River empties into the sea. The country straddles the Equator; its climate is humid and tropical. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is based on mining and agriculture. Export crops include coffee, palm products, tea, cocoa, and cotton; mining produces copper, cobalt, and industrial diamonds. The country is ruled by a military regime; the head of state is the president, whose office was taken by the regime's leader in the late 1990s. Prior to European colonization, several kingdoms had emerged in the region, including the 16th-century Luba kingdom and the Kuba federation, which reached its peak in the 18th century. European development began late in the 19th century when King Leopold II of Belgium financed Henry Morton Stanley's exploration of the Congo River. The 1884–85 Berlin West Africa Conference recognized the Congo Free State with Leopold as its sovereign. The growing demand for rubber helped finance the exploitation of the Congo, but abuses against native peoples outraged Western nations and forced Leopold to grant the Free State a colonial charter as the Belgian Congo (1908). Independence was granted in 1960. The postindependence period was marked by unrest, culminating in a military coup that brought Gen. Mobutu Sese Seko to power in 1965. He changed the country's name to Zaire in 1971. Mismanagement, corruption, and increasing violence devastated the infrastructure and economy. Mobutu was deposed in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, who restored the country's name to Congo. Instability in neighbouring countries, an influx of Hutu refugees from Rwanda, and a desire for Congo's mineral wealth led to military involvement by various African countries. Unrest continued into the beginning of the 21st century.
* * *▪ 2009Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,355 sq mi)Population(2008 est.): 66,515,000Capital:KinshasaHead of state:President Joseph KabilaHead of government:Prime Ministers Antoine Gizenga and, from October 10, Adolphe MuzitoThough the apparatus of government was in place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2008 and central and provincial assemblies existed, little was achieved. The most important external factor in fostering growth was the implementation of the agreement reached by the government in 2007 with three Chinese state-owned companies; by 2008 work had begun on the restoration of the DRC's infrastructure in return for profits from copper, cobalt, and coltan mining. Under the agreement a number of Congolese staff were to be trained and 10% of the work would be subcontracted to Congolese companies.In March the U.S. announced that it would dispense $500 million in aid during the year. The following month Pres. Joseph Kabila visited South Africa and, together with Pres. Thabo Mbeki, drafted a number of proposals for cooperation. In June the U.K. provided the initial capital to launch a fund for the protection of the Congo basin, which was threatened by timber companies and mining, and in August the French government increased its offer in support of other European countries that were helping to fund the DRC local elections due in 2009.In the war-torn eastern border province of Kivu, however, occasional glimmers of hope were usually quickly extinguished. On January 23, representatives of the UN, the EU, the U.S., and the African Union brokered a cease-fire between the government forces and two rebel militias: the Tutsi Gen. Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the Congolese People (CNDP) and the Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The CNDP, however, complained that the government was collaborating with the FDLR and objected to the integration of Rwandan Hutu rebels into the Congo army. The government, on the other hand, believed that Nkunda was effectively operating as a proxy for Rwanda. Adding to the problems of the region, in early February an earthquake on the eastern border killed 40 people.On March 13 the UN Security Council unanimously called for the immediate and unconditional disarmament and repatriation of all Rwandan rebels in the DRC and for more purposeful cooperation between the governments of the DRC and Rwanda. At a meeting on March 16, Rwandan Pres. Paul Kagame accused the DRC of arming, supplying, and exchanging intelligence with the FDLR. Although President Kabila had set yet another date (late in May) for the FDLR to disarm, the DRC army proved too weak to enforce the decree. A damaging blow to peace efforts in the region was delivered in October when General Nkunda announced that he intended to transform the CNDP into a national movement aimed at liberating the whole country.Late in August ethnic clashes occurred in Katanga province between residents of Kolwezi and miners who had arrived from a neighbouring province to work in the copper, cobalt, and tin mines. By contrast, in the northeastern Ituri district a considerable number of former rebel militia members had disarmed and reintegrated, although one group, the Forces of Patriotic Resistance, continued to enlist new recruits.An incursion by Ugandan rebels of the Lords Resistance Army made it necessary in August to deploy UN and DRC troops to Orientale province. Friction along the Ugandan border, arising from claims that oil had been discovered in the region, was calmed after a conference in Kampala, Ugan., in September.In September Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga announced that he was stepping down because of poor health. The following month Budget Minister Adolphe Muzito was appointed in his place.Kenneth Ingham▪ 2008Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,355 sq mi)Population(2007 est.): 62,636,000Capital:KinshasaHead of state:President Joseph KabilaHead of government:Prime Minister Antoine GizengaDespite agreement by both candidates (the victorious Pres. Joseph Kabila and his opponent, Jean-Pierre Bemba) to accept the voting results in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 2006 presidential election, fighting broke out in Kinshasa on March 22, 2007, between supporters of the two men. After several hundred people were killed, the violence was brought to an end by the intervention of the UN and the EU. Bemba took refuge in the South African embassy, but he agreed to seek temporary exile in Portugal after Kabila accused him of treason. The peacekeeping UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) launched an investigation into human rights violations by both parties and insisted that henceforward the Congolese security forces act in conformity with the law.Troubles in North Kivu province on the eastern frontier proved less easy to settle. Although government troops inflicted heavy casualties there on Rwandan rebel militia fighters, the rebels continued to harass the civilian population and forced some 650,000 people to flee their homes. Other violent episodes were symptomatic of the unsettled conditions along the entire eastern border. Congolese journalist Serge Maheshe, working for an influential UN-sponsored radio station in Bukavu, was shot and killed on June 13 in South Kivu province, and on July 9 the provincial secretary of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) party was murdered in Goma, the capital of North Kivu. Two men suspected in the killing of the journalist were arrested on June 14, but fighting between government troops and rebel militia intensified, making it difficult for aid workers to supply food to the displaced persons.Relations with Uganda along the northeastern DRC border in the Ituri district were also strained. At the end of March, Uganda threatened to send troops to the DRC to deal with rebels, who, Kampala claimed, were threatening their border. Although assurances by the Congolese government and MONUC temporarily reduced tension, Uganda resumed its threats in August, accusing the Congolese authorities of encroaching upon Uganda's exploration for oil near Lake Albert.MONUC troops were not themselves guiltless of misdemeanours, and the UN was forced to investigate claims that Pakistani peacekeeping troops had been selling arms to militia groups in exchange for gold. In response to international pressure, the Congolese government launched a review of the mining contracts entered into during the recent war and later by the unelected government. The deals, it was suggested, had brought little benefit to the country but had been used to the advantage of different elements in the civil war.In spite of these reverses, progress was made in some areas. In the first half of the year, thousands of weapons were taken from rebels in Ituri and were destroyed. More constructively, in May the UN sponsored a four-day training course for members of the National Assembly. That same month the UN children's agency reported that there had been a dramatic increase in the number of children vaccinated against poliomyelitis, and in June the World Bank approved a $150 million grant to encourage the expansion and improvement of the country's education program.Kenneth Ingham▪ 2007Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,355 sq mi)Population(2006 est.): 59,320,000Capital:KinshasaHead of state and government:President Joseph KabilaViolence in parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the early months of 2006 did not augur well for the success of the multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in July, the first since 1960. There was fighting in January between dissident soldiers and members of the Congolese army in North Kivu, while 4,000 ill-disciplined troops sent to the southeastern province of Katanga to fight Mai Mai bandits proved to be as much of a threat to the local population as did the rebels. The Mai Mai had themselves originally been armed by the government to resist rebels supported by Rwanda but had soon resorted to pillaging the people they were meant to protect. In the northeastern Ituri district, efforts by the Congolese army and the 17,500-strong UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to control the activities of hostile militias produced only mixed results. Nor were their activities helped by the threat by Uganda to send troops into the northeastern DRC, ostensibly in pursuit of rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army. In the more-settled western half of the country, the economy was run down, and the failure of Pres. Joseph Kabila's government to make any improvement caused widespread dissatisfaction.Nevertheless, there was a groundswell of support for a reformed system of government. The constitution was promulgated by President Kabila on Feb. 18, 2006, and shortly afterward the parliament adopted a bill authorizing the Independent Electoral Commission to organize elections. In April the European Union, which two months earlier had cooperated with the UN to launch a $681 million humanitarian plan to assist vulnerable people in the DRC, also agreed to send troops to support the MONUC force during the elections.Prior to the election, the majority of the remaining militia fighters were persuaded to enter into an agreement with MONUC to refrain from interfering with voters. One militia group in the Ituri district, however, tried to prevent people from voting and even exchanged fire with MONUC troops, but the elections went ahead successfully. There were 33 candidates for the presidency and 9,707 hopefuls vying for 500 parliamentary seats; the leading contenders quickly sought to win votes by organizing improvements in local transport and by providing other amenities. In the event, more than 70% of registered voters cast their ballots, and observers commented favourably on the conduct of the elections.The result of the presidential contest was announced on August 20. President Kabila, whose support came mainly from the Swahili-speaking eastern provinces, won 44.8% of the vote. His nearest rival, Vice Pres. Jean-Pierre Bemba, was victorious in the mainly Lingala-speaking Equateur and Bas-Congo provinces and in the capital, but he gained only 20% of the vote. Even before the election results were known, gunfire broke out in Kinshasa between supporters of the two candidates. The two leaders agreed with MONUC to a cease-fire, leaving the capital to be patrolled jointly by their supporters and members of the European peacekeeping force. Since neither candidate won more than 50%, a runoff election was required. On October 29, 65.36% of registered voters cast their ballots. The provisional result (subject to endorsement by the Supreme Court) gave Kabila 58.05% of the vote to Bemba's 41.95%. Bemba challenged the result, claiming that almost 1.5 million people had voted outside the areas where they were registered, which was illegal in normal elections. He promised, however, to conduct his challenge by using the legal process.Kenneth Ingham▪ 2006Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi)Population(2005 est.): 57,549,000Capital:KinshasaHead of state and government:President Joseph KabilaWork progressed toward a new constitution for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2005. On May 14 the parliament adopted a draft constitution that proposed the division of the country into 25 provinces in addition to Kinshasa, the recognition of all ethnic groups living in the country at the time of independence in 1960, and the reduction of the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 30. The latter would allow 33-year-old DRC Pres. Joseph Kabila—who had succeeded his father, Laurent Kabila, after the elder's assassination in 2001—to stand for election. There was also provision for the election by parliament of a prime minister who in certain instances might act as a check on the powers of the president. Having been officially adopted by the legislature, the draft constitution was subjected to a national referendum in December and was overwhelmingly approved by voters.The new constitution was a bold initiative in view of the troubles that continued to disturb the eastern provinces of the country. The year began under threat of an invasion from Rwanda, whose president, Paul Kagame, claimed that the UN Observer Mission in Congo (MONUC) had failed to bring under control the Hutu rebels who menaced his country's borders. The invasion did not materialize, owing to UN pressure, and on March 31 leaders of the rebel groups said that they would put an end to their attacks on Rwanda. As a result, the number of refugees returning peacefully to Rwanda increased markedly, but there was no parallel reduction in the number and severity of attacks by the rebels upon citizens inside the DRC.In the Ituri district of Orientale province, which bordered Uganda, a MONUC patrol was ambushed on February 25 and nine of its members killed. Although MONUC responded vigorously and seemed to meet with considerable success in disarming rebels—15,000 of whom had been disarmed in Ituri by June—fighting between militia groups from the Lendu and Hema tribes continued unabated, and any prospect of the government's gaining control of the district seemed illusory.In the southern province of Katanga, it was reported in May that government forces had thwarted an attempt at secession, and in that same month violence broke out between rival parties in the capital of the central province of Kasai. In Kinshasa seven demonstrators were killed and hundreds more arrested in June, while further heavy fighting between government forces and Hutu militias took place in July in the province of North Kivu. South Africa agreed to provide technical and financial aid to the DRC to help in the restoration of public services.Kenneth Ingham▪ 2005Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi)Population(2004 est.): 54,417,000Capital:KinshasaHead of state and government:President Joseph KabilaThe year 2004 began on a hopeful note in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at improving relations with Rwanda and Uganda, but as early as February there were reports that Mai-Mai fighters who had opposed the government during the civil war were again killing people in Katanga province. Problems of another character were reported in March when the International Atomic Energy Agency called for an immediate investigation into reports that uranium and other minerals were being mined illegally at Shinkolobwe, Katanga, and sold locally to foreign businessmen who were processing them and exporting them via Zambia.On March 28 gunmen thought to have been supporters of former president Mobutu Sese Seko attacked military installations and radio and TV stations in and around Kinshasa in what was believed to have been an attempted coup. Government forces quickly restored order. On May 14 two warring factions in the Ituri district of Orientale province signed an agreement intended to end their conflict, but fighting continued. At the end of June, UN peacekeeping forces, armed with extra powers, arrested the leaders of the two groups. Early in July government envoys met with the leaders of other groups in the district with a view to achieving total disarmament of the conflicting factions, and by mid-September some progress had been made.Potentially more serious was the seizure on June 2 of the town of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province, by two dissident army officers, Brig. Gen. Laurent Nkunda and Col. Jules Mutebusi. Both had commanded forces opposed to the government and had been backed by Rwanda during the civil war. They claimed their attack was aimed at protecting Tutsi residents in the DRC from maltreatment by government soldiers. After a week UN peacekeepers helped to negotiate their withdrawal before government reinforcements arrived, but that did not prevent violent demonstrations against UN compounds in many parts of the country. The protesters were denouncing UN troops in Bukavu for not resisting the invaders.Scarcely had Bukavu been reoccupied than another putative coup took place in Kinshasa, on June 11. Pres. Joseph Kabila was quick to accuse Rwanda of being behind the capture of Bukavu, a charge that was firmly refuted by Rwandan officials. Rwandan Pres. Paul Kagame's response was to close his country's border with the DRC, but on July 3, after a meeting with President Kabila in Abuja, Nigeria, he reopened it.Tension was heightened again in August, however, when Nkunda threatened to renew his campaign in South Kivu following the massacre of Congolese Tutsi who had taken refuge in Burundi. A group said by Nkunda to have links with the DRC government had claimed responsibility for the killing. In December intense fighting erupted in North Kivu province amid reports that Rwandan troops had entered the area. Rwanda, however, denied involvement.Reconstruction began in eastern DRC with a limited but significant improvement in communications. The railway link between the town of Kindu in Maniema province and Lubumbashi, the provincial capital of Katanga, was reopened on June 29, and on August 7 barge traffic recommenced from Kindu for a distance of 350 km (210 mi) up the Congo River.Kenneth Ingham▪ 2004Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi)Population(2003 est.): 52,771,000 (adjusted for 1998–2003 war-related deaths of 3,000,000 in eastern DRC [mostly from starvation, disease, and deprivation])Capital:KinshasaHead of state and government:President Joseph KabilaThroughout 2003 measures were taken aimed at setting up a stable government and at putting an end to the armed conflict that continued to ravage the whole of the eastern region. At each stage, however, new outbreaks of violence bedeviled the process. Also unhelpful were the supplies of aid and even arms to the different factions by foreign powers and businessmen eager to lay hands on the rich mineral resources of the eastern Congo.In December 2002 the government had signed a peace treaty with the leaders of the two main rebel groups and of the political opposition parties. None of these had been a signatory to the earlier peace agreements with Uganda and Rwanda, whose armed forces had invaded Congo. Under the terms of the new agreement, Joseph Kabila would head a transitional government for two years. Within a week, however, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) claimed to have captured the port of Uvira on Lake Tanganyika, while on January 15 UN investigators accused members of another rebel group, the Uganda-backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo, of the kidnapping, rape, and cannibalism of pygmies in the Ituri region.On February 10 Uganda agreed to withdraw all its troops from Congo, but when it failed to fulfill its promise, Rwanda, which had already withdrawn its own forces, threatened to reinvade. Uganda claimed that Kabila had asked for its soldiers to remain in the country until adequate Congolese government forces were available to maintain order. Under pressure from the UN, Ugandan troops were finally withdrawn by May 6.Meanwhile, on March 6, the government and the two main rebel groups had agreed on a draft transitional constitution that would create a democratic all-party government and guarantee individual rights. There would also be a unified army. On that basis Kabila was sworn in as head of a transitional administration on April 7. These hopeful developments, however, took place against a background of extreme violence between the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups in the east led by power-seeking warlords. Through the intervention of Tanzania and Uganda, Kabila was able to meet leaders of several rebel groups in Dar es Salaam, Tanz., on May 15 to try to put an end to the fighting, and on May 30 the UN Security Council agreed to send in an international force. The French-led force, consisting of only 1,400 troops, was on the ground within two weeks and was able to establish order in Bunia, a town near the border with Uganda. Conflict continued in the surrounding countryside and further south in the region immediately to the west of Lake Kivu.On July 17 the first power-sharing government was sworn in, but a single military hierarchy was not set up until September. Even then, three leading generals of the RCD failed to cooperate, and recruitment to both of the main rebel groups continued. Of special concern was the enlistment of children under 18, contrary to the terms of the constitution. On a visit to Washington, D.C., in November, Kabila sought U.S. support for his government and spoke out against U.S. farm subsidies.Kenneth Ingham▪ 2003Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi)Population(2002 est.): 52,557,000 (adjusted for 1998–2001 war deaths of 2.5 million in eastern DRC [mostly from starvation, disease, and deprivation])Capital:KinshasaHead of state and government:President Joseph KabilaThe year 2002 in the Congo began in tragedy and grief. The eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo near Lake Kivu in eastern Congo in mid-January destroyed more than a third of the town of Goma as well as several villages.British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his French counterpart, Hubert Védrine, arrived in late January to launch a new diplomatic initiative to end the war that had raged in Congo for more than three years. The European Commission approved $45 million in immediate emergency aid for the stricken region, but local authorities, while acknowledging the generosity of the offer, complained that the aid was slow to reach the areas of need.Talks sponsored by South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, and aimed at reaching a peace settlement began in Sun City, S.Af., on January 28 but broke down in April without having reached a comprehensive agreement. Congolese Pres. Joseph Kabila, had, however, privately arranged with Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the rebel movement that controlled much of northern Congo, that he himself should remain president of a transitional government while Bemba could become prime minister. The deal was flatly rejected by the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), the Rwanda-backed rebel group, which wanted a significant role in any interim government and in any case objected to Kabila's remaining in office.Prospects for peace looked even bleaker when the rebels killed about 180 people in reaction to calls for an uprising against the Rwandan invaders. Two more promising developments soon followed. On July 30 the presidents of Rwanda and Congo, under considerable pressure from President Mbeki and the UN but against the wishes of some of Kabila's officials (former supporters of the late president Mobutu Sese Seko), signed a peace agreement in Pretoria, S.Af. Rwanda was to withdraw its troops from Congo as soon as Kabila's government had disarmed and repatriated the Hutu who had taken refuge in Congo after their part in the massacre in Rwanda in 1994. Encouraged by this measure, on September 6 Ugandan Pres. Yoweri Museveni also signed a peace accord with Kabila, brokered by Pres. José dos Santos of Angola, in Luanda, the Angolan capital. Uganda, which had already withdrawn many of its troops from Congo, promised to complete the process, and in return Kabila agreed to take action against any rebels threatening Uganda's western border.There were grounds for concern about these agreements, however. First, neither of the main rebel movements had been party to the deals. Second, it was doubtful that the Congo government had the ability to restrain, let alone to disarm and repatriate, the forces deemed to be threatening either Rwanda or Uganda. Third, the benefits accruing to senior officers of the foreign armies occupying the mineral-rich region of Congo might prompt hard-liners to find pretexts for defying the agreements. In spite of these uncertainties, Zimbabwe, Congo's staunchest ally, also began to withdraw its troops.On February 5 the long-awaited official apology for the Belgian government's role in the death in 1981 of Patrice Lumumba, Congo's first elected prime minister, arrived from Brussels, but it failed to impress the Congo government.Kenneth Ingham▪ 2002Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi)Population(2001 est.): 53,625,000 (including 1998–2001 war deaths approaching 3 million in eastern DRC [mostly from starvation, disease, and deprivation] and an unknown figure in the western DRC)Capital:Kinshasa (executive and ministerial); Lubumbashi (legislative from August 2000)Head of state and government:Presidents Laurent-Désiré Kabila and, from January 17 (acting until January 26), Joseph KabilaOn Jan. 16, 2001, Pres. Laurent-Désiré Kabila was shot and killed, reportedly by a bodyguard. (See Obituaries (Kabila, Laurent-Desire ).) The circumstances of his death were unclear, but there were few signs of regret even among his political allies. A report released on May 23 by the chief state prosecutor concluded that the assassination was part of an attempted coup involving Uganda, Rwanda, and rebel Congolese—a claim immediately denied by all parties.Officials quickly announced that Kabila's son, Joseph, would succeed his father. Joseph Kabila, who had been born and brought up in Tanzania, proved a successful guerrilla commander in the campaign that had brought his father to power, but he spoke neither French nor Lingala, the language of the inhabitants of Kinshasa and the surrounding region. (See Biographies (Kabila, Joseph ).)His first actions impressed Western observers. He had a cordial meeting with Pres. Paul Kagame of Rwanda and between January and March undertook a round of visits to Brussels, Paris, Berlin, London, and Washington, D.C. At a meeting of the signatories of the Lusaka Accord in the Zambian capital on February 15, he also expressed his willingness to negotiate directly with the rebels.At home one of his first significant decisions was to pay the salary arrears of his army. On April 4 Kabila dismissed the corrupt cabinet members appointed by his father, replacing them 10 days later with men who appeared better qualified to direct the country's affairs. With inflation running at 500%, he also set about reorganizing the economy. He revoked a much-criticized monopoly awarded by his father to Israel's International Diamond Industries (IDI) and renegotiated concessions to work some of the country's copper and cobalt resources. On May 27 Jean-Claude Masangu, governor of the central bank, announced that the currency would be allowed to float with an opening rate of 315 Congolese francs (FC) to the U.S. dollar instead of the hitherto official rate of FC 50. Masangu also removed price controls on fuel, allowing the cost to rise from the unrealistic FC 70 to FC 280 per litre.Kabila had made an early promise of free elections, and on May 4 government representatives met with leaders of three main rebel groups in Lusaka and signed a declaration containing 14 principles that would form the basis for an Inter-Congolese National Dialogue. The opening phase of the dialogue took place in Botswana in August, and a full meeting was convened in the Ethipian capital, Addis Ababa, on October 15. The meeting broke up after a week without any progress being made, but it was proposed that it should reassemble, probably in South Africa, on Jan. 28, 2002.On the eastern front there were signs that Uganda and Rwanda were beginning to withdraw their troops. A UN Security Council resolution of June 15, while welcoming the apparent cease-fire in the region, called upon all foreign governments to accelerate the total withdrawal of their forces.Kenneth Ingham▪ 2001Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi)Population(2000 est.): 51,965,000Capital:Kinshasa (executive and ministerial); Lubumbashi (legislative from August 2000)Head of state and government:President Laurent-Désiré KabilaIn January 2000 a special meeting of the UN Security Council—attended by the leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia— attempted to resolve the conflict in the DRC between government forces, aided by troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia, and rebels backed by Ugandan and Rwandan soldiers; the fighting had continued despite the cease-fire agreement signed in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 1999. The Security Council's efforts were frustrated, however, by DRC Pres. Laurent Kabila's demand that all Ugandan and Rwandan troops be withdrawn unconditionally from his country and the counterstatement from Rwanda that withdrawal would be conditional upon adequate measures being taken to protect the security of its borders from incursions from the DRC. Mistrust and intransigence of that kind, together with intermittent fighting between the opposing forces, bedeviled successive attempts by the UN and by neighbouring African countries to bring peace to the Congo. In November fighting intensified, and Eric Silwamba, the Zambian presidential affairs minister, declared that the peace effort was nearing collapse.In February the UN Security Council agreed to send a 5,537-strong peace-monitoring force to the DRC. On April 8, after two months of renewed hostilities in which charges of aggression were made by all sides, the opposing forces agreed to a new cease-fire, to commence on April 14, with all groups retaining their existing positions for three months in order to allow the peace-monitoring force to deploy among them. Early in May a Security Council delegation led by Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. permanent representative at the UN, arrived in the DRC to check whether the cease-fire would hold sufficiently to allow the peace-monitoring force to operate effectively. Fighting broke out again between Ugandan and Rwandan forces, but by May 22 they had agreed to withdraw their troops 100 km (60 mi) from the much-fought-over town of Kisangani.President Kabila himself refused to accept the deployment of any peacekeepers—a démarche that he shortly afterward withdrew—when leaders of neighbouring African countries made a further attempt to revive the July 1999 agreement at a meeting in Lusaka in mid-August. Kabila, however, made it clear he would no longer accept any accord that threatened his power. This threw into doubt the prospect of any renewal of the Security Council's mandate for a peace-monitoring force.In yet another attempt to put a stop to the fighting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar of Nigeria as a special envoy to the DRC to try to enlist the cooperation of Kabila. A few days later Kabila inaugurated a transitional parliament, but once again there were doubts about its effectiveness.During the year President Kabila made two cabinet reshuffles. The first, in September, was a minor reorganization. The second, however, in November was a major restructuring. Deputy Minister of Economy, Commerce, and Industry Jean Amisi Kalondaya was elevated to finance minister, replacing Mawampanga Mwana Nanga (held responsible by many for the country's economic collapse following the 1997 ouster of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko); Mawampanga was assigned to the newly created Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock; and Human Rights Minister Leonard She Okitundu replaced controversial foreign minister Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi, who had made disparaging comments about Tutsi-led rebels and, as a result, had an arrest warrant issued against him by a Belgian judge for inciting ethnic hatred.Kenneth Ingham▪ 2000Area:2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi)Population(1999 est.): 50,481,000Capital:KinshasaHead of state and government:President Laurent-Désireé KabilaThe cease-fire agreement that, it was hoped, would bring an end to the rebellion that had raged in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since August 1998 received its final signatures late in August 1999. The agreement resulted from intense efforts by Pres. Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, who led the mediators, and was made possible by a plan of action proposed by the South African government that proved acceptable to all participants in the struggle. It had not been easy; because of a disagreement over who should be their signatory, the rebels themselves had refused to sign the agreement for seven weeks after every other combatant had signed.Earlier, an end to hostilities had seemed unlikely because the rebel Tutsi forces, backed by Uganda and Rwanda, were making considerable territorial advances at the expense of both government troops and their Zimbabwean allies. Manono, the hometown of Pres. Laurent Kabila, had been captured in June, and the central diamond-mining town of Mbuji Mayi was under threat. Although receipts from the sale of diamonds had fallen sharply, the government relied heavily on diamond sales to finance the war because the rest of the economy had collapsed.The cease-fire could be seen as only a preliminary step toward solving Congo's problems. There remained the fundamental question of how the country would be organized in the future, and this problem was compounded by the residual fear that part of it might be annexed by the rebels and their supporters. Kabila's government had shown itself singularly incapable of managing the economy and of providing public services. Foreign investors, who had quickly moved in to take advantage of the overthrow of Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko, had become disillusioned by the government's inability to deal with the rebellion.In January, to demonstrate its authority and to support the new Congolese franc introduced in June 1998, the government outlawed local transactions in foreign currency, including U.S. dollars, which had been the one secure basis upon which to conduct business. A consequence of this act was that diamond producers preferred, whenever possible, to smuggle their goods out of the country rather than be paid in untransferable Congolese francs. This reduction in the exports that paid for imported foreign goods imposed a severe handicap on internal trade, which was adversely affected also by a shortage of fuel due to the government's insistence on fixing prices for petroleum at an unprofitably low level. By July the annual rate of inflation was officially recognized as having reached 240%.Internal criticism of the government was muted, partly through fear of arrest but mainly because there was little confidence that any competent alternative regime was likely to present itself. The rebels, relying heavily upon foreign financial and military assistance for their success, were considered unacceptable in that role.Kenneth Ingham▪ 1999Area: 2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi)Population (1998 est.): 46,674,000Capital: KinshasaHead of state and government: President Laurent-Désiré KabilaOn May 25, 1998, Pres. Laurent Kabila promulgated a decree that established a national constituent and legislative assembly. This apparent move toward democracy was, however, belied by a series of arrests of people believed to be critical of the government, including, in January, two opposition leaders, Joseph Olenghankoy and Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma. Former prime minister Étienne Tshisekedi was banished to his home village in Kasai-Oriental province in February for continuing his political activities. He was released on July 1 and allowed to return to Kinshasa, where a week later he made a speech that resulted in the arrest of 40 of his followers.Kabila's resistance to open government was further demonstrated in April, when the UN team that had arrived the previous August to investigate charges of large-scale human rights abuses by the forces that had brought Kabila to power was withdrawn because the government had put too many obstacles in its way. On June 30 the team submitted a report that it acknowledged was incomplete but that nevertheless upheld many of the charges. To the dismay of human rights organizations, the UN Security Council decided to take no immediate action on the report.Unrest that began in the eastern part of the country early in the year blossomed into open rebellion on August 2. The leading dissidents were the Banyamulenge, of Tutsi origin, who had supported Kabila's rise to power but who now felt rejected by the president in favour of members of his own ethnic group. They also feared reprisals from members of rival ethnic factions who had suffered at their hands during the power struggle in 1997 but were able to enlist the support of disaffected members of former president Mobutu's army and others who felt let down by Kabila.The rebels made rapid conquests in the east, and, with the backing of the governments of Rwanda and Uganda, which had been angered by the failure of Kabila to prevent raiders from threatening their borders, rebel soldiers were flown to Kitona in southwestern Congo. Both Uganda and Rwanda, however, persisted in claiming that none of their troops were involved in the fighting. From Kitona the rebels advanced to capture the Atlantic port of Matadi and the Inga hydroelectric dam, which not only supplied electricity to Kinshasa but also provided power for the Shaba copper mines and even for Zimbabwe. They then moved against Kinshasa itself.An attempt at mediation by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on August 18-19 ended in disagreement. South Africa persisted in trying to find a diplomatic solution, but Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia, fearing the effects of a destabilized Congo, offered armed intervention in support of Kabila. The arrival of troops, tanks, and aircraft from those southern neighbours, later reinforced by soldiers from Chad and The Sudan, quickly turned the tide against the rebels in the west. The latter were permitted to quit Matadi and the Inga dam without heavy fighting, and the threat to Kinshasa was also lifted.Efforts by the SADC to engineer a cease-fire later in August and again November made little progress, ostensibly because Kabila refused to meet the rebels face-to-face. Fighting continued in the east, with the rebels attempting to seize the diamond mines of Kasai-Oriental to help finance their campaign. On October 21 Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia responded by opening a second front in the east. Late in December Kabila and Pres. Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo signed a nonaggression pact.KENNETH INGHAM▪ 1998Area: 2,344,858 sq km (905,354 sq mi)Population (1997 est.): 46,674,000Capital: KinshasaChief of state: Presidents Mobutu Sese Seko until May 16 and, from May 29, Head of State and Government Laurent KabilaHead of government: First State Commissioners (Prime Ministers) Léon Kengo wa Dondo until March 18, Étienne Tshisekedi from April 2 to April 9, and Likulia Bolongo from April 9 to May 16By the beginning of 1997, the rebellion that had begun in the eastern province of Kivu in October 1996 had made significant progress. In January the government launched a counteroffensive under new military leadership and supported by some 300 European mercenaries. The Zairean troops, even though they were backed by air strikes, were no match for the rebels, however, and retreated before the rebels' advance, looting the villages they were meant to protect as they did so. The ailing president, Mobutu Sese Seko, tried, unsuccessfully, to enlist the aid of other African countries, but even so, the claim of the rebel leader, Laurent Kabila (see BIOGRAPHIES), in February that unless Mobutu surrendered power within two weeks he would be overthrown by military force seemed wildly optimistic.After talks with U.S. officials and a number of African leaders—among them Pres. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who supplied arms and equipment to Kabila, and Pres. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (see BIOGRAPHIES), who sympathized with the rebel cause—Pres. Nelson Mandela of South Africa announced in late February that an attempt would be made to initiate discussions between Kabila and representatives of President Mobutu. This was the first of a series of efforts by Mandela and U.S. officials to bring the leaders together, all of which failed because of Kabila's unwillingness to call a halt to his victorious advance until Mobutu agreed to resign and the president's refusal to do so. In the meantime, disillusioned Zairean leaders became convinced that Western powers, and the U.S. in particular, were eager to abandon their longtime ally, having no further need of Mobutu's government as a bastion against communism in sub-Saharan Africa.Zairean hopes that popular support for the rebels might be undermined by the parliament's dismissal on March 18 of Prime Minister Léon Kengo wa Dondo—an act later endorsed by Mobutu—and his replacement on April 2 by a longtime leader of the opposition to Mobutu, Étienne Tshisekedi, were short-lived. Faced with a new rebel offensive in April, hundreds of Zairean troops defected to the enemy.Mobutu's decision to dismiss Tshisekedi on April 9 caused further splits among Zaire's leaders. At that time international mining companies, forseeing Kabila's rise to power, hurriedly began making deals with the rebel leader to protect or extend their interests in Zaire. Advancing westward through Zaire at an astonishing speed, Kabila's forces, spearheaded by Tutsi warriors trained in Uganda and Rwanda, entered Kinshasa without serious opposition on May 17. Mobutu fled to Morocco, where he died on September 7 in Rabat. (See OBITUARIES.) An attempt by Tshisekedi to lay claim to the office of prime minister was not successful. Kabila became president and signed a 15-point constitutional decree giving himself full legislative, executive, and military powers, pending the adoption of a new constitution by a constituent assembly. Zaire was renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo.To outside observers Kabila was an unknown factor, but backed by the goodwill of a number of foreign powers, including the U.S. and most members of the European Union though not France, he was able within a few months to bring some order into the chaotic economy he had inherited from Mobutu, and civil servants were paid regularly for the first time in many years. The delay before he finally agreed in late November to permit foreign observers to investigate allegations of atrocities committed by his troops during their advance across the country may have signaled an unwillingness to be dictated to by outsiders, but it also threatened to discourage external donors.KENNETH INGHAMThis article updates Congo, history of (Congo).
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