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Schola News: GlobalSecurity: Second Congo War 1998-2003

During 1997, relations between Kabila and his foreign backers deteriorated. Kabila initially placed RPF officers and Congolese Tutsi in important positions, but as the public became increasingly critical of what they saw as a Rwandan occupation, Kabila asked the RPF to leave the country.

In July 1998, Kabila ordered all foreign troops to leave the DRC. Most refused to leave. On 2 August 1998, fighting erupted throughout the DRC as Rwandan troops "mutinied," and fresh Rwandan and Ugandan troops entered the DRC. On 4 August 1998, Rwandan troops flew to Bas-Congo, with the intention of marching on Kinshasa, ousting Laurent Kabila, and replacing him with the newly formed Rwandan-backed rebel group called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD). The Rwandan campaign was thwarted at the last minute when Angolan, Zimbabwean, and Namibian troops intervened on behalf of the DRC Government. The Rwandans and the RCD withdrew to eastern DRC, where they established de facto control over portions of eastern DRC and continued to fight the Congolese Army and its foreign allies.

In February 1999, Uganda backed the formation of a rebel group called the Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC). Together, Uganda, and the MLC established control over the northern third of the DRC.

Congolese Tutsi in his regime and in the military became increasingly marginalized. After riots in Kinshasa and elsewhere opposing Rwanda’s continuing presence in the east targeted Congolese Tutsi, Rwanda and Uganda backed a new rebel movement, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), which launched a new invasion of eastern Congo in August 1998. In a bold move, Rwanda airlifted troops to western Congo, who swiftly advanced on Kinshasa and might have taken the capital if Angola and several other African states had not intervened on behalf of the Kabila regime. /p>

Due largely to tensions between Rwanda and Uganda—tensions driven in no small part by competition over Congo’s mineral wealth — the rebel movement split. Uganda backed the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, as well as a break off faction of the RCD. The conflict descended into a stalemate, in which Kabila and his allies controlled the west and south of Congo, Rwanda and the RCD controlled the east, and Uganda and the MLC controlled the north. Local militia groups known as Mai-Mai fought the RCD and RPF in the east. The remnants of the Rwandan army and Hutu militias formed the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which targeted forces on all sides, further complicating the situation and adding to the violence.

At this stage, the DRC was divided de facto into 3 segments, and the parties controlling each segment had reached a military deadlock. In July 1999, a cease-fire was proposed in Lusaka, Zambia, which all 6 parties (The DRC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Uganda, and Rwanda) signed by the end of August 1999. The Lusaka Accord called for a cease-fire, the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation (MONUC), the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the launching of an "Inter-Congolese Dialogue" to form a transitional government leading to elections. The parties to the Lusaka Accord failed to fully implement its provisions in 1999 and 2000. Laurent Kabila drew increasing international criticism for blocking full deployment of UN troops, hindering progress toward an Inter-Congolese Dialogue, and suppressing internal political activity.

Each side in the conflict repeatedly accused the other of violating the Lusaka accord, which seemed to exist only on paper. As of late December 1999 the deteriorating military and security situation suggested that the slightest incident could have triggered large-scale organized attacks against civilians, especially ethnic Tutsis. Given the threat to the Congolese Tutsi community, they themselves could have triggered an anti-Tutsi offensive through violent actions against their neighbors.

In June 2000, the President of the UN Security Council requested the UN Secretary-General to establish a Panel of Experts on the illegal exploitation of the natural resources and other forms of wealth of the DRC to follow up on reports and collect information on all activities of illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the DRC, including in violation of the sovereignty of that country; and to research and analyze the linksbetween the exploitation of the natural resources and other forms of wealth in the DRC and the continuation of the conflict.

On 16 January 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated. He was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. In October 2001, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue began in Addis Ababa under the auspices of Ketumile Masire (former president of Botswana). The initial meetings made little progress and were adjourned. In February 2002, the dialogue was reconvened in South Africa. It included representatives from the government, rebel groups, political opposition, civil society, and the Mai-Mai. The talks ended inconclusively in April 2002, when the government and the MLC brokered an agreement that was signed by the majority of delegates at the dialogue, but left out the RCD and opposition UDPS party, among others.

This partial agreement was never implemented, and negotiations resumed in South Africa in October 2002. This time, the talks led to an all-inclusivepowersharing agreement, which was signed by delegates in Pretoria on 17 December 2002. By the end of 2002, all Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops had withdrawn from the DRC. Rwandan troops had officially withdrawn from the DRC in October 2002, although there were continued, unconfirmed reports that Rwandan soldiers and military advisers remained integrated with RCD forces in eastern DRC. The Pretoria Accordwas formally ratified by all parties on 2 April 2003 in Sun City, South Africa. Ugandan troops officially withdrew from the DRC in May 2003.

There were long delays in initiating Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration [DDR], which was to primarily be funded through the Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program [MDRP]. The delays were due to disputes over the size of the new army and distribution of leadership roles, as well as logistical challenges. It was quite clear that the formal DDR process would miss a large number of people involved in combat, but lacking formal military identification, such as local militia, child soldiers, and women.

Autore: Vito Conteduca - 11/8/2010

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