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The Democratic Republic of Congo














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The Democratic Republic of Congo

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National Anthem (click to listen)

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Official name: République Démocratique du Congo
 
Population: 52.7 million (UN, 2003)
 
President: Joseph Kabila (interim government)
 
Capital: Kinshasa (population: 6'789'900 - 2004)
 
Area: 2.34m sq km (3rd largest country in Africa)
 
Land border boundaries: 10'744 km (Angola 2,511 km, Burundi 233 km, Central African Republic 1'577 km, Republic of the Congo 2'410 km, Rwanda 217 km, Sudan 628 km, Tanzania 473 km, Uganda 765 km, Zambia 1'930 km
 
Coast line: 37 km
 

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the name of the nation that was a Belgian colony from 1885 to 1960 before reaching independence (between 1958 and 1964, 26 African nations reached independence from colonial rule). The country was formerly called Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zaire, then again Democratic Republic of Congo and had a history of colonialists and tyrants trying to volatile the country's vast natural resources. Even though being very rich in minerals and forests, it is among the poorest countries in the world according to its social indicators.

While I started to get interested about the Democratic Republic of Congo, I did not know much about this country. I knew about that it once was a Belgian colony located in the middle of Africa, that Tintin & Milou (i. E. Tintin & Snowey) were in Congo, about Mobutu Sese Seko, about Che Guevara's diary "The African Dream", that the country once was named Zaire and participated in the 1974 FIFA Worldcup, "Rumble in the Jungle", about the endangered wildlife and the Rwandan-originated Hutu - Tutsi conflict. About the people: the friendliness and solidarity of the locals who I have met so far is remarkable!

On these pages I would like to tell you more about the Democratic Republic of Congo. I did a lot of researches and there are many interesting facts to write about. At this time I would like to limit the extend of my publication to what I believe to be the key events that caused the end of Mobuto Sese Seko's regime in 1997 (who renamed the country Zaire in 1971 as a first step of the Zaireanisation and Mobutuism, and himself to Mobuto Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga, which means "the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake"), the two civil wars that lasted from 1996 - 1997 and 1998 - 2002, their reasons and consequences, the elections in 2005 and the new government. Still today the country continues to suffer from the follows of the exploitation by the Mobutu-regime, the consequences of the wars and the continued plundering of its natural resources by neighbouring countries with the involvment of other nations, rebel groups and certain other individuals.

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Mobutu Sese Seko

The country was weakened under the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko (the great leopard of Zaire, one of Africa's most tenacious dictators) from 1965 to 1997. He came to power after a coup d'etat mainly backed by the US and Belgium, stayed in power by sharing the wealth of the country's natural recourses with his policital allies while ruining his potentially magnificent country. Policital rivals whom he regarded as a threat were often executed, murdered, imprisoned or sent to overseas posts as diplomats. Reportedly stealing billions of dollars from export earnings and Western aid, Mobutu Sese Seko amassed a vast personal fortune (believed to be USD 8 billion in the mid-eighties, in  his own words in 1988 only a total of USD 5 billion). Even though Zaire was regularly place of rebellions and civil wars, Mobutu Sese Seko could stay in power.
 
The US have seen the country as a geographically important stragetic place for a long time since Zaire was at a time getting surrounded by countries with marxist movements (such as Angola, Moçambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Uganda). During the eighties and early nineties the US used bases in Zaire to assist the mainly South African-backed and financed Angolan UNITA rebels (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, with its late leader Jonas Savimbi, who was killed in combat in 2002) and the FNLA rebels (Frente Nacional de Libertaçao de Angola, led by Holden Roberto) who both had support of Mobutu Sese Seko and were fighting the Soviet-supported marxist MPLA-regime (Movimento Popular da Libertação de Angola), the Cuban troops and Soviet and East-German advisers in Angola. Zaire's, UNITA's and FLNA's troops were armed with American weapons and partly trained by the US and Israel. But with the end of the cold war in 1990, most of the Western military support and interest dried up and with the start of making lucrative oil deals in Angola the US started to back the MPLA-regime and no longer the UNITA.
 
Other countries that have a strong interest in the country since it reached independance next to Belgium are many. I would like to especially mention (in no particular order) France, Canada, Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Namibia, Chad, Sudan, Libya, China and as mentioned the US and South Africa. Most of them in order to get a piece of the rich natural resources (the country can be called the Persian Gulf of minerals and forests).
 
The two civil wars which continued the misery of the country and its citizens were due to ethnic reasons and the fight and greed over control of the countries natural rescources. The wars were ironically and primarily started by non-Congolese, but on Congolese territory. The Hutu - Tutsi-conflict has spanned centuries, with both ethnic groups present in Rwanda and Burundi as well as in eastern Zaire, an unfortunate legacy of European colonialism. 
 
The Rwandan Hutu - Tutsi-civil war was caused due to the assasination of late French-backed Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6 1994 while his plane got shot down, aboard was Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira of Hutu origin and even Mobutu Sese Seko was believed to be aboard. Habyarimana's body had been taken to Zaire, where his close ally Mobutu arranged a cremation as he feared Habyarimana's remains could fall into Rwandan rebel hands and installed it in a private mausoleum in Kinshasa. The shotdown of the plane was said to be committed by the Rwandan Tutsi FNR rebel group (Front Patriotique Rwandais, US-backed and lead by today's Rwandan president Paul Kagame) who had most interest in the death of Habyarimana, but there are no proves. Therafter followed the genocide in Rwanda which was planned for a longer time and in which 800'000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu got killed in just 100 days. 2 million Rwandan Tutsi (and moderate Hutu) refugees fled to Zaire. In addition 150'000 Burundian Hutus fled the conflict in Burundi and the repression of the Tutsi regime. These happenings started to get Zaire involved into the war.

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Hutu and Tutsi

In 1996 Hutu militia (Interahamwe, militia of late assasinated Rwandan president's Juvénal Habyarimana's party MRNP - Mouvement Revolutionnaire Nationale pour le Développement et la Démocratie) and ex-FAR forces (Forces Armées Rwandaises, former Rwandan Army, Hutu) that participated in the Rwandan civil war and genocide against Tutsis (and moderate Hutu) fled into the eastern part of Zaire after a Tutsi-led government took power in Rwanda. These Hutu militias joined forces with the national army of Zaire (FAZ, Forces Armées Zaroises, the 1972 renamed former ANC - Armée Nationale du Congo) and the Burundian Hutu rebels CNDD-FDD (Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie) to fight local Tutsis and Rwandan Tutsi refugees in Eastern Zaire.

 

It seems important to me to mention that the Rwandan Interahamwe and ex-FAR forces in Zaire who had a strenght of at least 50'000 troops were by the international community seen and treated like victims and not as offenders and war criminals as they actually were. In the safety of the Zairean refugee camps of which they quickly took control and used the refugees as human shields, they openly re-grouped and re-organised themselves with the money and assets they brought along, buying weapons from countries such as France, South Africa and China. They enjoyed refugee immunity, received free shelter, food, medicine and medical care, and so did the Burundian rebels. These Hutu forces were at that time (and today still believed to be) backed by the government and a constant and lasting threat to Tutsis and the two countries Rwanda and Burundi, claiming that they will continue the fighting until they are allowed to peacefully return to their countries and will be re-integrated into society.

 

Mobutu Sese Seko tried to force the Rwandan and Burundian Tutsi-refugees and even the local Tutsis (Banyamulenge, who have been in Zaire for 200 years) out of his country and retroactively removed their Zairean nationality on a collective basis. When he in November 1996 issued an order forcing all Tutsis to leave Zaire on penalty of death, these Tutsis formed a counter-militia (supported by Rwandan and Ugandan Tutsi-led governments, presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni - Uganda had many of its own rebel groups supported by Mobutu and operating from Zairean soil - and Burundi with its president Pierre Buyoya and Tutsi-minority lead government). Recognising that Mobutu's defeat was possible and someone was needed to replace him, Rwandan president Paul Kagame (at that time in 1996 since 1994 vice-president, mininster of defense and Rwanda's actual leader, former leader of the FNR rebel group, since 2000 president of Rwanda) remembered Mobutu-opposed Congolese veteran rebel Laurent-Désiré Kabila.

 

Marxist Kabila was amongst the rebel leaders of the Simba rebel group who had in 1964/65 briefly established a separatist state in the Oriental Province near Kisangani. Che Guevara with a few hundred of his Cuban soldiers stayed with these rebels in 1965 for 6 months. He was disappointed about young Kabila's personality, his revolutionist leadership qualitities and the ones of his comrades, he wrote in his diary: "The only man who has genuine qualities of a mass leader is, in my view, Kabila." In 1967 Kabila co-founded the leftish PRP (Parti de la Révolution Populaire), financing itself through ivory, diamond, and gold smuggling and supported by China in the seventies again a small separatist state near Lake Tanganyika in the South Kivu province. In 1977 Mobutu's troops forced Kabila and his rebels out of the country. He then lived in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda as a Congolese gold trader where he developed ties with Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni (Ugandan president since 1986, leader of the formerly Soviet backed rebel group NRA - National Resistance Army which later became the national army UPDF - Uganda People's Defence Forces, note NRA's political wing was NRM, National Resistance Movement). Kagame and Museveni themselves have ties since 1979 when Kagame joined Museveni's marxist NRA. 

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AFDL coalition in Kinshasa

After the governments of Rwanda, Uganda and Angola had consulted on the choice, Laurent-Désiré Kabila was installed as the head of the newly formed AFDL (Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo/Zaire - mainly consisting of Banyamulenge, FAZ-dissidents and other armed groups such as the Angolan Tigers - historical descendants of the Katangan Tigers rebel movement). Ugandan rebels such as ADF (Allied Democratic Forces), WBNF (West Nile Bank Front), ex-FUNA (former Uganda National Army), LRA (Lord's Resistance Army), UNRF (Uganda National Rescue Front II) and NALU (National Army for the Liberation of Uganda) were operating from Zairian soil and openly supported by the Mobutu-regime, ADF itself had links with the Interahamwe, aswell. This was the justification for Uganda to participate in the war next of its president Museveni being an ally to Rwandan president Kagame. Angola had threatened Mobutu Sese Seko since his regime supported the Angolan UNITA rebels, the FNLA rebels as mentioned earlier and the FLEC separatist rebels (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda).
 
Western nations, mainly the US, Belgium and France saw that their strongman Mobutu Sese Seko was about to fall and not any longer sharing his wealth with them, distanced themselves from him (Mobutu and his regime were strongly dependable on the US). France held on to Mobutu as long as possible, but in the end his regime was said to be only supported by China and Morocco. Mobutu Sese Seko's original allies instead started to support Kabila and his AFDL. While the two foreign keyplayers Rwanda and Uganda were still backed by the US, even countries such as Eritrea provided material support and combat training to AFDL-rebels in Eastern Zaire. US, French and Belgian troops were stationed in Brazzaville (Republic of Congo) ready for military intervention. On the mediation of the (at that time) South African president Nelson Mandela the two opponents Mobutu and Kabila met aboard the South African naval supply ship Outeniqua off Gabon in international waters on May 4 1997 and Laurent-Désiré Kabila greeted Mobutu Sese Seko who was rather weakened by prostate cancer and close to death with the words "Mobutu, qui t'a fait Dieu?" (i. E. Mobutu what did the Lord do with you?).
 
Peace talks failed since Mobutu Sese Seko refused to resign despite the near end and Kabila led the coalition, that was far from left-wing and his original marxist believes, mainly consisting of AFDL and its main allies Rwanda and Uganda into Kinshasa (even many different Congolese militia groups such as the Mai Mai and further FAZ-dissidents joined him). He himself atop a Rwandan tank and took control of the country from Mobutu Sese Seko on May 16 1997 after the offence that started in Eastern Zaire and lasted a total of seven months. The ill-equipped and undisciplined FAZ (estimated strength 60'000), the Israeli-trained DSP (Division Spéciale Présidentielle, Mobutu's bodyguards, estimated strength 15'000) and other security forces such as the SNIP (Service National d'Intelligence et de Protection) and Mobutu-hired Serbian, French and Russian mercenaries fell into pieces, in the end with little resistance, joined the rebels and its allies or fled the country. The corrupt generals of the FAZ had even sold arms to the AFDL for their personal profit. I cannot estimate the strengh of the AFDL-coalition, the AFDL alone was believed to have a strengh of 25'000 including about 10'000 Kadogos - child soldiers. Humiliated Mobutu Sese Seko fled the country with its estimated debths of USD 15.6 billion and later died from prostate cancer (which had been developing since 1962) in exile in Marocco on September 07 the same year at the age of 66.

Laurent-Désiré Kabila declared himself president on May 17 and later re-named the country Democratic Republic of Congo, introduced a new flag (which was strangely enough similar to the one of the Congo Free State), a new national anthem and the Congolese Franc that replaced the heavily inflated Zaire. First President Kabila was extremely popular while he was fighting the follows of the Mobutu-regime, but then he started restrictions on civil liberties, free speech and political activity, angered investors, and lost much of his initial popularity. Citizens realised that he was not the liberator they hoped for, complained that they had more freedom during the last years of Mobutu and critisied him for failing to hold democratic elections and for arresting and threatening opposition groups. He did not keep his financial promises towards his two main allies Rwanda and Uganda whom he had promised billions of gold for their support. Many foreign nations originally had great hopes in Kabila, believed in his promises to turn the country into a democracy and undertaking of economic reforms and supported him - mainly with the interest to access to the DRC's natural resources, getting concessions and hoping for even more access to the DRC's natural resources. The US who were heavily backing Rwanda and Uganda hoped to be able to control Kabila (and the DRC) via these two countries who helped him to power.

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Laurent-Désiré Kabila

To gain control of the country, president Kabila started to promote his own ethnic group (Luba - from his father's side and Lunda - from his mother's side) mainly on the cost of Tutsis, sent away the senior Rwandan and Ugandan officers who were in command of the alliance army that put him into power and expelled Rwandan and Ugandan troops in mid 1998. He did not seem to trust anybody any more, especially after he claimed to be aware of an assassination plot against him. But this prompted mutinies by the Congolese national army (renamed to FAC, Forces Armées Congolaises) and Rwanda, Uganda and rebel troops such as the RCD (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie) wanted to overthrow him.
 
In the end during the very beginning of August 1998 this caused the last civil war which actively involved Rwanda (president Pasteur Bizimungu), Uganda (president Yoweri Museveni), Burundi (president Pierre Buyoya) and the government-allies Zimbabwe (main ally, president Robert Mugabe), Angola (president José Eduardo dos Santos), Namibia (president Sam Nujoma), Zambia (president Frederick Chiluba), Chad (president Idriss Deby), Central African Republic (president Ange-Felix Patasse) and Sudan (president Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir) - resulting in the worst African war ever, the so-called First African World War due to the involvment of these countries. It caused more deaths than any other war (approximately 3.5 million) since World War II and most of the victims were civilians. Most of the fighting took place in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2001. I find it worth mentioning that especially Rwanda again received strong military logistical support from the US, this time used against president Kabila.
 
The countries Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and the DRC had signed a military defense pact on August 18 in Victoria Falls (South Africa) as a response to the rebellion and the foreign aggressors. Next to the justification of their involvment by this defensive pact these three countries were in return allowed acces to the countries natural resources or assets/control of Congolese companies. Zambia was as Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia directly asked for help by president Kabila and was very likely promised concessions in return. These forces were together with the FAC, Rwandan and Burundian Hutu rebels, Chad and the Central African Republic coming to president Kabila's help. Chad hoped that while supporting and stabilizing Kabila that the DRC-conflict would not take over to the Central African Republic and risk its own country's security. Both Chad and the CAF (who had their troops in the country in the first months of the war and received financial and logistical backing of Libya) had a minor role in the war compared to the other four foreign allies of president Kabila. 
 
Despite the signing of a cease fire agreement in 1999 on July 11 (Lusaka agreement) by the governments of the DRC, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe, and later in August by the two main Congolese rebel groups RCD (Rasseblement Congolais pour la Démocratie, was thereafter split into different fractions) and MLC (Mouvement de Liberation du Congo), the fighting continued shortly thereafter, since each side in the conflict repeatedly accused the other of violating the agreement. It seems worth mentioning that one of the Congolese keyplayers, the Mai Mai militia had no mention at all in this ceasefire agreement.
 
It was reported that meanwhile disappointed Angola (due to Kabila's alleged failure to control UNITA movements in DRC) apparently had plans to overthrow President Laurent-Désiré Kabila. The MPLA-regime's armed forces (FAA, Force Army Angolais) commander general Joao de Matos had even consulted Ugandan president Museveni on this issue. Such discussions were reportedly also held between Angola and Rwanda with the participation of the US. 
 
In 2001 on January 16 President Kabila was assasinated (allegedly by one of his bodyguards who was also shot) during an intense 30-minute shooting in the Marble Palace, the president's residence in Kinshasa. Some voices say it was a failed coup attempt by either ex-FAZ forces (Forces Armées Zairois, Mobutu's former army, Mobutu-symphatizers) or a conspiracy by Rwandan, Ugandan and Angolan governments. While others downplayed it and say a quarrel after president Kabila dismissed some of his generals turned into a violent fight. He had at that time many enemies and people who were unsatisfied with him. Days later he was reported dead caused by his wounds at the age of 61 at a hospital in Zimbabwe's capital Harare. His body was flown back to Kinshasa where he received a proper burial, later put into a mausoleum which today still serves as a monument together with a statue declaring him  national hero (such as the status and statue late prime minister Patrice Lumumba received in 1966 by Mobutu Sese Seko). 

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Joseph Kabila

Ten days after his death one of his sons, the at that time 29 year old Joseph Kabila became the new president with the direct support of Angola and Zimbabwe. Joseph Kabila was since 1997 ground commander of the Congolese national army (FAC). Prior to that he spent much of his life in Tanzania where he received extensive military training and returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996 to join his father's AFDL, more fluent in English,Swahili and Kinyarwanda than in French and Lingala. It is believed that his mother is living in Tanzania and is of Rwandan Tutsi-origin. Just three months after becoming president, he replaced the complete government of his father which consisted mainly of people of the Luba and Lunda tribes. While forming the new government later in 2001 (only 5 previous ministers remained), the main political opposition parties were not taken into consideration as it was the case under his father's reign. But President Joseph Kabila became very popular despite of his inexperience as a political leader and voices unprovingly claiming that he is not Laurent-Désiré Kabila's real son, reversed many of his father's politics, undertook economic reforms, ensured the goodwill of the US, France and other important Western and African nations and started to lead the country out of the civil war and towards peace agreements in the year 2002.

While I did a lot of reading and researches on the last war civil war starting in 1998, I first took a map of the DRC showing the war-divided country and spent hours in order to list up the influence of all the involved countries and the rebel/militia groups who had their troops officially in the country. This to show how complex this conflict is, to see how many different parties were moving around, were involved in the war and still have an interest in the DRC. The Congolese parties with the most influence next to FAC (Forces Armées Congolaises, national army) were the MLC rebel group (Mouvement de Liberation du Congo, lead by Jean-Pierre Bemba, dominated by Congolese from the Equateur Province, Ugandan-backed), the RCD rebel group (lead by Ernest dia Wamba dia Wamba, Tutsi-dominated, originally Rwandan-backed, which got split up in different groups) and the Mai-Mai militia (generally spoken fighting all foreigners and pro-government) with its different groups (such as groups led by generals Padiri and Dunia) and different objectives.
 
The reasons for this war and the involvment of the all the parties were mainly the following: The Hutu - Tutsi conflict that spread over from neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi. Rwandan, Burundian, Ugandan, Sudanese and Angolan rebels operating from Congolese soil. The plundering of the countries natural resources and interest to control them (such as coltan, gold, and diamonds in eastern DRC, and diamonds, copper, cobalt and timber in central DRC and crude oil) by Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Zambia. Chad feared as said that the war could cause instability to its own country. The Central African Republic had his troops in the country in the first months of the war. South Africa had a few specialists of its national army in support of MLC in its position as weapon dealer in the country, South Africa has a long tradition as weapon dealer in the region and the national army of Rwanda is among its best customers. Libya was involved in selling weapons, reportedly to the MLC and gave financial and logistical backing to Chad's and also to CAF's troops during its intervention. Moçambique, also as a weapon dealer was involved in selling weapons to all sides.
 
Influence of rebel groups and armed groups, others than the national army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Forces Armées Congolaises - FAC) and the DRC's National Police (including the PIR - Police d'Intervention Rapide, paramilitary force trained by Angola) during the civil war from 1998 and before signing the peace agreements in 2002:

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MLC (Mouvement de Liberation du Congo and it military wing ALC - Armée de Liberation Congolaise, Uganda-backed), FLC (Front pour la Libération du Congo, Uganda-backed rebels alliance, combined at for a certain time in 2000/2001 MLC, RCD-ML and RCD-N on Uganda's iniative, headed by MLC) RCD-Goma (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie-Goma and its military wing ANC - Armée Nationale Congolaise, Tutsi, Rwanda-backed), ex-FAZ (Forces Armées Zairoises, Mobutu's former army, Mobutu-symphatizers, including DSP - Mobutu's Division Spéciale Présidentielle, Mobutu's bodyguards), FACA (Forces Armées Centrafrican, CAR national army, allied to the government) and SANDF (South African National Defense Forces - some of its specialists operated the artillery arms sold to MLC) MLC, ex-FAZ, RCD-N (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie-National, Ugandan and MLC-backed), RCD-K-ML (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie/Kisangani-Mouvement de Libération and its military wing APC - Armée Populaire Congolais, Hutu, Uganda-backed), FLC (Front pour la Libération du Congo, Uganda-backed rebels alliance, combined at for a certain time in 2000/2001 MLC, RCD-ML and RCD-N on Uganda's iniative, headed by MLC), UNDF (Uganda People's Defence Forces, Ugandan Army), UPC (Union des Patriotes Congolais, Hema, Alur, Lugbara and Kakwa militia, allied to RCD-Goma, Uganda-backed), FRPI (Forces de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri, Ngiti and Hema militia, counter UPC, allied to RCD-ML, armed wing of FNI - Front des Nationalistes et Integrationnistes, Lendu political party), FPDC (Forces Populaires pour la Democratie au Congo, Alur and Lugbara militia, opposed to Lendu), Hema Militia (pastoralists, identifying themselves with Tutsi, Uganda-backed), Lendu Militia (small-scale cultivators, identifying themselves with Hutu, Rwandan-backed), Hema Militia (pastoralists, identifying themselves with Tutsi, Ugandan-backed), UPR (Union pour la République, neo-Mobutuists of Mobutu's old MPR - Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution), NALU (National Army for the Liberation of Uganda, Ugandan-rebel group, ADF-affiliated), ADF (Allied Democratic Forces, Ugandan expatriates supported by SPLA rebels), LRA (Lords' Resistance Army, Ugandan rebels linked with Interhamwe, Sudan-backed), SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army - Sudanese rebels) and Sudanese Army (SPAF - Sudanese People's Armed Forces, allied with the DRC-government) RCD-Goma, ex-FAZFDLR (Forces Démocratique de Libération du Rwanda, Rwandan Hutu rebels, pro-DRC government), Mai Mai Militia (opposed to Tutsi-dominition, linked with Uganda and Rwandan ethnic Hutu rebels), ARD (Alliance pour la Resistance Democratique, linked with Mai Mai, opposed to Tutsi-dominition), Les Simba (split-group of ARD, linked with Mai Mai, opposed to Tutsi-dominition), Banyamulenge (Tutsis from DRC), RPA (Rwandan Patriotic Army, Rwandan National Army, Tutsi-dominated, in June 2002 renamed RDF - Rwandan Defense Forces), Interahamwe (Hutu from Rwanda, carried out the 1994 Rwanda genocide, pro-DRC government), ex-FAR (Forces Armées Rwandaises, former Rwandan Army, Hutu, pro-DRC government), ALIR (Army for the Liberation of Rwanda, joint of Interahamwe and ex-FAR forces, armed wing of PALIR -  Party for the Liberation of Rwanda, pro DRC-government), CNDD-FDD (Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, Burundian Hutu rebels, pro-DRC government), FLOT (Front contre l’Occupation Tutsie, armed wing of UFLD - Union des Forces Vives pour la Liberation et la Democratie en RDC-Zaire, Congolese Hutu), Les Mongoles (Militia against RCD-Goma), Ngilima (Congolese force of different ethnic groups, fighting all foreigners, pro-DRC government), FRP (Forces Republicaines et Federalistes, defensive force to protect Banyamulenge citizens), FLN (Forces de Libération Nationale, armed wing of PALIPEHUTU, Burundian Hutu rebels, pro-DRC government) and FAB (Forces Armées Burundaises, Burundian national army) Controlled by the Government and its allies Zimbabwe (ZDF - Zimbabwe Defense Forces), Angola (FAA, Force Army Angolais of the MPLA - Movimento Popular da Libertação de Angola), Namibia (NDF - Namibian Defense Forces), Zambia (ZA - Zambian Army) and Chad (ANT - Armée Nationale Tchadienne) - who all had their national armies in the DRC, UNITA (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, Angolan rebels), FLEC (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda, Angolan separatists), WNBF (West Nile Bank Front, Ugandan-rebel group commanded by Taban Amin, one of late Idi Amin's sons with its base in Kinshasa) and Cocoye Militia (Militia of Republic of Congo-Brazzaville's former president Pascal Lissouba)

The strength of the troops can only be estimated, here are figures of some of the keyplayers from different sources from the year 2001: FAC: 50'000, ZDF: 11'000, AAF: 5'000, NDF: 2'000, ZA: 12'000, RPA: 25'000, UPDF: 10'000, FAB: 2'000, Mai Mai: 30'000 (in the Kivus alone), MLC: 15'000, RCD-Goma: 17'000, RCD-K-ML: 3'000 and CNDD-FDD: 16'000. The strength of all Rwandan rebel groups together was estimated to be up to 50'000. Reports say that the ZDF was viewed as most professional and best equipped armed force.
 
After signing peace contracts (Pretoria and Luanda agreement) on July 30 and September 06 2002 (on the mediation of South African and Zambian diplomats) with Rwanda and Uganda, both countries officially withdrew their troops from the DRC and so did Burundi, the government-allies Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad and Sudan. The DRC should in their turn track down and disarm the Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian rebel groups within the territory of the DRC and collaborate with the MONUC. Fighting has decreased, but not ended and rebel groups and militia continue regional fighting and violence. After these peace agreements an intercongolese transition accord on December 16 (in Pretoria) and its final act on April 2, 2003 (Sun City agreement) were signed (by the government, MLC, RDC-Goma, RCD-N, RCD-K-ML, Mai Mai militia, the policital opposition and the civil society) a transitional government was to be formed in order to lead the country to free and democratic elections after within two years and these former rebel forces were to be integrated into a new united Congolese army. Elections are planned for June 2005, but this transition period can be extended for another 6 months. 

The transitional government consists of former and new president Joseph Kabila, former government, former rebel groups MLC, RCD-Goma, RCD-K-ML, RCD-N and Mai Mai militia (now all political parties), political opposition and civil society. The four vice presidents are Jean-Pierre Bemba (leader of MLC), Azarias Ruberwa (leader of RCD-Goma), Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi (former government) and Arthur Z’ahidi Ngoma (political opposition). The bigger and best known parties of the political opposition such as UPDS (Union pour la Democratie et le Progres Social, led by opposition-veteran Etienne Tshisekedi), PALU (Parti Lumumbiste Unifié), PDSC (Parti Democrate Social Chretien) and MNC/L (Mouvement National Congolais/Lumumba) were again not included to participate in this new (transitional) government.

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Soldiers of FARDC

While countries as Rwanda (RCD-Goma) and Uganda (MLC, RCD-N and RCD-K-ML) both still back the former rebel groups who are now part of the government and therefore officially political parties, president Kabila is mainly backed and therefore strongly dependable of his allies (the former government's and his father's allies) - mainly Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia - but under direct pressure of Uganda, Burundi and especially Rwanda since all these countries' rebels still operate from Congolese soil.
 
Peace and the transitional government remain extremely fragile as there is still no control of the country - former Congolese rebel leaders may have come on board, but some of their soldiers have still not sworn "fidelity to the DRC, obedience to the President of the Republic and respect for the institutions and laws of the country and of the military". Some refuse to join, while others are waiting to be integrated into the FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, the new National Army). 
 
Even if Joseph Kabila as president of the transitional government is at the same time commander in chief of the FARDC, the command of this new National Army is shared: the RCD-Goma is commanding the ground forces, MLC is commanding the navy while the former government of Kabila is commanding the airforce and each of the 11 newly-established military zones was assigned a single commanding general and on purpose and in the hope of avoiding plots mixed with officers and soldiers of the different armed forces (former government and rebel forces) of the transitional goverment.
 
Deported child soldiers, sex slaves, rape victims and forced labor are still a big and sad issue of the civil wars and the on-going fighting. This does still today cause death, disability, trauma and unwanted pregnancy. The government reported that there were once 30'000 child soldiers the various armed groups in the east of the country. The systematic rape and torture of at least 40,000 women and girls (aged two years upwards) has furthermore caused a major HIV problem among civilians and armed forces. There are regions in the DRC such as Shabunda (who was during the last war controlled by the Mai Mai group of general Padiri, since 2003 commander of the 9th FARDC military region of Orientale province) in the South Kivu province where every girl and woman is believed to have been raped at least once by armed forces. Furthermore I find it worth mentioning that even cases of superstitious cannibalism, especially towards the Pygmies in the Ituri region have been reported. 
 
Going back a few years in history we learn that systematic rape was a popular tool of humiliation on Congolese soil during the first months of independence from its colonial power Belgium in 1960 towards the foreign colonialists and missionaries and their families. Females and female family members were often and already at that time gangraped in presence of their families. The Congolese had during their past a long tradition of cannibalism not only because of superstition but also as a force of food (both as in other African countries) with a remarkable increase during the Arab War 1892/93 while serving as an alternate source of food. During the last two civil wars and today the people's alternate source of food while not being able to cultivate their fields was/is bushmeat, as described on the above-linked page "Endangered Wildlife". 
 
After the forming of the transitional government fighting has not completely ended and the most active rebel and militia forces are in the Orientale (Ituri region with its ethnic Hema - Lendu-conflict), North and South Kivu provinces and parts of Katanga province:
 
Various Mai Mai Militia dissidents with different objectives (such as the groups led by commander Tshinja-Tshinja, commander Gédéon, Les Simba, ex-Mudundu 40), FAPC (Forces Armées du Peuple Congolais, under the command of Général Jérôme Kakwavu, Hema, Alur, Lugbara and Kakwa militia, Uganda-backed), FDPC (Forces Populaires pour la Democratie au Congo, Alur and Lugbara militia, opposed to Lendu), Dissidents of the 8th and 10th FARDC Brigade (under the command of General Nkunda and Colonel Mutebusi, Banyamulenge-symphatizers, RCD-Goma dissident wing), UPC (Union des Patriotes Congolais, Hema, led by Thomas Lubanga, relationship with Uganda broken in 2003), PUSIC (Parti pour l’Unité et la Sauvegarde de l’Intégrité du Congo, Hema, splinter group of UPC, Uganda-backed), FRPI (Forces de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri, Ngiti and Lendu militia, counter UPC, allied to RCD-K-ML, armed wing of FNI - Front des Nationalistes et Integrationnistes, Lendu political party), FDLR (Forces Démocratique de Libération du Rwanda, Rwandan Hutu rebels)Banyamulenge (Tutsis from DRC), Interahamwe (Hutu from Rwanda, carried out the 1994 Rwanda genocide), Les Rastas (Rwandan Hutu Militia), LRA (Lords' Resistance Army, Ugandan rebels linked with Interhamwe), PRA (People's Redemption Army, Ugandan rebels), CNDD-FDD (Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, Hutu rebels from Burundi, now officially a political party), Hema Militia (pastoralists, identifying themselves with Tutsi, Uganda-backed) and the Lendu Militia (small-scale cultivators, identifying themselves with Hutu, Rwandan-backed). Furthermore some ex-FAZ Forces (Forces Armées Zairoises, Mobutu's former Army, Mobutu- and MLC-symphatizers including DSP - Mobutu's Division Speciale Presidentielle) cause unrest from their exile in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
 
I found it difficult to obtain exact and reliable figures of the strength of the still active-rebel troops on Congolese soil. The numbers hereafter of some of the keyplayers are all estimates from the year 2004, based on different sources, still they could give some idea. UPC: 3'000, PUSIC: 2'000, FRPI: 9'000, FAPC 600, FDPC: 300. The number of the ex-FAZ forces in their exile in Brazzaville is estimated to be 5'000.
 
Worth mentioning with troops movements in combination with the DRC seems the MLC was together with Libya helping Central African Republic's president Ange-Félix Patassé (personal friend to MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba) to retain power after two coup attempts during the years 2001 and 2002. At its peak the MLC had troops of 3'000 in the country. After Libyan troops left the country on international pressure, Chad helped rebel leader and former FACA army chief General François Bozizé to power in a coup on on October 23 2003 while president Patassé was preliminary out of the country. The MLC withdrew its troops from the CAF without helping Patassé this time. But was before during and over the years not only involved in fighting and killing but also accused for harassment and violence including rape towards civilians.
 
In May 2004 some individuals (ex-FAZ, ex-DSP and GSSP - Groupe Spéciale de Sécurité Présidentielle, the president's bodyguards) tried to overthrow president Joseph Kabila. Some voices say that they were apparently backed by the MLC and that MLC-leader and vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba was prepared to come to power with the help of Uganda and Libya. Another coup was attempted by dissident officers of the FARDC in December the same year, but president Kabila could again reject these rebels and stayed in power.
 
Another act de sabotage towards the transitional government with the hope to cause instability was comitted by the Rwandan-backed RDC-Goma and its leader vice-president Azarias Ruberwa in August 2004. Following the Burundian Gatumba refugee camp massacre in which 180 Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) got killed by FLN rebels (Forces de Libération Nationale, armed wing of PALIPEHUTU, Burundian Hutu rebels) and the dissidency of General Nkunda and Colonel Mutebusi (RCD-Goma) and soldiers of the 8th and 10th FARDC Brigade, Ruberwa, Banyamulenge himself communicated that the transitional government has failed and that the RCD-Goma is no longer part of the government. This caused a disagreement within the party and after the RCD-Goma and Rwandan president Paul Kagame were heavily critized by the US and South Africa this act with the intention to cause instability had failed. Thereafter the RDC-G and its leader returned to the transitional government.

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Magunga Refugee Camp

The ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), many NGOs (approximately 80 to 100) and other organizations have been present for many years (most of them in the refugee camps in the Eastern DRC bordering Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania) to help the people to overcome the human tragedy, save lifes and re-establish and re-build the destroyed infrastructure. These organizations operate unarmed and are sometimes even exposed to violence of armed forces, but they continue to help the victims of Congolese civil wars and refugees from the neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Sudan and even the Central African Republic.
 
The DRC in their turn still has refugees in camps in other countries particularly Zambia, Tanzania and Burundi. A very violant attack against Banyamulenge (Congolese ethnic Tutsis) refugees in a refugee camp in Gatumba in Burundi, 500 m from the border, was reported on 13 August 2004. The armed forces that torched the camp housing about 850 refugees, attacked the refugees and killed 180 of them. The attackers were not wearing any uniforms but were believed to be a combined force of FDLR (Forces Démocratique de Libération du Rwanda, Rwandan Hutu rebels), Ex-FAR/Interahamwe (Rwandan Hutu rebels) and Mai Mai militia, in cooperation with FLN (Forces de Libération Nationale, armed wing of PALIPEHUTU, Burundian Hutu rebels). Only until later it got clear that FLN was responsible for the massacre and these rebels have officially taken the responsibility. But not only the war has caused Congolese people to seek shelter in the neighbouring countries. It is believed that the eruption of the 3'469 m high volcano Nyiragongo close to Goma (North Kivu province) on January 17 2002 had caused 300'000 refugees that fled into Rwanda.

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UN Peacekeeper

The UN has since 1999 its own mission (MONUC, Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies en République Démocratique du Congo) with armed peacekeepers and civil staff in the DRC to assist peace-keeping and undertakes activities to assist the people of the DRC. Its HQ is in Kinshasa, but MONUC is present in the most import cities in DRC. Its armed troops consist of soldiers from 48 or so different countries, mainly Uruguayan, South African, Pakistani and Nepali and have a strengh of 10'742 (UN figures October 05, 2004). A significient raise from the former  from former 5'900, even if UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan requested a minimum of (a more appropriate) 23'900. President Joseph Kabila does in difference to his father, the late Laurent-Désiré Kabila co-operate with the UN. The UN is disarming, demobilising, repatriating, resettle and reintegrating (DDRRR program) local and foreign armed groups together with the FARDC (National Congolese Army) and will on the transitional government's demand assist the June 2005-elections. Its web page (www.monuc.com) shows the following: Approved budget 1 July 2003 - 30 June 2004 $608.23 million (gross). It is therefore the most expensive peacekeeping mission of the UN at this moment.
 
It seems worth mentioning that in June 2003 after growing violence between Hema and Lendu militia in the Bunia area (North Kivu province), a small rapid reaction force (Interim Emergency Multinational Force - IEMF) under the codename "Artemis" led by France was deployed from Entebbe airport (Kampala) in Uganda to Bunia. The mission had a UN mandate to secure Bunia and its surroundings, consisted of 2'200 soldiers from 17 countries (such as Belgium, Canada and South Africa, but the contingent of France was by far the largest) but not all of them were flown to Bunia. Its mandate was very limited in area and was withdrawn on 1 September 2003 after its mission was said to be accomplished. The force handed Bunia to the UN, being replaced by some 2'500 UN peacekeepers.

Most of the people in the DRC continue to suffer from starvation, sorrow, disease, landmines (some even memories of the Angolan national army FAA against the UNITA-rebels), destroyed enviroment during the war, inflation, corruption and on-going violence by the FARDC and other armed forces as listed above (especially towards refugees of ethnic minorities who try to return and re-settle from bordering countries), agriculture has collapsed and for most citizens it is too dangerous to return to their farms and the dying continues. The un-controlled and illegal plundering of the country's natural resources continues (especially by Rwanda, Uganda and other individuals due to their connections to rebel groups and corruption) and this money is lost to the DRC while most of the country's own infrastructure is too destroyed to provide the major part of its people with food, clean water, electricity, health care and education.

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The 11 administrative provinces of the DRC and its provincial capitals:
 
Bandundu - capital: Bandundu (city pop. 124'600 )
Bas-Congo - capital: Matadi (city pop. 235'400 )
Equateur - capital: Mbandaka (city pop. 217'000 )
Kasai-Occidental - captital: Kanange (city pop. 576'600)
Kasai-Oriental - capital: Mbuji-Mayi (city pop. 971'200) 
Katanga - capital: Lubumbashi (city pop. 1'138'000) 
Maniema - capital: Kindu (city pop. 126'700 )
Province Orientale - capital Kisangani (city pop. 500'000)
Nord-Kivu - capital: Goma (city pop. 160'200 )
Sud-Kivu - capital: Bukavu (city pop. 245'800)
Kinshasa - capital: Kinshasa (city pop. 6'789'900) - altough a city it is counted as a province
 
Esimated population figures 2004, census for the 2005 elections not yet available
 
Published November 2004 (if you copy the above text or parts of it for a publication, please mention the source: http://congobandit.tripod.com)
 
 

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