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The Democratic Republic of Congo

African Interest

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African Interest

The last civil war from 1998 to 2002 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (as mentioned on the above linked Home page) had involved many different African countries, it can therefore be called the First World War of Africa. Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, the Central African Republic, Sudan and South Africa were actively involved in the war. These countries are mentioned in the BBC article below or added on top.
The countries that were not as actively involved, but I find worth mentioning in particular are:
Libya was supporting the former rebel group MLC (Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo) with arms such as tanks and is believed to still secretly do so. It has financially and logistically backed Chad's and CAF's troops during its invervention in DRC, Libya itself had a small contigent of troops in Uganda at the border to the DRC. It has a long tradition as a weapon dealer to various armed forces in Africa.
Moçambique should have a mention since it was active as weapon dealer, selling arms to all sides of the conflict.
Tanzania still has a number of Congolese refugees in the western part of its country, estimated number 100'000 to 150'000. It was however not actively involved in the war. On the other hand it is allied to Hutu rebels from Burundi such as the FDD-CNND (Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, Burundian Hutu rebels) and FLN (Forces de Libération Nationale, armed wing of PALIPEHUTU) and many Hutu serve in the Tanzanian army.
Some of these countries as Uganda and Rwanda are still supporting rebel groups and militia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan still has its own rebel groups operating against their government from Congolese soil. The remaining ones, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, the Central African Republic and Sudan were supporting the government. All nations who had their government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the war have officially withdrawn their troops after the peace agreements in 2002.
The DRC still has their refugees in other countries particularly Tanzania, Zambia and Burundi, while on the other hand refugees from countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Sudan and even the Central African Republic are in the DRC. 
Many countries still having an interest in the Democratic Republic of Congo and therefore in the upcoming elections in 2005, too.

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Here below is an article by Elisabeth Blunt (published on BBC's web site on Jan 25, 2001) that explains the countries' involvment and reasons.
No mention have Sudan, Zambia, South Africa, Chad and the Central African Republic who had their national armies in the DRC, so I am adding some of my own words with the information from that time:
Sudan were as allies of the government involved part in the North-Eastern country in order to fight the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces, Ugandan expatriates supported by SPLA rebels - Sudan People's) and the SPLA fighting against them from Congolese soil.
Zambia was as Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia directly asked for help by president Kabila and was very likely promised concessions in return. Towards the end of the war its president Frederik Chiluba intervened as a prinicipal mediator of the involved parties, that lead to the signing of peace agreements such as the Lusaka agreement in 1999. Zambia had especially during the war a numberous and continuing flow of Congolese refugees in his country including its soldiers (of the FAC - (Forces Armées Congolaises) and even Zimbabwean soldiers (of ZDF - Zimbabwe Defense Forces) that fled the fighting.
South Africa had delivered heavy arms such as two battery anti-aircrafts and tanks to the MLC and patrol boats to be operated on Tanganyika Lake to the RPA (Rwandan Patriotic Army, Rwandan National Army) and portable weapons to the RPA and the UNDF (Uganda People's Defence Forces, Ugandan Army), all used during the war. The SANDF (South African National Defense Forces) had some specialists of its troops in the DRC since the use of its artillery equipment required it. South Africa always had a strong interest in the mining industry. As his Zambian counterpart, the South African president Thabo Mbeki was as his predecessor Nelson Mandela active as a mediator between the conflict parties. Still the country lost much of its diplomatic credit in Africa due to its support of Kabila-opposed parties.
Chad hopes that while supporting and stabilizing Kabila that the DRC-conflict would not take over to the Central African Republic, which lies in between these two countries and risk its own country's security. Furthermore Chad's French-trained troops have often intervened in the region in the interests of French such as in the 1994 Rwandan civil war on the side of the Interahamwe. Chad's troops received financial and logistical support of Libya (who encouraged Chad to send its troops to the DRC).
The Central African Republic had his troops in the country in the first months of the war, but did as Chad not play a major role in the war and its troops were quickly pushed back to its own country. It received financial and logistical backing of Libya. Still the CAF has refugees following its own conflict in the DRC.
DR Congo war: Who is involved and why

Young President Joseph Kabila has inherited from his father the continent's most complicated and intractable war. It has already sucked in the armies of six neighbouring countries, and left the population prey to the depredations of a host of competing armed groups. Some of them are Congolese, but others are foreign, currently operating on Congolese soil, since their own civil wars have spilled across into neighbouring territory. And as if this were not enough, the new president has to face an active internal opposition, and a number of bitter tribal conflicts, made worse by the lack of government control and the easy availability of weapons. Sorting out the mess will be very difficult, since each of the players is there for different reasons; there is never going to be a single, "one size fits all" solution.

Ranged against the Kinshasa government are:
An effective fighting force, and the power which originally installed Laurent Kabila as president. It became involved in the first place in order to get rid of the threat from the so-called Interahamwe - the former Rwandan soldiers and Hutu militiamen who carried out the 1994 Rwanda genocide and then fled into the Congo. Ending the conflict with Rwanda would mean solving the problem of these Interahamwe, disarming tens of thousands of armed men - probably against their will - and finding them somewhere to go. Not only are they still there, but an estimated 15,000 of them are actually fighting with the Congolese army.

The country's armed rebels have also found a base in the Congo, and employment fighting for President Kabila. The Burundian army - preoccupied with the civil war at home, is not a major player in the Congo, but the rebels, again estimated to number about 15,000, are an important component of the Congolese government forces. Joseph Kabila would find it hard to do without these Rwandan and Burundian militias unless he was confident that any peace agreement would hold.


This is another country with rebels lurking on Congolese territory, just over its border. But the reasons for Uganda's involvement are less clear cut.

President Yoweri Museveni has made the Congo something of a personal crusade, and some Ugandans are certainly making a lot of money in the part of Congo that Uganda controls, but if President Museveni loses the upcoming presidential election, a new government might decide to reduce, or even end, its military involvement.

On the Kinshasa government's side are:


It is involved in the Congo for remarkably similar reasons to most of its opponents. It is still fighting Jonas Savimbi's Unita movement, whose natural rear base is in the forests of southern Congo. Angola dare not risk having a hostile government in power in Kinshasa which might encourage Unita, or object to Angolan cross border raids against Savimbi's rebels. And it believes Rwanda and Uganda both have links with Savimbi. Angola's oil makes it rich and it is potentially an important player in the region. It may be ready for an end to the war, but would want a major say in any settlement.


It has no obvious security interest in Congo, but President Mugabe may have been keen to play a more prominent role in the region. The Zimbabweans also concluded a number of contracts and economic agreements with Laurent Kabila, which should have meant that the war in the Congo was at least self-financing, and perhaps even the source of substantial profits. But neither the war nor the business deals have gone well, and President Mugabe is under domestic pressure to pull out.


It is very much the junior partner in the pro-government alliance. It would probably follow Angola's lead in making war or peace.


These are the international players Joseph Kabila will have to satisfy if he is going to be able to end the war. Some of them clearly would like to get out of the Congolese mess, and the change of leadership in Kinshasa may give them an opportunity to do so. But where would any Agreement between governments leave the Congolese warring parties?The rebel movements backed by Uganda and Rwanda would be far less of a threat if they lost this foreign support. Some might give up, or join an internal political dialogue. Or they might fight on, reverting to the kind of low level insurgency which has been endemic in Congo since Independence. Tribal conflicts have been endemic as well and are not going to stop, but they might reduce in intensity if the general situation were less disturbed. President Mobutu survived in power for nearly 30 years, managing simply to ignore the fact that parts of his vast country were from time to time outside his control. Complete peace in the Congo may an impossible hope; Joseph Kabila's best chance may be to achieve a survivable situation. 

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