Posts tagged ‘Congo War’


Congo: How Long Will Joe Kabila Rule?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo-Kinshasa (DRC), a large country of 69 million in South-Central Africa, which borders Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, to the east, and the Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville, to the west, held elections this week, but only time will tell if they are on the road to democracy.

After the Portuguese navigated the mouth of the Congo River in the west (1482), Henry Stanley located its source in the east, and followed it down to the Atlantic (1874-77), where he claimed the entire area for Belgium’s King Leopold II, who exploited rubber and ivory, upon declaring the land his personal property (1885).

Belgium soon defeated Arab traders in the War of the Eastern Congo (1892-94), and gained control of the Katana Province, in the southeast. The country became the Belgian Congo, when the King transferred his personal property to the Nation of Belgium (1908).

Anti-colonial rioting in 1959 led to a Declaration of Independence in 1960. The Crisis in the Congo (1960-66) followed, as the West took out and executed their first leader, Patrice Lumumba (1961). Belgian troops finally vacated the country, as UN Peacekeepers replaced them, and tried to disarm secessionists in Katanga, near Zambia and Tanzania (1961). The UN later turned security over to the Organization of African Unity (1964).

Col. Joseph Mobutu seized power in a coup in 1965, and ruled for the next 32 years. He re-named the capital Kinshasa (1966), and the country Zaire (1971). Non-Africans were expelled to erase the colonial past. European coats and ties were banned. Foreign-owned businesses were seized and sold to locals (1974).

Real trouble started in the east, in the 1st Congo War (1996-98), as Mobuto supported the Hutus of Rwanda and Burundi. Tutsi armies, with soldiers from Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, entered the Congo, attacked the Hutus, and ousted Mobutu, ending his 32 dictatorship (1997). When Laurent Kabila replaced Mobutu, he renamed the country the Dem. Rep. of the Congo (1997).

The 2nd Congo War (1998-2003) was primarily fought in the Nord Kivu Province, in the east. Forces from Uganda and Rwanda advanced into the Congo, as troops from Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe joined the DRC to resist. A ceasefire signed by all was monitored by a UN Organization Mission in the DRC (1999), but trouble continued, when Laurent Kabila was assassinated (2001).

Joseph Kabila, the son of Laurent, assumed power in 2001. He negotiated a Rwandan troop withdrawal, and signed the Pretoria Accord (2003), in which all countries agreed to stop fighting. The conflict finally ended, under the Gbadolite Agreement (2003).

During the conflict, 2.5 million were estimated to have died from disease, famine, and violence. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Ugandan troops violated the ban against unilateral force, and the rules of war, as they killed and tortured civilians, and looted and destroyed property. Dem. Rep. of Congo v Uganda (2000). The ICJ also dismissed a Congolese complaint that alleged citizens of the Congo were murdered, raped, and otherwise violated by Burundi and Rwanda soldiers, who occupied the Congo in 1998. DRC v Burundi and Rwanda (2000).

It has been eight years since the war ended, and the question now is whether Congo-Kinshasa will become a stable democracy. Joseph Kabila, who replaced his father in 2001, and was re-elected in 2006, should have stepped down in 2011, after 10 years in office. Instead, he ran for a third term, and it appears he will win. The Congo should have instead elected a new leader, and moved towards a more democratic system, by limiting the terms of their leaders to no more than 10 years. Now, only time will tell if a third term for Joseph Kabila will be the correct path for the Congo, or a road to a lifetime of unchallenged rule.