First Congo War
Learn more about First Congo War
|First Congo War|
Image:Flag of Uganda.svg Uganda,
Image:Flag Rwanda 1962.svg Rwanda
|Image:Flag of Zaire.svg Zaire|
|Laurent-Désiré Kabila||Mobutu Sésé Seko|
|Civilians killed: 200,000+|
The First Congo War was a conflict from late 1996 to 1997 in which Zairean President Mobutu Sésé Seko was overthrown by rebel forces backed by foreign powers such as Uganda and Rwanda. Rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila declared himself president and changed the name of the nation back to Democratic Republic of the Congo. The war set the foundation for, and was quickly followed by, the Second Congo War, which began on 2 August 1998.
|History of DR Congo|
The early 1990s had seen a wave of democratization in Africa. There was substantial internal and external pressure for democratization in Zaïre, and Mobutu promised reform. He officially ended the one-party system he had maintained since 1967, but ultimately was unwilling to implement broad reform, alienating allies both at home and internationally.
There had long been considerable internal resistance to Mobutu's rule. Opposition included leftists who looked back on the abortive rule of Patrice Lumumba with fondness as well as various ethnic and regional minorities opposed to the dominance of the Kinshasa region over the rest of the country. Kabila was one of these. He was also an ethnic Katangese who had been fighting the Mobutu government for decades.
In what became known as the Great Lakes refugee crisis, the Rwandan Genocide resulted in the flight of two million Hutu refugees from Rwanda after the Rwandan Patriotic Front took over the country in July 1994. Among the refugees were members of the interahamwe, militia groups linked to political parties who took part in the genocide. They set up camps in eastern Zaire from which they attacked both Rwandan Tutsis and Zairian Tutsis called the Banyamulenge. Mobutu, whose control of the country was beginning to weaken, supported the Hutu extremists for political reasons and did nothing to stop the ongoing violence.
 Course of the war
When the vice-governor of South Kivu Province issued an order in November 1996 ordering the Banyamulenge to leave Zaire on penalty of death, they erupted in rebellion. The anti-Mobutu forces combined to form the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire (AFDL). The AFDL received the support of the leaders of African Great Lakes states, particularly Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Lacking foreign military assistance, many elements of the Zairian Army joined Laurent-Désiré Kabila as they marched from eastern DRC on Kinshasa. Government resistance crumbled, and Mobutu fled the country. Kabila formally took power on May 17, 1997.
However, once Kabila was in power the situation changed dramatically. He quickly became suspected of being as corrupt and authoritarian as his predecessor. Many of the pro-democracy forces abandoned him and he began a vigorous effort to centralize control. This brought renewed conflict with the minority groups of the east who demanded autonomy. Furthermore, Kabila began to turn against his former Rwandan allies when they showed little sign of withdrawing from his territory. He accused them and their allies of trying to capture the region's mineral resources. Furthermore, his overreliance on the Rwandans for political and military control was a major reason that pro-democracy forces accused Kabila of being a puppet of Kigali.
In August 1998, Kabila removed all ethnic Tutsis from his Government and ordered all Rwandan and Ugandan officials out of the DRC. The two countries then turned against their former client, sending troops to aid rebels attempting to overthrow Kabila and triggering the Second Congo War.
 Glossary of Armed Groups
 Further reading
- Clark, John F. (2002) The African Stakes in the Congo War New York: Palgrave McMillan. ISBN 1-4039-6723-7. Deals specifically with the current war using a political science approach to understanding motivations and power struggles, but is not an account of specific incidents and individuals.
- Edgerton, Robert G. (2002) The Troubled Heart of Africa: A History of the Congo St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-30486-2. There is a modicum of information on the troubles since 1996 in the latter sections.
- Gondola, Ch. Didier. (2002) The History of Congo, Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-31696-1. Covers events up to January 2002.es:Primera Guerra del Congo