Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Facts

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Belgian Congo and Zaire) got its independence from Belgium on June 30, 1960 after bloody revolution. It is located in Central Africa and is slightly less than one-fourth the size of the US with its 2,345,410 sq km. The Congo is a very rich country with a wide variety of fauna and flora. It is called a “geological scandal” because of its natural resources. Its population is estimated at 66,514,504 and is very diverse with “over 200 African ethnic groups of which the majority are Bantu; the four largest tribes – Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) make up about 45% of the population.” Half of the Congo population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. The remaining 20% are Protestants, 10% are Kimbanguists, 10% are Muslims, and 10% of others (includes syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs).

DRC: Context

In 1997, a new politico-military opposition, known as the Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL), emerged in the eastern part of the country. The opposition, led by Laurent-Desire Kabila and backed by Uganda and Rwanda, declared war on President Mobutu Sesse Seko, the central power in Kinshasa.

President Mobutu was overthrown on 17 May 1997. Subsequently, the AFDL, headed by president Laurent-Desire Kabila, seized power. After seizing power, Laurent-Desire Kabila renames the country Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and wants to limit the influence of Uganda and Rwanda in DRC. Shortly after, he was accused of tribalism by the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), an armed group composed of Tutsi refugees and demobilized Congolese soldiers. The latter was militarily backed by Rwanda and Uganda, while Kabila was militarily supported by Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia. The rebel group was very quickly able to seize half of the country.

At the same time, other rebel movements emerged as a result of divisions, such as the Liberation Movement of Congo (MLC), led by Jean-Pierre Bemba and backed by Uganda. Two years after Kabila seized power, many provinces were under the control of Uganda and Rwanda.

In 1999, the rebels sign a ceasefire accord in Lusaka, Zambia, and as a condition of the accord, five foreign countries had to withdraw their troops from DRC. With the purpose of keeping a bond between the parties of the ceasefire accord, the Security Council created MONUC in November 1999.

President Laurent-Desire Kabila was assassinated in January 2001. His son Joseph Kabila, then commander in chief of the ground forces, succeeded him as the head of the state.

The Lusaka Accord is finalized by the “Global and All Inclusive Agreement” signed in Sun City, South Africa, in April 2003. The power-sharing agreement is aimed at putting in place a transitional government, with the expectation that elections would take place within two years.
In 2006 the country had a new constitution and the first democratic and free elections since the independence. This new development seems to have not been convincing enough for warlords. The country is still experiencing conflicts that leave behind millions of dead, internally displaced people and victims of all kinds. According to a survey by the International Rescue Committee, “the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is arguably the world’s most deadly crisis since World War II and the death toll far exceeds those of other recent and more prominent crises, including those in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur.”