How to Become an Expert on the Congo in Just Five Minutes a Day, Cont’d Some More

Yesterday’s story left off at the official end to the Second Congo War. A new transitional government had been set up, the UN peacekeeping force was already facing accusations of incompetence, and northeastern Congo was still crawling with armed militias. Let’s see how things progressed from there:

  • The transitional government made up of the former government, the political opposition, civil society members, three RCDs (seriously), the MLC, and the Mai-Mai takes office in July 2003. The former government, the opposition, RCD-Goma, and the MLC all get vice-presidents. You can probably guess how well that’s going to work out…
  • Everybody demobilizes verrrry slowly throughout the latter of half of 2003, various media outlets start counting some seriously unhatched chickens.
  • In early 2004, the situation in the Kivus starts to get ugly(er) as shockingly still-mobilized RCD-Goma elements clash with government forces.
  • Under “dissident General” / former-RCD-flunkie-on-the-take Laurent Nkunda‘s direction, the rebels take control of Bukavu, capital of South Kivu on June 2, 2004, meeting no resistance from notoriously unimpressive Uruguayan UN peacekeepers. Nkunda insists that he is acting to protect the Banyamulenge from being genocided by government troops. MONUC says “nuh-uh.” (Nkunda was later accused of pretty much all the war crimes in connection with his forces’ actions in Bukavu.)
  • Tens of thousands of people flee into North Kivu before UN negotiations secure the withdrawal of Nkunda’s forces from Bukavu.
  • Meanwhile, RCD-Goma leader and transitional government vice-president Azarias Ruberwa announces that things aren’t really working out, so his faction’s going to go ahead and pull out of the transitional government. Also, a coup attempt fails.
  • Two months later, following the massacre of 160 Congolese Tutsis in a Burundian refugee camp, Nkunda suggests he might need to go “protect” Bukavu some more. This prompts another mass flight; the number of displaced persons is now possibly as high as 150,000.
  • MONUC sends in 5,900 more peacekeeping troops to watch as 1,000 people / day die as the rebels and the army take pot shots at each other in the Kivus.
  • Rwandan troops figure no one will notice them amidst all the other armed groups operating in the eastern Congo, sneak across border to chase after remaining Hutu militias.
  • The IRC releases report in December 2004 pointing out that “seriously guys, everyone in the Congo is totally dying.” World community nods solemnly, goes back to searching for internet porn.
  • First MONUC sex scandal breaks in the media, everyone is majorly grossed out.
  • In February 2005, 9 UN peacekeepers are killed in Ituri. This packs more of a punch than the 4.5 million dead Congolese – several militia leaders are arrested, including Thomas Lubanga, head of the Union des patriotes Congolais (UPC).
  • On March 30, 2005, main Hutu rebel group FDLR agrees to pack it in, head back to Rwanda to participate in the political process. They turn out not to mean it, though.
  • MONUC announces that, the disarmament process’s deadline for chilling-the-fuck-out having passed, it will now be forcibly disarming the remaining combatants in Ituri. As it happens, the militias can arm themseves faster than the UN can disarm them, though.
  • Southern province of Katanga figures no one is looking, attempts to secede.
  • In May 2005, the National Assembly adopts a new Constitution, plans for first elections in four decades. And there was much rejoicing…
  • Human Rights Watch releases report noting that all this bad stuff probably wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the Congo’s vast mineral wealth, and specifically the gold mines of northeastern Congo. Good point. (AngloGold Ashanti’s response to HRW’s allegations regarding their direct role in fueling the Ituri conflict seems to have disappeared from their website in the intervening three years. Odd.)
  • Members of Uganda rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army cross into the Congo in late 2005. Uganda threatens to come after them, UN says “sorry, we’ve don’t have room for any more armed forces right now, please check back later.”
  • Congolese take a break from being alternately raped, starved, and massacred to vote at a referendum on the new Constitution in December 2005. It is formally adopted in February 2006, and they get a new flag, too!
  • ICC issues an arrest warrant for Thomas Lubanga on charges that the UPC (like virtually everybody else in the Congo) used child soldiers during the Ituri conflict. In March 2006 the Congolese figures “we’re sick of feeding this guy,” hands him over. ICC gets physical custody of a suspect for the first time ever!
  • In July the first multi-party elections since independence are held. (Because it’s their first time, it takes till November to get an actual result.) Vice-president / former MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba challenges Joseph Kabila for leadership of the country. Kabila responds with a masterful “no one’s going to elect a pygmy-eater, you pygmy-eater” campaign. Bemba attempts to refute the charges that his troops committed acts of cannibalism in 2002 by suggesting that someone count the pygmies, but no one feels like doing this, so Kabila carries the day.

So, that takes us up to late 2006. Here’s hoping I can cover the last two years (War crimes prosecutions! A rape “epidemic“! Renewed hostilities with Rwanda! And so much more!) in just one more post, because Congo Week ends on Saturday and we can all get back to ignoring it.

Kate Cronin-Furman

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