How to Become an Expert on the Congo in Just Five Minutes a Day, Final Installment

Our last installment (the first two are here and here) left off when Kabila defeated Jean-Pierre Bemba to win the 2006 presidential election. Here’s what’s gone on in the two years since then:

  • While the election results are being confirmed, forces loyal to Laurent Nkunda fight government troops in the Kivus. Everybody has ominous sense of foreshadowing that maybe those guys are going to be trouble.
  • New senate is elected on January 19, 2007. Bemba gets a seat; congratulations Bemba!
  • Throughout February and March Kabila supporters and Bemba loyalists clash. An ultimatum demanding that Bemba’s people disarm inspires them to kill as many people as possible before laying down their weapons. Bemba decides now might be a good time to check out Portugal.
  • Rwandan Hutu militia FDLR continues causing problems in the eastern Congo, where “causing problems”= massacring civilians.
  • Laurent Nkunda and his National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) continue on their merry way, using ongoing presence of the FDLR to justify policy of recruiting child soldiers and ensuring that nobody in the Kivus sleeps through the night.
  • Shortly after MONUC’s mandate is renewed, Kabila calls out the peacekeeping force for failing to…uh… keep the peace, suggests that they’re useless. MONUC responds: “I’m rubber, you’re glue, defence of the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation and that of its people is firstly, principally, primordially, crucially, and incontrovertibly the responsibility of the state and that brings us to the question of the ‘raison d’etre’ of the state and of its authority.”
  • Bemba refuses to return to the DRC when his senatorial leave of absence runs up, citing personal safety concerns.
  • On September 6, 2007, a ceasefire between the government and Laurent Nkunda’s forces is announced. For the next couple of months Nkunda goes back and forth daily on whether the truce is valid, depending on what kind of losses his forces are sustaining at the time.
  • Meanwhile, the Congolese government probably allies itself with the FDLR to fight Nkunda, but has the good sense to deny it.
  • In November 2007, the DRC and Rwanda agree that the Congo will forcibly disarm the FDLR and Rwanda will stop supporting Nkunda. Like all good deals, it has something for everybody. Unlike most good deals, both parties renege almost immediately.
  • In December, the Congolese army gets totally pwned by Nkunda’s forces, crawls home in embarrassment.
  • In January 2008, the UN points out that over half a million people were displaced from their homes in northeastern Congo over the course of 2007, and that really, that’s not cool.
  • On January 22, 2008, Congolese government and Nkunda reach an agreement that his troops will be reintegrated into the national army, stop marauding through the countryside. The lack of provision for Nkunda personally is something of a red flag…
  • A month later, Nkunda suspends participation in the peace process.
  • In March, the Congolese government releases the findings of a commission that reviewed mining contracts signed by the government during the wars. Turns out, yeah, they were pretty much all illegal.
  • On May 24, Bemba is arrested in Belgium on an ICC warrant on charges of war crimes relating to his MLC rebel group’s involvement in putting down a coup in the Central African Republic in 2002. Everyone’s real happy about combating impunity and whatnot, but kind of skeeved out by the unfortunate confluence between the ICC’s efforts to bring war criminals to trial, and Joseph Kabila’s efforts to stamp out the political opposition.
  • In June 2008, the ICC suspends Lubanga’s trial, which would have been the Court’s first. Apparently, even accused war criminals get fair trial rights. D’oh.
  • In September, the UN Security Council suggests that seriously, everyone’s tired of the situation in the Kivus, and maybe Nkunda should give it a rest. Everybody ignores this advice, situation goes from bad to worse as Nkunda announces his intention to “liberate” the Congo.
  • After Nkunda takes over a strategically important army base in early October, Congo accuses Rwanda of invading in support of the rebels.
  • Meanwhile, heavy fighting between Ugandan rebel group LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) and the Congolese army in Ituri leads to another massive displacement crisis.

So, there you have it. The Kivus are continuing their campaign for the “Best Approximation of Hell on Earth” award (complete with new vocabulary – I’m sure we’re all happy to live in a world that requires a term to denote the status of having been raped on two separate occasions) and Ituri has exploded again. Thank god Congo week is over, huh?

Kate Cronin-Furman


  1. Thank you for your wrongingrightsnotes*tm, but you’ve left out the most tragic part of all this:
    The Mountain Gorillas.
    To think that the plight of The Mountain Gorillas has gone on for so long, with only limited coverage, is truly embarrassing for the world’s media. Too often, the human suffering is highlighted, leaving those poor Mountain Gorillas and other forms of wildlife out of the picture, as if they were some kind of animal. It makes me weep.
    Thank goodness for today’s BBC article. From now on I have hope that news feeds about Congo will be continue to be filtered into my World News Alerts!

  2. Thanks for creating this resource. Have you since written a cheat sheet on the events that follow? I would love to get a link if this is available.

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