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Congo became independent from Belgium in 1960. Joseph Kasavubu was elected by parliament as its first president and Patrice Lumumba became prime minister. Only a few days after independence, riots broke out among army and police. This led to a civil war, which eventually lasted until November 1965, when Joseph Désiré Mobutu came to power. In 1971, Mobutu changed the name of the country to Zaire. Under his rule, a process of political and economic decline began, which led to the government outside Kinshasa having little influence on public administration and the Zairean state no longer existing in practice.

In 1994, the civil war in Rwanda triggered a large influx of refugees into Zaire. This increased the already existing tensions and caused new conflicts. Finally, in October 1996, the situation escalated into a war between the Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsis) and the Zairean army. Other resistance movements joined the Banyamulenge and united in the "Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre" (AFDL) led by Laurent Désiré Kabila. The poorly organised Zairean army proved no match for the rebels, who were supported with arms, troops and advice by the Rwandan Tutsi government and possibly by other countries in the region. On 16 May 1997, Mobutu, who was already very ill by then, fled from Kinshasa to Morocco, where he died in exile in September 1997. The day after his flight, AFDL troops took the city. AFDL President Kabila changed the name of the country to Democratic Republic of the Congo and proclaimed himself president.

Upon taking office, Kabila promised far-reaching improvements in the areas of human rights, the economy and the constitution. He presented a democratisation programme that was to lead to democratic elections in April 1999. The DRC's accession to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was also promising. However, in a short time Kabila turned out to be an authoritarian and erratic leader. His government's power base continued to shrink and promised reforms failed to materialise. At the end of July 1998 all Rwandan soldiers on Congolese territory were ordered to leave the country. A few days later, fighting broke out in the cities of Bukavu and Goma between Rwandan soldiers who had stayed behind and units of the Congolese army (FAC). This was the beginning of the armed rebellion against Kabila. It quickly developed into a regional conflict in which several African countries were militarily involved.

After several unsuccessful attempts, peace talks led by President Chiluba of Zambia finally led to the Lusaka Agreement, signed by the six participating countries on 10 July 1999 and by the three rebel movements on 31 August. However, the implementation of this agreement was not undertaken for a long time. After the signing on 16 December 2002 in Pretoria of the Accord Global et Inclusif sur la Transition by the then Congolese government, the RCD-Goma, the MLC, the political opposition (Forces Vives), the RCD-K-ML, the RCD and the Mayi-Mayi, the negotiations on the interim constitution led to the power-sharing, the formation of a national army and the protection of leaders and institutions in Kinshasa led to the signing of the Final Act of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue on 1 and 2 April 2003 in Sun City, South Africa.

After the agreement was signed on 29 June 2003 by the government, the RCD-Goma, the MLC, as well as the Mayi Mayi, the RCD-K-ML and the RCD-N, the way was clear for the formation of a new transitional government.

The vice-presidents were Yerodia Ndombasi (former government), Azerias Ruberwa (RCD-Goma), Jean-Pierre Bemba (MLC) and Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma (political opposition). The 36 ministers came from all former rebel groups, the former government, the former political opposition and civil society. With the installation of the new transitional government, parliament and senate on 22 August 2003, the RCD-Goma, MLC, RCD-N and RCD-K-ML became the de facto political parties. There were 29 parties and groups in parliament, including members of opposition parties based abroad (Belgium and France, among others).

In May 2005, a new constitution, formulated by previously opposing parties, was adopted by parliament. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in July 2006. The presidential elections showed no clear winner. It was a neck-and-neck race between Kabila and Bemba. On 29 October a new presidential election was held, which Kabila won. In April 2008, fighting broke out with Hutu militias from Rwanda, an old ally. Thousands of people were driven from their homes. In 2009 and 2010 it remained very restless. The UN soldiers are quite powerless against all the violence. In May 2010, the government called on the UN to leave its territory before the 2011 elections. John Holmes of the UN warns of the consequences of a premature departure. In 2010 and 2011, mass rapes by both government troops and rebels occur. Bemba was put on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In November 2011, Kabila won the controversial presidential elections. Throughout 2012 and 2013, unrest persists and several mediation attempts are made by other African countries. In March 2014, the International Criminal Court convicts FRPI leader Katanga of war crimes. New presidential elections are scheduled for late 2016, but in November 2016 a political deal is struck between the coalition around Kabila and the opposition to move the elections to 2018. In November 2017, a timetable is set by the electoral commission for elections in December 2018. Meanwhile, the country is in a deep crisis with the largest number of internally displaced persons in the world. Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was declared the winner of the election on 10 January 2019 and inaugurated two weeks later. This was the first transfer of power to an opposition candidate without significant violence or coup since independence.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

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Last updated May 2024
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