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Congo Civil War


On 16 January 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated. He was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. In October 2001, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue began in Addis Ababa under the auspices of Ketumile Masire (former president of Botswana). The initial meetings made little progress and were adjourned. In February 2002, the dialogue was reconvened in South Africa. It included representatives from the government, rebel groups, political opposition, civil society, and the Mai-Mai. The talks ended inconclusively in April 2002, when the government and the MLC brokered an agreement that was signed by the majority of delegates at the dialogue, but left out the RCD and opposition UDPS party, among others.

This partial agreement was never implemented, and negotiations resumed in South Africa in October 2002. This time, the talks led to an all-inclusive powersharing agreement, which was signed by delegates in Pretoria on 17 December 2002. By the end of 2002, all Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops had withdrawn from the DRC. Rwandan troops had officially withdrawn from the DRC in October 2002, although there were continued, unconfirmed reports that Rwandan soldiers and military advisers remained integrated with RCD forces in eastern DRC. The Pretoria Accord was formally ratified by all parties on 2 April 2003 in Sun City, South Africa. Ugandan troops officially withdrew from the DRC in May 2003.

Following nominations by each of the various signatory groups, President Kabila on 30 June 2003 issued a decree that formally announced the transitional government lineup. The 4 vice presidents took the oath of office on 17 July 2003, and most incoming ministers assumed their new functions within days thereafter. Elections were then scheduled for 2005 or 2006.

Despite the supposed cessation of hostilities, massacres continued in eastern Congo during 2003-2004. Rwandan Hutu militiamen feared returning to Rwanda, believing they would be targeted by revenge-seeking Tutsis. These Hutu remained in the forests of east Congo, preying on villages for food and money. Rwandan incursions into the DRC disrupted the fragile government and created instability. In December 2004, rival units within the DRC's national army clashed in the eastern part of the country. In May 2005 it was reported that Rwandan Hutu rebels based in eastern Congo were responsible for hundreds of summary executions, rapes, beatings and hostage-taking of Congolese civilians in the territory of Walungu, South Kivu Province.

Throughout 2005, rival militias backed by Rwanda and Uganda, respectively, created instability in the northeastern region of Ituri, as they battled over border trade and gold fields. Additionally, Rwandan militias continued to operate in eastern rainforests, keeping the threat of an invasion alive. Still, the rest of the country remained relatively stable under President Kabila.

Elections were scheduled first for June 2006, but the UDPS party threatened to boycott, post-poning elections until late July 2006.

The July 2006 presidential election in Congo, with a field of 32 candidates, ended in crisis. The election ended in a run-off between the leading candidates, incumbent Joseph Kabila and rebel leader Jean Pierre Bemba, who kept their forces on alert. Bemba, who had trailed Kabila by over 16 percent refused to accept defeat. There was only sporadic fighting for 4 days in the wake of the result, until an agreement was reached between the 2 leaders. In early December 2006, Kabila was inaugurated in a ceremony attended by many of Africa's heads of state. Bemba was conspicuous by his absence. Other nations in the Great Lakes region expressed their hope that the election will bring an end to fighting.

Fighting elsewhere in the country also continued. On 24 December 2006, Peter Karim and his Fronts des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (FNI) took control of localities in Ituri, including Djugu, 75 km northeast of Bunia, Fataki, and nearby Bule. The move, according to MONUC, violated an agreement between the FARDC and the FNI that required Karim to keep his initial position. The FNI also abducted 15 soldiers, including officers whom they were holding hostage.

However, on 26 December, Brig-Gen Vainqueur Mayala, the Ituri operational zone commander, said the army had recaptured many of the localities that had been seized by the militias. Although he did not give figures, he said both sides suffered many casualties. The clashes resumed again on 31 December 2006 at Djina, 60 km northeast of Bunia, displacing 2,000 towards Nizi, 28 km northeast of Bunia.

These clashes occurred 2 weeks after the government gave Karim the rank of colonel, in compliance with his appointment as an army officer in September 2006. Although mandated to support the Congolese army, MONUC did not take an active part, even into January 2007.

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