Africa

The Congo-Kinshasa Conflict Part 2

Great UN effort

After a ceasefire was concluded in August 1999, the UN sent a peacekeeping force, Monuc , to the country. It grew in a few years to 17,000 men, but still had difficulty creating calm. In 2010, it was transformed into Monusco, whose task is to try to stabilize the situation in the east. Both Monuc and Monusco have been criticized for not doing enough to protect the civilian population.

In 2013, a new brigade was created within Monusco, FIB , which was given a clearer mandate to intervene militarily to disarm the rebels.

Legal proceedings

Legal proceedings are underway against people suspected of the most serious abuses. Several cases have reached the ICC . In 2012, the ICC’s first conviction came: Thomas Lubanga was found guilty of forcibly recruiting child soldiers. Two years later, Germain Katanga was convicted of war crimes in connection with a massacre of 200 civilian villagers in 2003. Former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba was convicted in 2016 of war crimes and crimes against humanity., but it concerns abuses committed by his militiamen in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003. However, he appealed the verdict, and was acquitted by the court in June 2016, citing that he could not be held personally responsible for the crimes his rebels had committed in the neighboring country and that no account had been taken of his attempts to stop the abuses. He has also been convicted and sentenced to one year in prison for bribing witnesses. However, he was able to return to his home country in the summer of 2018. The trial against the former M23 leader Bosco Ntaganda is still ongoing. Another person has been acquitted and one case has been dropped due to lack of evidence.

In domestic courts, a number of Congolese army soldiers and members of so-called  Mai Mai mils  have been sentenced to long prison terms for, among other things, rape. However, in many cases the highest responsible officers have escaped justice.

From King Leopold’s reign of terror to Mobutu’s dictatorship

Like most African countries, Congo-Kinshasa as a state is a creation of European colonial powers. However, the country was more vulnerable than any other country in Africa when it was the private property of the Belgian King Leopold II from 1885 to 1908. In his search for valuable natural resources such as rubber and ivory, Leopold led a reign of terror. Several million Congolese died and entire parts of the country were depopulated.

After the Belgian state took over, conditions improved. In the 1950s, the colony produced greater wealth than any other European possession in Africa. The emphasis was now on the extraction of metals and diamonds. But the Congolese were paid low wages and seldom received any higher education.

At the time of the abrupt independence in 1960, there was not a single native lawyer, doctor or engineer in the country. During the ensuing civil war, Belgian mining interests actively supported a breakaway regime in the copper-rich province of Katanga. But 10,000 UN soldiers, including Swedes, were sent to the country, and the young Congolese state was prevented from falling apart.

In 1965, army chief Mobutu seized power in a bloodless coup. He banned all parties except the one he himself had founded.

In the 1970s, Mobutu nationalized foreign-owned companies and left them to their favorites. The industrialization that had already begun came about. From a rather promising starting point, the country’s economic downturn began. The corruption was huge. Employees in the army increasingly received their salaries and the soldiers earned their income through extortion and looting. While the country was declining, Mobutu transferred billions from the Treasury to foreign bank accounts.

Mobutu’s regime was long supported by the Western powers, as he was a reliable anti-communist. But at the end of the Cold War, his position weakened. Under heavy pressure from foreign and domestic forces, Mobutu agreed in 1990 to reintroduce multi-party systems, but no elections were held. During his last years in power, he still met strong opposition from a number of opposition parties.

By the mid-1990s, Mobutu had lost almost all its support and was also ill with cancer. He fled the country in 1997 before Laurent Kabila’s rebel army reached Kinshasa.

About the name

Two neighboring countries in Africa are named after the mighty Congo River. During colonial times, they were called the Belgian Congo and the French Congo, respectively. According to a2zdirectory, today, the countries are officially called the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. In everyday contexts, one can distinguish them using the name of the capital and call them Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville.

Former President Mobutu, who ruled Congo-Kinshasa from 1965 to 1997, changed the name of both his country and the Congo River, calling them both Zaire. At the same time, he himself changed his name from Joseph-Désiré Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu was overthrown by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who decided that the country would regain its former name from 1964–1971: the Democratic Republic of Congo .

The Congo-Kinshasa Conflict 2