Democratic Republic of Congo History

Democratic Republic of Congo History

What is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo has changed names a few times over the last half century. Until 1960 it was a Belgian colony known as the Belgian Congo. The Belgium rule was harsh, and history records that the Congo was treated as little more than the personal fiefdom of King Leopold of Belgium who plundered the land and treated its people as little more than slaves. On gaining independence, political instability ensued followed by a coup in 1965 which installed Joseph-Desire Mobutu as national leader. Mobutu then changed both his name to Mobutu Sese Seko and that of the country to Zaire with himself as president. He stayed in power until 1997 when his regime fell to the armies of Rwanda and Uganda with Laurent Kabila then installed as president. However this marked the beginning of what is called the Second Congo War, a war that involved nine African countries and some twenty armed groups.

The basis of the war was that Rwanda and Uganda wanted to control the perceived riches of the Democratic Republic of Congo having installed Kabila as president only to find he wanted their troops out of the country fearing they would in turn oust him and install a Tutsi subservient to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. The war itself, which was to outlast Kabila after he was assassinated in 2001 to be replaced by his son Joseph, lasted 4 years, 11 months, 2 weeks and 2 days and officially' ended with the signing of the Sun City Agreement on 19th April 2002 although the violence continues to this day with armed groups continuing to operate in the country.

The war took the lives of around 5,400,000 people, mostly through disease; the most causalities of any war in earth's history, save for the Second World War. It was a war that still simmers today particularly in the east of the country where troops from Uganda have recently been deployed. The Sun City Agreement provided a path for providing the Democratic Republic of Congo with a multi-party government and a timeline for democratic elections allowing Joseph Kabila to remain president for a transition period of two years, extendable to three, with the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, as prime minister in the transitional government both to remain in office until democratic elections could be held for the first time since independence in 1960.

Joseph Kabila

It was also agreed that Kabila would have four vice-presidents - one from each of the two main armed opposition movements, one from the government and one from the unarmed political opposition. It was also agreed that ministries would be divided up and former opposition fighters would be integrated into the army and police. In 2003 the transitional parliament met and in 2005 they adopted a new constitution which was approved by voters in December of that year leading to Presidential and parliamentary elections in July 2006 which proved inconclusive leading to a further run-off election in October 2006 between Joseph Kabila and opposition candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba. Kabila was declared the winner, and he remained in post howeverd eclared in August 2018 that he would step down and not seek re-election in the December general election of that year and was succeeded by Felix Tshisekedi in the country's first peaceful transition of power since independence.

Despite this apparent stability with increasing foreign investment, conflict and murder is ongoing particularly in the east of the country. The Democratic Republic of Congo itself has been described as more of a geographical concept than a proper nation; a nation that's sitting on a bed of an estimated twenty-four trillion US dollars of natural resources making it a land people are prepared to fight and die for. The video (below) charts the history of the Democratic Republic of Congo from colonial days to its more recent past in what is not just a catalogue of murders, assassinations and failed politics, but an unfolding and seemingly everlasting tragedy for the country's 89.56 million inhabitants (2020).

DRC History: Volunteer Congo Kinshasa

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DRC History: Congo Kinshasa Country Profile

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