The Congo War (1998-Present)

Map of the Congo War circa 2003.

Congo War Map 2003

Red lines indicate approximate zones of control in 2003




The Great Lakes War

Africa's First World War 



Congo Government (President Laurent Kabila), Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Chad. Also aiding Kabila are several militias and foreign rebel groups:

1. Mai-Mai militia of eastern Kivu region of Congo

2. Rwandan Hutu interahamwe (remnants of the old Rwandan Hutu army)

3. Burundi's Hutu Forces pour la d'fense de la democratie (FDD) -- Rebels against the Burundi government

Congolese rebels* and the nations of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi  
*Rebel groups include:

1. The Congolese Liberation Movement--supported by Uganda

2. Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD)--supported by Rwanda

3. The March 23 Movement (M23)


BEGAN: August 1, 1998

ENDED: Ongoing


Civil War & Foreign Intervention


PREDECESSOR: (Related conflicts that occurred before)
Kabila's Rebellion--also known as the First Congo War (1997)

CONCURRENT: (Related conflicts occurring at the same time)

Rwanda Civil War, Burundi Civil War, Angolan Civil War, Rwanda-Uganda Conflict (1999-2000)

SUCCESSOR: (Related conflicts that occur later)



The roots of this war go back to the 1994 civil war and genocide of the Tutsi ethnic group in Rwanda by the Hutu ethnic group.  
Over a half million Tutsi and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by the Hutu-run government and army.  This war ended with the 
Tutsi in control of Rwanda, but hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees and most surviving Hutu soldiers had fled to neighboring 
Congo, where new dictator Laurent Kabila allowed them to conduct cross-border raids into Rwanda.  At the same time, a lot of bad 
feelings developed in the Congo against the Tutsi of both Rwanda and those native to eastern Congo.  This is largely due to the role 
of the Rwandan (Tutsi) army in helping Kabila win his own rebellion against the government of former dictator Mobuto Sese Seko 
in 1997.
Many Congolese saw the Tutsi as having too much control over their country and Kabila encouraged these feelings as a way to 
cement his own power.  As a result of all this, the Tutsi of Rwanda encouraged the Tutsi and other anti-Kabila forces to rebel in 
1998, with the Rwandan army actively aiding them in the war. Rwanda saw this as one way to eliminate the Hutu rebel problem in the 
border areas.  Forces from Burundi and Uganda, at the time two strong allies of Rwanda also took part.  Burundi has a similar 
problem between Tutsi and Hutus and Uganda wished to strike at its own rebels who were hiding in the Congo's border areas.
Kabila called in aid from Angola, (who had also helped him take power in 1997), as well as from Zimbabwe and Namibia.  Angola 
saw this as a chance to enter into southern Congo to attack its own UNITA rebels, with whom the Angolan government had been at 
war since 1975 (The Angolan War also ended in 2002.).  Namibia is an ally of the Angolan government and also has had problems with the UNITA rebels in the border area 
they share with Angola.  Zimbabwe also backs the Kabila government.  For a very short time, the nation of Chad also sent troops to 
aid Kabila.
While the government and the rebels continue to fight and occasionally negotiate, the  "allies" from both sides are taking advantage 
of the territory they now occupy in Congo to extract natural resources and send them back home.  Resources such as gold, silver, 
diamonds, and others.  Needless to say, all this fighting and the presence of so many foreign troops has caused a horrible loss of life, 
mostly among civilians, in the Congo.  By the way, even though they are allies against Kabila, troops from Rwanda and Uganda have 
engaged in bloody fighting against each other largely over the question of who would control a mineral rich area in eastern Congo.
The latest fighting in the eastern part of Congo involves a rebel group known as The March 23 Movement, better know as M23, led by Bosco Ntaganda, and covertly supported by Uganda and Rwanda. The United Nations is also involved, trying to aid the Kinshasa government.
Congo is truly a mess.


1. The deaths of over a million people

2. The dependence of the Congo government under the second President Kabila, on foreign forces to keep it in power


Estimates place the number of dead (the vast majority civilian) at somewhere betweeen one million and two and a half million dead in Congo. Most of the dead were the result of famine and disease brought on by the war. 


CIA Factbook on Country or conflict Click on the country name at this site.

One World Special Reports: Congo

CASUALTIES OF WAR: Civilians, Rule of Law, and Democratic Freedoms

Eastern Congo Ravaged: Killing Civilians and Silencing Protest

Rwanda to pull troops out of DR Congo

Despite a cease-fire, Congo war escalating--Article from the Philadelphia Inquirer

Return to the killing fields?: A border war is now the most serious threat to peace...-- Article in the Daily Mail & Guardian.

Rebels seize east Congo army camp, thousands flee

Please cite this source when appropriate:

Lee, R. "The Congo War (1998-Present)" 

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