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Congo (DR) conflict

Updated: Mon, 9 Dec 2013

In DetailBack to top

Democratic Republic of Congo, a vast country in the heart of Africa, is trying to find its feet on the path to peace after a five-year conflict dubbed "Africa's world war" that involved seven countries and enveloped the region.

The country's first post-war elections were held in 2006, but the vote highlighted a deep east-west divide along ethnic and linguistic lines. Elections in 2011 were marred by allegations of fraud.

Although the war officially ended in 2003, violence continues to displace tens of thousands in the remote east.

The largest U.N. peacekeeping force in the world is stationed in Congo, with 20,000 troops, and the International Criminal Court in The Hague is investigating allegations of war crimes.

It's a Herculean task keeping control of a country the size of western Europe which lacks the most basic infrastructure. Jungle paths and rivers are often the only transit routes in the country formerly known as Zaire.

Dozens of heavily armed groups – some of them with links to Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda – stoke ethnic rivalries and vie for control of valuable natural resources.

Extensive criminal networks within Congo's security forces deliberately foster insecurity to profit from illegal mining, smuggling and poaching, the U.N. Group of Experts said in its June 2012 report.

Rwanda and Uganda officially withdrew their troops from Congo in 2002 and 2003, and although they were often accused of keeping a foothold in Congo through proxy militias, much of the violence in the northeastern border regions originated in the power vacuum left behind when their armies pulled out.

A humanitarian crisisBack to top

Government troops and rebel militias regularly kill and rape men, women and children, some burn villages, and thousands of families are on the run for their lives.

Some 5.4 million people died between August 1998 and April 2007 from violence and war-related hunger and illness, according to studies by U.S.-based aid agency International Rescue Committee (IRC), which says fighting frequently prevents people from seeking out what scant health services are available. It is the deadliest conflict since World War Two.

IRC calculated in 2007 that as many as 45,000 people were dying every month.

Although the death toll has fallen dramatically since then, thousands still die every year.

Nearly 510,000 Congolese refugees were scattered throughout neighbouring countries in January 2013, the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said.

The number of internally displaced people increased from 1.7 million in December 2011 to 2.75 million in October 2013, the majority in North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale, Katanga and Maniema provinces.

The figures fluctuate rapidly as waves of violence repeatedly uproot large numbers of people for short periods.

The majority first seek refuge in the forest close to their fields and property. But there they are often vulnerable to attack, and hunger and lack of shelter force them to seek help elsewhere.

Most people end up living with host families, who themselves struggle to make ends meet. Aid agencies often cannot reach the displaced because they are sheltering in areas which are very remote or surrounded by insecurity.

RAPE

The number of women and girls raped in eastern Congo is unknown, but experts and campaigners say the scale (IT) is enormous. The former United Nations' special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom, at one point called Congo the rape capital of the world.

The number of reported rapes has plummeted in recent years. The United Nations said 26,000 women were raped in South Kivu alone in 2006, but the figure dropped to about 5,000 in 2009.

The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF says reports of sexual violence in Congo’s east increased in the first half of 2013. In the first six months of 2013, UNICEF gave more than 7,500 survivors medical treatment, including 2,700 children. The rise is both because of the conflict and because of greater availability of services for survivors.

Several mass rapes have been reported in the Kivus. In one of the worst, militiamen raped more than 387 people in four days in the town of Luvungi in North Kivu in 2010. More recently, Congolese soldiers fleeing M23 rebels raped more than 126 women and girls in Minova town in South Kivu between Nov. 20 and Nov. 22, 2012, the United Nations said.

Militia groups and soldiers target all ages – including babies and elderly women. They are gang raped, raped with bayonets, and have guns shot into their vaginas, destroying their reproductive and digestive systems. Men and boys have also been raped.

The rape epidemic began in the mid-1990s, according to Wilhelmine Ntakebuka, who coordinates a sexual violence programme in Bukavu. This was when Rwandan Hutu militiamen escaped to Congo after taking part in Rwanda's genocide.

According to Denis Mukwege, an award-winning Congolese doctor who treats rape survivors, a big part of the problem is that after the war ex-rebels were integrated into the army without being vetted. Many were completely brutalised having been recruited to fight as children and encouraged to commit atrocities.

“That’s one big reason why we don’t see rape decreasing. They don’t change their ways just because they change their uniform. How can you ask someone who was raping yesterday to ensure (women’s) security today?” he told AlertNet in 2011.

Mukwege established Panzi Hospital of Bukavu in South Kivu, which treats about 2,000 women a year for their injuries.

In some cases armed men brutalise villagers for food and loot, in others they use rape as a weapon of war to force locals to accept the authority of a particular armed group. It can destroy entire communities.

Rape traumatises girls and women, humiliates their husbands and can break up families. Women become too frightened to work in the fields and take goods to sell at market, reducing family incomes. If they have been badly injured they may not be able to have more children. Many who are raped are divorced by their husbands and lose their home. Men who have been raped are sometimes divorced by their wives.

Local women's groups offer shelters in local towns and help survivors learn new skills, but their resources are limited. In some cases, survivors pool their resources and rent accommodation together.

Many Congolese women activists seeking to help survivors and highlight the issue internationally, themselves become targets and receive death threats. They and international aid agencies are calling for improved justice systems to deal with the perpetrators.

Although the majority of rapes are perpetrated by armed men, a growing number are carried out by civilians. A survey by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative of women raped between 2004 and 2008 said there had been a 17-fold increase in the number of rapes by civilians.

Widespread impunity has led to the increase in sexual violence committed by civilians, a U.N. investigative panel said in March 2011.

How the war startedBack to top

From 1965 until 1997, the country was ruled with an iron fist by Mobutu Sese Seko (see end).

The origins of Congo's war, which began during his rule, are intimately connected to the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, where some 800,000 people from the minority Tutsis and political moderates from the majority Hutus were slaughtered at the instigation of the extremist Hutu government.

Rwanda's post-war Tutsi government invaded Congo in 1996 to pursue extremist Hutu militias that had crossed the border, in the process helping Congolese rebels end Mobutu's 32-year rule.

Rwanda installed rebel leader Laurent Kabila as Congo’s president but turned against him when he started stirring hatred towards Tutsis in the country, and intervened to try to remove him. Kabila fought off the Rwandan troops with assistance from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, while Uganda weighed in on the Rwandan side.

The regional war raged from 1998 to 2003.

Joseph Kabila took power after the assassination of his father Laurent in January 2001, and began negotiating peace.

He set up a temporary power-sharing government with four vice-presidents, two of them from former rebel groups, and then won presidential elections in 2006.

Kabila's main support was in the Swahili-speaking east of the country, but he's viewed as an outsider by many people in the capital Kinshasa and the west, where Lingala is the main language.

Kinshasa politicians, Congolese bigwigs and neighbouring countries have been accused of cashing in on valuable natural resources in eastern Congo, and international rights activists say Rwanda and Uganda continued to arm and fund militias in the area even after pulling out their national troops.

The government, the army and the United NationsBack to top

The 2006 elections, won by Kabila and his Alliance for the Presidential Majority, marked the first time in 40 years the country had freely gone to the ballot to vote for a leader.

The election year was marred by sporadic clashes between Kabila followers and supporters of his main rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who says the international community had Kabila lined up for the job already.

The government is hobbled by endemic corruption, and analysts say there is still a risk that politicians sidelined by elections could voice their opposition in street protests and violence rather than the political arena.

Congo's army unites tens of thousands of former gunmen who fought with a plethora of armed groups, but soldiers are ill-disciplined, poorly fed and lack proper equipment, according to Belgian-based think tank International Crisis Group.

Militia groups abducted children to fight or act as porters, spies and sex slaves. Although hundreds have been released as armed groups integrate into the army, or have deserted, the recruitment of children continues.

M23 rebels also recruited many children in 2012, in both Rwanda and Congo, the U.N. secretary-general’s February 2013 report on Congo said.

Human Rights Watch says child soldiers are often hidden from observers or coached to say they're over 18.

Army living conditions are appalling, without barracks or canteens, let alone health services, and experts say their salary is not a living wage. As a result, soldiers often resort to taxing and abusing the local population.

In the east of the country, government soldiers have fled their posts rather than fight against militias and villagers have reported being attacked by the national army as well as other gunmen.

The army – the Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo (FARDC)  has been one of the worst human rights abusers in the country, experts say. Some FARDC officers are involved in illegal mining operations and trade in minerals in South and North Kivu and Ituri, according to the U.N. Group of Experts.

The United Nations sent a mission to Congo – MONUC – in 2000. It was renamed the U.N. Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in July 2010, to focus on civilian protection.

Peacekeepers have been dogged by accusations of sexual exploitation of women and children. They have also been accused of smuggling gold in exchange for guns, and of not protecting civilians from rebel attacks and abuses by government troops.

A national police force has been deployed around the country, but rights groups say there is not enough training in ordinary policing skills such as criminal investigation, making statements, and procedures for dealing with sexual violence.

Leaders of 11 African countries signed a U.N.-brokered accord in February 2013, paving the way for the deployment of a new military brigade of up to 3,000 soldiers to take on rebel groups in Congo. The brigade, housed within MONUSCO, started deploying in July.

Militias, neighbours and the International CourtBack to top

Although many former rebels have given up their guns or joined the national army, others are still resisting the integration process and continue to fight over resources, territory or ethnic grievances.

It is hard to keep up with the shifting loyalties of various armed groups operating in Congo and their leaders, some of whom have been backed at various times by Rwanda or Uganda but later switched sides. Rival militias also sometimes join forces to take on the national army.

Then there are militias called Mai Mai, who model themselves on traditional warriors, touting talismans that they say make them invincible and terrorising villagers.

Fighting occasionally follows ethnic divisions, frequently stirred up by politicians both in Congo and outside, since some Congolese tribes have affinities with Hutus or Tutsis in neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi.

There’s been a rise in inter-ethnic violence in parts of the east, as security forces focused on defeating the M23 leaving a security vacuum which was filled by other armed groups. The groups include the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Raia Mutomboki, and Nyatura, who have killed hundreds of civilians and burned scores of villages since early 2012, according to Human Rights Watch.

Rebels from northern Uganda have also caused trouble. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which terrorised civilians in Uganda for two decades, has bases in northern Congo. The group is notorious for killing, raping and kidnapping villagers and destroying property.

In December 2008 Uganda's army, backed by Congolese and South Sudanese troops, launched a military offensive against the bases.

LRA fighters responded by looting villages, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands.

After a lull in late 2011, LRA attacks rose sharply again in 2012, but have fallen since then.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga to 14 years in prison for recruiting and using child soldiers. Lubanga was leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, and the first suspect to be delivered to the court.

One of Lubanga's subordinates, General Bosco Ntaganda, is also facing trial at the ICC, accused of recruiting children under 15 to fight in an ethnic-based conflict in northeast Ituri district in 2002 and 2003.

Ntaganda took control of eastern Congo's main Tutsi rebel group, the National Congress of the Defence of the People, in early 2009. After his rebel group signed a peace deal with the government, he was made a general in the Congolese army.

But in April 2012, he deserted the army and launched a mutiny, forcibly recruiting men and boys in North Kivu according to Human Rights Watch. He surrendered to the U.S. embassy in Rwanda in March 2013, and was transferred to the ICC.

Congo hotspotsBack to top

Congo's 11 provinces are due to be divided into 26 provinces under the constitution which came into force in 2006. The new provinces are part of a decentralisation process which would give them greater local funds and control. However, implementation has been slow and the original provinces remain.

The following are some of the changes expected to take place:

  • Orientale will be divided into Ituri, Haut-Uele, Tshopo and Bas-Uele provinces. Frustrated by the slow progress, Ituri has already declared itself a province
  • Katanga will be split into Haut-Katanga, Tanganyika, Lualaba and Haut-Lomami provinces
  • Bas-Congo will be renamed Kongo Central
  • Equateur will be split into Nord-Ubangi, Mongala, Sud-Ubangi, Tshuapa and Equateur provinces

North Kivu and South Kivu

North Kivu was the epicentre of Congo's war, and rebel groups and militias continue to fight for land and resources in this remote eastern region.

FDLR

The main rebel group operating in the two provinces is the Hutu-dominated Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), composed partly of Rwandan ex-soldiers and Hutu militia who fled to Congo after participating in the 1994 genocide in their home country. The FDLR is seen to be a root cause of the region's lengthy conflict.

Following a series of military offensives, attacks by local rival armed groups, U.N. sanctions, and judicial action in Europe against leaders of the group, the FDLR has been significantly weakened. The movement’s leadership is also divided between hardliners who want to continue the armed struggle and moderates who favour demobilisation and reintegration, U.N. experts say.

A series of U.N.-backed military offensives against the rebel group in 2009 had mixed results. Although it reduced the number of FDLR fighters, civilians were targeted in reprisal attacks and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.

Congo and neighbouring Rwanda launched a joint military offensive in January 2009 – the most concerted pressure on the rebels for years. Rwandan troops withdrew a month later. FDLR fighters stepped up reprisals against villagers they accused of siding with their enemies, and retook ground they lost during the offensive. Tens of thousands of villagers fled their homes.

In March 2009, the army launched a second campaign - Kimia II - in North and South Kivu. As before, it caused mass displacement. In November the U.N. Group of Experts said Kimia II had failed to neutralise the FDLR and had exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, and the U.N. peacekeeping mission MONUC suspended cooperation with the army's 213th brigade over its targeted killing of civilians during the campaign. In December 2009 the operation was suspended.

A third operation, Amani Leo, was launched in January 2010 and narrowed the military campaign to FDLR command bases, Human Rights Watch said. Many more civilians were displaced in both Kivus as a result.

In 2011, local enemies targeted FDLR families and assassinated some of the high command, triggering defections, the loss of local networks for protection, and loss of access to basic commodities and mines – and therefore loss of income – according to Enough Project.

The U.N. Group of Experts said in July 2013 the FDLR force had shrunk to 1,500 soldiers, from 6,000 in 2009. Most of them are deployed in North Kivu, and a few in South Kivu. 

CNDP

The joint Congo-Rwanda military operation of January 2009 against the FDLR helped to neutralise another major rebel group, the North Kivu-based National Congress of the Defence of the People (CNDP). The CNDP was formed in July 2006 by self-styled general Laurent Nkunda, a former commander of the main rebel group that controlled the eastern part of the country during the Congolese war, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD).

Nkunda's traditional enemy was the FDLR. A Tutsi born in North Kivu, Nkunda said he wanted to protect fellow Congolese who speak Kinyarwanda, a language of Rwandan origin. (The Rwandan-backed RCD initially united Hutus and Tutsis in North Kivu, where both tribes speak Kinyarwanda.)

He rejected conciliation with the government right through the 2006 election period, but started integrating his 4,000 well-trained troops into the national army in February 2007. Brigades consisting of army soldiers and his rebels were established to pursue the Hutu militias.

Not everyone thought the deal allowing Nkunda into the army was a good thing. The then U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour said it was a serious error. Rights groups accused the brigades of rape, arbitrary killings and systematic displacement of civilians.

By August 2007, the army had halted Tutsi-led operations against Rwandan Hutu rebels in a bid to avoid further ethnic tension, and Nkunda's forces renewed attacks on the government army. The U.N. negotiated a ceasefire in September, but it fell apart a month later and clashes resumed.

The government, Nkunda and several other rebel groups – but not the FDLR – signed a peace deal in January 2008, but by August this too had collapsed. Nkunda launched a fresh offensive on army bases and areas under the formal protection of U.N. peacekeepers.

Nkunda's rebellion peaked in late 2008 when he captured large swathes of territory and threatened North Kivu's regional capital Goma, forcing more than a quarter of a million people to flee their homes. The army abandoned positions near Goma and looted and raped civilians in and around the city. Intense international diplomatic pressure stopped Nkunda advancing further.

In January 2009, Nkunda was ousted by General Bosco Ntaganda. a Tutsi warlord who took command of the CNDP, which pledged to abandon its four-year insurgency, raising fresh hopes for peace.

Later that month, Nkunda was arrested in Rwanda on charges of war crimes. Some of these alleged crimes have been documented by Human Rights Watch. See its October 2007 report.

Ntaganda has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting child soldiers to fight in Ituri province in 2002 and 2003.

Despite this, he played a prominent role in the army's offensive against the FDLR.

CNDP fighters have officially been integrated into the army, but rights groups say they maintain control of land and are extracting taxes and mining minerals.

M23

Ntaganda launched a mutiny after the government increased calls for his arrest for alleged war crimes. In April 2012, hundreds of soldiers loyal to Ntaganda abandoned their posts, sparking bloody clashes with loyalist troops. The mutiny failed.

Another Congolese army officer, Colonel Sultani Makenga, began a separate mutiny in May. Makenga had previously served with Ntaganda in the CNDP. A spokesman for Makenga said in early May that Makenga’s mutiny was known as M23 in reference to the March 23, 2009 peace agreement between the CNDP and the Congolese government. It was intended to highlight the grievances of the Tutsi ethnic group and poor conditions in the Congolese army.    

Ntaganda and troops loyal to him joined this new rebellion, and recruited scores of children and young men by force, Human Rights Watch said.

The rebels carved out a fiefdom in North Kivu province.

They and their allies expanded their control over the gold trade in 2012 and 2013.

The fighting displaced at least 800,000, and many have been killed or raped. Many were displaced when the group temporarily entered North Kivu’s capital, Goma, in November 2012.

Other armed groups took advantage of positions vacated by deserting army units, according to the U.N. Group of Experts. They include the FDLR, Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), Mai Mai Yakutumba and Congolese Resistance Patriots (PARECO) Lafontaine.

The rebellion also raised tensions between Congo and its neighbours Rwanda and Uganda who were accused of backing M23.

The Rwandan government strenuously denied allegations by U.N. experts that its military officials provided equipment and recruits for the M23 rebellion. Uganda also rejected allegations its soldiers have backed the movement.

Donors including the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany suspended some of their financial aid to Rwanda over the accusations. Rwanda said it was being used as a scapegoat for the chaos in eastern Congo.

Regional leaders – including Congo and Rwanda – brokered a deal in July 2012 for a "neutral force" to be set up to take on the rebels.

The following year a new U.N. brigade of up to 3,000 soldiers was deployed to target the M23 and other rebel groups.

The M23 declared an end to its 20-month insurgency in November 2013, and M23 leader Makenga surrendered along with hundreds of his fighters after the army captured the last of its strongholds in the east.

But many of its leaders have fled to Uganda and Rwanda where they could form a new armed group, Human Rights Watch says.

Other armed groups

Self defence militias called Raia Mutomboki have rapidly developed throughout South Kivu and North Kivu since 2011.

Fighting between Raia Mutomboki and the FDLR escalated in 2012. As a result, the Raia Mutomboki increasingly targeted FDLR dependants, killing and raping civilians, the U.N. Group of Experts said in June 2012. The FDLR retaliated by attacking civilians perceived as siding with the Raia Mutomboki.

Raia Mutomboki groups have replaced FDLR in some areas and levy taxes on trading routes and mines.

Several Raia Mutomboki factions formed alliances with M23.

The Congolese and Burundian armies are battling a Burundian Hutu rebel group – the FNL (Forces Nationales de Liberation) – in South Kivu. Its stated aim is to overthrow the government of Burundi. It carries out raids in Congo and Burundi to forcibly recruit young people, and obtain food and sometimes cattle.

Ugandan ADF rebels (Allied Democratic Forces) are active in North Kivu. Well-trained and supported from abroad, the rebels want to set up an Islamic state in Uganda. They forcibly recruit in Uganda, Burundi and Congo, including some children. The U.N. Group of Experts says the rebels may have forged links with al Shabaab rebels in Somalia.

The Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana), an FDLR splinter group, operates in North Kivu.

Congolese Mai Mai militias are also active in the Kivus, looting and abducting locals.

Orientale

LRA rebels, who terrorised northern Uganda for two decades, crossed into the northeastern province of Orientale during 2005.

They attack, rape and abduct villagers. Nearly 320,000 people in Congo are displaced by the violence, down from a peak of 347,000 in 2011, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

In December 2008 Uganda launched a military offensive, backed by Congolese and South Sudanese troops, against LRA bases in Orientale.

The LRA responded by attacking villages, forcing tens of thousands to flee.

Despite a drop in the number of attacks, many of those displaced are too afraid to return home.

Mai Mai groups are also active in Orientale, attacking villages and mines. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 5, 2012, one group raped or sexually mutilated more than 150 women. Former captives told the U.N. Group of Experts they also killed people by setting them on fire, and practised cannibalism.

Katanga

Violence in Congo's most mineral-rich province has eased, although there are still abuses carried out by both ex-government militias called Mai Mai and the local police and army, especially in the lawless and remote north of the province.

The home province of President Kabila has a long history of unrest, much of it provoked by wealth in mines that once produced 50 to 80 percent of the national budget.

Katanga was the site of a secessionist war in the 1960s, and its politicians have been accused of trying to break away in more recent years.

The main conflicts were driven by tensions between the region's north and south, between natives and perceived outsiders, and between the army and Mai Mai militiamen who ran amok committing widespread abuses and now extort money from civilians.

The Mai Mai was supported by the Congolese government during the war with Rwanda and Uganda. After the war ended in 2003, the national government tried to integrate the Mai Mai into the national army, but without success. Mai Mai leaders became increasingly hostile to the government and took control of huge swathes of central Katanga, fought their former allies the Congolese army, and terrorised local communities.

A military court in Katanga convicted Mai Mai leader Gedeon Kyungu Mutanga in March 2009 of crimes against humanity. It also found the government liable for failing to disarm the Mai Mai militias and awarded damages to the victims.

The region where Mutanga operated became known as "the triangle of death" because of the suffering inflicted on civilians there. In November 2005, the United Nations estimated 150,000 people had been forced to flee their homes and hundreds had been killed.

Mutanga escaped from prison in September 2011, and he is now allied with a Katangese independence movement – the Coordination pour le Referendum et l’Autodetermination du Katanga (CORAK). His followers have joined the independence cause, including some who had been integrated into the army.

The FDLR is also active in part of Katanga.

In 2009, the global recession had a huge impact on the province, as demand for its minerals plummeted. Local authorities estimated in March 2009 that 300,000 people lost their jobs almost overnight.

Ituri

The mineral-rich northeastern Ituri region was basically under Ugandan control throughout the war. During their occupation, from 1998 to May 2003, Ugandan soldiers provided arms and military training to different ethnic groups, fostering the spread of an initially limited land dispute between Hema and Lendu.

The Hema are pastoralists and the Lendu farmers, but the majority of Ituri's population are neither Hema nor Lendu, says Human Rights Watch. However, they were all forced to take sides, and became subject to attacks because of their perceived association with either Hema or Lendu groups.

During Congo's war, the Ugandan, Rwandan and Congolese governments all supported different militia groups in Ituri.

Just when Congo was forming a transitional government in 2003 and embarking on its peace process, Ituri was on the verge of genocide says the International Crisis Group.

The worst of the conflict raged until a 2006 ceasefire led to a peace deal. Since then most armed groups have been dismantled and former rebels integrated into the army or demobilised, and the presence of U.N. peacekeepers and Congo army has helped contain other outbreaks of violence.

But the process could still be reversed, analysts say.

Tensions remain over access to land and natural resource revenues including from gold and timber. Some fear the presence of oil under Lake Albert, which lies between Ituri and Uganda, may spark further conflict.

The return of thousands of displaced people, many of whose homes have been occupied in their absence, has also exacerbated ill-feeling.

There is little trust between the different communities, and abuses committed during the conflict have for the most part gone unpunished. Also, the Congolese army continues to perpetrate human rights abuses in Ituri.

Remnants of militia groups carry out sporadic attacks against civilians, and clash with the army. These include the Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI), which has expanded its territorial control. It is the only active part of a coalition of armed groups (COGAI) which destabilised Ituri in 2012 before it was weakened by Congolese army operations.

Thomas Lubanga, leader of the ethnic Hema-dominated Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia, was the first suspect to face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), accused of recruiting children during the UPC's occupation of the regional capital Bunia between August 2002 and March 2003. He was sentenced to 14 years in jail in July 2012.

Lubanga's deputy during the Ituri wars, Bosco Ntaganda, is awaiting trial at the ICC.

Two warlords from the other side of the Ituri conflict, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo, were acquitted of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC in November 2012.

Katanga, also known as "Simba", or lion, led the FRPI, while Ngudjolo headed the allied Front of Nationalists and Integrationalists (FPI) militia.

Human Rights Watch tracked who was who in Ituri's armed groups in 2003.

Bas-Congo

Followers of Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) reject central authority over the western province and are campaigning for the re-establishment of the pre-colonial Kongo kingdom, which encompassed parts of present-day Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon.

More than 100 people died in a January 2007 crackdown on the BDK, and dozens of BDK supporters died in clashes with police in early 2008. The police attempted to hide the extent of the carnage by dumping bodies in the Congo River and burying others in mass graves, Human Rights Watch said. The government revoked the authorisation of the BDK to operate as a social and cultural organisation that same month, effectively making it illegal.

There's little U.N. presence on the ground, since more than 90 percent of its troops are in the east, but additional troops were sent in for a few months to help restore peace.

In 2008, the group changed its name to Bundu dia Mayala (BDM).

Equateur

Ethnic tensions in this northwestern province dating back to the colonial era flared in October 2009 with clashes between two Lobala tribes, the Enyele and the Manzaya, following a dispute over fishing and farming rights.

U.N. peacekeepers and the national army took control of the area in December, enabling aid agencies to reach those in need, but fresh clashes broke out in April 2010 when the Enyele/Independent Movement of Liberation and Allies (MILIA) stormed the provincial capital Mbandaka.

Nearly 200,000 were displaced between October 2009 and mid April 2010 – including at least 114,000 who fled across the river to the Republic of Congo, about 18,000 who took refuge in Central African Republic and many others who were displaced internally, according to U.N. estimates.

Although security has improved since then, tensions remain.

Resources, colonialism and the Cold WarBack to top

Many analysts categorise Congo's conflict as a resource war motivated by control over eastern Congo's rich natural deposits of gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt, timber and cassiterite, a tin ore.

A renewed interest in the country’s potential oil reserves in eastern and central Congo could increase tensions, International Crisis Group said in July 2012.

Mining of coltan, a conductor used in cell phones, increased instability in eastern Congo when it boomed in 2000. Rwanda and its army profited from the trade, according to researchers at British-based advocacy organisation Global Witness.

When the bottom fell out of the coltan market in 2001, producers switched to cassiterite, often found in the same places. The tin ore is used in lead-free circuit boards for electronic equipment and its rising value was heavily influenced by China's phenomenal economic growth.

In September 2010, the government imposed a temporary ban on mining in North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema in an attempt to cut off funding to armed groups. This was lifted in March 2011.

In April 2011, Rwanda banned the sale of minerals from conflict-affected areas in Congo, in compliance with a U.S. law requiring minerals to be certified conflict-free.

Most armed groups have since shifted to exploiting gold, which is easier to smuggle and is more lucrative than tin, tungsten and tantalum, which used to be important sources of revenue for armed groups.

With tougher legislation in the United States and Europe to stop companies from buying minerals from Congo’s conflict areas, more are smuggled to neighbouring countries.

The mining industry is unregulated and dangerous. Many gold miners only receive a bucket of sand – which may or may not contain some gold – at the end of a hard day's work. Thousands of children also labour in the mines.

During the coltan boom of 2000, so many people abandoned farming to work in the mines that there were shortages of the local food staple, manioc flour.

Profits from Congo's resources have historically been extracted by whoever controls the soldiers at the mine gates, making demilitarisation unattractive to those with bank accounts on the receiving end, including politicians in Kinshasa.

Western security sources are worried that Congo's lax security may be exploited by countries such as Iran to get their hands on uranium which might be used for nuclear programmes. Congo provided the uranium for the U.S. atomic weapons dropped on Japan in 1945.

Former leader Mobutu diverted enormous sums into his own bank accounts, much of it from copper mines in Katanga. He built up a fortune while the state was deprived of funds to build infrastructure and services for the general population.

After nationalising foreign-owned mines in the mid-1960s, Mobutu encouraged local entrepreneurs – usually his friends and relatives – to take charge of guarding their own territory, setting the pattern for the present day.

Historians say Mobutu was following in the footsteps of Belgian colonialists, who used forced labour to extract rubber that funded lavish palaces for the Belgian monarchy. Many labourers were worked to death.

LinksBack to top

Global Witness, which investigates resource wars and corruption, details Congo's natural wealth and its role in its conflicts

Human Rights Watch carries regular reports on all aspects of human rights abuses in Congo

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre tracks waves of displacement

The International Criminal Court has information on its rulings on Ugandan and Rwandan involvement in Congo, as well as its cases against former militia leaders

International Crisis Group, Belgian-based think tank offers useful analysis

Both the U.N. secretary-general and U.N. Group of Experts publish regular, in-depth reports on Congo

International Rescue Committee mortality surveys are the definitive guide to how many people have died in Congo from the war

The Panzi Hospital of Bukavu in South Kivu treats survivors of sexual violence

Glamour magazine published a good article about rape and the work of Panzi Hospital by writer Eve Ensler in 2007

The U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has information about its work to protect women from sexual violence, and U.N. standards on sexual abuse by peacekeepers

U.S.-based advocacy organisation Refugees International has useful backgrounders and field reports

Medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres operates in some of Congo's most inaccessible areas

The U.N. Women site includes useful links as well as reports on work on sexual violence

U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (in French) rounds up the latest news from the aid world, including U.N. radio, and maps which aid agencies are doing what and where

TimelineBack to top

The Belgians

1870s - Belgium's King Leopold II starts his colonial project in central Africa

1885 - Leopold announces establishment of the Congo Free State, under his direct control

1892 - Belgians conquer eastern region of Katanga, which had held out against colonialists

1908 - Leopold sells control of Congo to Belgian state, but life for Congo's inhabitants continues much the same

Independence

1960 - Congo gains independence from Belgium after a year of anti-colonial riots. Socialist Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba attempts to steer neutral course between United States and Soviet Union at height of Cold War, but dismissed by President Joseph Kasavubu in September, three months after taking office

1960-1965 - Secessionist movement in eastern Katanga province

1961 - Lumumba murdered in February, three months after being arrested

1965 - Joseph Mobutu seizes power from Kasavubu

1966 - Mobutu nationalises mining and redistributes foreign-country management to a local elite, mostly friends and family. He squanders and embezzles billions of dollars through trade in copper, cobalt, diamonds and coffee

1971 - Mobutu calls himself Mobutu Sese Seko and renames the country Zaire. Becomes the darling of Washington by turning the country into a springboard for operations against Soviet-backed Angola

1974 - Black U.S. boxers Muhammad Ali and George Foreman fight the "rumble in the jungle" in Zaire. Ali, who wins the fight, says he wanted to establish a relationship between African-Americans and Africa

1990 - Mobutu appoints transitional government but holds on to substantial powers

War

1994 - Rwanda's Hutu extremist government orchestrates genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. About 800,000 Hutus - many of them party to the genocide - take refuge with their families in camps in Congo when Tutsi rebels take control of Rwanda

1994 - Nearly 12,000 people die when cholera spreads through huge, squalid refugee camps in Congo, according to U.N. refugee body UNHCR

1996-1997 - Tutsi rebels gain control of swathes of eastern Zaire while Mobutu abroad for medical treatment

1997 - Anti-Mobutu rebels with Rwandan backing seize Kinshasa, and Laurent Kabila installed as president. Country renamed Democratic Republic of Congo

1998 - Kabila tries to gain popularity by whipping up anti-Tutsi sentiment and purging Tutsis from his government. Rwanda is enraged, and along with Uganda backs rebels in an attempt to oust Kabila. They are repelled when the president receives support from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola. Rebels remain in control of large parts of eastern Congo's border regions

British advocacy group Global Witness launches campaign against "conflict diamonds". Its initial focus is Angola, but by June 1999 is talking tough on Congo and other countries too

Peace

1999 - After three years of war, ceasefire signed in Lusaka, Zambia

2000 - U.N. Mission for Congo, MONUC, deployed to monitor ceasefire, but with just 5,500 troops and a weak mandate it fails to stop fighting between rebels and government forces

Diamond industry launches the Kimberley process in May to crack down on trade from war zones. In Dec, United Nations gives its backing to a certification system to track the origin of rough diamonds

2001 - Laurent Kabila assassinated by a bodyguard. His son Joseph takes office

2002 - Mount Nyiragongo, a volcano overlooking the eastern town of Goma, devastates city when it erupts in January

2002 - Rwanda and Uganda say they have withdrawn most of their forces from eastern Congo after peace accords in which Congo agrees to disarm and arrest Hutu militias in its territory. Peace deal signed at the end of the year states that rebels and opposition members will be given jobs in a power-sharing interim government

2003 - French troops intervene to protect thousands of civilians in Bunia, Ituri, when rival militias clash over control of the town

Last Ugandan troops pull out. Fighting erupts which U.N. mission fails to contain. French troops are forced to intervene

Allegations of sexual exploitation, child pornography and the rape of babies made against Moroccan peacekeepers with MONUC

2004 - Renewed allegations of sexual exploitation of women and children by peacekeepers around Bunia, Ituri

May/Jun - Renegade commander Laurent Nkunda takes Bukavu, South Kivu. Riots around the country in protest at the U.N.'s failure to act, and international aid agencies come under attack by angry crowds

Jun - Attempted coup in Kinshasa

New Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) opens investigations on Congo

2005

Jan - U.N. enquiry upholds sexual exploitation allegations. MONUC sets up an office to deal with the issue, which operates from February to November. A new unit for conduct and discipline takes over after that

Feb - Nine Bangladeshi U.N. peacekeepers killed in an ambush by ethnic Lendu militias in Ituri

May - Parliament approves new constitution

Sep - Uganda threatens to invade in pursuit of rebels from the Lord's Rebel Army (LRA)

Dec - New constitution given public backing in a referendum

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague - the highest U.N. court - finds Uganda guilty of rights abuses and plundering resources in Congo between 1998 and 2003, and says compensation due

Late 2005/early 2006 - Government crackdown on Mai Mai militias in Katanga - who had displaced thousands - forces thousands more civilians to flee

2006

Jan - Eight Guatemalan peacekeepers killed while hunting down LRA in Garamba National Park in the northeastern province of Orientale

Feb - ICJ rules it has no jurisdiction to rule on Congo's application of rights abuses by Rwanda during the 1998-2003 war, since Rwanda hasn't accepted U.N. conventions on torture

New constitution and national flag officially adopted

MONUC threatens to pull out of joint operations in the east unless Congolese army ends human rights violations

Apr - Slow candidate registration, political wrangling and continued fighting by militia in Kivus and Katanga delay polls. Main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) decides to boycott elections, claiming they will not be free and fair

Jul - First round of presidential elections. President Kabila receives nearly 45 percent of the vote, with his main rival, Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, winning around 20 percent

Aug - At least 16 killed in gunfire exchanges between supporters of Kabila and Bemba

Oct - Second round of presidential elections, with about 58 percent to Kabila and 42 percent to Bemba. Bemba files legal challenge, but Kabila's victory upheld

Dec - Kabila sworn in as president

2007

Jan - ICC says it has enough evidence to prosecute Ituri militia leader Thomas Lubanga for war crimes, accusing him of recruiting child soldiers

More than 100 civilians dead during military crackdown on Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) in western Bas-Congo province, as opposition supporters protest alleged fraud in local election

Feb - New government named

Renegade leader Nkunda starts integrating troops into the national army, on condition they can stay in North Kivu province

Mar - Fighting in Kinshasa between government troops and armed loyalists of opposition leader Bemba

May - Massacres in South Kivu by "rastas" from the Hutu-dominated Rwandan rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)

Aug - Army suspends attacks by Nkunda in a bid to offset rising ethnic tension. Nkunda turns against government forces again

2008

Jan - Government, Nkunda and other rebels sign peace deal

Mar - Dozens killed in west as government cracks down again on BDK, which wants to revive the pre-colonial Kongo kingdom

Jul - ICC judges suspend Lubanga's trial and order his release, pending appeal, because prosecution withheld from defence team some evidence that the United Nations wants to keep confidential to protect its sources

ICC proceedings start against Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo, two warlords from the other side of the Ituri conflict

Aug - Tens of thousands displaced in North Kivu as Nkunda's rebels fight Congolese forces again, leaving Jan peace deal in tatters. Army and Mai Mai rebels clash in North Kivu

Sep - Heavy fighting between army and Nkunda's National Congress of the Defence of the People (CNDP) continues. U.N. reports 100,000 displaced since late Aug

Octogenarian Antoine Gizenga quits prime minister's post

Oct - Nkunda's rebels advance to edge of North Kivu capital Goma. Army abandons positions near Goma, looting and raping civilians. Massive displacement occurs. Displacement camps in Rutshuru razed. U.N. says FDLR and other Rwandan militia fighting with army

LRA continue attacks in Ituri. U.N. says 50,000 displaced since mid-Sep. New militia FPJ attacks military bases near Bunia

Nov - Nkunda declares ceasefire, but continues to consolidate control in north Rutshuru, triggering further displacement

Dec - Rwandan and Congolese governments agree to launch joint operations against Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels in Congo

Uganda's army, backed by Congolese and South Sudanese troops, attacks LRA bases in Orientale Province. LRA retaliates by looting local villages, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands

2009

Jan - Nkunda ousted by Bosco Ntaganda as CNDP head, and arrested in Rwanda. Ntaganda agrees to abandon CNDP's four-year insurgency and reintegrate with the army. The largest pro-government militia in the region promises to do the same

Rwandan soldiers enter eastern Congo for joint campaign with Congo against Hutu FDLR rebels

Feb - Rwanda-Congo offensive ends and Rwandan troops begin withdrawal. CNDP and PARECO Mai Mai militia announce transformation to political parties

LRA attacks against civilians continue

Non governmental organisations say U.N. peacekeepers failing to defend civilians in east and northeast

Mar - Ugandan troops withdraw from northeast

FDLR reprisal attacks on civilians in North Kivu increase, following withdrawal of Rwandan troops

Apr - U.N. and Congo army plan to expand anti-FDLR operations to South Kivu

18 eastern rebel and Mai Mai groups sign peace deal

Security in Ituri worsens, with clashes involving FPRI and FPCJ near Bunia

May - Fresh military offensive, called Kimya II, launched against FDLR with fears on impact on civilians. Twelve rebel groups in South Kivu withdraw from demobilisation programme, citing lack of consultation over the new military offensive and delays over prisoner release

Amnesty bill passed for militias in North and South Kivu, excluding war crimes, foreign troops and Nkunda

Human Rights Watch accuses Congo's army of war crimes against civilians in North Kivu, charges the government rejects as "lies"

Jun - UNHCR appeals for $38m in emergency aid for one million people displaced following anti-FDLR operations in January and May

Jul - UNHCR says 35,000 displaced during Kimia II. U.N secretary general calls on MONUC to withdraw support from government army units responsible for human rights abuses

Aug - Clashes continue in North and South Kivu. U.N. says thousands displaced by LRA attacks in northeast. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promises $17m aid for victims of sexual violence

Sep - U.N. high commissioner for human rights says both government and CNDP troops may have committed war crimes in North Kivu in Oct-Nov 2008

Oct - U.N. agencies and Congo Advocacy Coalition say Congolese forces committing abuses including rape, and criticise MONUC for not protecting civilians

Nov - Inter-tribal violence in Equateur province displaces tens of thousands. Many flee to Republic of Congo.

MONUC suspends cooperation with national army's 213th brigade over targeted killing of civilians during Kimia II. U.N. Panel of Experts report says Kimia II has failed to neutralise FDLR and exacerbated humanitarian crisis. U.N. says 12,000 unregistered refugees crossed Rwandan border into North Kivu.

U.N. special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo says situation in east has "dramatically" improved. Germany arrests two alleged FDLR leaders accused of war crimes

Dec - Kimia II operation ends

2010

Jan - Congo army launches Amani Leo operation to fight FDLR, protect civilians

Feb - FDLR violence continues in South Kivu

Mar - Government renews calls for MONUC withdrawal before 2011 elections. LRA attacks reported in northeast

Apr - Violence worsens in Equateur province and Ituri. Mai Mai briefly kidnap eight ICRC staff in South Kivu. Civil society groups in Ituri call for longer MONUC presence

May - U.N. renews MONUC mandate. Amani Leo focuses on South Kivu, although Mai Mai and FDLR still active in North Kivu. LRA attacks reported

Jun - Widespread marches to protest killing of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya in Kinshasa. Government announces inquiry. United Nations says will boost troop numbers in Ituri. Government says FDLR, FRF and Mai Mai rebels in South Kivu have formed alliances. Congo army launches operation in North Kivu against Ugandan ADF-NALU rebels

Jul - MONUC renamed U.N. Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). OCHA says 70,000 displaced by fighting in North Kivu. World Bank and IMF approve $8 billion debt relief deal

Aug - FDLR and Mai Mai rape at least 387 men, women and children during brief occupation in Jul/Aug of group of villages in North Kivu. Massive displacement in Ituri caused by fighting between army and Popular Front for Justice in Congo. United Nations recommends new truth and reconciliation commission and tribunal to investigate crimes committed during 1993-2002 war

Sep - Kabila temporarily bans mining in North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema provinces. MONUSCO launches operation to improve civilian protection in North Kivu. LRA attacks continue in Haut-Uele and Province Orientale

Oct - U.N. high commissioner for human rights report lists 617 of the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed between 1993 and 2003

U.N. peacekeepers capture rebel commander "Colonel Mayele" they accuse of being behind the rape of hundreds of villagers in Aug

French authorities arrest in Paris alleged FDLR leader Callixte Mbarushimana, accused of mass rapes in North Kivu

Human Rights Watch urges the United Nations to help arrest indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, who told Reuters he was a senior commander in U.N.-backed military operations in Congo

Nov – Paris Club of creditor countries agree to write off $7.35 billion debt

Former vice president Bemba goes on trial at ICC, accused of letting his troops rape and kill in the Central African Republic

U.N. Group of Experts say criminal networks in Congo's army are deliberately fostering insecurity to profit from illegal mining, smuggling and poaching

MONUSCO launches new operation to weaken armed groups partly by cutting off their supply lines

U.N. agencies report widespread rapes during a mass expulsion of illigal migrants from Angola to Congo

Dec - United Nations says its special forces have "neutralised" several rebel groups, including Burundi’s Hutu FNL which is recruiting fighters in South Kivu

U.N. Security Council sanctions committee blacklists Lieutenant Colonel Innocent Zimurinda and three senior FDLR members. Zimurinda, a former rebel incorporated into the army as part of a peace deal, is accused of ordering massacres of Rwandan refugees in Congo in April 2009, and commanding troops who raped women and girls and shot members of their families in 2009 and 2010

2011

Jan - Parliament approves controversial voting reforms, scrapping the two-round system for presidential elections and allowing a president to be elected without an absolute majority. Opposition lawmakers boycott the sitting

Congo arrests army soldier Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutwara, accused of ordering his men to rape 67 women on New Year’s Day in the town of Fizi, South Kivu

Feb – U.N. envoy to Congo Roger Meece says FDLR is weakening because of a combination of judicial action in Europe against leaders of the group, Security Council sanctions and a U.N.-backed military drive by the Congolese army

U.N. envoy Margot Wallstrom says in Jan. alone there were 182 reported rapes against Congolese women and girls caught up in mass expulsions from Angola to Congo

Nine soldiers - including a senior commanding officer - are jailed for between 10 and 20 years for mass rape on New Year’s Day in Fizi, South Kivu

Armed men attack Kabila’s residence in a suspected coup attempt

Mar - Government lifts a mining ban imposed on North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema in September 2010 to cut off funding to armed groups

United Nations says LRA attacks are on the rise, and at least 35 people have been killed in 2011. The UNHCR says more than 100 people have been kidnapped and 17,000 displaced in Orientale province

Kinshasa recalls its ambassador to Republic of Congo over what it said was Brazzaville's suspected involvement in the Jan. attack on Kabila’s residence

Congolese and Ugandan officials say LRA leader Joseph Kony has returned to Congo’s east

Apr - Rwanda bans the sale of minerals from conflict-affected areas in Congo, in compliance with a U.S. law requiring minerals to be certified conflict-free

Electoral commission says Congo will hold presidential and legislative elections on Nov. 28

May - More than 400,000 women are raped in Congo every year, according to a study by U.S. researchers, but the United Nations questions findings

Jul - Main opposition MLC party names Bemba as its presidential candidate. U.N. investigators say at least 121 women were raped by Congolese troops in South Kivu between 11-13 Jun

Aug – ICC trial of Lubanga closes. A verdict is expected early 2012

Sep - Kabila temporarily bans mining in North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema provinces. MONUSCO launches operation to improve civilian protection in North Kivu. LRA attacks continue in Haut-Uele and Province Orientale

Oct - U.N. high commissioner for human rights report lists 617 of the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed between 1993 and 2003

U.N. peacekeepers capture rebel commander "Colonel Mayele" they accuse of being behind the rape of hundreds of villagers in Aug

French authorities arrest in Paris alleged FDLR leader Callixte Mbarushimana, accused of mass rapes in North Kivu

Human Rights Watch urges the United Nations to help arrest indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, who told Reuters he was a senior commander in U.N.-backed military operations in Congo

Nov – Paris Club of creditor countries agree to write off $7.35 billion debt

Former vice president Bemba goes on trial at ICC, accused of letting his troops rape and kill in the Central African Republic

U.N. Group of Experts say criminal networks in Congo's army are deliberately fostering insecurity to profit from illegal mining, smuggling and poaching

MONUSCO launches new operation to weaken armed groups partly by cutting off their supply lines

Dec - United Nations says its special forces have "neutralised" several rebel groups, including Burundi's Hutu FNL which is recruiting fighters in South Kivu

U.N. Security Council sanctions committee blacklists Lieutenant Colonel Innocent Zimurinda and three senior FDLR members. Zimurinda, a former rebel incorporated into the army as part of a peace deal, is accused of ordering massacres of Rwandan refugees in Congo in April 2009, and commanding troops who raped women and girls and shot members of their families in 2009 and 2010

2011

Jan - Parliament approves controversial voting reforms, scrapping the two-round system for presidential elections and allowing a president to be elected without an absolute majority. Opposition lawmakers boycott the sitting

Congo arrests army soldier Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutwara, accused of ordering his men to rape 67 women on New Year's Day in the town of Fizi, South Kivu

Feb – U.N. envoy to Congo Roger Meece says FDLR is weakening because of a combination of judicial action in Europe against leaders of the group, Security Council sanctions and a U.N.-backed military drive by the Congolese army

U.N. envoy Margot Wallstrom says in Jan. alone there were 182 reported rapes against Congolese women and girls caught up in mass expulsions from Angola to Congo

Nine soldiers are jailed for between 10 and 20 years for mass rape on New Year's Day in Fizi, South Kivu

Armed men attack Kabila's residence in a suspected coup attempt

Mar - Government lifts a mining ban imposed on North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema in September 2010 to cut off funding to armed groups

United Nations says LRA attacks are on the rise, and at least 35 people have been killed in 2011. The UNHCR says more than 100 people have been kidnapped and 17,000 displaced in Orientale province

Kinshasa recalls its ambassador to Republic of Congo over what it said was Brazzaville's suspected involvement in the Jan. attack on Kabila's residence

Congolese and Ugandan officials say LRA leader Joseph Kony has returned to Congo's east

Apr - Rwanda bans the sale of minerals from conflict-affected areas in Congo, in compliance with a U.S. law requiring minerals to be certified conflict-free

Electoral commission says Congo will hold presidential and legislative elections on Nov. 28

May - More than 400,000 women are raped in Congo every year, according to a study by U.S. researchers, but the United Nations questions findings

Jul - Main opposition MLC party name Bemba as its presidential candidate

Aug – ICC trial of Lubanga closes. A verdict is expected in 2012

Sep - Mai Mai militia leader Gideon Kyungu Mutanga escapes prison

Nov – Kabila wins presidential elections. The presidential poll and parliamentary elections are marred by allegations of fraud

2012

Feb - Independent National Electoral Commission releases provisional parliamentary results

Mar – EU electoral observers’ report says results of the presidential and legislative polls lack credibility

Apr - M23 rebel group launches rebellion that displaces tens of thousands of people in the following months

Jul – ICC sentences Lubanga to 14 years in prison

Oct - U.N. Security Council says it will impose sanctions on M23 leaders and violators of the DRC arms embargo. U.N. panel accuses Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the rebels, which both countries deny.

Nov - M23 rebels briefly enter North Kivu's capital, Goma. Congolese soldiers who withdraw to nearby Minova town in South Kivu, rape more than 126 women and girls, U.N. investigators find.

2013

Feb - Leaders of 11 African countries sign a U.N.-brokered accord, paving the way for a new military brigade to take on rebel groups in Congo

Jul – ICC sentences Lubanga to 14 years in prison

Oct - U.N. Security Council says it will impose sanctions on M23 leaders and violators of the DRC arms embargo. U.N. panel accuses Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the rebels, which both countries deny

Nov - M23 rebels briefly enter North Kivu's capital, Goma. Congolese soldiers who withdraw to nearby Minova town in South Kivu, rape more than 126 women and girls, U.N. investigators find

2013

Feb - Leaders of 11 African countries sign a U.N.-brokered accord, paving the way for a new military brigade to take on rebel groups in Congo

Mar - Bosco Ntaganda surrenders in Rwanda and is transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face charges of war crimes

July - New U.N. brigade is deployed to “neutralise” rebel groups, starting with M23

Nov - M23 declares an end to its insurgency and M23 leader Sultani Makenga surrenders

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