Democratic Republic of the Congo History Timeline

By | October 14, 2021

According to historyaah, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly DR Congo) or Congo Kinshasa is a country in Africa. The country was called Belgian Congo before independence in 1960 and Zaire from 1971 to 1997.

The country borders the Central African Republic and Sudan to the north, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east, Zambia and Angola to the south and the Republic of Congo to the west.

Both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo are located on the Congo River in western Central Africa. When the Democratic Republic of Congo changed its name from Congo to Zaire in 1971, the Congo River also changed its name to Zaire River. The river got the name Congo back after the country went back to the name DR Congo in 1997.

The name “Congo” comes from the Bantu language and means “mountain”. By mountain is meant a reference to Mount Stanley, which with its 5,110 meters constitutes the country’s highest point and is one of Africa’s highest mountains.

Among the first to explore the interior of DR Congo were David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. The only notable topographic feature of the Congo has to be said to be the huge Congo Basin, also called the Congo Basin. At the border of the Great Rift Valley to the east, the basin rises up to the volcanic mountain range Ruwenzori, which abruptly slides down to the valley’s many large lakes. In this area there are both rainforest and fog forest, which form the home of the now almost extinct, endemic mountain gorilla as well as the okapi. In the south there is savannah with giraffes, lions, antelopes and rhinos. In colonial times, the Congo was an obvious and favorite destination for adventurous Europeans, especially Belgians who wanted to go on safari.


19th century – Congo already had 10 centuries of political history behind it, when people in Central Europe became aware of its existence via the reports about Dr. Livingstone’s work in the period 1840-1870. In 1876, the Belgian king, Leopold II, founded the International African Association, a private enterprise that financed the expeditions of journalist and adventurer Henry M. Stanley. In just a few years, Stanley managed to sign 400 agreements on trade and defense with the local leaders of the tribes living on the banks of the Congo River. As a result of these agreements and the establishment of Belgian companies at the mouth of the river, a system of exploitation of the country was established, which was officially recognized at the Berlin Conference. The “Free State of the Congo” became the private property of the Belgian King Leopold and his Compagnie du Katanga,

1885 – Upon the arrival of the Belgians in the Congo, a comprehensive racial segregation was organized. The indigenous people were divided by the Belgians into three castes: the Tutsis, also called watutsi, who were tall, fair-skinned cattle breeders from lower Sudan, and who constituted an aristocracy in society; the Hutus, also called bahutu, who were low, dark-skinned farmers from eastern Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi, who constituted a majority oppressed by the Tutsis, as well as the pygmies (mbuti and twa people), who were physically the lowest. These were hunters and gatherers and often entered into a symbiotic collaboration with the peasant population, in which the pygmies exchanged for agricultural goods which they could not procure themselves. Under the Belgians, all members of the various ethnic groups were assigned special identity cards so that the colonial masters knew who they were dealing with. A problem for Belgians as well as the indigenous people was simply that being a Hutu or Tutsi was rather a cultural principle rather than a racial principle; anyone who owned cattle could become a Tutsi, while anyone who cultivated the land could become a Hutu. The problem gave rise to tensions between Hutus and Tutsis, while the pygmies were virtually marginalized.

1908 – Congolese people are subjected to the worst exploitation, which did not improve when the status of the area was changed by the Belgian colonial power. The army was constantly deployed to defeat the anti-imperialist resistance and to protect the highly profitable mining in Katanga.

1959 – First case of HIV in a man in the then Belgian Congo in Africa. The infection is spreading rapidly globally. Read more on Wikipedia about AIDS.

1959 – A brutal crackdown on a peaceful political rally by the police becomes the prelude to bloody racial riots. The Belgian king Bauduin tried to spawn oil on the waters by promising independence in the foreseeable future. The white colonizers responded with new waves of violence; independence was finally proclaimed in 1960 with Joseph Kasavubu as president and Lumumba as prime minister. Shortly afterwards, Moisés Chombe, Katanga’s then Prime Minister, founded a new independence movement.

1960 – During the unrest that followed the departure of the Belgians this year, many of the differences between the Hutus and the Tutsis became apparent. However, things went horribly wrong in neighboring Rwanda and Burundi, where genocide became a reality in 1962 and 1994 respectively.

1975 – With the introduction of the “African Doctrine of Origin”, Mobutu changed the country’s name to Zaire and its own name to Mobutu Sese Seko. Although these measures led to some disagreements with North American diplomacy, Mobutu managed to emerge as Washington’s ally in the region during the Cold War.

1978-1979 – Major offensives launched by the Congolese Liberation Front are repulsed solely with the assistance of French and Belgian paratroopers, as well as Moroccan and Egyptian forces – once again equipped with North American weapons.

1981 – In April, the then Prime Minister NguzaKarl iBond resigns and requests asylum in Belgium; he accused Mobutu of abusing power while trying to portray himself as a decent alternative to the widespread corruption in the country.

1984 – In the July election, Mobutu obtained 99.16% of the votes cast.

1984 – Angolan’s government claims that $ 15 million in aid from the Reagan administration was secretly channeled through Zaire to the FNLA; thus, the central African country was transformed into a veritable weapons depot for the FNLA.

1989 – During a visit to Washington in June, Mobutu obtained a $ 20 million loan from the World Bank. Mobutu had arrived in Washington with an important diplomatic victory behind him: in his hometown, Gbadolite, he had hosted the historic meeting between Angolan’s President Edoardo dos Santos and the leader of the UNITA rebel forces, Jonas Savimbi, where it was decided to enter into a ceasefire agreement to find a peaceful outcome to the conflict in Angola.

1990 – An army raid on the campus of Shuba Province, Lubumbashi, on the morning of May 11th. More than 100 students were murdered; the following day, survivors fled to other provinces and to Zambia, from where they could report the massacre. Mobutu managed to partially quell the rumors of the massacre, but nevertheless provoked a strong reaction from the EU, which demanded an international investigation, and from Belgium, which stopped all financial assistance. Mobutu’s plans for a liberalization of the system seemed, at least temporarily, to lose credibility. The massacre at the University of Lubumbashi, raised a storm of protests and strikes, such as. at Gecamina, the largest state-owned mining company; in the United States, aid was demanded to stop Mobutu.

1990 – In October, Mobutu bowed and decided to try another political liberalization, allowing political parties without restrictions. The majority among the opposition – united in the Holy Union, composed of 9 parties, i.a. the 4 largest – demanded in December Mobutu’s departure and the holding of an international conference to decide on Zaire’s political future – without the participation of the president.

1991 – In November, the Holy Union forms a “parallel” government and calls on the Army to overthrow Mobutu. The same month, the president appointed Nguza Karl in Bond as prime minister – the fifth during 1991. Former opposition leader Nguza had been head of government under Mobutu 10 years earlier; he took over the post during a period of economic crisis and international pressure from the United States in particular.

1992 – In March, Mobutu reopens the National Conference after allying with the President of the Conference, Archbishop Monsegwo Pasinya. The conference appointed Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the Holy Union, as the new Prime Minister to replace Nguza Karl-i-Bond. As a clear sign of his displeasure with the Mobutu regime, Monsegwo Pasinya was received in Washington by US Secretary of State James Baker and by the Senate Foreign Policy Committee.

1992 – The Prime Minister declares in December that the national currency has been withdrawn and a new one was put into circulation. Still, Mobutu continued to pay salaries to the soldiers with the old currency.

1993 – At the beginning of the year, there are direct confrontations between Mobutu’s private guard and rebellious soldiers who are furious at having received invalid money. These clashes led to the loss of more than 1,000 lives in Kinshasa. The city was ravaged by looting, fires and assaults by the agitated soldiers. The US State Department requested that France and Belgium seize Mobutu’s assets as a powerful remedy directed at him without harming either the country’s economy or North American and European investment. It is estimated that Mobutu – one of the richest men in the world – had a personal fortune of over $ 4 billion.

1996 – Riots escalate after Rwandan forces assisted by Zaire soldiers begin an ethnic cleansing in the eastern Masisi region, displacing and murdering Tutsis who had lived in the area for generations.

1997 – Opposition forces easily capture most of the country at the beginning of the year and a number of countries – including South Africa, USA, France and Belgium – tried to mediate. Nelson Mandela succeeded in getting Mobutu and Laurent Kabila to meet on a ship in international waters, where a transitional solution was discussed. The attempt failed, however, when Kabila demanded that Mobutu resign.

1997 – Mobutu fled the country on May 16, heading for Marollo, and the following day rebel forces invaded Kinshasa. Kabila appointed himself the new president. Mobutu died in Rabat on 7 September. The country’s new strong man took office the same month as president, with control of the army, parliament and administration. The new government changed the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo and introduced a number of initiatives to improve the economy. Switzerland reopened an inquiry into the plight of Mobutu’s assets deposited in several of the country’s banks.

1998 – In April, the country experienced the worst floods in 35 years, with large areas submerged and hundreds of thousands forced to flee. The government introduced a state of emergency.

1998 – Opposition led by intellectual Ernest Wamba dia Wamba quickly joined the Congolese Union for Democracy (RCD). It consisted of former members of the AFPDL party, which Kabila himself had founded, Tutsi refugees and demobilized Congolese soldiers. The union accused Kabila of returning to tribalism, and with arms support and officials from the governments of Rwanda and Uganda, it quickly occupied half the country. Kabila, in turn, struck again at the rebels under the slogan “the threat to the Bantu civilization.”

1999 – The conflict rapidly internationalizes, and in April Kabila and the presidents of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia announced the formation of an alliance in which each member undertook to intervene militarily if one of the others was attacked. Both Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia immediately sent troops and weapons to Kabila’s forces. In return, Rwanda and Uganda stepped up support for the rebels. Two years after the start of the civil war that brought Kabila to power, entire provinces were under the control of Rwanda and Uganda. The conflict is largely about which multinational companies should have control over the country’s enormous wealth.

2001 – In January, the conflict reaches Kabila itself. He was killed in an internal clash, and his son Joseph Kabila took over the presidency. Neighboring countries held immediately after an emergency meeting, where they collectively decided to support Joseph Kabila.

2001 – Under the auspices of the United Nations, a partial withdrawal of troops is carried out in May. It gave the humanitarian organizations access to the conflict areas that had previously been closed land, and it was only now that the scale of the disaster began to take shape. As a result of the war, a large part of the population had been displaced to remote areas where they did not have access to food, medicine or housing. Iflg. estimates from the International Committee of the Red Cross killed about 5% of the country’s population. In the eastern part of the country alone was about 2½ million. died. Most of malaria, diarrhea and violence – in that order.

2002 – In July, Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame sign a peace agreement to end four years of civil war on Congolese soil. The conflict was also called the “World War of Africa” and had involved the military from 6 countries, split the country into regions controlled by the government and rebel forces, respectively, and led to over 2½ million. human death. The agreement was reached in Pretoria, South Africa, and had as its main element Kabila’s promise to disarm and repatriate 12,000 Hutu soldiers of Rwandan descent, in exchange for Rwanda withdrawing its 30,000 soldiers from the Congo.

2003 – Violence continues in Ituri in the eastern part of the country, where fighting between the Hema and Lendu tribes has claimed 50,000 lives since 1999. In December 2003, the UN transferred about 8,000 of its 10,000 peacekeepers to Bunia, the capital of Ituri province, in an attempt to disarm the local militia and protect the civilian population. The result of the war has been that HIV / AIDS has become the biggest threat to the Congolese people. The mobility of soldiers in the war zones but especially the mass rapes of women, from little girls aged 5 to old aged 80, has caused the number of HIV cases to explode. In December, it was estimated that for every woman out of the 150 who seek help every month after rape and torture, 30 times more have been raped.

2004 – In August, Hutu rebels murdered over 160 Congolese Tutsi refugees in the Gatumba camp in Burundi near the border with DR Congo. Men armed with machetes and firearms attacked the camp, attacked its dilapidated huts, burned many refugees alive and killed those who tried to flee. Predominantly women and children. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers sharply condemned the massacre of innocent civilians.

2005 – In January, an internal investigation revealed that soldiers from the UN peacekeeping forces had bought sex from girls for eggs and milk. These were girls as young as 13 years old.

2006 – In July, the first free elections in 40 years are held. Kabila received 45% of the vote, winning in the western part of the country. Former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba won 20% and won, especially in the eastern part of the country, where Swahili is the dominant language. The former Deputy Prime Minister of the first independent government, Antoine Gizenga achieved 13%. As Kabila did not gain a majority in the first round, they had to wait until the second round of elections in October. Bemba stated that the election had been marked by fraud. Fighting flared up between supporters of the two candidates, costing 20 lives. Impressed by the growing tension, 400 UN soldiers were sent to the capital to stop the violence.

2006 – In September, Antoine Gizenga enters into a cooperation agreement with Kabila’s AMP. He was to support Kabila during the second round of elections for the presidency in October. in return, Gizenga was to be prime minister. Round 2 was won by Kabila with 58% of the vote. Bemba accepted the result and promised to take his place as leader of the opposition. In December, Gizenga was elected prime minister.

2007 – In February, Gizenga was able to present his government of 59 ministers. In November, the government was transformed and reduced to 44 ministers. After 40 years of Western-backed dictatorship and civil war, it had succeeded in leading the country on a democratic path.

2007 – A Swiss president, Michelin Calmy-Rey, declares during a visit to the Congo in July that the money Congo’s former dictator Mobuto had kept in Swiss banks would be returned to the Congolese people. Initially, it was 6.6 million. US $, but it is believed that Mobuto had several billion. US $ in Swiss accounts.

2008 – March 21. In Nyanzale and Rutshuru in North Kivu in the east of the DRC meetings Doctors Without Borders (MSF) renewable disasters – including malnutrition, violence and epidemics. The region suffers from persistent insecurity, where the population is exposed to violent attacks and therefore has to flee. Here, Romain Gitenet, who leads MSF’s efforts in North Kivu, provides an update on the work in the region. Read the rest here.

2008 – November. The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed the lives of more than 3.4 million people since 1997. Despite a peace agreement between the warring parties and the deployment of a transitional government in 2003, executions without law and order, mass killings of civilians, rape, torture and illegal detention, as well as widespread recruitment and use of child soldiers, are regularly reported.

Democratic Republic of the Congo History Timeline