Timeline: The Congo in Conflict
Founding of the Congo
1200s: Rise of Congo Empire.
1482: Portuguese navigator Diogo Cao is first European to enter Congo.
16th – 17th Centuries: British, Dutch, Portuguese merchants engage
in slave trade. Congo engaged in civil war as well as wars with Portugal.
1870s: Belgian King Leopold II sets up private venture to colonize Congo. British Explorer Henry Stanley navigates Congo River to Atlantic Ocean.
1885: Leopold establishes Congo Free State. Rules via mercenary force, establishing rubber plantations and brutally exploiting the Congolese. Enriches his personal fortune and that of Belgium. 10 million Congolese killed.
1908: Reports of brutal exploitation force Leopold to relinquish Congo to Belgian government.
1959: Belgium loses control over Congo following nationalist riots in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa, capital of Congo).
1960: Congo gains independence with nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba as Prime Minister and Joseph Kasavubu as President of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kasavubu dismisses Lumumba as Prime Minister and arrests him.
1961: Lumumba assassinated.
1965: Kasavubu ousted in coup led by Joseph Mobutu, who renames country Zaire.
1991: After years of economic decline, Mobutu agrees to coalition government with opposition leaders.
1994: Two million Hutu refugees flee Rwanda after genocide ends. Interahamwe rebel militias set up camps in Eastern Congo and attack Rwandan and Congolese Tutsis.
First Congo War
1996-97: Mobutu supports Hutus; does nothing to stop the killing. Rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila, a follower of Lumumba, declares himself President and restores country’s name to Democratic Republic of Congo.
1998: Kabila suspected of corruption and loses support. Turns against Rwandan and Ugandan allies, ordering them out of the country. They turn against him, setting the stage for the Second Congo War.
Second Congo War
1998: Second Congo War begins, involving eight African nations and 25 armed groups.
1999: Six African countries, Rwandan and Ugandan rebels sign ceasefire accord. Other rebel forces refuse to sign. Former allies Uganda and Rwanda fight over the future of Kisangani region in northeast Congo.
2000: UN Security Council sends MONUC peacekeeping force to monitor ceasefire. Shifting alliances of paramilitary and irregular groups incite further conflict. MONUC later becomes complicit in Congo crimes.
2001: Laurent Kabila shot dead by bodyguard. His son, Joseph Kabila, succeeds him. UN panel states conflict prolonged due to the plundering of gold, diamonds, timber and coltan.
2002: Presidents of Congo and Rwanda sign peace agreement.
2003: Formal end to the war by agreement to create a government of national unity. 5.4 million people killed, mostly from starvation and disease brought about by deadliest conflict since World War II. Many more are displaced, living in the forests of the Congo, refugee camps, or have sought asylum in neighboring countries. Conflicts continue in the Eastern Congo driven, among other things, by the trade of conflict minerals.