History of the conflict

The 1994 Rwandan Genocide

  • In the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed, millions of Rwandan refugees flooded into the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • As a new Tutsi government was established in Rwanda after the genocide, more than two million Hutus sought refuge in eastern Congo.
  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that only 7% of these refugees were perpetrators of the genocide — often referred to as Interhamwe or FDLR (the Federation for the Liberation of Rwanda).

The First Congo War

  • In 1996 Rwanda and Uganda invaded the eastern DRC in an effort to root out the remaining perpetrators of the genocide.
  • A coalition comprised of the Ugandan and Rwandan armies, along with Congolese opposition leader Laurent Désiré Kabila, eventually defeated dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
  • Laurent Désiré Kabila became president in May 1997 and in 1998 he ordered Rwandan and Ugandan forces to leave the eastern DRC, fearing annexation of the mineral-rich territory by the two regional powers.
  • Kabila’s government received military support from Angola and Zimbabwe and other regional partners.

The Second Congo War

  • The ensuing conflict has often been referred to as Africa’s World War with nine countries fighting each other on Congolese soil.
  • After a bodyguard shot and killed President Kabila in 2001, his son Joseph Kabila was appointed president at the age of 29.
  • The April 2002 Sun City Agreement, the ensuing July 2002 Pretoria Accord between Rwanda and Congo, as well as the Luanda Agreement between Uganda and Congo, put an official end to the war as the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo took power in July 2003.
  • In 2006 Joseph Kabila won the presidency in the DRC’s first democratic elections in 40 years.

Rwandan-Congolese Cooperation

  • In 2008 the DRC and Rwanda joined forces to root out the FDLR in South and North Kivu provinces.
  • In January 2009 the CNDP split and as part of a deal between Rwanda and the DRC, Kigali put CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda under house arrest.
  • The remaining CNDP splinter faction, led by Bosco Ntaganda, was supposed to integrate into the national army. But instead, Ntaganda led a new rebel group, M23, which became active in eastern Congo in 2012.
  • Ntaganda, also known as “the Terminator,” walked in to the U.S. embassy in Kigali in March 2013 and surrendered to the International Criminal Court’s custody. Accused of thirteen counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, Ntaganda’s trial is currently underway in The Hague. 

Current Conflicts in eastern Congo

The peace process in eastern Congo continues to be fragile with multiple armed groups operating throughout the region, terrorizing civilians and blocking the path to long-term peace.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda

The FDLR currently operates in eastern Congo and Katanga province with an estimated 2,000 combatants. The FDLR’s official mission is to put military pressure on the Rwandan government to open an “inter-Rwandan dialogue.”

The Allied Democratic Forces

ADF is a Ugandan rebel group based along the Rwenzori Mountains of eastern Congo that currently numbers approximately 500 combatants. Most of its members are Islamists who want to establish Shari’a law in Uganda.

The Lord’s Resistance Army

LRA is a Ugandan rebel group currently based along the northern border areas of Congo as well as in the eastern Central African Republic. The group was formed by members of the Acholi tribe in Northern Uganda.

The National Liberation Forces

FNL is a Burundian rebel group originally formed in 1985 as the military wing of the Hutu-led rebel group, the PALIPEHUTU. The FNL currently appears to be in an alliance with Mai Mai Yakutumba and the FDLR in South Kivu.

Mai-Mai Militias

There are currently six Mai-Mai militias (community-based militia groups) operating in the Kivus: the Mai-Mai Yakutumba, Raia Mutomboki, Mai-Mai Nyakiliba, Mai-Mai Fujo, Mai-Mai Kirikicho, and Resistance Nationale Congolaise.

Additional Research

Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Council on Foreign Relations

Congo: Ending the Status Quo

International Crisis Group

Understanding Conflict in Eastern Congo

International Crisis Group

MONUSO’s Peacekeeping Mission in Eastern Congo


North Kivu Fact Sheet