Chronology of the Democratic Republic of Congo/Zaire (1960-1997)

6 April, 2010
Lanotte Olivier


General Presentation

The ex-Belgian Congo became independent on 30 June 1960. Joseph Kasa-Vubu, President of the Association des Bakongo (ABAKO), became President of the new state, which took the name of Republic of the Congo, while Patrice Lumumba, leader of the Congolese National Movement/Majority (MNC-L) and winner of the legislative elections in May, acceded to the post of Prime Minister. However, the celebrations were short-lived, since the young Congolese state was soon confronted with a series of internal conflicts that threatened the unity of the country and exposed its population to the torments of civil war. On 10 July, disappointed that independence had brought no change in their condition, the soldiers of the Public Force mutinied against their European officers. The exactions committed by the mutineers, which were blown up out of all proportion by the Western press – official Belgian documents in fact refer to a total of four deaths and 52 rapes of Europeans (Hoskyns, 1965: 48) – and the panic that ensued among the 97,000 whites still in the Congo, quickly led to the intervention of metropolitan Belgian forces stationed at Kamina and Kitona, in order to protect and evacuate foreign nationals. Perceived as an act of ‘aggression’, this intervention prompted transformation of the mutiny into a military conflict between Belgium and the Congo.

On 11 July, as the unrest spread to the whole country, the leader of the mining province of Katanga, Moïse Tshombe, who enjoyed the support of the Mining Union of Haut-Katanga (UMHK) and a large majority of settlers, took advantage of the Belgian intervention and the chaos in Leopoldville to proclaim the independence of Katanga. A month later, on 8 August, it was the turn of the mining state of South Kasai to secede under the auspices of the leader of the Congolese National Movement/Minority (MNC-K), Albert Kalonji. On 13 July, Prime Minister Lumumba severed diplomatic relations with Belgium and appealed to the United Nations to put an end to the secession of Katanga, where the situation was further complicated by the fact that the General Association of the Baluba of Katanga (Balubakat) and its leader, Jason Sendwe, were opposed to the secession led by Tshombe. Very soon, gangs of young Baluba in their turn rebelled against Elisabethville, while Jason Sendwe proclaimed the creation of a province of Lualaba in North Katanga.

On 5 September, the exactions committed during operations to recapture South Kasai (first stage in Leopoldville’s offensive against Katanga) by the Public Force, renamed the Congolese National Army (ANC) in the interim, led President Kasa-Vubu to replace Patrice Lumumba by Joseph Ileo at the head of the Congolese government. On 14 September, when Patrice Lumumba refused to submit and in turn deposed President Kasa-Vulu, Colonel Mobutu seized power and suspended the institutions. He retained Joseph Kasa-Vubu at the head of the state, placed Patrice Lumumba under house arrest, and transferred power to a College of Commissars composed of young academics (Binza Group) led by Justin-Marie Bomboko. This coup d’état prompted the supporters and allies of Patrice Lumumba to take refuge in Stanleyville, where the leader of the African Solidarity Party (PSA) and former Deputy Prime Minister of the Lumumba government, Antoine Gizenga, likewise removed on 5 September, reconstituted a central government containing a number of Lumumbist ministers.

Having sought in vain to join Antoine Gizenga in Stanleyville, Patrice Lumumba was transferred to Elisabethville on 17 January 1961, where he was murdered by Moïse Tshombe’s troops. A month later, on 13 February, the College of Commissars was dissolved in favor of a provisional government headed by Joseph Ileo. The Congo now had three concurrent governments – at Leopoldville (Ileo), Stanleyville (Gizenga) and Elisabethville (Tshombe).

In August 1961, in a spirit of reconciliation, President Kasa-Vubu replaced Joseph Ileo by the trade-unionist Cyrille Adoula, who was charged with forming a government of national unity containing Lumumbist nationalists (including Gizenga and Gbenye) and members of the Binza group, and which was to govern the Congo until June 1964 with the help of the United Nations. The ‘reconciliation’ between supporters of President Kasa-Vubu and the Lumumbist nationalists, which signaled the victory of centrist forces, did not mean a return to calm. Although named Deputy Prime Minister of the Adoula government, Antoine Gizenga stood his ground in his bastion of Stanleyville. Moreover, Moïse Tshombe’s Katanga still categorically refused to return to the bosom of Leopoldville.

Antoine Gizenga was the first to be neutralized. In January 1962, General Lundula and Christophe Gbenye, having negotiated with General Mobutu, proceeded to his arrest and sent him to Leopoldville, where he was put under house arrest. The conflict between Elisabethville and the central government took longer to resolve, since it lasted another year – and this despite the increasingly marked intervention of the United Nations Organization in the Congo (ONUC). Between August 1961 and January 1963, UN troops launched three major offensives to end the Katangese secession. However, it was not until the offensive of December 1962 that the UN’s efforts were finally crowned with success. On 15 January 1963, Katanga surrendered. In the days that followed, while Moïse Tshombe went into exile, numerous mercenaries and Katangese gendarmes took refuge in Angola.

Chronological Sequence

1960; July: In the context of the mutiny by the Public Force, an unknown number of Europeans are killed in various towns of the Congo, particularly in Elisabethville, Stanleyville, Coquilhatville, Goma and so on (Hoskyns, 1965: 48; Lantier, 1969: 99). In mid-July, as Europeans flee the Congo and seek refuge in Angola, 42 people are killed in the Noki region on the border between Congo and Angola. (Rouch, 1961: 28) *

13 July: An unknown number of Congolese soldiers accompanying a column of European refugees to the airport are killed in cold blood in the centre of Leopoldville by a section of the Belgian intervention forces. (Willame, 1990: 155) *

August: The age-old conflict between Lulua and Baluba in the Luluabour region in the Kasai leads to the forced departure of many Baluba. An unknown number of Baluba are killed (Scholl-Latour 1988: 196-197). On the margins of this conflict between Lulua and Baluba, two Batshoke parliamentarians (an ethnic group allied to the Baluba) are assassinated by Lulua. In reprisal, 51 Lulua civilians are murdered and chopped into pieces by Batshoke fighters at the exit from the mission of the Scheut Fathers near Tshikapa. (Rouch, 1961: 123) *

August–December: The offensive of the Congolese National Army against South Kasai gives rises to countless killings. Thus, 80 civilians are killed on 26 August by the ANC at Miabi (Kalonji, 1992). In the days following the bloodless recapture of Bakwanga on 28 August (de Witte, 2000: 55-58; Willame, 1990: 191), the ANC has to confront attacks by civilian supporters of Albert Kalonji. On 29 August, when the Baluba demonstrate their opposition to the presence of the ANC, soldiers fire on the crowd and pursue the rioters. There are fifteen deaths. Hundreds of Baluba are imprisoned; 70 of them are executed at Bena Makala. In the days that follow, ANC troops organize a ‘sweep’ of the villages around Bakwanga. The repression of the Baluba is savage. According to the cautious estimates of the United Nations, it caused at least 300 deaths. On 31 August, 60 Baluba civilians who had taken refuge in the premises of the Saint Jean mission at Bakwa Nyanguila are killed by the ANC. On 4 September, following a clash between armed forces and supporters of Kalonji, ANC soldiers finish off all the wounded left behind by the Baluba rebels. In the process, they raze the village of Lukelenge, from which the Baluba insurgents appear to have come, and kill anything that moves in it. The following day, ANC forces set fire to the village of Tshilenge, causing the deaths of many civilians. Finally, other sources refer, albeit less precisely, to murders committed by ANC forces at Kasengulu.

(Brassine, Kestergat, 1991: 51-55; Gérard-Libois, Verhaegen, 1961: 806; Rouch, 1961: 115-122; Scholl-Latour, 1988: 138-140; Willame, 1990: 192) **

The conflict in South Kasai causes a famine that affects 300,000 refugees and leads to cases of cannibalism. According to a UN source, in December 1960 at least 200 refugees die of hunger each day (Gérard-Libois, Verhaegen, 1961: 810-811; Scholl-Latour, 1988: 200). In the oral and popular memory of Kasai, accounts of these tragic events have fuelled the thesis of a ‘genocide of the Baluba’ orchestrated by the Congolese National Army and Prime Minister Lumumba (Faïk-Nzuji, 2005: 150-164; Kalonji, 1992; Ndaywel, 1997: 575) – something rejected by a number of observers (Hoskyns, 1965: 48; Willame, 1990: 187-196). However that may be, the clashes between the ANC and the pro-Kalonji militias in total caused the death of 5-10,000 civilians (Muya Bia, 1982; 131; Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992a: 71-75).

The violence is not solely attributable to ANC forces. Thus, in September a cohort of 600 ‘militants’ of the MNC-Kalonji, commanded by a certain Dinungu, leaves Elisabethville to recapture South Kasai. Having arrived at its destination, it splits up into several gangs that pillage and kill everything on their way (Dedeken, 1978: 78, 11: Kestergat, 1986: 74; Willame, 1990: 194-195).

13 September : The Balubakat Youth kill the departmental head, as well as all the members of the administration of the Lualaba departement (territory of Bukama in North Katanga). In the days that follow, several dozen people are killed during attacks on the villages of the region – for example, at Mukula Kula, where 22 civilians (including three children) are executed by Balubakat Youth led by Lievin Nyembo. (Katangese Government, n.d.(a): 32; Sonck, 1998: 21) *

15-16 September: Violent repression of the Baluba rebellion in North Katanga by the Katangese gendarmerie commanded by Colonel Crèvecoeur. On 15 September, when leaving the train at Luena station, Katangese gendarmes police open fire on the crowd, causing many casualties. For two days they criss-cross Luena and the surrounding villages. Many civilians are arrested and taken in trucks to an unknown destination. United Nations troops find these vehicles abandoned some days later. They count 68 bodies, all of them Baluba. (Gérard-Libois, Verhaegen, 1961: 774) **

In the months that follow, ‘clashes’ and the repression of the Baluba of North Katanga proliferate, causing many civilian casualties – for example, in Mitwaba on 1 October, when twenty Baluba are killed by Katangese gendarmes (Gérard-Libois, Verhaegen, 1961: 776). Some estimates refer to 7,000 Baluba killed in North Katanga by Katangese gendarmerie between August and September 1960 (Bakajika, 1997: 115; Davister, 1960: 249-254). The terror continues in 1961 until the forces of the United Nations in the Congo intervene to prevent military operations by the Katangese police in North Katanga. (Dayal, 1976: 184, 200-201; Gérard-Libois, 1963: 146-150; Lefever, 1965: 63; O’Brien, 1962: 140-156) **

6-7 October: An unknown number of civilians, including European agents wounded during fighting, are executed in atrocious conditions by the Balubakat Youth in the Kabalo region. (Katangese Government n.d.(a): 27-29; Kennes, 2003, 59-61; Willemart, 1988: 59-61) *

30 October: The Mulopwe Boniface Kabongo Kalowa is assassinated with an unknown number of members of his family and entourage by a certain Mukumbi, a Kitawalist leader of the region, and the Balubakat Youth. (Kabuya Lumuna, 1992: 44-72) **

13-15 November: Fifteen notables (including the hereditary chiefs Vincent Yangala, Norbert Kisimba and Bernard Kaboko), and teachers accused of being members of Moïse Tshombe’s party, the Confederation of Tribal Associations of Katanga (CONAKAT), are executed at Manono after having been beaten to the point of death by the Balubakat Youth of Ankoro led by a certain Yumba and the chief Kiluba Mufungahema. (Katangese Government, n.d.(a): 21-27; Kabuya Lumuna, 1992, 74-80; Kennes, 2003: 58, 342-345; Kissiki, 1995: 59-103) **

1961; 7-8 January: During the capture of Manono in North Katanga, ANC troops execute all the Katangese gendarmes they have captured. They are mutilated before being shot (Lantier, 1969: 125) *

30 January: While Manono is hosting the inaugural ceremonies of the Province of Lualaba, the city is deliberately bombed by the Katangese air force, causing an unknown number of civilian casualties. (Gérard-Libois, 1963: 192) *

February: ANC troops kill an unknown number of civilians in Luluabourg, forcing 1,200 people to seek refuge with the ONUC. (Dayal, 1976: 221) *

In reprisal for the assassination on 17 January of Patrice Lumumba and his companions, Joseph Mpolo and Maurice Okito, in a villa not far from Elisabethville in Katanga, five ANC officers and 11 political prisoners regarded as anti-Lumumbist are killed by Gizengist forces, apparently commanded by the head of the police squad Félix Mukulubundu, at Osio prison in Stanleyville. (Mpisi, 2007: 403) *

February–March: During the counter-offensive it is conducting with the help of foreign mercenaries in North Katanga, and which will lead it to retake Manono on 30 March, the Katangese gendarmerie commanded by the Belgian Colonel Crèvecoeur proves pitiless, causing countless casualties among the Baluba. (Lantier, 1969: 126) *

17 February: At the same time as Patrice Lumumba is eliminated, twelve Lumumbist nationalists – among them, Jean-Pierre Finant, Jacques Lumbala, Emmanuel Nzuzi, Christophe Muzungu, Jacques Fataki, Pierre-Léopold Elengesa and Camille Yangara – are arrested at Leopoldville on the orders of the head of Congolese Security, Victor Nendaka, and handed over to Albert Kalonji’s forces in Bakwanga. They are immediately taken to Kasengulu, where they are summarily executed. (De Witte, 2000: 238; Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992a: 76-80; Kamba, 2008: 165-166) **

27-28 April: Visiting Port-Franqui on 27 April, the Congolese Interior Minister publicly criticizes the local ANC forces of being anti-Lulua and a source of unrest in the ethnic conflict rocking the north of Kasai. He threatens to have them disarmed by the United Nations forces if this does not change. The following day, the ONUC garrison at Port-Franqui is attacked by ANC troops, who think it shares the pro-Lulua bias of the Interior Minister. 47 UN troops (Ghanaian, Swedish and British) are killed, some of them after they have been disarmed. (Cremer, 2003: 52-59; Dorn, Bell, 2003: 272; Hoskyns, 1965: 49; Packham, 2004: 185) **

13-14 September: The violent fighting resulting from Operation Morthor , launched by the UN forces in Katanga in order to get their hands on the mercenaries (who are constantly harassing ONUC’s positions) present alongside Katangese police in Elisabethville, allegedly causes the death of 500 Katangese. The brutality of the UN troops is condemned throughout the world. According to a Katangese source, Indian gurkhas from the United Nations finish off with submachine guns wounded Katangan police who have been taken prisoner during the capture of Radio Katanga. (Katangese Government, n.d.(b): 10; Kestergat, 1986: 111-114) *

October: The bombardment of two villages of South Kasai by Katangese forces causes numerous civilian casualties. (Verhaegen, 1962: 617) *

11 November: Thirteen Italian airmen from the United Nations taken for mercenaries are captured at Kindu by Gizengist forces of the 20th Stanleyville battalion commanded by Colonel Vital Pakasa. They are killed before being dismembered and partially eaten by their executioners. (Boissonnade, 1990: 141-142; Hoskyns, 1965: 49; Kestergat, 1986: 116-117; Lefever, 1965: 91-92; Mpisi, 2007: 342-343; Report on action by troops of… , 1961: Verhaegen, 1962, 537-540; Verhaegen, 1969: 173-174) **

29 December: 50 civilians belonging to tribes other than the Bahembe are arrested by the Katangese gendarmerie (who are preparing to abandon the town in the face of the advance of ANC troops) and taken to the central prison of Kongolo, where they are shot. (Tison, 1962) **

1 January: Twenty European missionaries from the Congregation of the Holy Spirit suspected of being mercenaries in disguise are shot and then mutilated by forces of the ANC-Gizenga tendency, in the compound of the military camp of Kongolo in North Katanga. In the days that follow, the killing is condemned by the commander of the ANC battalion, Colonel Vital Pakasa, and the commander-in-chief of the ANC, General Victor Lundula, on a visit to Kongolo (Darmont, 1962; Kestergat, 1986: 123; Tison, 1962; Un des Vingt vous parle , 1962). An unknown number of Congolese civilians are summarily executed by Gizengist forces. According to the Minister of National Defense of the Katangese government, Joseph Yav, when Katangese gendarmes reoccupy Kongolo on 17 February 1962, they find the bodies of 880 Congolese civilians killed by the ANC. (Gérard-Libois, 1963: 286; Kestergat, 1986: 123; Lefever, 1965: 104) **

1962; 24-30 December: The offensive launched by ONUC to put a definitive end to the Katangese secession allegedly causes the death of dozens of civilians in Elisabethville. According to a Katangese source, after having subjected the city to intense bombing, Ethiopian UN troops deliberately kill 57 Western and Katangese civilians who have given themselves up. (Boissonnade, 1990: 156; Burlion, 1969: 68-74; Katangese Government, n.d.(b): 18-25; Hoskyns, 1965: 49-50) **


General Presentation

With the end of the Katangese secession and unity restored, political disputes resumed with a vengeance in Leopoldville – and all the more bitterly because the activities of the Adoula government were increasingly run by members of the ‘Binza Group’ favorable to the West and, with successive government reshuffles, the nationalist current was gradually reduced to a minimum. On 29 September 1963, President Kasa-Vubu dissolved Parliament to put an end to the attacks of the nationalist opposition, which constantly troubled the government of Prime Minister Adoula. This decision provoked an extraordinary assembly of nationalist parties to organize secretly and to opt for the path of armed insurrection. On 3 October, meeting in Brazzaville, the unitarian parties organized themselves into a coalition, the National Liberation Council (CNL), led by Christophe Gbenye. Its objective was a ‘second independence’ – in other words, the overthrow of the ‘neo-colonial’ regime of Leopoldville and the establishment of the ‘revolution’, which were to constitute the advent of the total and genuine decolonization of the Congo and the reign of ‘economic prosperity’, ‘equal shares’, peace, ‘complete freedom and democracy’. To do this, it was now necessary to fight not the Belgians or Americans, but the fellow countrymen in their pay – the ‘neo-colonialists’, the ‘lackeys of imperialism’, ‘those who have sold the Congo to the Americans’ and who are called the ‘PNP’ (Pene pene na mundele ), with reference to the National Party of Progress (PNP), ironically dubbed ‘Party of Paid Negroes’ on account of its accommodating positions towards Belgian interests. This rupture consummated the long deterioration in the relations between radical Lumumbists and the moderates of the MNC (Ndaywel, 1997: 536, 606-611).

In January 1964, the deputy Pierre Mulele (Minister of Public Education in the Lumumba government) and Théodore Bengila, who had gone underground some weeks earlier, unleashed the first major peasant uprisiing of independent Africa in Kwilu. In April 1964, Louis Bidalira, and then Gaston Soumialot, Nicolas Olenga and Laurent-Désiré Kabila, launched a second revolutionary movement in the Fizi-Uvira region in Eastern Congo. This rebellion rapidly expanded to encompass North Katanga (June), Kivu-Maniema (July), Sankuru (August), and reached its apogee with the capture of Stanleyville (August), which soon became the capital of a ‘Popular Republic of the Congo’ led by Christophe Gbenye. Over and above their points of ideological convergence (myth of a ‘second independence’), these various rebellions shared the common characteristics of using esoteric practices to make fighters believe that they were invulnerable to enemy bullets. To do this, fighters were summoned to celebrations in which initiates were sprinkled with a holy water. However, the effectiveness of these magical practices and incantations (‘dawa’) was subject to a series of rules so restrictive that any failure in the mechanism of magical protection could always be explained by the non-observance of the countless rules of behavior imposed on the Simba fighters.

In September 1964, as Moïse Tshombe was recalled to Kinshasa and became Prime Minister, Leopoldville launched a counter-offensive to retake control of the territory in CNL hands in the east of the country. It was carried out with the support of mercenaries, former Katangese gendarmes (the ‘diabos’), anti-Castro Cuban pilots from the CIA, and Belgian officers and non-commissioned officers commanded by Colonel Vandewalle. This re-conquest caused a very high number of casualties among the civilian population and in the ranks of the Simba. «Where they [the columns of mercenaries and Congolese soldiers] pass through,’ notes an observer, ‘nothing is going to survive: not a man, not a woman, not a child, not a pig, a chicken, a dog, not a house.» The mercenaries, whose ranks contain former SS soldiers, are merciless, not hesitating in numerous places to systematically spray every hut with machine-gun fire before routinely setting them ablaze (Honorin, 1980: 45; Lantier, 1969: 202-211; Le Bailly, 1967: 242-243).

As in the case of Kwilu (cf. below), the esoteric practices employed by the leaders of the People’s Liberation Army (APL) to get young people high on cannabis, and armed simply with assegais and bows and arrows, to throw themselves into attacks on ANC forces and mercenaries underlay bloody defeats in Simba ranks throughout the east of the country, as at Kamanyola in Kivu in June 1964. In most cases, these pitched battles turned into carnage. Persuaded by their leaders that they were invulnerable to bullets, the Simba advanced defenseless before the machine guns of the mercenaries, who mowed them down in successive waves. As for the survivors of these predictable ‘massacres’, they were invariably summarily executed by the mercenaries or ANC forces (Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 72-74; Hoare, 1967: 83; Honorin, 1980: 45; Kestergat, 1965: 61-77).

On 28 October, in face of the unstoppable advance of the ANC and mercenaries, President Gbenye declared all foreigners living in his zone of influence hostage and threatened to execute them if the United States of America and Belgium did not suspend their aid to the central government in Leopoldville. This taking hostage of all foreigners by the Stanleyville government served as a pretext for direct intervention by Belgium and the United States. On 24 November 1964, three days after the appeal for help by Moïse Tshombe, Belgian soldiers, ANC troops and ‘special volunteers’ commanded by Jean Schramme seized Stanleyville through a dual intervention by air and land (Operations Dragon rouge and Ommegang ) and freed 2,000 Europeans. The same operation was repeated a few days later with the capture of the town of Paulis (Dragon noir ). In the weeks and months that followed, as the popular rebellions crumbled and their principal leaders fled abroad, the ANC and white mercenaries progressively ‘liberated’ the whole of Eastern Congo.

This period of rebellions was especially conducive to mass violence committed by the different protagonists. The available documentation – which contains few if any ‘on the spot’ inquiries, and is essentially composed of research work and accounts constructed on the basis of testimony collected after the event – does not permit of an exhaustive inventory of the countless murders, or even precise, verifiable information on all the events of which history has preserved a trace and that are mentioned below.

The multiple killings committed by the rebels involved at least 20,000 victims. They literally decimated the elite and the middle class of the regions controlled by the rebellions (Young, 1965: 30). According to Benoït Verhaegen, the mass violence attributable to the rebels can be divided into four major categories: (1) killings that immediately followed the capture of a locality; (2) organized public executions; (3) sporadic, uncontrolled assassinations; and finally (4) organized, non-public executions.

The first two categories were most often perpetrated by Simba, who came from outside and therefore did not personally know their victims, who were generally handed over by nationalist youth. In some localities, lists of people to be eliminated were drawn up. The aim of these killings was to strangle any opposition at birth and impose the regime through terror, showing populations the fate that awaited all those who sought to oppose the Simba. It was also a question, explains Benoït Verhaegen, of ‘creating among the masses a concrete image of the rebel ideology by denouncing and eliminating certain categories of person presented as the enemies of the rebellion’. With that in mind, ‘the initial executions almost always involved three sorts of condemned person: officers of the regular army (accused, with the politicians, of having killed the national hero Patrice Lumumba), thieves and politicians – in particular, members of the National Progress Party (PNP), close to Belgian interests – or senior civil servants’, accused of having sold the Congo to the Belgians and Americans. ‘Thus, political crimes were merged with common law crimes; politicians and civil servants who had got rich seemed to be merely a particular species of thief.’ This policy of terror very often continued for weeks on end, in increasingly anarchic fashion. Alongside organized killings, the captured regions were the scene of numerous sporadic, uncontrolled assassinations, carried out arbitrarily for tribalist reasons or simply for purposes of personal revenge.

The anarchical continuation of executions soon generated disgust among the populations. Popular participation, ‘plentiful at the outset, but obligatory’, often declined as the weeks passed – to the extent that, from October 1964, the increasingly obvious disillusionment of local populations prompted rebel leaders to favor non-public executions, carried out at night or in remote places (Verhaegen, 1967: 355-356).

Chronological Sequence

1964; January: During the first weeks of the popular uprising led by Pierre Mulele in Kwilu, the rebels kill more than 100 policemen, civil servants and territorial agents. The executions are invariably entrusted to women or young girls, who stun the condemned with baton blows before burying them, sometimes still alive (Verhaegen, 1987: 132-136; Verhaegen, 2007: 74-82, 246-247). At the same time, some youngsters who refuse to join the maquis are killed (Verhaegen, 1966: 110). The esoteric practices employed by rebel leaders lead thousands of supporters of Mulele directly to the slaughterhouse. Launched armed with assegais, bows and arrows and magic incantations against well-organized, modern armies, the Simba are invariably decimated. During the ‘suicide’ attacks carried out by the rebellion against Kandale (25 January), Idiofa (25 and 26 January) and Gungu (31 January and 2 February), a few disciplined soldiers are enough each time to cause hundreds, even thousands, of casualties in the Mulelist ranks. (Verhaegen, 2007: 101, 197) **

1964-1968: A scorched earth policy (closure of the Idiofa-Kikwit-Gungu zone, villages razed, harvests destroyed) intended to isolate the Mulelist rebels, and the reprisals carried out by ANC forces in order to ‘pacify’ Kwilu, cause 60-70,000 deaths among the civilian population. In Kikwit, more than 3,000 people, sometimes whole families, are executed by ANC soldiers commanded by Colonel Joseph Monzimba, who named the military camp he commanded ‘National Butchery of Kikwit’.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1966: 128-134; Gérard-Libois, 1967: 329-330; Martens, 1985: 177-178, 278; Monguya, 1977: 60-61; Verhaegen, 1987: 137-139; Verhaegen, 1989: 91-92; Verhaegen, 2007: 82-84, 271-279) **

1964; 15 April: Rebels of the CNL-East Section attack in the plain of Ruzizi in Kivu and reach Bukavu. Furnished with ‘lists of political figures to be shot’, they kill at least eight civilians and four policemen there (Masson, 1970: 107; Verhaegen, 1966: 297-299). A little later in the day, having recovered from their initial surprise, government forces retake control of the situation and capture thirteen Simba fighters. Taken to the police camp of Bagira, they are summarily executed by the policemen.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 58; Masson, 1970: 107; Verhaegen, 1987: 164-165) **

16-19 May: During the capture of Uvira and Kalundu, 100 people are killed by the rebels of the CNL-East Section. For three days, policemen, civil servants, military personnel and all those suspected of having collaborated with the ‘Ancien regime’, are subject to a manhunt and killed on the spot, without trial, by the insurgents commanded by Colonel Louis Bidalira. (Masson, 1970: 113; Verhaegen, 1966: 308) **

27-29 May: Popular uprising in Albertville in North Katanga. Having briefly sympathized with the insurgents, and fearing reprisals in case of recapture of the town by the regular troops of Colonel Bobozo, the forces of order severely repress the insurrection: estimates vary from 55 to 500 people killed, mainly civilians who had taken no active part in the events and whose only fault was to have witnessed their fraternization with the insurgents on 27 May.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 75-76; Kennes, 2003: 134-135; Lantier, 1969: 194; Lejeune, 1965: 11-12; Vandewalle, 1970: 78; Verhaegen, 1966: 421-428) **

12 June: Several hundred young Simba high on dope, who are shouting as they wave their traditional weapons, are attacked with canons and machine guns by ANC forces commanded by General Mobutu and T-28 aircraft flown by foreign mercenaries at Kamanyola, on the road linking Uvira and Bukavu.

(Gérard-Livois, Van Lierde, 1965: 71-74; Kestergat, 1965: 62-64; Sonck, 2002c) *

June–October: The capture of Kivu-Maniema by the rebels of the People’s Liberation Army (APL) gives rise to countless incidents of mass violence on both sides. The two camps ‘exterminate one another mercilessly’. During the first weeks of the offensive, the Simba are defeated by the Warega at Kitutu and then at Mwenga in Urega country. Several dozen fugitives are arrested and executed before being dismembered and eaten by the Rega warriors (Verhaegen, 1969: 293-296). For their part, the APL forces are not to be outdone. Initially, they attack policemen and military personnel who have not been able to escape, the principal notables (civil servants, hereditary chiefs, etc.), who are invariably executed on capture. Thus, several civilians are killed by the APL at Nsinga on 21 June (Verhaegen, 1969: 289-290). On 1 July, during the fall of Kabambare, several ANC soldiers who refuse to go over to the rebellion are executed. A few days later, still at Kabambare, at the request of local leaders of the MNC-L and the CEREA of Anicet Kashamura, fifteen notables, civil servants and policemen are arrested and executed by the rebels. On 1 July, the Simba led by Yuma Kinguti kill eleven civilians with machetes and clubs at Makina. Other executions of the same kind occur in numerous villages of the region, as in Miki, where Ferdinand Mwambwa orders the killing of an unknown number of civilians, Kibangula (9 July), in the Nonda chiefdom (13 July), or in Kalima (26 July).

(Verhaegen, 1969: 286-302, 402) ***

These executions further increase in scale with the fall of Kasongo (15 July) and then Kindu (22 July). On 15 July, the district commissioner of Kasongo and several policemen are arrested and led to the riverbanks, where they are strangled on the orders of Victor Tshombaz, before being thrown into the water. The following day, 16 July, the first public executions begin. In the days that follow the fall of Kasongo, 30 people are strangled or beaten to death with rifles or spears in front of a crowd that is unenthusiastic but forced to applaud. Executions occur throughout the region of Kasongo, as in Nyanga, where seventeen people are killed on 22 July. 150-200 people are thus executed in the area of Kasongo in the first days of the rebellion (Verhaegen, 1967: 355-356; Verhaegen, 1969: 315-321).

More blood flows in Kindu, where 100-150 people (some sources even give a figure of 800), most of them policemen and military personnel taken prisoner, are summarily shot by the Simba, often in front of their homes, after having been denounced by members of the local youth movement. Only with the arrival in Kindu of the APL commander-in-chief, General Nicolas Olenga, are arbitrary executions prohibited (Mueller, 1965: 181; Verhaegen, 1969: 390-398). The executions of notables and other PNP continue in organized fashion virtually uninterrupted from the end of July until October. It is impossible to give a precise estimate of the number of executions during the whole rebel period in Maniema. For Kindu and the surrounding area, the purge carried out by the APL probably involved 500-1,000 victims. However, some observers cite a much higher toll of 2-3,000 killings. The executions are often carried out in public by Simba fighters. The condemned are invariably killed with blades to cries of ‘Mateka!’ (a Swahili word meaning ‘booty’ or ‘offering’) in front of the monument to Lumumba or on the banks of the Lualaba, shot on the old airfield, or thrown alive into the river after having been tied up in a sac (Lantier, 1969: 200; Verhaegen, 1969: 602-610).

The purge of PNPs conducted by the APL affects the whole of Kivu-Maniema. The tactic used by the rebellion to implant itself in the region consists in pushing the division of society into two antagonistic camps to extremes: PNPs (policemen, civil servants, anyone who in the past has behaved in politically suspect fashion, etc.), on the one hand, and nationalists on the other. The former are tracked down and executed or punished withy heavy penalties; the latter are baptized and enrolled in the rebellion. The manhunt of PNPs is an opportunity for numerous Maniema chiefdoms to seek to definitively eliminate rival chiefdoms and gives rise to much settling of scores. In September 1964, 27 people accused of witchcraft, most of them women, are thus arrested on the orders of Victor Tshombaz, before being tortured and finally executed by Major Raphaël Milembo’s men in Kapuri-Unga. Seven other civilians are executed for the same reasons at Kampene and Katambwe (Herady, 1964; Verhaegen, 1969: 442-445, 586-589).

In general, this purge is not as massive as in Kindu. In many places – for example, Butembo, Kibangula, Fizi or Kipaka – only a few individuals are denounced and executed on account of their political opinions or private quarrels. However, the repression is much more widespread in the Urega, reputed to be hostile to the rebellion, and where APL forces had suffered heavy defeats at the hands of Rega warriors in the first weeks of the uprising. In many places, villages are systematically destroyed. 2-10,000 Rega, civil servants, cadres of RADECO (the party of Prime Minister Adoula), policemen, notables and so forth are killed by the rebellion. In a number of cases, when the Simba do not manage to get their hands on their target, they attack family or clan members. At least 550 people are thus killed in Kalima, and many others in Moyo, Pangi, Moga, Kailo, Lulingu, Kingombe and throughout the Urega country (Masson, 1970: 130; Verhaegen, 1969: 610-620).

19 June: AS Albertville falls into the hands of the rebels of the People’s Army led by General Olenga, several political leaders of North Katanga, among them Jason Sendwe, are summarily executed by young Baluba warriors of the CNL-East Section.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 76; Kennes, 2003: 135-142) *

10 July: 80 APL soldiers, who had voluntarily surrendered to the Simba of the CNL-East Section during the capture of Kabalo are taken to Albertville, where they are executed.

(Verhaegen, 1966: 478) **

July: 80 people suspected of sympathy for the rebels are killed by ANC forces in the Kabalo region.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 351) *

1 August–29 October: More than 100 people are killed by the APL during the uprising at Sankuru. The victims of Simba ‘revolutionary justice’ are in the main agents of the state, civil servants, policemen and military personnel, or supporters of the National Party of Progress (PNP), even all those who ‘were opposed to Lumumba, who betrayed him or who profited out of Independence’. Thus, several territorial agents are shot at Wembo-Nyama on 2 August. The capture of Katako on 6 August is followed by the execution of the territory administrator and his assistant, two hereditary chiefs and ANC soldiers who had been taken prisoner. On 11 August, an unknown number of civil servants, policemen and military personnel (some sources mention a figure of 70) are executed in public in the courtyard of the hospital at Lodja. On 13 August, it is the turn of two prison guards to be shot in cold blood by Simba at Lusambo. Two days later, the APL shoot a dozen supporters of the National Party of Progress, the majority of them civil servants, in Lusambo stadium.

(Mueller, 1965: 182; Turner, 1987: 108-117) **

4 August–24 November: The terror strikes the educated elite of Stanleyville (Haut-Congo), which falls into rebel hands on 4 August. The latter immediately set about tracking down intellectuals, anyone who is educated, has adopted a Western lifestyle, or has had a job with a white, even those who belong to a tribe that is out of, or even genuine Lumumbists who are victims of score-settling. Between 14 and 19 August, in Place Lumumba in Stanleyville, in front of a crowd at fever pitch, several hundred people (550 according to some sources) are shot or killed with machetes, before being dismembered by Simba commanded by Alphonse Kingis (Lantier, 1965: 199; Mueller, 1965: 178-181; Nothomb, 1993: 107-116; Quinteyn, 2004: 42-46; Sonck, n.d.). An unknown number of Congolese are thrown into the River Tshopo. Moreover, 60 followers of the Kitawala sect are shot in the stadium. According to some sources, more than 2,000 people were thus executed by the Simba in Stanleyville during the sixteen weeks of the CNL administration.

(Althabe, 1972: 295-371; Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 230-231; Kestergat, 1965: 121-133, 140-146; Odom, 1988: 3-24; Reed, 1966: 75-77; Scholl-Latour, 1988: 288) **

19 August: Following the failure of the attack on Bukavu by General Olenga’s Simba, ANC forces commanded by Colonel Mulamba proceed to a systematic purge of Bukavu and the surrounding area, proceeding to countless summary executions, of which many Tutsi are victims.

(Masson, 1965: 65-132; Masson, 1970: 137-144) *

20 August–26 November: In Paulis (Uélé), which had fallen on 19 August, summary executions by rebels commanded by a certain Yenga begin the day after the town is captured. They seem to have been even more large-scale than in Stanleyville, since they allegedly caused 2-4,000 deaths. The manhunt targets the provincial political authorities, members of the Assembly of Congolese Democrats (RADECO) and ANC soldiers who have remained in the town, but also civil servants, magistrates and teachers. The great majority of the Congolese of Paulis who know how to read and write are done to death with kicks, bludgeons, shards of broken bottles or blades, disemboweled, dowsed with petrol and burnt or killed by children and young adolescents supervised by Simba rebels.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 230-231; Kestergat, 1965: 133-140; Lantier, 1969: 200; Mueller, 1965: 181-182; Odom, 1988: 3-24; Reed, 1966: 77) *

24 August–15 September: In Watsa, summary executions carried out by rebels commanded by Colonel Jules, a former police commissioner, create an unknown number of civilian casualties, including numerous cades of the Kilo-Moto and firms run by Belgian nationals in the region. (De Bosschere, 1966) *

30 August: During the recapture of Albertville, ANC forces commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Kakudji do not take prisoners. More than 400 rebels, including many wounded, are executed, after having been tortured or crucified on the trunks of the palm trees that line the shopping street the length of the lake.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 282; Lejeune, 1997: 35; Sonck, 2002a) *

September: Faced with the advance of APL forces, the ANC carries out bloody reprisals against the population of the Beni region suspected of being favorable to the rebellion. Gunfire is heard almost everywhere, mainly near rivers where many people are executed, with a death toll of at least 300 civilians. «Any dubious element disappears.» Tutsi, suspected of being pro-Mulelist, are especially targeted.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 241-243) *

3 September–2 October: The territory of Beni (North Kivu) is occupied by the APL, which proceeds to a violent purge of the civilian population. In Beni, 84 people are executed. In Vuhovi, in the Bashu community, at least 15 civilians are burnt alive by the rebels. A large number of PNP are drowned in the River Semliki in the Ruwenzori massif. In total, the number of victims of the rebellion in the territory of Beni is reckoned to be more than 4,000 people executed or drowned in the river.

(ASADHO, n.d.: 8-10) **

4 September: Gendarmes and warriors of the Basongomeno tribe sack the town of Kole and neighbouring villages (Alufale, Impuki and Yambayamba), which they put to the torch, killing 30 people, mainly civilians.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 241) *

7 September–24 October: During the occupation of Boende (central Cuvette) by the rebels, the latter allegedly kill an unknown number (nearly 800 according to some sources) of Congolese workers and agents of the Hévéa company in Wassi.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 239-240: Mueller, 1965: 182-183) *

29 September: After the failure of their attack on Bukavu, and when they have stopped fighting and are attempting to flee, hundreds of rebels of General Olenga’s People’s Army are hunted down not far from the village of Kabare (South Kivu) and mercilessly killed by ANC forces supported by T-28 planes flown by mercenaries.

(Masson, 1970: 147-149) *

15 October: The bombing by T-28s of the town of Boende, which is in the hands of Mulelist rebels, causes twenty deaths and many wounded among the civilian population. These bombings prompt APL leaders to take the Europeans in the region hostage and threaten to kill them in the event of any new casualties.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 240; Verhaegen, 1969: 651-654) *

November: The operations by the Congolese National Army to retake Sankuru are extremely murderous. At each stage of the reconquest, ANC forces execute ‘collaborators’ and other ‘sympathizers’ of the Simba. (Turner, 1987: 108-117) *

6 November: Following the recapture of Kindu by the Lima 1 column, mercenaries commanded by Mike Hoare proceed to a bloody purge in the districts of the town’s ‘African estates’.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 371-374; Honorin, 1980: 45-46; Reed, 1966: 172-173) **

24-25 November: As Belgian troops and the mercenaries of Operations Dragon rouge and Ommegang invade Stanleyville, dozens of Simba gripped by panic after the flight of their chiefs fire on a column of several hundred Western hostages, killing at least 22 of them. The following day, 30 European civilians are killed in a religious congregation on the left bank of the river.

The figure for Westerners killed by the APL is more precise than that of the Congolese victims. Between May 1964 and April 1965, 392 Western hostages, including 268 Belgians, are executed in cold blood by Simba in the regions they control (Onderzoekscommissie, 1966: 1-6, 133-134). Let us note that of these only 30-40 were killed before the intervention of Belgian troops and mercenaries. During the re-conquest operations, the mercenaries discover the bodies of 100 Westerners in Stanleyville and Paulis. In Watsa, no less than 37 Western hostages are killed in the hospital and the compound of the military camp by Colonel Jules’s Simba (De Bosschere, 1966). Dozens of other Westerners are killed during the final weeks of November in Banalia, Bafwasende, Mungbere, Bunia, Isangi and so forth.

(Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 403, 410; Kestergat, 1965: 167-183; Lantier, 1969: 205-210; Mummendey, 1997: 307-326; Nothomb, 1993: 301-327; Odom, 1988: 179-182; Quinteyn, 2004: 142-153; Reed, 1966: 272-273; Scholl-Latour, 1988: 289; Vandewalle, 1970: 409-412) ***

November–December: The pacification operations conducted under the leadership of Victor Nendaka by the ANC and white mercenaries cause an unknown number of deaths in all the recaptured territories. In Stanleyville, ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare’s men systematically purge the suburbs. The priority targets are Simba and supporters of Lumumba or the CNL, but very many innocent civilians suspected of collusion with the rebellion are also killed, as are ex-members of the ANC suspected of having rallied – whether voluntarily or not – to the ranks of the Simba. On his return to South Africa, the head of the mercenaries, Mike Hoare, declares: «Killing communists is like killing vermin. Killing African nationalists is like killing animals. I don’t like either of them. My men and I killed between five and ten thousand Congolese rebels during the twenty months I spent in the Congo.» In fact, as an observer notes, «anything black was killed indiscriminately, blindly» (Honorin, 1980: 46). The final toll of this repression has never been established exactly: however, some sources refer to tens of thousands of deaths. According to several observers, the African housing estates that surround Stanleyville (some of which were bombed with heavy weaponry) lost half their population. The capital of Haut-Congo resembles a ghost town full of widows and deserted by the few men who have been able to escape the purge.

(Burlion, 1969: 116-122; Chome, 1974: 135-139; Comité Zaïre, 1978: 66-67; Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1965: 404-411, 532-539; Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1966: 64-69; Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992a: 96-104; Kestergat, 1965: 147-165; Monguya, 1977: 74; Mummendey, 1997: 340-353; Quinteyne, 2004: 162-163; Reed, 1969: 277; Scholl-Latour, 1988: 289; Vandewalle, 1970: 372-374) *

1965: May: Around 500 Banyarwanda civilians are killed during the authorities’ suppression of the demonstrations of civil disobedience that follow the arrest of the leaders of the Kanyarwanda protest movement in North Kivu, (Regenena, 1996: 35) *

25 November: Several missionaries, and an unknown number of members of the workforce of the experimental research station of the Institute of Agronomic Research of the Congo, are executed by rebels at Yangambi. (Mueller, 1965: 183; Sonck, 2002b) *

September–October: Following the ‘Kanyarwanda rebellion’ – an insurrection by the Banyarwanda because of the dismemberment of the province of Kivu and the creation of the mini-province of North Kivu – the provincial authorities (Moleyi Benezeuth, Dieudonné Boji and Denis Paluku) activate a ‘pacification’ expedition in the Masisi. Accused of being Mulelist fighters, the Banyarwanda are victims of a veritable manhunt. An unknown number of Banyarwanda of Mutobo, Kiroshe and various other villages of the chiefdom of Bashali Kayembe are arrested and tortured, before being thrown into Lake Vert.

(Bucyalimwe, 2000: 34; Gérard-Libois, Van Lierde, 1966: 79-80; Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992a: 155-119; Rusamira, 2003: 148; Tegera, 2003: 10: Willame, 1997: 51) **


General Presentation

On 24 November 1965, faced with the paralysis of the state as a result of the increasing rivalry between President Kasa-Vubu and Prime Minister Moïse Tshombe (dismissed on 13 October in favour of Evariste Kimba), the military high command organized a coup d’état that conferred power on General Mobutu. The latter immediately established a strong government, granted himself ‘emergency powers’ and then ‘full powers’, stamped out the opposition, imposed a single party – the Popular Movement of the Revolution (MPR) – and ruled his country singlehanded. In the years that followed, while all challenges were harshly repressed, President Mobutu proceeded to nationalize large sectors of the economy that had often remained in Belgian hands, including the Mining Union of Haut Katanga (UMHK), which contributed 50 per cent of Congo’s budget, and then launched his policy of Authenticité , which he defined as a return to the sources and values of his ancestors and ‘the refusal of the people of Zaire blindly to embrace imported ideologies’. It affected all sectors of society. The people and towns lost their Christian or colonial names in favor of ‘authentic’ names. Joseph-Désiré Mobutu became Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo was renamed Republic of Zaire (in fact, a Portuguese name). Finally, in 1973 the Zairian President proceeded to the Zairianization of foreign firms, or the seizure of control of the country’s wealth for Zairians through the nationalization of agro-industrial firms in the hands of foreigners. They were redistributed to the state bourgeoisie close to Mobutu who, by virtue of his lack of experience and predatory practices, was to plunge the country into economic chaos.

In March 1977, the ‘Katangese Tigers’ (former gendarmes of Moïse Tshombe and numerous Katangese who had taken refuge in Angola from the late 1960s) of the Front for the National Liberation of the Congo (FLNC), led by Nathanaël Mbumba, invaded the province of Shaba. They were repelled in May 1977 thanks to Operation Verveine mounted by Morocco with the help of France. A year later, in March 1978, the FLNC unleashed a new war by attacking the mining town of Kolwezi, where a large number of Westerners were resident. The Zairian regime rapidly retook control thanks to military interventions by France and Belgium to protect their expatriates.

Harshly repressed during the first fifteen years of the Second Republic, internal opposition to the regime began to organize from the early 1980s when thirteen parliamentarians, among them the former Interior Minister Etienne Tshisekedi, openly challenged President Mobutu by sending him a memorandum in which they rejected his practices of bad governance and personalization of power and the increasingly visible deterioration in Zaire’s socio-economic fabric. In February 1982, having spent many months in the regime’s prisons, they founded the first opposition party in Zaire, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).

Chronological Sequence

1965–1977: An unknown number of people are executed in extra-judicial fashion, die of illness or hunger in the prisons of Zairian Security, or disappear without trace after having been dropped from helicopter into River Zaire, the rapids of Kinsuka (Kinshasa) or Lake Kapolowe.

(Amnesty International, 1983: 15-16; Amnesty International, 1990: 11-13; Braeckman, 1992: 80-91; Comité Zaïre, 1982: 5-6; Garreton, 1994, 63-64, 74, 138-150; Kamba, 2008: 282; Monguya, 1977: 215; Ndiaye, 1993: 158-159; Schatzberg, 1988: 52-70; Wrong, 2001; Yambuya, 1991; Yambuya, 1996: 81-92) **

1966; March: Remnants of the People’s Liberation Army commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Mushubazi kill an unknown number of civilians, including women and children, during an attack on the Sucraf factory in Kiliba in South Kivu. (Gérard-Libois, 1967: 380) *

30 May–2 June: The ‘uncovering’ of the ‘Pentecost plot’ secretly incited by President Mobutu enables him to have the former Prime Minister Evariste Kimba and the former ministers Jérôme Anany, Alexandre Mahamba and Emmanuel Bamba arrested. At the end of an unfair trial before a special military tribunal, the four ‘conspirators’ – who appear to have been trapped by officers in the pay of the Congolese President – are condemned to death and hanged in public in the great central square of Leopoldville.

(Braeckman, 1992: 42-43; Gérard-Libois, 1967: 431-444; Kestergat, 1986: 187-191) **

July–October: In solidarity with Moïse Tshombe, who prepares a new attempt at Katangese secession from his exile in Spain, the former Katangese gendarmes who had joined the ANC during Tshombe’s return to power in 1964 (Baka regiment) mutiny at Stanleyville under the leadership of Colonel Tshipola. On 25 September, the ANC forces them to abandon the city and take refuge in Maniema, from where they negotiate their surrender with Colonel Bobozo. In October, when the ANC arrives to conduct them home, 50 of them are executed without trial on their disembarkation at Leopoldville or Coquilhatville. Many other ‘diabos’ are killed on their return to Katanga by the men of the governor, Jean Foster Manzikala.

(Braeckman, 1992: 42; Chome, 1974: 174-182; Ndaywel, 1997: 652) *

July–August: When the mercenaries commanded by the Belgian Jean Schramme rebel in their turn in Stanleyville – they fear suffering the same fate as the diabos of the Baka regiment a few months earlier – and seize several towns in the east of the Congo before withdrawing to Rwanda, Belgium is attacked for the role it played in the secession of Katanga and the nationality of a large number of the rebel mercenaries. 25 Belgian civilians are killed by demonstrators (de Villiers, 1995: 30). Several mercenaries (5-31 according to sources) present in Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville), and suspected of colluding with the mutineers, are arrested on 6 July before being tortured and killed by ANC forces.

(Honorin, 1980: 51; Lantier, 1969: 247; Mockler, 1969: 190; Schramme, 1969: 237) *

1967-1986: Around 2,000 civilians accused of witchcraft are allegedly executed by the rebels of the People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP) of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who had gone underground in the Fizi region.

(Kennes, 2003: 287, 264; Wilungula, 1997: 125) *

1968: 2 October: Having returned from exile under the terms of an amnesty, Pierre Mulele and Théodore Bengila are arrested and then murdered with unspeakable cruelty by ANC officers.

(Braeckman, 1992: 44-46; Kamitatu, 1971; Martens, 1985: 298-335) **

1969: 24 March: Confined to house arrest, the first deposed President of the Congo dies as a result of lack of medical care in Boma, in the Bas-Congo. (Monguya, 1977: 146-149) **

4 June: The Zairean army opens fire on a procession of 2,500 students from Lovanium University who are heading towards the residence of President Mobutu to hand him a list of demands. As the demonstrators disperse, the army proceeds to the arrest of the main leaders. Officially, the shooting has caused the death of six students. Other sources cite a higher figure: 9 (Reuter ), 12 (France Presse) , 23 (Ministry of National Education), even 200. (Leaflets distributed by the CNL/Clandestinité-ville (Bagenda, 2000: 39-40; Chome, 1974: 185-186; Demunter, 1971: 9; Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992b: 53-54; Kabuya-Lumuna, 1982: 75, 106; Ngomo-Okitembo, 1998: 123-127) **

29 June: Seized in June 1967 in Spain by men in the pay of President Mobutu, Moïse Tshombe dies in a cell in Algiers. (Kestergat, 1977: 213-216) **

1971: June: An unknown number of civilians are killed in a fire in their home during reprisal operations conducted by the Zairian Armed Forces (FAZ) following incursions by the rebels of Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s PRP into the villages of Nyembo, Kianga, Tchiuki, Kingana and Mbulu in South Kivu. (Comité Zaïre, 1981: 1) **

1972: April: More than 150 civilians (including the clan chiefs) of the village of Kilembwe are killed on the orders of General Bumba by the Zairian Armed Forces. (Comité Zaïre, 1982: 1) *

1977: 8 March–26 May: First Shaba War (ex-Katanga). An unknown number of straying members of the Zairian armed forces and police are summarily executed by the rebels of the Front for the National Liberation of the Congo. (Yakemtchouck, 1988: 430) *

April–May: The counter-offensive launched by the FAZ with the support of Moroccan troops gives rise to a terrible repression of the civilian population of Shaba, suspected of collusion with the FLNC. Many inhabitants of Lufupa are killed by Colonel Ikuku’s troops and their village is completely destroyed. (Braeckman, 1992: 65-66; Yambuya, 1991: 25) *

1978: January: The Zairian regime carries out bloody repression in the Idiofa region in Kwilu, among the followers of the Nzambi Mpunga sect of the Tetela fetishist-healer, the ‘prophet’ Martin Kasongo. Having advocated a Black messianism directed against the Catholic Church, he has politicized his activity by reviving the discourse of the good old days of the Mulelist rebellion (he declares himself to be ‘Mulele resurrected’) and calls for a revolt against the central government. On 12 January, the Zairian Armed Forces destroy the village of Mulemba, where they kill several dozen people. In the days that follow, the villages of Matende and Lukamba suffer the same fate. On 25 January, Martin Kasongo and thirteen of his disciples are handed over to the authorities by the population. They are publicly executed the same day. Concurrently with this execution, the repression affects every village of the Idiofa region. Hundreds of peoples (including the mother of Pierre Mulele) are arrested and executed by President Mobutu’s soldiers. In total, the repression allegedy caused around 500 deaths. However, some sources mention 2,000 victims.

(Buyseniers, 1980: 27-44; Comité Zaïre, 1982: 1; Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992b: 82-92; Kabuya-Lumuna, 1982: 75, 110-111; Kestergat, 1986: 281; Martens, 1985: 331-332; Ngomo-Okitembo, 1998: 271-277; Ngulungu, 2003: 57-68; Yakemtchouk, 1988: 485-486; Yambuya, 1996: 107-108) **

February–March: Violent purge of the Zairian Armed Forces. The ‘uncovering’ of a ‘conspiracy’ against President Mobutu leads to the arrest of 64 officers and 24 civilians. Their trial begins two days later and ends on 16 March with 18 of the accused being condemned to death (including three in absentia ). Thirteen of the ‘plotters’ (eight military and five civilian) are shot the same day (Ilunga, 1998: 29-32; Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992b: 99-114) **

12-19 May : Second Shaba War. 120 Europeans (including 41 Belgians and 6 French military aid workers) and 514 Zairean civilians are killed during the occupation of the mining town of Kolwezi by the rebels of the FLNC (former Katangese gendarmes), prompting the intervention of French and Belgian paratroopers. According to some observers, the shooting that cost the life of 30 Europeans in ‘villa P2’ on 14 May was the deed of undisciplined FAZ soldiers. Other sources advance the hypothesis that the killing was carried out by Colonel Bosange’s men in order to push France and Belgium into intervening against the FLNC. (Boissonnade, 1990: 417-450; Braeckman, 1992: 66-69; Chauvel, 1978: 56-57; Kestergat, 1986: 282-288; Marlair, 1993: 248-252; Willame, 1978: 18; Yakemtchouk, 1988: 576; Yambuya, 1991: 57; Yambuya, 1996: 69-70) **

May: The Zairian army carries out bloody reprisals against the population of Kolwezi, which had openly expressed its sympathy for the FLNC. The toll of this repression is difficult to establish. According to one witness, at least 300 civilians were shot by machine gun in a quarry not far from Kolwezi. The purge also affects the Katangese Tigers in Kamina and Mbandaka. (Comité Zaïre, 1982: 2) *

1979; July: The Zairian army and the mining brigade of the Mining Company of Bakwanga (MIBA) conduct punitive operations in various places, with a view to dispersing small independent diamond prospectors. The attacks are conceived in such a way as to kill, by bullets or drowning, numerous trapped prospectors, who have no escape other than to throw themselves into the whirlpool of the river. An initial operation carried out on 4 July at Luamwela causes the death of 50 excavators. A second, larger operation is conducted on 19 July at Katelakayi. Officially, the operation caused the death of 22 excavators, including one killed by a bullet. According to four parliamentarians, including Etienne Tshisekedi, who denounces the events, the intervention of the FAZ caused the death of more than 200 excavators (Kabuya-Lamuna, 1982: 109). More detailed inquiries refer to at least 140 deaths, including 97 listed by name.

(‘Les massacres de Katelakayi et de Luamwela’, 1982: 72-106; Boissonnade, 1990: 292-293; Comité Zaïre, 1982: 2; Misser, Vallée, 1997: 161-162) ***

July: Several dozen civilian followers of the Kitchila sect are killed in Kikondja, Lubondaie and Malemba-Nkulu in Shaba by the Zairean Armed Forces, in the repression that follows the refusal by the population of these areas to pay a tax which they deemed excessive.

(Comité Zaïre, 1982: 2; Kabuya-Lamuna, 1982: 109) *

1981; February: An unknown number of civilians are killed by the FAZ at Swima, Makobola, Mwene and several other villages in the south of Uvira, on account of their presumed sympathies for the PRP guerrilla. (Comité Zaïre, 1982: 1; Schatzberg, 1988: 58) *

1983: The commander of the Kipushi gendarmerie proceeds to the extra-judicial execution of 17 civilians. (Schatzberg, 1988: 58) *

1984: 15-16 November: The Zairian army carries out bloody repression in the Moba region after the lightning strike conducted two days earlier by the rebels of Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s PRP. Several dozen civilians suspected of complicity with the rebellion are executed at Moba during the second fortnight of November. The repression continues until December 1985 throughout the region of Moboa-Kalemie, creating an unknown number of victims.

(Amnesty International, 1986: 3-9; Kennes, 2003: 287; Wilungula, 1997: 97) **

1986; May–1995: Infiltrations into the Ruwenzori massif by rebels of the Congo Liberation Army regularly lead to reprisal operations by the Zairian Armed Forces commanded by Colonel Félix Mbudza Mabe. They cause dozens of deaths among the civilian population of the villages of the Beni region, who are accused of sheltering rebels or sympathizing with them. In total, 500-1,000 civilians are executed on the banks of the Semliki and thrown into the river. (ASADHO, n.d.: 6-7, 10-12: Gouvernement de Transition, 1993) **

1988; 17 January: The first public demonstration by the UDPS since 1983 is violently broken up by the forces of law and order, causing the death of at least six people in the Place du Pont Kasa-Vubu in Kinshasa. Having held this meeting without authorization, Etienne Tshisekedi is once again arrested and interned in a psychiatric hospital.

(Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992b: 129-138; Kabanda Kana, 2000: 71) **


General Presentation

On 24 January 1990, having shown initial signs of being open to the recall of opponents in exile and their appointment to the government, President Mobutu announced a round of ‘popular consultations’ throughout Zaire in a memorable speech. The Zairian President was taken at his word and thousands of lists of grievances were drawn up throughout the country. The tour turned into a humiliation for the President, unprepared to see himself literally insulted by his people. Too far removed from the everyday realities of Zaire, the old Marshal was shaken by the scale of the popular discontent, which expressed itself in an all-out critique of his regime: rejection of the single party (MPR), execration of the security forces, denunciation of the concentration of power, popular economic distress faced with the chaos of the nomenklatura, and so on.

On 24 April 1990, drawing the lessons of the popular consultation, the Zairian President made a solemn speech in which he announced the end of the Second Republic, the advent of a democratic transition, the introduction of a multi-party system with three parties, a clear separation between party and state, the rehabilitation of the three traditional powers, a transitional government for a period of one year, the setting up of a commission charged with drafting a new constitution, and the abandonment of a whole series of external signs of rallying to the MPR. This transitional phase was supposed to end with free, democratic elections at all levels. In reality, while President Mobutu was ostracized by the international community on account of rumors of ‘massacres’ committed by elements of the Presidential Special Division (DSP) on the Lubumbashi campus, the transition rapidly turned into a ‘politico-institutional cacophony’.

On 6 October 1990, faced with international pressure, President Mobutu conceded the establishment of a full multi-party system. But this concession rapidly proved to be a weapon of choice, in as much as it allowed him to rush the democratic transition in chaos, rapidly reducing it to a mere game of political strategy. In fact, no sooner had he been obliged to concede the holding of the National Conference than President Mobutu constantly sought to infiltrate it. Thus, he exploited a full multi-party system to invent the strategy of ‘multi-Mobutuism’ and endeavored to weaken the parties of the radical opposition by provoking a series of splits within all the political formations and encouraging the creation of numerous ‘sham parties’.

The National Conference only began its work in August 1991, in an atmosphere of ‘bogus theatricality’. But outside the People’s Palace, where the speakers squabbled, the living conditions of the population went on deteriorating. Demonstrations proliferated, the repression became more violence, and the Church suspended its participation in the National Conference. This unrest led in September 1991 to revolts by soldiers reduced to poverty and expressing their exasperation. The following day, French and Belgian troops intervened to ensure the protection and repatriation of foreign nationals.

After these events, the ‘Marble Palace Negotiations’ between the Sacred Union of the Opposition and the Presidential circle made possible the appointment of the opposition figure, Etienne Tshisekedi, to the post of Prime Minister. However, his government lasted no longer than the time it took to be formed. Having refused to recognize Mobutu’s authority by crossing out the formula according to which the president was ‘guarantor of the unity of the nation’ during his swearing-in, Etienne Tshisekedi was dismissed from his office and replaced by Bernadin Mungul Diaka, thus causing a split from which the Sacred Union of the Opposition was never to recover. A month later, following the second round of Marble Palace Negotiations, Nguz a Karl-I-Bond was in turn enticed to form a ‘government of broad national unity’, which further undermined the ‘Sacred Union of the Opposition’, forced to exclude from its ranks members participating in the government.

On 15 August 1992, after countless secret negotiations, Etienne Tshisekedi was elected Prime Minister by the Sovereign National Conference (CNS). For the first time in Congo-Zaire, a Prime Minister acceded to his post via elections and not by the will of President Mobutu. Nevertheless, he was dismissed in January 1993, following a monetary controversy linked to the circulation of the new note of five million Zaire. This ejection brought about a new crisis, which was to result in an institutional blockage of the transition. Finally, in June 1994, while the Rwandan crisis enabled President Mobutu to break the international isolation he had found himself in since 1990, and the opposition continued tearing itself apart, a ‘third way’ materialized with the return to the premiership of the reputedly good manager Léon Kengo wa Dondo.

Thereafter, the radical opposition was increasingly marginalized – to such an extent that on the eve of the fall of the Mobutu regime, after six years of sterile constitutional debates, disavowals and notorious cases of poaching of opponents more concerned about their relative daily comforts than their political struggle, the Zairean political class had lost most of the credit it enjoyed abroad and inside the country. Change would have to come from elsewhere.

Chronological Sequence

1990; May: Following violence against students from Ecuador, elements of the Military Action and Intelligence Service (SARM) and the Civil Guard carry out a punitive expedition on the campus of the University of Lubumbashi. ‘Radio Trottoir’ very soon refers to the execution of several dozen students. These rumors are immediately relayed by the Western press and the Zairian opposition, in order to push Belgium into adopting a firmer attitude towards the Zairein regime. On 22 May, the Belgian daily Le Soir claims that the disturbances at Lubumbashi have resulted in a ‘massacre’ of more than 50 people by a DSP commando. This intervention is denied the same day by the Prime Minister of Zaire and the governor of Shaba. Three days later, Belgium reacts by suspending aid and demanding the setting up of an international commission of inquiry. While it has never been possible to establish the precise toll of the repression (officially, it resulted in one death), it seems that its seriousness was heavily overestimated by observers, the media and the Belgian authorities, who appear to have wanted to seize the opportunity to get rid of Marshal Mobutu. In fact, the events that occurred on the Lubumbashi campus mark the start of President Mobutu’s diplomatic isolation.

(Bapuwa, 1991: 1-17; Braeckman, 1992: 13-27; de Villers, 1995: 215-218; Digekisa, 1993: 240-268; Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992b: 150-183; Kongolo-Mukanya, 1991: 91-96; Koyagialo, Ruduri, 2006; Lanotte, 2003: 18-19; Muela Ngalamulume, 2000; Wako, 1992; Willame, 1991: 133-186) **

3 December: The repression of meetings to protest at the increase in the cost of living result in at least 8 people being killed by bullets in Kinshasa and Matadi.

(Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992b: 139-146) *

13-17 April: The arrest of seven UDPS activists sparks off violent riots that are harshly repressed by the police at Mbuji-Mayi. The human toll of the repression remains unknown (Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992b: 184-193).

1 June: 30 Banyarwanda are killed during disturbances that accompany the operation to identify nationals in Kivu, on account of the refusal of the local authorities to count the descendents of Banyarwanda transplanted to the Congo in the colonial era. (Mugangu, 1999: 214; Regenena, 1996: 35-36) *

1992; 16 February: The ‘march of hope’ (or ‘march of Christians’) assembles several hundred thousand Kinois, who demonstrate peacefully for the reopening of the National Conference. It is harshly repressed by the army, causing between 16 and 49 deaths depending on the source.

(de Dorlodot, 1994; de Villers, 1995: 230; de Villers, Omasombo, 1997: 71-72; Kabamba, Kasusula, 1992b: 147-149 bis; Malenge, 1992: 109-125; Oyatambwe, 1997: 127-133) **

1992-1993: Campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Baluba population in Shaba. In January 1992, a pogrom of Kasaiens causes 8-20 deaths in Fungurume. Six months later, in July 1992, inflammatory meetings are organized in several major towns of the province. Replaced in the post of Prime Minister by Etienne Tshisekedi in August 1992, Nguz a Karl-I-Bond engages in stoking up the ethnic conflict that sets ‘genuine Katangese’ and ‘Baluba invaders’ against one another. Harangued by the Vice-Governor of Shaba, Gabriel Kyungu wa Kumwanza, the Ninja militias of Luena demand a purge of Kasaiens from para-state and private firms. In August and September, Kasaiens are hunted down by the youth group of his party, the Union of Federalists and Independent Republicans (UFERI), and Ninja militiamen in Liksai (an official death toll of 300) and in many parts of Shaba. 86 of them are killed with machetes, arrows and knives in the official school of Kikula in Katuzembe. New incidents occur in October and then in March 1993 in Kolwezi. More than 100,000 Kasaiens from Shaba are forced to go into exile. At least 661 repressed Baluba of Shaba die of hunger, cold or illness between August 1992 and March 1993. Let us note that some sources give a death toll of 50-100,000.

(Braeckman, 1996: 230-233; Garreton, 1994: 2-23; Gorus, 2000: 114-118; Gouvernement de Transition, 1993: 18-23; Human Rights Watch, 1993; Ilunga, 1998: 81-87; Kangomba, 2000: 49-120; Kankonde, 1997; Modjani, 2002: 38, 209-291; Ndaywel, 1997: 763) **

1992; 18 December: A demonstration by opponents demanding the departure of President Mobutu is bloodily repressed in Kinshasa. The death toll is at least eight. On 20 and 21 December, riots shake Butembo, Goma, Kisangani, Kolwezi and Rutshuru (Kabuya-Lumuna, 1998: 78) *

1993: 27-29 January: Soldiers mutiny following the decision by Etienne Tshisekedi to withdraw from circulation notes of five million Zaire (2 December), and the refusal of traders to accept these notes, with which they have been paid. During violent riots that rock Kinshasa, special units of Zairian Security (known by the name of ‘Hiboux’) cause several dozen deaths in the ranks of the opposition and military personnel on government files. Médecins sans Frontières, which has toured the city’s hospitals, count at least 43 dead. Other sources cites hundreds of victims, even more than a thousand (including more than a thousand members of the FAZ) killed by the men of the SARM and DSP commanded by General Mahele.

(Boutros-Ghali, 1993: 13-14; Dungia, 1995: 32; Lemarchand, 2009: 201; Ligue des droits de l’Homme/Zaïre, 1993: 1-12; Ndiaye, 1993: 158; Ploquin, 1996: 177) *

1993–1996: The areas of Walikale and Masisi in North Kivu are affected by several waves of ethnic confrontation between the indigenous Nyanga and Hunde populations and immigrant populations of Banyarwanda origin. On 20 March 1993, two days after the passage of the Vice-Governor of North Kivu Bamwisho, who had declared that the security forces should aid genuine natives to help them ‘exterminate’ the Hutu, numerous Banyarwanda are killed in the market of Ntoto by Nyanga and Hunde natives armed with guns and machetes. The following day, the same group murders a large number of Banyarwanda coming out of Catholic and Protestant chapels in the Boyi group. In the ensuing general panic, many Banyarwanda are drowned in the River Luindi. From 26 March onwards, a response is organized. In their turn, the Banyarwanda attack the indigenous Hunde and Nyanga in the villages of Bukala, Lwama, Kasura, Muteto and so on, killing many civilians. The toll of this ethnic violence varies significantly depending on the sources. The most reliable cite 966 natives dead or disappeared for 1,238 killed on the Banyarwanda side.

(Bucyalimwe, 2003: 165-174; Garreton, 1996: 6; GEAD, 1993: 6; Gouvernement de Transition, 1993: 25-40; Laurent, Mafikiri, 1996: 103; Mugangu, 1999: 214; Ngabu, 1996: 40-42; Nzabara, 1996: 51-56; Willame, 1997: 66). Different, more partisan sources give 4,655 killed for the Hunde community (Kamundu, 2006: 35) **

The violence continues for months on end throughout the region, as in Buabo, Buvumu, Kalangala, Kaniro, Luibo, Bulindi, Osso, Katoyi and so on, where hundreds of Banyarwanda are killed (Mémorandum des communautés… , 1993: 9-11; Nzabara, 1996: 59-66). Reprisals carried by the Banyarwanda, allied to the Zairean Armed Forces and, from summer 1994, to the Interahamwe Rwandan militias that have taken refuge in eastern Zaire, are no less violent (Garreton, 1994: 91-94).

After a lull, the violence resumes in full swing at the beginning of 1996. On 25 January, at least ten Banyarwanda are murdered by Maï maï militiamen during a raid on Bibwe (Kabasha, 1996: 82-84). In reprisal, Interahamwe militiamen execute an unknown number of Hunde. On 4 March, at least ten Tutsi civilians are murdered by the Interahamwe in Bokomo. Throughout the spring, hundreds of civilians, including many Tutsi Banyarwanda, are murdered by Interahamwe militiamen, Maï maï and even members of the FAZ in Bwito, Sake, Kitshanga, Vitshumbi, Kanyabayonga, Bunangana and so on. The attack conducted on 12 May 1996 by a coalition of indigenous Banyarwanda, Interahamwe militiamen and militiamen of the Farmers’ Society of Virunga (MAGRIVI) against the monastery of Mokoto, where thousands of Zairean Tutsi have taken refuge, is one of the most bloody and ends with the murder of several dozen civilians (some even cite 700 deaths). In sum, the ethnic cleansing operations carried out by the different militias result in 3-30,000 deaths, depending on the assessment, and 250,000 displaced people (Amnesty International, 1996b: 5-14; Garreton, 1996: 12-15; Kamundu, 2006: 64-69; Laurent et al. , 1997: 7; Lemarchand, 2009: 213, 229-230; Pabanel, 1993: 132; Willame, 1997: 67-75).

1994; 27 November: In revenge for the assassination of a member of the Civil Guard by a Rwandan refugee, Zairian soldiers penetrate in force into the refugee camp of Katale (North Kivu) and open fire indiscriminately on the refugees, killing fifteen of them and wounding a further 50 (Garreton, 1994: 101).*


General Presentation

In September 1996, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (APR) attacked Zaire under cover of a rebellion by Banyamulenge and then of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (AFDL). Initially intended to eliminate the humanitarian sanctuaries constituted by the Rwandan refugee camps grouped along the eastern borders of Zaire, where the forces responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda were readying themselves to try regain power, the conflict gradually assumed the shape of a war of national liberation destined to cause the fall of President Mobutu’s regime. On 17 May 1997, at the end of an eight-month military campaign that had seen it recapture the whole of Zaire with the aid of Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Angola, the AFDL spokesman, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, seized power in Kinshasa and proclaimed himself President of the Republic.

Chronological Sequence

1996; September: 40 civilians, including children, are killed by members of the Zairian Armed Forces in Kamanyola in South Kivu. 100 Zairean Tutsis, including women and children, are killed by members of the Zairean Armed Forces and Babembe civilians in Lueba in South Kivu. (Garreton, 1997a: 41) *

9 September: During a ‘ghost town’ day organized to protest against constant incursions from neighboring Rwanda, and to demand the departure of foreigners (everyone from Rwanda), a demonstration is transformed into an anti-Tutsi pogrom during which several dozen Banyamulenge are murdered, while several dozen others disappear without trace. (Amnesty International, 1996a; Lanotte, 2003: 40) *

18 September: As in Uvira a few days earlier, a ‘march of anger and protest’ organized in Bukavu to protest against constant incursions from neighboring Rwanda turns into an anti-Tutsi pogrom, during which 40 Banyamulenge are killed. (Lanotte, 2003: 41) *

19 September: 150 civilians and three Zairian military are killed by Banyamulenge rebels in the village of Epombo in South Kivu. (Garreton, 1997a: 42) *

23 September: 14 civilians are killed at Aboke (South Kivu) by Banyamulenge rebels. (Garreton, 1997a: 42) *

30 September: In reprisal for the Banyamulenge attack on Epombo, Zairian Armed Forces, supported by civilians, attack the village of Lutabura in South Kivu, where they execute 100 Banyamulenge. (Garreton, 1997a: 41) *

6 October: Banyamulenge rebels kill a priest and eighteen of his parishioners in the church of Kidote (South Kivu). (Garreton, 1997a: 42) *

6 or 10 October: During an attack on a hospital run by Protestant missionaries in Lemera (South Kivu), some nurses and several dozen wounded people, including soldiers of the Zairean army, are killed by troops of the Rwandan Patriotic Army and their Banyamulenge auxiliaries.

(Garreton, 1997a: 42; Lanotte, 2003: 43; Parqué, Reyntjens, 1998: 281-294; Willame, 1997: 96) *

10 October: 169 Zairian civilians are killed by Banyamulenge rebels in the villages of Minembwe and Munyaka in South Kivu. (Garreton, 1997a: 42) *

1996; 12 October–1997; 17 May: Offensive of the Rwandan Patriotic Army against Rwandan refugees present in eastern Congo. On 12 and 13 October, a violent attack on the Runingo refugee camp by the APR creates generalized panic in the region. In less than ten days, the twelve camps in the Uvira region empty and 250,000 refugees take to the roads. These attacks give rise to numerous summary executions among the refugees and civilian population of South Kivu, as in Mukera on 14 October, Kiliba on 18 October, Kuberezi on 21 October, or at Bukavu, where 1,000 civilians are killed by the RPA. (Garreton, 1997a: 42; Lanotte, 2003: 46; Migabo, 2002: 45) ***

Two weeks later, it is the turn of the refugee camps in North Kivu to be the target of the ‘rebellion’. On 25 October, the APR and the AFDL attack the refugee camp of Kibumba (nucleus of the military capacity of the former Rwandan Armed Forces [FAR] in exile), provoking the flight of 200,000 people, who head for the centre of the country. Next, the camps of Katale and then Panzi are attacked with heavy artillery. The humanitarian crisis becomes all the more grave as the rebel authorities refuse NGOs permission to aid the hundreds of thousands of people in need, the great majority of whom prefer to venture further west in Zairian territory (where a number of them are killed by the Rwandan Patriotic Army), rather than return to Rwanda. This veto by the ‘rebels’ begins to be presented as an attempt to eliminate Hutu refugees through hunger and disease – all the more so in that the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations publishes a first report on the alarming situation of the refugees and local populations (Garreton, 1997b). At the end of October, a series of political initiatives gradually shakes the international community out of its lethargy and launches a vast diplomatic debate over mounting a military-humanitarian operation in Kivu. On 15 November, these finally result in the passing of resolution 1080 by the UN Security Council authorizing the establishment of a temporary multi-national force of some 12,000 men, under Canadian command, to come to the aid of the refugees in eastern Zaire. The same day, together with the Rwandan Army, the AFDL implements a two-stage plan intended to derail this humanitarian intervention. The APR initially subjects the enormous refugee camp of Mugunga to intensive bombardment, with the aim of making the ex-FAR and Interahamwe militias flee north. Then, once this initial objective has been achieved, the APR attacks the camp from the west, so as to leave the majority of the 500,000t refugees no other escape than the road to Rwanda.

The abrupt return of a considerable proportion of the refugees shatters the fragile international consensus on the international force achieved a few hours earlier. In the weeks and months that follow, while the ‘international community’ is split over the appropriateness of an intervention that will ultimately never occur, the forces of the AFDL and the Rwandan Patriotic Army commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel James Kabarebe pursue the Rwandan refugees through the forests of Zaire. Thousands of Rwandan refugees are killed on 28 February 1997 at Tingi-Tingi, where more than 120,000 exhausted refugees are discovered; on 22 March, at the place called ‘Kilometer 52’ on the Kisangani road; between 21 and 23 April, during attacks on the Kasese and Biaro camps, where thousands of refugees incapable of moving disappear without trace; or again on 13 May 1997 in Mbandaka, where more than 1,300 civilians are killed by AFDL/APR forces led by Godfrey Kabanda. When time comes to take stock in May 1997, out of 1,100,000 Rwandan refugees present in Kivu, after counting 600,000 refugees who have returned to Rwanda since 15 November 1996; 180,000 returns organized by road; 54,000 survivors of the killings in Kisangani and Mbandaka repatriated by plane; and the 52,000 refugees located in the countries of the region, more than 210,000 refugees are still posted as missing.

(Amega, 1998; Amnesty International, 1997; Bradol, Guibert, 1997, 138-148; Campbell, 1997: 19-23, 26-46; Garreton, 1997a: 42-43; Garreton, Ndiaye, Foli, 1998; Lanotte, 2003: 44-57; Le Pape, 2000, 162-169; Médecins sans Frontières, 1997: 1-13; Ntihabose, 1997: 5-22; Parqué, Reyntjens, 1998: 281-294; Reyntjens, 1999: 90-124; Rugumaho, 2004: 82-84, 91-94; Umutesi, 2000).

1996; November: Nearly 2,800 Zairian and Rwandan civilians are executed by APR-AFDL forces in Goma.

(Garreton, 1997a: 42) *

6-7 November: 20 Zairian civilians are killed by Interahamwe militiamen in Kitshanga and Masisi in North Kivu (Garreton, 1997a: 43). In the months that follow, while many Tutsi cattle farmers return to their grazing land in the Masisi, ever more insistent rumors about a future annexation of the two Kivus by Rwanda provoke numerous inter-ethnic clashes, leading to the deaths of several hundred civilians. (Campbell, 1997: 48) *

18 November: Nearly 500 civilians are killed in the Chimanga refugee camp in Bukavu by APR-AFDL forces. (Garreton, 1997a: 42-43) *

December: 120 Zairian military are summarily executed in Beni (North Kivu). (Garreton, 1997a: 43) *

December: Following an attack by Ugandan rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Bundibugyo-Semliki-Kabarole area, the Ugandan army (National Resistance Army/NRA) exercises its ‘right of pursuit’ and enters North Kivu to secure its border. In the months that follow, the operations conducted by the NRA cost the lives of many Congolese civilians in the Beni region – for example in Kyondo, where eleven civilians are executed on 31 December 1996. (ASADHO, n.d.: 15) **

1997; 17 February: The Serbian colonel ‘Dominic Yugo’ and mercenaries recruited by President Mobutu’s advisors to conduct the ‘total lightning counter-offensive’ alongside the FAZ distinguish themselves by the aerial bombing of Bukavu market and the residential districts of Goma, Shabunda and Walikale, resulting in dozens of dead and wounded among the civilian population. (Campbell, 1997: 17; Lanotte, 2003: 62) **

4 May: During fierce battles to take Kenge, the FAZ proceed to indiscriminate bombardment of the inhabited areas of the town, killing around 200 civilians. (Campbell, 1997: 17) **


ABAKO Association des Bakongo (Kasa-Vubu)

ADF Allied Democratic Forces (Ugandan rebels)

AFDL Alliance des Forces démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo) (Kabila, from1996)

ANC Armée nationale congolaise (Congolese National Army)

APL Armée populaire de Libération (People’s Liberation Army)

APR Armée patriotique rwandaise (Rwandan Patriotic Army)

ASADHO Association africaine de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (African Assocation for the Defence of Human Rights)

BALUBAKAT Association générale des Baluba du Katanga (General Association of Baluba of Katanga) (Sendwe)

CEREA Centre de Regroupement africain (Centre for Arican Regroupment) (Kashamura)

CIA Central Intelligence Agency

CNL Conseil national de Libération (National Liberation Council) (Gbenye)

CNS Conférence nationale souveraine (Sovereign National Congress)

CONAKAT Confédération des Associations tribales du Katanga (Confederation of Tribal Associations of Katanga) (Tshombe)

DSP Division spéciale présidentielle (Presidential Special Division)

FAR Forces armées rwandaises (Rwandan Armed Forces)

FAZ Forces armées zaïroises (Zairean Armed Forces)

FLNC Front pour la Libération nationale du Congo (Front for the National Liberation of the Congo) (Mbumba)

GEAD Groupe d’Etudes et d’Actions pour le Développement bien défini (Study and Action Group for Clearly Defined Development)

HRW Human Rights Watch

MAGRIVI Mutuelle des Agriculteurs des Virunga (Farmers’ Society of Virunga)

MIBA Société minière de Bakwanga (Mining Society of Bakwanga)

MNC-K Mouvement national congolais/minoritaire (Congolese National Movement/Minority (Kalonji)

MNC-L Mouvement national congolais/majoritaire (Congolese National Movement/Majority (Lumumba)

MPR Mouvement populaire de la Révolution (Popular Movement of the Revolution) (Mobutu)

NRA National Resistance Army (Uganda)

ONUC Organisation des Nations unies au Congo (United Nations Organization in the Congo)

PDC Parti démocrate congolais (Congolese Democratic Party)

PNP Parti national du Progrès ; ironiquement appelé par les rebelles Simba de 1964 « pene pene na mundele » (« Proche du Blanc ») (National Party of Progress ; ironically dubbed by 1964 Simba rebels « pene pene na mundele » (« Close Friend of the White Man »)

PRP Parti révolutionnaire populaire (People’s Revolutionary Party) (Kabila, 1967–1996)

PSA Parti solidaire africain (African Solidarity Party) (Gizenga)

RADECO Rassemblement des Démocrates congolais (Assembly of Congolese Democrats) (Adoula)

RDC République démocratique du Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

SARM Service d’Action et de Renseignement militaire (Military Action and Intelligence Service)

UDPS Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès social (Union for Democracy and Social Progress) (Tshisekedi)

UFERI Union des Fédéralistes et des Républicains indépendants (Union of Independent Federalists and Republicans (Nguza Karl-I-Bond)

UMHK Union minière du Haut-Katanga (Mining Union of Haut-Katanga)


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Cite this item

Lanotte Olivier, Chronology of the Democratic Republic of Congo/Zaire (1960-1997), Mass Violence & Résistance, [online], published on: 6 April, 2010, accessed 17/05/2021,, ISSN 1961-9898
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