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Struggle for Peace

Instability and Conflict Previous Death, Disease, and Destruction Next

International diplomatic activity to halt the violence produced a peace agreement signed in Lusaka, Zambia in 1999. The Lusaka Accord set a timetable for the removal of foreign forces from Congo and established an interim Congolese government that included representatives of the Congolese rebel groups in the east. In 2003, foreign forces officially withdrew and a transitional government was established.

In July 2006, the Congo held its first election in more than forty years. In advance of the elections, various political and armed groups jockeyed for power. While the political struggles were often played out in the capital of Kinshasa, in the war-torn eastern region the scramble for power produced violence, much of it ethnically based. Many actors, including individual Congolese leaders and the neighboring governments of Rwanda and Uganda, manipulated ethnic grievances and fear in eastern Congo to achieve political, military, and economic advantage, contributing to regional insecurity and instability. More than 25 million Congolese—85 percent of those eligible—came out to vote. Laurent Kabila's son Joseph, who had assumed power after his father's assassination in 2001, won the presidency. The election signified the end of a three-year transition period during which time the country moved from intense war to a system of power sharing between the former government, former armed forces, opposition parties, and civil society. However, national and provincial structures remain incapable of ensuring basic security for communities, providing transparent management of resources and wealth, and addressing entrenched problems of corruption, poverty, lack of development and heightened ethnic and regional tensions.

Numerous international and local nongovernmental and governmental organizations sustain a large-scale humanitarian effort in eastern Congo, struggling to provide food, shelter, and medical aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons caught in upsurges of violence. There are also organizations working on development, disarmament and demobilization, education, and other social sectors. However, continuing waves of violence in the region have drastically impaired the ability of relief organizations to serve vulnerable populations. The UN peacekeeping force, MONUC, is one of the largest in the world, but it remains small in comparison to the tasks it faces and the area it covers. Its troops have also been accused of committing sexual abuses against the civilians they are charged with protecting.

The military allegiances of the various parties to the conflict—militias, the Congolese army and outside forces, particularly the Rwandans—have shifted over the years. These parties have fought against each other or with each other as their interests and opportunities have evolved.

In November 2011, the people of Congo went to the polls for the second time in their history. Joseph Kabila again won the election, with 49 percent of the vote, but the election was widely contested as flawed and marred by widespread irregularities, particularly in the vote tabulation stage. Most public protests about the election results were shut down.