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  Time Line
Congo: Colonial Period to Present

| Colonial Period | 1960-1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 |

Colonial Period

The kingdom of Kongo is established in the 14th and 15th centuries on the river near the Atlantic Coast.

Late 1400s
Portuguese explorers arrive and name the river and its basin the Congo.

Belgium claims the territory currently known as the Democratic Republic of Congo and calls it the Belgian Congo.


The Belgian Congo wins independence and is renamed the Federal Republic of Congo.

The Federal Republic of Congo is renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mobutu and Zairian flag
The country is plagued by civil wars. Joseph Désiré Mobutu takes power with U.S. backing in a military coup. His dictatorial rule would last 32 years.


  • Mobutu changes his name to Mobutu Sese Seko and changes the country's name to Zaire.


  • Zaire's cities and citizens take African names and the capital's name is changed from Leopoldville to Kinshasa.

    Economic collapse withers Zaire.


  • Zairian government threatens to expel the Zairian Tutsis, who had engaged in low-level clashes with government troops for years.
  • Rebel leader Laurent Kabila's anti-Mobutu party merges with Zairian Tutsis and other groups to form the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire.

  • 1997
    9: Zairian rebels push into Lubumbashi, and President Mobutu Sese Seko turns to the military in an attempt to maintain his slipping hold on power.

    14: Supporters of former prime minister Etienne Tshisekedi organize a protest in Kinshasa.

    17: Mobutu's regime is crumbling in the face of the rebellion and decades of government corruption.

    27: U.S. envoy Bill Richardson is dispatched to mediate the conflict.

    1: Kabila and Mobutu meet as rebel forces move toward Kinshasa.

    17: Switzerland freezes Mobutuís assets reportedly worth $4 billion.

    17: Mobutu cedes power and flees Kinshasa.

    18: Rebels enter Kinshasa with little resistance.

    19: Kabila's forces consolidate power and some Mobutu supporters are killed.

    22: Kabila's alliance changes Zaire's name to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Mobutu and Zairian flag
    25: Kabila declares himself president and bans all politics, but promises elections in 1999.

    27: Kabila arrests opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, sparking protests.

    28: Kabila releases Tshisekedi.

    9: Rwandan Defense Minister Paul Kagame claims that the Zairian rebellion was orchestrated by Rwandan Tutsis. Kabila denies the claims.

    12: U.N. is given a report alleging that Kabila's forces massacred Rwandan Hutu refugees.

    7: Mobutu dies in Morocco.

    9: Fighting flares in eastern Congo.

    1: United Nations recalls key massacre probe members in first of several problems with Kinshasa government over access to sites.

    10: Renewed violence grips eastern Congo.

    14: War in neighboring Congo Republic spills over as rockets fall on Kinshasa, which lies across the Congo River from Brazzaville.

    26: Kabila, U.N. strike a deal in inquiry on refugee massacre.

    5: A commission is launched to draft a new constitution.

    24 Kabila broadens his government, bringing in two opposition figures as deputy ministers.

    29: Rival army units clash in Kinshasa, killing at least 18 soldiers.

    10: Fighting erupts in eastern town of Bukavu as Mai-Mai warriors, who fought with Kabila against Mobutu, revolt.

    13: U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presses Kabila to honor human rights, promises economic aid.

    15: Tshisekedi begins internal exile in his home village after banishment from capital for defying ban on politics.

    27: Military firing squads execute 21 people in the first mass executions since Kabila took power.

    9: Banyamulenge Tutsis in Kabila's army end two-week revolt in eastern Congo and rejoin army.

    30: Committee submits draft of new constitution to Kabila.

    3: Kabila bans Congo's main human rights group, AZADHO, accusing it of playing politics.

    17: U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan announces withdrawal of massacre probe team, accusing Kinshasa government of obstruction.

    17: Kabila marks first year in power in low-key ceremony boycotted by more than a dozen invited African heads of state in first clear sign of friction with wartime allies; regional summit cancelled.

    19: Military court passes long jail sentences on three prominent Kabila opponents on security charges.

    20: Kabila denies rights allegations, announces 1999 elections and asks for massive debt relief.

    27: Kabila signs a decree to set up a 300-member transitional assembly with powers to approve a draft constitution and pave the way for elections promised for April 1999.

    30: Kabila holds first meeting with exiled Tshisekedi; Tshisekedi is allowed to return to Kinshasa in June.

    1: Kabila reshuffles government, sacking six ministers under probe for irregularities and bringing in key wartime ally Deogratias Bugera.

    30: Congolese franc launched to replace Mobutu-era New Zaire as part of currency reform.

    13: Kabila names Commandant Celestine Kifwa, close ally from his native Katanga province, as army chief, replacing Rwandan James Kabare.

    27: Kabila orders remaining Rwandan soldiers backing his government to leave.

    2: Shooting breaks out at main army barracks in Kinshasa and revolt spreads to other towns; Banyamulenge Tutsi soldiers in eastern Kivu provinces declare rebellion against Kabila.

    14: Rebels continue advance on Kinshasa.

    17: Kabila presses a new military offensive in the east and dismisses any idea of negotiating with his foes. Kabila ignores calls for a broadening of his government.

    29: Four countries agree in Paris to negotiate a cease-fire. But the agreement was in principle only, and the participants disagreed about its prospects of becoming reality.

    17: The armies of professed allies Rwanda and Uganda fought a pitched battle for control of a Congolese city they had held jointly for a year.

    Sources: The Washington Post and Reuters reports

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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