Conflict in the Great Lake Region - Timeline

    Posted by Aneela Shahzad on

                        Conflict in the Great Lake Region


Africa’s Great Lakes Regions comprises of the countries of Burundi, DRCongo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania & Uganda.

Politics and violence in Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and other regional states is much interrelated. This documentary is an attempt to realize the whole picture of conflict marred by Human Rights abuse and Genocide that unite Central Africa and East Africa and divide its states and people.

Though Africa is home to thousands of ethnicities and sub-languages – but they are roughly divided into six major groups according to race and language.

Six major African group – Afro Asiatic, Nilo Saharan, Niger Congo A, Niger Congo B, Khoe San, Austronesian

The major ethnic groups of the Great Lakes Region are the Bantu (green) the Nilotic (Brown) and the Sudanese (Biege).

Within the Bantu People the subgroup Hutu has been a majority over the Tutsi and the Twa (Pygmies) minorities.

It is believed that the Luba, Mongo, Kongo and Hutu migrated southwards earlier in the Great Bantu Expansion while the Tutsi followed on later. This explains their being lesser in number. But this does not explain how and why suddenly these people who had peacefully coexisted for millennia became each other’s throat-cutters in the last few decades.

In 1914, before WW1, Africa was completely colonized.

When Germany lost in WW1, Rwanda and Burundi where mandated to Belgium, who already occupied Congo.

From 1885 to 1908, King Leopold 11 of Belgium (also known as the Butcher of Congo) had Congo under his personal rule and private army, the Force Publique. Leopold committed outrageous exploitation for its ivory and rubber plantation, widespread human rights abuses and Genocide killing 10 to 15million Congolese.

It was under Belgium that racial segregation between the Hutus and the Tutsi was established as a political tool. Tutsi were labeled tall, thin and fair and Hutu as short, black and square – though practically they were indistinguishable - they speak the same language, have a history of intermarriage and share many cultural characteristics.

The Belgian government required everyone carry an identity card indicating tribal ethnicity as Tutsi or Hutu. The Tutsi were in turn favored as to make them intermediary for indirect rule and to keep the fire of rift burning.

Independence came to these nations late, Congo gained freedom in 1960, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi in 1962. But was it truly Freedom?

As it happened Belgium along with its French and US accomplices adopted policy of backing Tutsi minority regimes wherever possible – so they would serve as their neo-colonial puppets – in other cases they funded and armed rebel forces that would keep the countries destabilized and deliver rich resources of Africa to them for cheap.

Another important facet of the Freedom struggles all around Africa was the Communist-tilt - the dream of emancipation of the masses as opposed to the capitalist ideal that had brought slavery, exploitation & genocide to Africans. And making economic ties with the Russian Camp in the Cold War was unacceptable for US & its European allies.

Yet another factor in the power politics was the Church. The Anglican Church backed by Britain and the Protestant backed by France played their role in inciting ethnic hatred in the masses that led to organized genocide.


                                               Freedom to Conflict

Map of Great Lake Region


Congo (Independence June 1960)

Lumumba (socialist) PM, Kasavubu Pres.


Belgium/UK/US help Tshombe gov. of Katanga secede Kasai & Katanga


Gen. Mobutu captures Lumumba, sends him to Katanga, assassinated.

1964 Tshombe made PM, secession ends

1965 – JMobutu (West-tilted) ousts Tsombe in coup

Mubutu Sese Seko

1963-66 Hunde and Nande ethnic groups of North Kivu fought Rwandan emigrants - Tutsi and Hutu – in the Kanyarwandan War, several massacres




1962 - Rwanda independence with a Hutu, Gregoire Kayibanda pres. many Tutsis leave the country.

1963 - About 20,000 Tutsis killed following an incursion by Tutsi rebels based in Burundi.



Burundi (Independence 61)

1961 - Prince Louis Rwagasore (who left royal position for nationalistic cause/ Tutsi Royal clan - marries a Hutu) of UPORNA party that led to independence is assassinated.


1966 – king Mwambutsa deposed, army chief Michel Micombero (Tutsi, defense minister) declares himself Pres. advocate of African socialism/help of China

Tutsi domination over Hutu majority from beginning

Mwambutsa IV



Uganda (Independence62)

1962 – Milton Obote elected PM

Buganda Kabaka (King) Edward Muteesa II as President

1966 - Milton Obote ends Buganda's autonomy and promotes himself to the presidency.

1967 - New constitution vests considerable power in the president.


1973-4 Mobutu (pro US/anti- Communist) nationalizes/ sends out foreign investors

1977 – Calls back foreign investors. French/ Belgian/Moroccan troops help repulse attack on Katanga (Shaba 1) by Angolan-based rebels FNLC.

Between 1962 and 1991, the U.S. directly supported Mobutu (with close to $150 million in CIA bribes and secret payments) and his government (with more than $1.03 billion in development aid and $227.4 million in military assistance). It even provided transport for foreign troops used to suppress anti-Mobutu rebellions in 1977 and 1978.


1973 - President Gregoire Kayibanda ousted in military coup by Juvenal Habyarimana.

Habyarimana seen as moderate with Tutsi issue but hard line politicians including his wife pursue "final solution" to kill every Tutsi in Rwanda.


1972 - An all-Hutu organization Burundi Workers' Party (UBU) carried out systematic attacks on ethnic Tutsi, with the declared intent of annihilating the whole group. Tutsi regime responded with large-scale reprisals. About 120,000 Hutus massacred - between 150,000 to 300,000 under Micombero

1976 - Micombero deposed in military coup by Jean-Baptiste Bagaza

Bagaza (Tutsi, Micombero relative)


1971 - Obote toppled in coup Army chief Idi Amin.

1972 - Amin orders Asians 60,000 leave country.

1972-73 - border clashes with Tanzania.

Amin shifts allegiance from pro-Western/Israeli to Gaddafi, Zaire's Mobutu, Soviets & East Germany.

1975, Amin chairman of Org. African Unity.

1977–79 Uganda becomes member UN Commission on Human Rights

1978-9 - Uganda invades Tanzania to annex Kagera region.

Amnesty International, estimated 300 000 people killed in Idi rule

1979 - Tanzania invades Uganda, unifying the various anti-Amin forces under the Uganda National Liberation Front UNLF and forcing Amin to flee. Yusufu Lule installed as president, but is quickly replaced by Godfrey Binaisa.


1989 - Zaire defaults on loans from Belgium


1988 - Some 50,000 Hutu refugees flee to Rwanda from Burundi following ethnic violence

Fred Rwigtema RPF founder



1987 - Bagaza deposed in coup by Pierre Buyoya (Tutsi).


Oppressive ruling junta consisting primarily of Tutsi. Hutu uprising in August 1988, Hutu peasants rebel against several Tutsi leaders in northern Burundi; killed hundreds of Tutsi families – countered by govt. –approximately 20,000 deaths.


1980 - Binaisa overthrown M Obote becomes president.

1986 - National Resistance Army NRA rebels take Kampala/ install Museveni as Pres. (a group of 500 Rwandan refugees in Uganda, led by Fred Rwigyema & Kagame, fought with NRA)

Amnesty estimated Obote responsible for more than 300,000 civilian deaths

Yoweri Museveni President of Uganda since 29 January 1986.


Kengo Wa Dondo

1994 - Mobutu agrees to the appointment of Kengo Wa Dondo, an advocate of austerity and free-market reforms, as prime minister.

1994-96 – Zaire Refugee camps under control of Hutu. Hutu militia/ Zairean govt attack local Zairean Banyamulenge Tutsi (who migrated before 1960) + newly arrived Rwandan Tutsi and Banyarwanda; Zaire attempts to force refugees back into Rwanda.

Banyamulenge Rebellion on 31 August 1996 to seize Zaire's eastern Kivu provinces. Banyamulenge + anti-Mobutu elements made Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) under Désiré Kabila.

Mobutu has little control in country- no system

1996-97 – 1st Congo War- Mobutu replaced by Kabila (Tutsi)

Laurant Kabila

Canadian-owned Tenke Mining Corp. made contract “what may be the world’s largest copper and cobalt deposits” in exchange, Tenke transferred $50 million to the Zairean state-owned Gecamines, which in turn started pumping millions of dollars into Kabila’s war effort. Another major player America Mineral Fields, which signed a $1 billion contract with the AFDL for diamonds. US officers trained AFDL forces in Rwanda.

1997- Kabila proclaimed president. Corruption continued/ seen as foreign agent. Hutu insurgency hits west Rwanda.

1998, two brigades of the new Congolese army form rebel groups that worked closely with Kigali and Kampala. This marked the beginning of the Second Congo War.


1992, the hardliners created the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) with armed wing Impuzamugambi – while Interahamwe is of MRND

1990-94- Rwandan Civil War- btw (Habyarimana FAR, Interahumwi, Impuzamugambi & rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) by Fred Rwigyema, Paul Kagame.

France military assistance to Habyarimana to save Rwanda from Anglophone influence. France thought thy wanted

AngloTutsiLand. US support Kagame.

The idea of a "final solution" to kill every Tutsi in Rwanda

Arusha Accords, were signed in August 1993 and gave the RPF positions in a Broad-Based Transitional Government (BBTG) and in the national army.

July 1994, Kagame's forces hold Rwanda except south west

1994-5- Rwandan Genocide, 800,000 Tutsi killed/2mill Hutu refugee to Congo. (Nkunda joins Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) fights govt. FAR after Habyarimana killed).

July 1994 – Kagame becomes V.Pres. & defence minister, Bizimungu a Hutu is PM.

1995 Zairian Parliament ordered all peoples of Rwandan or Burundian descent to be repatriated to their countries of origin, including Banyamulenge. Banyamulenge developed ties to RPF, based in Uganda and with power aspirations in Rwanda, as early as 1991

1995 - Extremist Hutu militias and Zairean government forces attack local Zairean Banyamulenge Tutsis

1996 - Rwandan troops invade and attack Hutu militia-dominated camps in Zaire

1st Congo War - Rwanda wants to divert Tutsi to overthrow Zaire.

Rwandan Defense Minister/Vice-President at the time, Kagame, claims AFDL was formed in and directed from Kigali/ had Rwandan-trained troops & regulars of RPA. Kagame: Rwanda discovered Hutu plans to invade Rwanda with Mobutu help; in response, Kigali attack refugee camps in which the génocidaires often took refuge + PRA sympathy

1998 - Rwanda switches allegiance to support rebel forces trying to depose Kabila in the wake of the Congolese president's failure to expel extremist Hutu militias



1993 June - Melchior Ndadaye's Frodebu wins multi-party polls, ending Tutsi rule and leading to pro-Hutu government

1993 October - Tutsi soldiers assassinate President Ndadaye – Genocide 300,000 lives

1994 January - Parliament appoints Cyprien Ntaryamira - a Hutu - as president. 1994 April - Plane carrying Ntaryamira and his Rwandan counterpart is shot down over the Rwandan capital Kigali, killing both and triggering genocide in Rwanda in which 800,000 are killed.


1993 to 2005 – Burundian Civil War - estimated death toll 300,000 - estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people died within first year

1994 October - Parliament speaker Sylvestre Ntibantunganya an ethnic Hutu appointed president.


Influx of 100s of 1000s of Rwandan refugees & activities of armed Hutu and Tutsi groups further destabilize regime

1995 - Massacre of Hutu refugees leads to renewed ethnic violence in the capital, Bujumbura.

1996, Tutsi Buyoya oust Hutu pres. in coup

Burundi, which had recently come under the rule of a pro-Tutsi leader, was supportive of Rwandan and Ugandan involvement in Zaire but provided very limited military support.

1998 – Agreement Buyoya formally made pres. selects vice-pres. Domitien Ndayizeye, a Hutu - Arusha peace talks began on 15 June 1998

Arusha talks closed with little progress made on November 30, 2000


Museveni allowed RPF to use Uganda as base during 1990 offensive into Rwanda/civil war. Laurent Nkunda, a Tutsi from Congo joins RPF.

1997 - Ugandan troops help depose Mobutu of Zaire/replace by L Kabila.

1998 - Ugandan troops intervene in Congo on the side of rebels seeking to overthrow Kabila

Museveni supported Rwanda in 1st Congo War said: rebellion was incited by Zairian Tutsi recruited by Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA).

Ugandan soldiers present in Zaire throughout 1st Congo. Lt. Col. James Kabarebe of the AFDL, former member Uganda's National Resistance Army that brought Museveni to power- French/ Belgian intelligence reported that 15,000 Ugandan-trained Tutsi fought for the AFDL

1997- Angola entered war on side of rebels, to depose Mobutu for his support of UNITA rebels acting in Angola – UNITA (Savimbi) fought alongside FAZ

Zambia and Zimbabwe gave some military support to the rebel movement. Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudanese rebel SPLA supported anti-Mobutu coalition

Sudan supported Mobutu

Amnesty claimed 200,000 Rwandese Hutu refugees massacred by AFDL/RPF and Rwandan Defense Forces


2cd Congo War 2000–3;

Kivu conflict (2007);

Nord-Kivu War (2008)

2006-9 - CNDP armed militia by Laurent Nkunda in Kivu, Congo

2009- CNDP split/Nkunda arrested by Rwanda gov. A splinter led by Bosco Ntaganda integrated in army.

2009, CNDP signs agreement with the DRC govt. Gen. Makenga Sultani (Tutsi) split to form M23.

2009- UN Human Rights’ Navi Pillay suspects 2008 violence in North Kivu may be war crimes by both the army and CNDP militia. “Millions died while Washington’s allies occupied and looted the eastern regions of DR Congo.”

2010- Operation Rwenzori against Ugandan ADF-NALU rebels prompts 90,000 to flee in North Kivu

2010 Nov - UN agencies report widespread rapes during mass expulsion of illigal migrants from Angola to DRCongo.

2011- UN report says Rwanda are funding the conflict, with the money from tin, tungsten and tantalum smuggled across the border from mines in the eastern DR Congo.

2012- UN panel says Rwanda & Uganda supplying M23 with weapons & support, both countries deny.

2013 March - Warlord & alleged M23 founder Bosco Ntaganda surrenders to US embassy in Rwanda

2013- Caritas International estimates 6.9 million Congolese have died since 1998.

Conflict Minerals - Main drivers of conflict in DRC are its minerals & resources, cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold, tantalum, and tin.  Rebel armed forces exploit these resources and fuel the continuous conflict in the Congo.  Many of these minerals are exported to electronics companies worldwide. The govt also has its share in this exploitation.

2014- DR Congo says almost 60,000 of its citizens have been deported by Congo-Brazzaville in the past month


2000 April - parliament elect Vice-President Paul Kagame as Rwanda's new president.

2002- Rwanda, DR Congo sign peace deal

2004- Kagame rejects French report that he ordered 1994 attack on president's plane, which sparked genocide.

2005-  Hutu rebel group, FDLR, says it is ending its armed struggle

2008- UN report accuses Rwanda/ DRCongo of directly helping Tutsi rebels fighting in eastern DR Congo. Rwanda denies supplying aid & child soldiers.

2008 May - Government and FNL rebels sign ceasefire. FNL leader Agathon Rwasa returns home from exile in Tanzania. Goes to hiding again in 2010

2012- Murundi People's Front Abatabazi becomes sixth rebel group to launch attacks on government forces from across the DR Congolese border

2014- UN report warns that the government is arming its young supporters ahead of next year's elections

2014- Burundian authorities arrest several NED National Endowment For Democracy funded activists, accusing them of spreading lies about the Burundian military training pro-government Burundian youth.


2002 - Jean Minani, leader of main Hutu party Frodebu, elected president

April 2003, headquarters of African Union Mission in Burundi established in Bujumbura under South African Maj Gen Sipho Binda

July 2003, a rebel attack on Bujumbura left 300 dead and 15,000 displaced

2003 - Ndayizeye became the President, a Hutu

2003 – Hutu rebel (FDD) Nkurunziza sign agreement to end civil war, becomes polit party, Forces for National Liberation (FNL), remains active.

2004- FNL killing 160 Congolese Tutsi refugees in a UN camp at Gatumba near Congo border

2005- Former Chairman of (CNDD-FDD) ruling party, Pierre Nkurunziza becomes pres.

Pierre Nkurunziza 2014 press conference (cropped).jpg

Peace Process- Jan 2005 new national army, of Tutsi military forces & all but one Hutu rebel groups

2006 - FNL and govt. sign ceasefire. Curfew lifted April 15, 2006, for the first time since 1993

April 2008, FNL rebels shelled the capital, Bujumbura, while fighting killed at least 33

2008 Govt. & FNL ceasefire. FNL Agathon Rwasa returns home from exile in Tanzania.

Nkurunziza ties with China, India and Brazil- 2010 to sign an agreement with Beijing

2009 Paris Club of creditor nations cancels $134.3m debt Burundi owed 2009 April - Ex-rebel Niyombare becomes first Hutu chief of general staff.

13 May 2015 Major General Godefroid Niyombare attempts coup

2015- two months of anti-Nkurunziza protests, at least 100 dead, more than 150,000 Burundians flee from country


2002 March - Sudan, Uganda sign agreement to contain Ugandan rebels Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)

2002 October - Army evacuates more than 400,000 civilians from LRA

2005- Hague: Congo says Uganda invaded its territory in 1999, killing citizens/looting.

2005- ICCourt issues arrest warrants Joseph Kony.

2005 ICC rules Uganda must compensate Congo for abuses/plundering resources 1998 to 2003.

2006 - Govt rejects a UN report accusing army of using excessive force in campaign to disarm tribal warriors in Karamoja.

2008- Uganda, South Sudan & DR Congo launch offensive against LRA bases. UK oil explorer Heritage Oil says it has made a major oil find in Uganda.

2010- Operation Rwenzori against ADF-NALU rebels striving for an Islamic state in Uganda prompts 90,000 to flee in North Kivu province of neighbouring DR Congo.

2010- UN report ‘Hutus killing in Congo btw. 1993 & 2003 says they may be ‘crimes of genocide’. Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Zimbabwe & Angola involved.

2011 - Museveni wins 4th election.

2011 July - US deploys special forces personnel to help Uganda combat LRA rebels.

2012- UN accuses Uganda sending troops into Congo to fight alongside M23 rebels, Uganda denies.

2012 - Uganda announces to withdraw from UN peacekeeping missions in response to UN accusations that Uganda is arming Congolese rebels.

2013- CITES says Uganda among worst offenders in illegal ivory trade

2013- Parliament passes controversial anti-gay bill. World Bank postpones a $90m loan to Uganda over the move, and the US imposes sanctions.

1000 fighters of M23 seek asylum in Uganda

2015- Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces accused of massacre in Beni in neighbouring DR Congo.

                                          Arming the Rebels & Profiting

Amnesty International. 2005. ‘Democratic Republic of Congo: Illegal Arms Exports Fuelling Killings, Mass Rape and Torture.’

Report reveals:

Rwanda getting 400 tons of ammunition shipped from Albania & Serbia with involvement of Israeli, Rwandan, South African & UK companies between 2002 and 2003. 130 tons of arms from Bosnia approved by the US govt in 2004.

Uganda getting weapons/ ammunition from Croatia and Slovakia worth over US$ 1million in 2002 - Donations of military vehicles from China in 2002 and attempts by the Ugandan government to import more arms from Israel in 2003.

DRC govt. having arms-for-diamonds agreements with companies in the Czech Republic, Israel & Ukraine. 2004 arms trafficking network linking the DRC and Liberia involving international cargo companies. The transfer of over 200 tons of arms to a pro-government armed group in north Kivu by a local company using aircraft from a South African firm supplying UN peacekeepers in 2003.



DRC is home to 80% of the world’s coltan, a black tar-like mineral used in capacitors. Cabot Corporation, Boston, MA; OM Group, Cleveland, Ohio; AVX, Myrtle Beach, SC; Eagle Wings Resources International, Ohio; Trinitech International, Ohio; Kemet Electronics Corporation, Greenville, SC; Vishay Sprague. Malvern, PA; HC Starc and EPCOS, Germany; Nigncxia, China; George Forrest International, Belgium.

The capacitors are then sold to companies such as Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Alcatel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard , IBM, Lucent, Ericsson and Sony.

An estimated $24 trillion of mineral wealth (equivalent to the combined GDPs of Europe and the United States). During the invasions of the DRC by Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, armed militias engaged in mass scale looting of minerals in the DRC. The five key minerals were coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt, and gold. A UN report says, ‘this massive looting was aided by U.S.-backed governments in Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC and Western multinational corporations that used (and still use) militias as a conduit to gain access to those resources’.


1994 – In Rwanda Genocide, Israel under Yitzhak Rabin, sending arms and supplying the Hutu forces as well as the rebel army led by Paul Kagame with bullets, rifles and grenades. Israel trained the Rwandan military and paramilitary forces in the years leading up to the Genocide.

Mil-Tec Corporation Ltd, a UK company repeatedly supplied arms to the Hutu regime that were sent from Tel Aviv.

1994 - a DC-8 aircraft loaded with armaments from France, including 90 boxes of Belgian-made 60 mm mortars, was confiscated by UNAMIR at Kigali International Airport.


US arms-trade to Africa –

In Cold War years (1950-89) US delivered 1.5billion worth arms mainly to Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, and Zaire.

US supplied Mobutu Sese Soko $300 million in weapons and $100 million in military training. When Kabila took power, the Clinton administration quickly offered the same to him.

US armed 8 of 9 governments directly involved in war in DRC since Kabila’s coup.


Pentagon’s Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program has trained military personnel from at least 34 of Africa’s 53 nations, including troops fighting on both sides of the DRC’s civil war – from Rwanda and Uganda (supporting the rebels) to Zimbabwe and Namibia (supporting the Kabila regime).

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General & UNEP Executive Director, talking of a UNEP study on Congo said:

"This assessment confirms the DRC's unique endowment of natural resources and how they can contribute to sustainable economic growth, but also reveals the legacy of using these resources in fuelling much of the conflict and human tragedy that has plagued its people for too long"


According to Amnesty International (1996) whilst nearly one million people were killed during the 100 days of the genocide (this included at least three-quarters of all Tutsi living in Rwanda at the time) the violence also resulted in more than 2 million people fleeing Rwanda, taking refuge in the DRC, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi


Amnesty International. 2005. ‘Democratic Republic of Congo: Illegal Arms Exports Fuelling Killings, Mass Rape and Torture.’

Report reveals:

Rwanda getting 400 tons of ammunition shipped from Albania & Serbia with involvement of Israeli, Rwandan, South African & UK companies between 2002 and 2003. 130 tons of arms from Bosnia approved by the US govt in 2004.