Famously known as the Second Congo War, the war began in 1998 and officially ended in 2003. It was the deadliest conflict since World War II, with an estimated death toll of up to five million people. The war involved multiple armed groups, including rebel forces, government forces, and international military forces.
Rebel group in DRC. Photo courtesy
At its core, the war was a struggle for control over the vast natural resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including minerals such as gold, diamonds, and coltan. The DRC is home to an estimated 70% of the world's coltan, which is used in the production of electronics such as cell phones and laptops.
Rwanda and Uganda, two neighboring countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa, were heavily involved in the conflict. Both countries were accused of backing different rebel groups in the DRC in order to gain access to its natural resources.
A photo of villagers escaping attacks from rebels. Photo courtesy
Rwanda, in particular, played a major role in the conflict. The country had already been through a devastating genocide in 1994, in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists. The genocide had been sparked by longstanding ethnic tensions between the two groups, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi-led rebel group, had taken control of the country at the end of the conflict.
The RPF government in Rwanda was keen to prevent a similar genocide from happening again, and they believed that Hutu extremists who had fled the country after the genocide were using the DRC as a base from which to launch attacks. In 1996, Rwanda invaded the DRC to oust these groups and install a more friendly government.
However, the conflict quickly escalated, with other rebel groups and neighboring countries getting involved. Uganda, for example, backed rebel forces led by Laurent-Desire Kabila, who eventually toppled the government that Rwanda had helped install. Rwanda responded by backing its own rebel groups, leading to a complex and bloody conflict that lasted for years.
Displaced Villagers during the second Congo War. Photo courtesy
The involvement of Rwanda and Uganda in the conflict had devastating consequences for the people of the DRC. Rebel groups from both countries were accused of committing atrocities such as rape, murder, and forced labor. The conflict also led to the displacement of millions of people, who were forced to flee their homes and live in overcrowded refugee camps.
In addition to Rwanda and Uganda, other countries were also involved in the conflict, including Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, who backed the government forces. The conflict also drew in international peacekeeping forces, including troops from the United Nations.
Overall, the war in Congo was a complex and devastating conflict that had wide-ranging consequences for the people of the DRC and the wider region. The involvement of Rwanda and Uganda was driven by their desire to gain access to the DRC's natural resources, but it had a profound impact on the stability of the region and the lives of millions of people.
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