Congo At War: A Briefing of the Internal and External Players in the Central African Conflict

On 2 August 1998, barely 14 months after the end of the war initiated by the anti-Mobutu coalition, the emergence of a new armed movement announced the beginning of a further "war of liberation" in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this time against the regime of Laurent Désiré Kabila. The conflict arose out of differences between the founder members of the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo - ADFL), the coalition that installed Laurent Kabila at the head of the Congo in May 1997. There was dissension within the ADFL from the start of the movement as evidenced by various armed confrontations between the Rwandan-Ugandan grouping and the opposing Congolese-Angolan party. The ADFL's 1997 victory only succeeded in quelling the movement's internal conflicts for a short time. In July 1998 the dismissal of the Rwandan contingent of the Forces Armées Congolaises (FAC- Congolese Armed Forces) served to accelerate an armed rebellion. Kabila's efforts since 1997 to free himself of his dependence on his former Ugandan and Rwandan sponsors threatened the security and economic interests of these two countries. In this context of reciprocal defiance, each camp sought to organise a new coalition by resorting to the formula that had already proved successful during the 1996-97 "war of liberation": calls for help from foreign troops.