Congo, Democratic Republic of The - Country history and economic development

1885. The Congo is colonized as a personal fiefdom of Belgian King Leopold II and is called the Congo Free State.

1907. The administration of the Congo Free State is transferred to the Belgian government, which renames the country the Belgian Congo.

1960. The Congo gains independence from Belgium. Shortly after, the army mutinies and the Katanga province secedes. The United Nations sends troops to protect Europeans and maintain order. Joseph Desire Mobutu, the army's chief of staff, intervenes militarily to resolve a power struggle between President Joseph Kasavubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Mobutu has Lumumba arrested.

1961. Mobutu returns power to President Kasavubu. Lumumba is handed over to Katanga rebels and soon murdered.

1964. The country is renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1965. Mobutu stages a military coup amid a political crisis, appointing himself president for 5 years and canceling scheduled elections.

1970. Mobutu establishes his Popular Movement of the Revolution as the sole political party and all Congolese are forced to join the party. Mobutu is also reelected as president in a one-candidate election.

1971. Mobutu begins reform under his "Zairianization" policy. Under this policy he changes the country's name to the Republic of Zaire, and Zairians are forced to use their African names (as opposed to their Christian names) and adopt African dress.

1973. Under "Zairianization," the government appropriates over 2,000 foreign-owned businesses. These businesses are mostly distributed to Mobutu and his associates.

1977. Former Katangan secessionists invade Katanga from Angola, where they had been living in exile. Mobutu suppresses the rebellion with the help of Moroccan troops and military assistance from his Western allies.

1982. Dissidents of Mobutu's one-party rule form the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). UDPS leaders are harassed and imprisoned.

1990. Mobutu announces the creation of a multiparty democratic system. However, a national multiparty conference to draft a new constitution is suspended. The United States, which had supplied Mobutu with hundreds of millions of dollars annually, ends direct military and economic aid because of corruption and human rights abuses by the Mobutu regime.

1991. As a result of mounting domestic and international pressure, Mobutu agrees to form a coalition government with UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi.

1992. The multiparty constitutional conference resumes amid squabbling and continued unrest. Conference members name Tshisekedi as Prime Minister to head a transitional government. Later, the Conference adopts a draft constitution to incorporate a bicameral parliament and a system of universal suffrage to elect a president.

1994. Rwandan ethnic Hutus massacre over 500,000 Rwandan ethnic Tutsis. Shortly thereafter, an outside Tutsi rebel force takes over Rwanda. Fearing retribution, over 1.3 million Rwandan Hutus flee into eastern Zaire. Accompanying these refugees are many of the Hutus responsible for the Tutsi massacre.

1996. Zairian Tutsi in eastern Zaire revolt because they are threatened with expulsion by Hutus. Uganda and Rwanda seize upon this revolt to secure their borders from the Hutus responsible for the massacre and select veteran guerrilla fighter Laurent Kabila to invade eastern Zaire. Hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees return to Rwanda.

1997. Kabila's army, composed mostly of Rwandans and Ugandans, takes Kinshasa, and Mobutu flees into exile. Kabila appoints himself as president and changes the country's name back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1998. Kabila kicks out his Rwandan supporters, which sparks a war supported by Rwanda and Uganda against him. Rebel activity unofficially divides the Congo into 3 regions.

1999. The Lusaka Peace Accord is signed by Kabila and representatives of Rwanda and Uganda. Pursuant to the Accord, the parties agree to a cease-fire, the installation of U.N. peacekeeping troops in the Congo, and a "national dialogue" to chart the country's future. All parties continue to violate the Accord.

2001. President Laurent Kabila is assassinated by one of his bodyguards. His son, Major General Joseph Kabila, is appointed as interim president. Rwanda and Uganda begin removing their troops and the U.N. sends peacekeeping forces.

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