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Timeline: Key dates in DR Congo's turbulent history

Fifty years after its independence, the Democratic Republic of Congo is preparing for only its second democratic election. France24 looks at thirteen dates that have marked the turbulent history of the Central African country.


June 30, 1960 – The Belgian Congo gains its independence and becomes the Republic of the Congo. Elected by the new national assembly, Joseph Kasavubu becomes the country’s first president. Patrice Lumumba, another independence leader, is the first Prime Minister.

July 11, 1960 – Moise Tshombe, a businessman and pro-Belgian leader takes control of the southern Katanga province and declares its independence from Congo. The United Nations votes to send troops to establish order. Powerless to intervene at first, the UN troops eventually drive Tshombe out of Katanga two years later.
September 14, 1960 – As Kasavu and Lumumba wrestle over power, army chief Joseph Mobutu overthrows the government in a coup. Lumumba, who turned to the Soviet Union for material and military assistance, is placed under arrest, while Kasavubu is eventually restored as president.
January 17, 1961 – Lumumba is handed over to the secessionists in Katanga and executed. The degree of involvement of the CIA and the Belgian government in his capture and assassination has still not been clearly established.

November 24, 1965 – Mobutu seizes power in a second coup and replaces Kasavubu as head of state. He is applauded by much of the international community and the Congolese political class that felt paralyzed by infighting since independence.

June 24, 1967 – Mobutu approves a new constitution, establishing an autocratic single party system. Five years later he proclaims himself Field Marshal-President.
October 1971 – As part of Mobutu’s so-called policy of “authenticity” that sought to purge Western colonial culture, the country is renamed Zaire. Likewise city names are changed and the use of local African names is promoted over Christian ones.

April 1990 – A new constitution, recognising other political parties, is adopted after several months of unrest. More than 200 political parties will be established. The formation of a coalition government in 1991 eventually breaks down as Mobutu insists on retaining all real power in Zaire.

May 17, 1997 - The First Congo War, involving several neighbouring countries, has been raging for several months. The Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL), backed by Rwandan and Ugandan forces, takes the capital of Kinshasa. AFDL leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila proclaims himself president. Zaire once more becomes the Democratic Republic of Congo. Exiled in Morocco, Mobutu dies a few months later from cancer. One year later, the Second Congo War breaks out, engulfing nine countries and thirty different armed groups.

January 16, 2001 - Kabila is assassinated by his bodyguard. His son, Joseph Kabila, succeeds him. The Second Congo War nominally ends in December 2002 and Joseph Kabila sets up a transitional government which maintains him as head of state.

June 30, 2003 - Peace accords officially end the Second Congo War. According to NGOs, nearly four million people died either as direct victims of the fighting or of disease and famine during the war. Millions more were displaced to neighbouring countries.

March 28, 2004 - An attempted coup against Kabila. Gunmen take control of two military camps, a naval base and an air base in Kinshasa. The failed coup is led by members of Mobutu’s old guard.

November 27, 2006 - Joseph Kabila is declared the winner of the country’s first democratic elections, beating rival Jean-Pierre Bemba in a second-round run-off. The period between the two election rounds is marked by deadly violence.



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