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Tuesday, August 4, 1998 Published at 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK

World: Africa

Kabila: The Rwanda connection

Laurent Kabila, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo - formerly Zaire - rose to power with the backing of the Tutsi-led government in neighbouring Rwanda.

The BBC's Laurent Ndayahurume on the relationship between Rwanda and Congo
Relations with his former allies now appear to have soured.

The BBC Africa correspondent quotes diplomats as saying Mr Kabila has pursued too independent a line for his former backers since taking power last May. He has also moved against ethnic Tutsis in his administration and army.

Zaire's Tutsis

Rwanda's involvement with President Kabila dates back to the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when an estimated one million Hutu refugees fled to Zaire.

[ image: Mobutu: Zaire's president for 32 years]
Mobutu: Zaire's president for 32 years
To Rwanda's consternation, Zaire's refugee camps quickly became a base for extremist Hutu militia - who had been largely responsible for the genocide.

By 1996, there were reports that Hutu militia and elements of the Zairean security forces were persecuting Zaire's own Tutsi community, known as the Banyamulenge.

Kabila's rise to power

BBC African specialist Tom Porteous on the Rwandan connection
Although the Banyamulenge communities had been in Zaire for centuries, they were - and remain - unpopular with the Congolese.

In what regional analyst Amelia French dubs "a marriage of convenience", Laurent Kabila, a long-time opponent of Mobutu Sese Seko, sided with the Banyamulenge rebel movement, which was backed by the Tutsi-dominated authorities in Rwanda.

In October 1996, Kabila's "Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire" launched an offensive against the Zairean Government.

With the help of ethnic Tutsis and the Rwandan army, Kabila's alliance took control of over half the country - larger in size than western Europe - within seven months.

Laurent Kabila declared himself President of the Democratic Republic of Congo on 17 May 1997.

Rwandan troops ordered out

After Kabila'a rise to power, elements of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan army remained in DR Congo. Officially, they were said to be there to help build up a new army. But correspondents say they also wanted to keep an eye on their neighbour.

Within the DR Congo there were fears that Rwanda's presence was too dominant. President Kabila was seen to be allied with a Tutsi minority that was increasingly unpopular.

At the end of July Mr Kabila ordered his former allies to withdraw.

Key dates

  • 1960 Former Belgian Congo gains independence

  • 1965 Mobutu Sese Seko becomes President of Republic of Congo - later called Zaire

  • 1994 Rwanda's genocide sends an estimated 1 million Hutu refugees fleeing into Zaire

  • 1996 Laurent Kabila's rebel movement launches offensive against Zairean government

  • 1997 - May 17 Laurent Kabila declares himself president of the Democratic Republic of Congo

  • 1997 - September Mobutu Sese Seko dies of prostate cancer

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