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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
DR Congo awash with rebels

The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been complicated by the involvement of armies and militias from neighbouring countries, but the country's own political and military equation is just as hard to unravel.

There are numerous rebels groups and factions, whose shifting allegiances could make them the jokers in the pack now that DR Congo and Rwanda have put their cards on the table.

The two main groups are the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) and the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC).

The RCD, which controls areas of eastern and south-eastern Congo, was backed by Rwanda, which has now pulled most of its troops out of DR Congo.

Congolese war victim
Civilians have been main victims of DR Congo's wars

The Uganda-backed MLC, was set up to fight the government of the late Laurent Kabila.

In April this year, it reached an agreement with the government at the Inter-Congolese Dialogue in South Africa.

Its leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba, was supposed to become prime minister but he has not even set foot in Kinshasa in the three months since the deal was signed.

The RCD has now split into factions, further tangling the web of alliances.


The RCD-ML (Liberation Movement) of Mbusa Nyamwisi and the RCD-National of Roger Lumbala both split from the Rwandan-backed RCD, received support from Uganda and cooperated with the MLC.

The two RCD factions are active in the north-east of the country, between Kisangani and Bunia on the Ugandan border.

Much of the time their activity, though, involves fighting each other.

The original RCD is still allied to Rwanda and was not part of the deal reached in South Africa in April.

In recent months it has suffered its own splits.

Lendu men
Lendu ethnic militias are part of the factional tangle

There is currently bitter fighting between the Rwanda-RCD alliance and the mainly Banyamulenge forces of Patrick Masunzu in the south-east of DR Congo, near Uvira.

The Banyamulenge are ethnic Tutsis from DR Congo who were part of the coalition which supported Laurent Kabila against former dictator Mobutu Sese-Seko.

They joined the rebellion against Laurent Kabila in 1998 but at the beginning of this year decided to stop fighting against the government.

Ethnic factions

To make the mix of rebels groups yet more varied, there are other ethnically-linked groups with no strong allegiance to any of the main groups but which engage in shifting alliances according to local conditions.

The Mai-Mai were also part of the alliance against Mobutu.

After Laurent Kabila became president, they turned against the new government because, they said, there were too many Banyamulenge Tutsis in the command structure of the new army.

In the past few years, they have been linked with Uganda and with the Rwandan ethnic Hutu rebels still operating near the DR Congo-Rwanda border.

This puts the Mai-Mai in opposition to the Rwanda-RCD alliance. Fighting took place between them and the RCD in Kindu in September after the withdrawal of Rwandan forces.

The Rwandans said they were in DR Congo to stop the Hutu "Interahamwe" militias from using it as a base to attack Rwanda.

Under the peace deal signed by Rwanda and DR Congo in July in Pretoria, the Hutu rebels are to be disarmed and repatriated and the Rwandan forces will pull out of Congo.

Most of the Rwandans had pulled out by the beginning of October, but there was no indication of how many of the Hutu rebels had been disarmed.

President Joseph Kabila
Kabila must forge a host of alliances to bring peace

The two other warring groups are the Hema and the Lendu in north-eastern DR Congo.

They are two ethnic groups which have been regularly at war with each other for control of land.

The Hema are mainly pastoralists and the Lendu small-scale cultivators.

The Hema have received Ugandan support and are accused by the Lendu of carrying out a brutal war against them.

The fighting between the two groups has been bloody and involved the destruction of entire villages.

These inter-locking but shifting rivalries and loyalties mean that a peace deal between just two or three elements in the conflict only goes a small step towards a more comprehensive and lasting settlement.

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See also:

22 Jul 02 | Africa
17 Jul 02 | Africa
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04 Jul 02 | Africa
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