Last update on: 13 September 2020
Timeline – the short version
- 1870s – Belgian King Leopold II sets about colonizing the area as his private holding
- 1908 – Congo Free State placed under Belgian rule-following outrage over the treatment of Congolese
- 1960 – Independence, followed by civil war and temporary fragmentation of the country
- 1965 – Mobutu Sese Seko seizes power
- 1997 – Rebels oust Mobutu. Laurent Kabila becomes president
- 1997–2003 – Civil war, drawing in several neighboring countries (Africa’s first world war).
- 2006 – Presidential elections
A chronology of key events:
1482 – Portuguese navigator Diogo Cao becomes the first European to visit the Congo; Portuguese set up ties with the king of Kongo.
16th-17th centuries – British, Dutch, Portuguese, and French merchants engage in the slave trade through Kongo intermediaries.
1870s – Belgian King Leopold II set up a private venture to colonize Kongo.
1874-77 – British explorer Henry Stanley navigates the Congo river to the Atlantic Ocean.
1879-87 – Leopold commissions Stanley to establish the king’s authority in the Congo basin.
1884-85 – European powers at the Conference of Berlin recognize Leopold’s claim to the Congo basin.
1885 – Leopold announces the establishment of the Congo Free State, headed by himself.
1891-92 – Belgians conquer Katanga.
1892-94 – Eastern Congo wrested from the control of East African Arab and Swahili-speaking traders.
1908 – Belgian state annexes Congo amid protests over killings and atrocities carried out on a mass scale by Leopold’s agents.
Millions of Congolese are said to have been killed or worked to death during Leopold’s control of the territory.
1955 – Belgian Professor Antoin van Bilsen publishes a “30-Year Plan” for granting the Congo increased self-government.
1959 – Belgium begins to lose control over events in the Congo following serious nationalist riots in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa).
1960 June – Congo becomes independent with Patrice Lumumba as prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as president.
1960 July – Congolese army mutinies; Moise Tshombe declares Katanga independent; Belgian troops sent in ostensibly to protect Belgian citizens and mining interests; UN Security Council votes to send in troops to help establish order, but the troops are not allowed to intervene in internal affairs.
1960 September – President Kasavubu dismisses Mr. Lumumba.
1961 February – Patrice Lumumba murdered, reportedly with US and Belgian complicity.
1961 August – UN troops begin disarming Katangese soldiers.
1963 – Moise Tshombe agrees to end Katanga’s secession.
1964 – President Kasavubu appoints Mr. Tshombe prime minister.
1965 – Army chief Joseph Mobutu seizes power.
1971 – Joseph Mobutu renames the country Zaire and himself Mobutu Sese Seko; Katanga becomes Shaba and the river Congo becomes the river Zaire.
1973-74 – President Mobutu nationalizes many foreign-owned firms and forces European investors out of the country.
1977 – President Mobutu invites foreign investors back, without much success; French, Belgian and Moroccan troops help repulse an attack on Katanga by Angolan-based rebels.
1989 – Zaire defaults on loans from Belgium, resulting in a cancellation of development programs and increased deterioration of the economy.
1990 – President Mobutu agrees to end the ban on multiparty politics and appoints a transitional government, but retains substantial powers.
1991 – Following riots in Kinshasa by unpaid soldiers, President Mobutu agrees to a coalition government with opposition leaders, but retains control of the security apparatus and important ministries.
1994 – President Mobutu agrees to the appointment of Kengo Wa Dondo, an advocate of free-market reforms, as prime minister.
1996-97 – Tutsi rebels capture much of eastern Zaire while President Mobutu is abroad for medical treatment.
Rule of the Kabilas
1997 May – Tutsi and other anti-Mobutu rebels, aided principally by Rwanda, capture the capital, Kinshasa; Zaire is renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo; Laurent-Desire Kabila installed as president.
1998 August – Rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda rise up against Mr. Kabila and advance on Kinshasa. Zimbabwe, Namibia send troops to repel them. Angolan troops also side with Mr. Kabila. The rebels take control of much of the east of DR Congo.
1999 July – The six African countries involved in the war sign a ceasefire accord in Lusaka. The following month the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) rebels supported by Uganda and Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) rebels backed by Rwanda also sign.
2000 – UN Security Council authorizes a 5,500-strong UN force to monitor the ceasefire but fighting continues between rebels and government forces, and between Rwandan and Ugandan forces.
2001 January – President Laurent Kabila is shot dead by a bodyguard. Joseph Kabila succeeds his father.
2001 May – US refugee agency says the war has killed 2.5 million people, directly or indirectly, since August 1998.
Later, a UN panel says the warring parties are deliberately prolonging the conflict to plunder gold, diamonds, timber, and coltan, used in the making of mobile phones.
2002 January – Eruption of Mount Nyiragongo devastates much of the city of Goma.
Search for peace
2002 July – Presidents of DR Congo and Rwanda sign a peace deal under which Rwanda will withdraw troops from the east and DR Congo will disarm and arrest Rwandan Hutu gunmen blamed for the killing of the Tutsi minority in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
2002 September – Presidents of DR Congo and Uganda sign peace accord under which Ugandan troops will leave DR Congo.
2002 December – Peace deal signed in South Africa between the Kinshasa government and the main rebel groups. Under the deal, rebels and opposition members are to be given portfolios in an interim government.
2003 June – French soldiers arrive in Bunia, spearheading a UN-mandated rapid-reaction force.
2003 June – President Kabila names a transitional government to lead until elections in two years’ time. Leaders of main former rebel groups are sworn in as vice-presidents in July.
2006 February – New constitution comes into force; a new national flag is adopted.
2006 March – Warlord Thomas Lubanga becomes the first war crimes suspect to face charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He is accused of forcing children into active combat.
2006 May – Thousands are displaced in the north-east as the army and UN peacekeepers step up their drive to disarm irregular forces ahead of the elections.
2006 July – Presidential and parliamentary polls are held – the first free elections in four decades.
2006 November – Joseph Kabila is declared the winner of October’s run-off presidential election. The poll has the general approval of international monitors.
2007 April – DRCongo, Rwanda, and Burundi relaunch the regional Great Lakes Countries Economic Community (CEPGL).
2007 September – Major outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
2008 October – Rebel forces capture major army base of Rumangabo; the Congolese government accuses Rwanda of backing Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, a claim Rwanda denies.
2008 November – UN Security Council approves a temporary increase of troops to bolster the strained UN peacekeeping effort in the east.
2010 July – $8 billion debt relief deal approved by the World Bank and IMF.
2010 November – Paris Club of creditor countries scrap half of DRCongo’s debt.
2011 November – Presidential and parliamentary elections. Mr. Kabila gains another term. The vote is criticized abroad and the opposition disputes the result.
2013 February – Representatives of 11 African countries sign an accord in Ethiopia pledging to help end the conflict in DR Congo. The M23 rebel group declared a ceasefire ahead of the talks, and its leader Bosco Ntaganda surrenders the following month.
2013 July – 3,000-member UN Intervention Brigade deployed to fight and disarm rebels in the east.
2015 January – Dozens killed in protests against proposed electoral law changes which the opposition said were designed to allow President Kabila to remain in power.
2016 November – A political deal signed between President Kabila’s ruling coalition and the opposition to delay the presidential election until 2018 sees Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and his cabinet resign, paving the way for a new cabinet to include opposition figures.
2017 December – DR Congo is experiencing a “mega-crisis”, with conflict having forced 1.7 million people to flee their homes during the year, aid agencies say. DR Congo is worst-affected by conflict displacement in the world, they say.
2018 March – Main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress chooses Felix Tshisekedi as its candidate for the December presidential election.
2018 June – The government asks commissions to look at declassifying parts of Virunga and Salonga national parks, both Unesco World Heritage Sites, for oil exploration. Environmentalists claim drilling would endanger wildlife and contribute to global warming.
2018 August – Governing People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy chooses former interior minister Ramazani Shadary as its presidential candidate, as President Kabila cannot run for another term.
2019 January – Officials declare opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi the winner of December’s presidential election, prompting protests from rival opposition candidate Martin Fayulu of a deal with the government, whose candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary came third.
These products are the results of academic research and intended for general information and awareness only. They include the best information publicly available at the time of publication. Routine efforts are made to update the materials; however, readers are encouraged to check the specific mission sites at https://monusco.unmissions.org/en or https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/monusco.
Congo Country Profile
United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)
Senior Leaders of the Mission / Mandate / Strength / Deployment of Forces / Casualties / Mission´s Political Activities / Security Council Reporting and Mandate Cycles / Background of Conflict / Timeline