Ending the armed conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo


The Second Congo War (1998-2003) was ended by negotiations hosted by the South African government and the deployment of UN peacekeepers.

In August 1998, fifteen months after a broad opposition coalition backed by Rwanda and Uganda ousted Mobutu Sese Seko from power during the First Congo War, another major conflict erupted. Yet another broad opposition coalition, again backed by troops from Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, launched offensives from Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the goal of replacing Mobutu’s successor, Laurent-Désiré Kabila. The Government of Rwanda played a major role in the conflict, with senior Rwandan military officers commanding this coalition of armed groups. Just as victory seemed within reach for the opposition following a daring airborne operation to capture Kitona on the mouth of the Congo river to the west of Kinshasa, allies of the Government of Congo mobilised in support of Kabila. Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia deployed troops in support of the embattled administration, who were later joined by contingents from Sudan, Libya, and Chad.1 Divisions between the governments of Uganda and Rwanda emerged, leading to further conflict and adding another dimension to the conflict. By 2001, the DRC was devastated by conflict, millions had died, and half the country was controlled by opposition groups backed by the governments of Uganda or Rwanda.2 The extent of foreign involvement earned the Second Congo War the monikers “the Great African War” and “Africa’s World War.”

Efforts to end the armed conflict in DRC began in June 1999, when negotiations mediated by the Zambian president resulted in the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.3 Although many aspects of the accord (the deployment of UN peacekeepers, for example) were later incorporated into the peace process, Lusaka itself failed to end the war. In January 2001, Kabila was assassinated, considerably changing the political dynamics of the situation. His son, Joseph, succeeded him and began preparing the ground for a comprehensive peace process and Inter-Congolese Dialogue to take place.4 Combined with the belated arrival of UN peacekeepers and the backing that Western governments and institutions offered the younger Kabila, this led the foreign governments embroiled in the conflict to begin withdrawing their forces.5 After several false starts, a breakthrough was finally made during negotiations hosted by the Government of South Africa in 2002, leading to further troop withdrawals from DRC and the de-escalation of the conflict.6 The talks culminated on 2 April 2003 with the signing of the Sun City Agreement in South Africa, which formally ended the Second Congolese War.7

1 Kris Berwouts. Congo’s Violent Peace: Conflict and Struggle Since the Great African War. (Zed Books: London, 2017) pp.19-20

2 Jason K. Stearns. Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of Congo and the Great War of Africa. (New York: PublicAffairs, 2012) p.188

3 Ceasefire Agreement (Lusaka Agreement), 1999. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/drc-lusaka-agreement99 (Accessed 05/01/2022)

4 Acte d'Engagement Gaborone, 2001. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/drc-engagementgaberone2001 (Accessed 05/01/2022)

5 Gérard Prunier. Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) pp.265-9

6 Global and Inclusive Agreement on Transition in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Pretoria Agreement), 2002. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/drc-agreementontransition2002 (Accessed 05/01/2022)

7 Inter-Congolese Negotiations: The Final Act (Sun City Agreement), 2003. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/drc-suncity-agreement2003 (Accessed 05/01/2022)

Start Year


End Year



Democratic Republic of Congo

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict with foreign involvement

Type of Initiative

Diplomacy, Mediation of a peace agreement, Peacekeeping mission

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Government of South Africa and the UN




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