Second Congo War - Zimbabwe

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The Second Congo War a result of the First Congo War, would seem to have been one that everyone expected, and prepared for.

End of First Congo War

Mobutu fled, 16 May 1997. (He then died in September 1997.)
Laurent Désiré Kabila arrived in Kinshasa 23 May 1997.
Laurent Kabila announces new government and national name change from Zaire to DRC, 24 May 1997.
The new Kabila/AFDL government notably excluded most existing political parties such as:

  • Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS) – Etienne Tshisekedi.
  • Unified Lumumbist Party (PALU) – Antoine Gizenga
  • Front for the Survival of Democracy (FSDC)

and most Tsutsi. The opposition parties refused to recognise the new government and called for demonstrations, which happened within hours. Kabila reacted with armed force, and issued a decree banning all but AFDL political activity. Many (particularly PALU) were arrested and tortured.

On 20 May, South Africa, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Libya and Zimbabwe had already recognized the new DRC. Most other European countries, and USA, waited for the official announcement.

Kabila/Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zare (AFDL) controlled Kinshasa, Mtadi and Inga Scheme, Mbandaka, Kikwit, Mbuji Mayi, Kananga, Lubumbashi and Kolwezi. Mostly under AFDL militias, commanded by Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) officers. Angolan troops worked in the DRC against Angolan opposition (including Cabinda) based in the former Zaire. Rwandan troops worked in the DRC against Rwandan opposition (e.g. Hutu extremists) based in the former Zaire. Ugangdan troops worked in the DRC against Ugandan opposition (including Lords Resistance Army) based in the former Zaire. And most foreign nationals in occupation of parts of the DRC worked towards gaining financial rewards for activities undertaken. As Kabila sold "concessions" to foreigners to buy support for his regime. [1] On 4 September 1998, Robert Mugabe signed a deal with Laurent Kabila to provide for the deployment of the ZDF in the DRC, Operation Sovereign Legitimacy started, and Company Operation Sovereign Legitimacy Cosleg Private Limited, with Emmerson Mnangagwa as CEO, began operations.

New Army - Congolese Armed Forces (FAC)

The Zaire Army (FAZ) was "disbanded", often by execution, sometimes in "re-education" camps. This included the other Zaire military apparatus, such as the Zairian Military Intelligence Bureau (SARM), Special Presidential Division (DPS), and the Civil Guard. Two large re-education centres, to which many of those detained were moved, were at Kitona Air Force Base, and Kananga.
Another difficult aspect was the Kadogo (Swahili for 'short ones'). Child soldiers that made up the bulk of the AFDL forces. To be properly trained, or disbanded and re-integrated into society?

In September 1997, the formation of the Congolese Armed Forces (FAC) began to take shape. James Kabarebe, Rwandan Minister of Defence, close Paul Kagame Aide, and major planner of 1996 Zaire invasion (First Congo War), was brought in as Kabila's Acting Chief of Staff, then Minister of Defence, in order to oversee the process.

Second Congo War


For ease of understanding, operational areas are divided into"

  • Bas Congo Kitona, Atlantic coast to Kinshasa.
  • Mbandaka to Kisangani (Equateur Province) North DRC, Central African Republic and Sudan/South Sudan (2011) borders.
  • Kisangani and from Goma/Uganda/Rwanda border, and towards Kinshasa via Ikela.
  • Kindu, Kasongo, Kabalo the Congo River sector south/upstream of Kinshasa. The North and South Kivus.
  • Katanga The Congo River sector south of Kabalo through Katanga (Lake Tanganyika) to Zambian border (Pweto).

The initial operations around Bas Congo from Kitona airport.

Bas Congo / Kitona

Kitona (Bas Congo) August 1998/Start

Called Operation Kitona or Operation Kabila II.
27 July Kabila orders all Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and Ugandan People's Defence Force (UPDF) to leave.
Some RPA refuse to leave Kisangani, take Bangoka airport.

2 Aug Mutiny announcement from Goma.

3 Aug Kaberebe and force fly to Kitona from Goma. In Goma, they commandeered four or five aircraft (including 2 x Boeing 727, 2 x Boeing 707), and the two B727 landed morning 4 August. The pilot was ordered to use a special frequency, which was received by an officer at the back of his plane, who told him all landings were cleared and the Air Force Base (AFB) was secure and friendly. While taxing, the rear ramps were lowered, the force disembarked, and the AFB was secured. The two B707 then landed with more troops, all unloaded, and the four aircraft sent back to Goma several times for reinforcements and supplies.

4 Aug Kabila and Mugabe sign.

5 Aug Kaberebe force in Kitona now stands at - 3 x RPA Bn, 1 x Uganda Bn, 1 x UPDF arty unit. Total 3000 x Rwanda and Uganda troops. Joined by 2000 ex FAZ, ex DSP, ex AFDL. Reactivated Type 59 MBT, Type 62 Light tanks, towed ZPU 1 (12.7mm), ZPU 4 (14.5mm) ZU23 (23mm).

8 Aug Perence Shiri and Mike Nyambuya to N’Djili.

10 Aug Kaberebe force take Matadi.
Operation Sovereign Llegitimacy (OSLEG) starts – deploy by road to Lubumbashi and plane to N’Djili (paras and Cascavels, 800 troops).

13 Aug Uganda takes Inga Dam.

Start in Kisangani

Rwandans take Shabunda (100km West of Bukavu). Then on to Kisangani and Kindu.

Mayi Mayi

Throughout the war, the

  • Mayi Mayi (DRC community hunters offshoot),
  • AliR (Army Liberation Rwanda - Interhamwe, Hutu and former FAR/Rwandan Army),
  • FDD (Force for Defence for Democracy - an armed opposition force in Burundi),

who were all opposed to the Tutsi/Banyamulenge, and any Rwandan Tutsi controlled/allied forces, controlled the roads and countryside. Making any resupply from the east hazardous and unreliable, and needing armed forces as guards.

Start in Katanga

15 Aug ZDF trucks arrive Lubumbashi, to Kalemie. Kamina AFB. 4 Bn arrive. Communications and Military Police left at airport. Namibians reinforce/base there. Arrive in Angolan planes. ZDF to Kamina AFB and make it major base. 2 x 2700m runways. Much material found in underground bunkers. AFZ and redeploys most aircraft and helicopters to Kinshasa and Kamina. ZDF to Manonono and Pweto. To Mbuji Mayi, meet Angolan Mech Bde, reinforced with Namibian arty and helicopters.

Start around Kisangani

Kisangani, FAC take Kisangani and prevent RPA at Bangoka airport from receiving reinforcements.

21 Aug 75th Bn, RPA, advances to Kisangani from Lubutu. FAC disintegrate.

23 Aug RPA take Kisangani.(br/>

Bas Congo

Angola enters war and attacks. Also later take Matadi and Kitona


26 Aug RPA take Kalemie by plane. After local DC calls for all to attack local Tutsi. RCD (Rally Congo Democracy) / ANC (Army National Congo) control Kivus. AFZ bomb both Kisangani airports.

Bas Congo

28 Aug Mike Nyambuya counter attacks. Takes main terminal. RPA to south west, then to suburbs.


30 Aug Rwandans fallback from Kinshasa.

Bas Congo Sept 98 to End Dec 98

1 Sept SAS heliborne operation retakes Inga Dam.

Kaberebe moves towards Kisantu. Cut off from Ugandans around Inga Dam. Angolans secure Mbanza-Mboma. Rwa/Ugan get USA pressure on Kabila/Kinshasa. Everyone thinks fight is over. UNITA ‘there’ with Manpads. Decided NOT to pursue Kabarebe. He moves towards Celo and Mbanza-Ngungu. Then to Quimbele (Angola controlled by Unita). Then airfield at Maquela do Zombo. From mid-December, 3000 Rwa/Ugan extracted. Last 24 Dec 1998.
This is the end of Bas Congo operations.


The most common role of the SAS through the Second Congo War was as long range observation teams. They would clandestinely be inserted, or infiltrate, deep into enemy territory to observe supply lines or enemy positions, and then bring AFZ or artillery fire on to enemy concentrations.
They did at times perform traditional, direct fire, combat operations, as at Inga Dam, above.

Kisangani and North East DRC

NE DRC / Kisangani

Operational area in North East DRC, Kisangani to Uganda/Rwanda border. Goma, Bukavu, North and South Kivus.

11 Sept AFZ and SAS bombing ANC columns along Lubutu/Kisangani Rd.

In the South -
15 Sept Rwandans from Kalemie reach Vyura where more Tutsis were massacred.
Kamina AFB was a major re-training base for FAC. Then, Tutsi/Banyamulenge trainees were rounded up and executed. Killings also in Lubumbashi, Kipushi, Likasi and Kolwezi.

ZDF plans advance from Mbuji Mayi to Kananga.

In the North East -
5.1 Inf Bn airlifted to Ikela. To turn road to airstrip to allow airlift of reinforcements to Kisangani.

In the South -
Plans to advance from Manono and Pweto on Kongolo and Kagalo, then to Kindu (still held by FAC).

Intention to Form Line on Congo River

The line would run from:
Pepa, Pweto, Manono. (Katanga Sector in this profile)
Ankoro, Kitanda, Kabalo, Bokungu, and Kindu. (Kindu, Kasongo, Kabalo Sector in this profile)
Kisangani and Ikela. (Kisangani Sector in the profile)

After the Kinshasa/Bas Congo victory, Mugabe considered the war over. But Rwandans and Ugandans were pushing in from the east.

Kindu, Kasango, Kabolo

In Kindu, FAC held, and then beat off the mutineers. They then kill the Tutsi rather than build defences.

Late Aug to early Sept - 2 x FAC Bde sent to Kindu.
5 Oct FAC counter-attack is thoroughly beaten.
Mid Oct Kindu is surrounded on three sides.

10 Oct RCD Man Portable Air Defence Systems (Manpads) shoot down 2 x Congolese Airliners. (Thereafter, Manpads are seen as a threat to aircraft, including AFZ.)

13 Oct ZDF withdraw from Kindu after ANC rubber boats cross Congo River and take airport. This leads to collapse and desertion of FAC. RPA now have a good, close, base.

Joseph Kabila

Laurent Kabila appoints son Joseph Kabila as acting Chief of Staff to FAC.

Kindu, Kasango, Kabolo

13 Oct RPA and ANC surprise FAC at Kabalo and take town. So there is a big gap on the Congo River line.
ZDF counter attack. AFZ airstrikes.

23 Oct ZNA Bn, SAS (SBS), advance up west side of Congo River, to 300m short of bridge south of town. Meet well entrenched Rwandans.
Ferry to south used to cross Congo River. Air attack (4 x Hawks, then Lynx and Alouette K cars). AB412s (Bells) land SAS at specific targets. Infantry ground assault surprise and defeat RPA/ANC outside Kabalo.
Well dug in RPA/ANC positions on outskirts of Kabalo resist and hold to end of war.
ZNA withdraw from East bank after a week. (After ZNA found white corpses, which will have been mercenaries.)


Nov Congolese to Manono. 5th Bn NDF, ZDF task force with Cascavels. To assault towards Kalemie and Moba. Op Kalemie. Nyuzu thru Nyambuya/ZNA not fast enough – Rwanda reinforces. AFZ attacks.
1999 reinforcing move (Hawks) (one high point of AFZ activity in war).

18 Nov Op Kalemie begins, advance on Moba and Nyuzu.
Stalls. ZDF conducts “end runs” (the maneuver of short, outflanking movements through the jungle around the flanks. May also be done by short, helicopter borne, trips.)
21 Nov AFZ sinks six large boats Lake Tanganyika. 600 casulties.
22 Nov SAS can see Kalemie. Hawks from Pweto attack.
23 Nov Gwata and Garwe in lone C-212 bomb ANC camp in Kalemie.
Coy ZNA paras followed by FAC Bde, pushing towards Nyuzu. Rwandan BM21s scatter 2000 Congolese (who flee). ZNA coy cut off. 7 killed.
Helicopters to to Manono to resupply. And C-212 (plane).
Dec First week. ZNA reach isolated coy, take Nyuzu.
14 Dec 5th Bn NDF take Moba. ZNA never take Kalemie.
13 Dec AFZ Alouette III (command post) shot down.


Ikela Operations

Late Nov 98 Ikela.
1 bn each, RPA and ANC advance from Kisangani. Cross Tshuapa River above and below Ikela and trap 1 coy (170 FAC, 158 ZDF 5.1Bn), under Lt Shame and WO Chibhame. 1000m wide perimeter. AB 412, then C-212 (short piece of tarred road) and SBS conduct resupply. Seige lasts nearly two years.

Uganda/Rwanda rift, Uganda initial actions from August 1998

The Ugandans claimed to know nothing, and not be part of, the mutiny. Once started however, they joined in. They had three Bn near Beni/Butembo. Ugandan operations (below) were all in the north of the DRC, towards the Central African Republic, and Sudan (South Sudan in 2011) borders.
9 Aug 98 1bn sent to Bunia.
24 Aug 7th Inf Bn advances and takes Watsa.
1 Sept 305 Bde, UPDF to Kisangani-Bangoka IAP. Becomes Ugandan HQ.
17 Sept Munubele taken.
18 Sept Bengamisa taken.
19 Sept Banalia taken.
20 Sept Isiro taken.
29 Sept Tele Bridge taken.
3 Oct Buta taken.
6 Oct Aketi taken.
27 Oct Dulia taken.
17 Nov Bumba taken.
12 Dec Lisala taken.
25 Dec Gemena taken. (FAC had no reserve units to spare to Equateur Province. All fighting in Bas-Congo and Katanga.)

Libya negotiations

Dec Libyan negotiations, between Museveni and Kabila, failed.
Dec FAC deployed Bde of 2 Bn, Chadian contingent (motorized Bde, 2227 officers and men, in Kinshasa since Aug 1998) and FAC Coy of Type 59 MBTs to Gbadolite. Jan 99 Above counterattacks. 9 Jan Take Businga. 11 Jan Take Lsala and Bumba.


Operations in South East DRC, mainly Katanga Province, Kamina, Lubumbashi, Pweto, Kalemie, Kongolo.

In January 1999, the fronts stabilized, and forces forces try to refit and purchase equipment and material. Fighting diminished through 1999, and beyond to 2000.
A rift started and grew between Uganda and Rwanda.

In Mid-February, the RPA and ANC launched three offensives.

  1. Kongolo towards Kasalo.
  2. Kasongo towards Lubau and Kabinda.
  3. Kalemie towards Pweto.

3 Mar FAC raid on Kindu fails.
7 Mar MLC & UPDF recapture Lisala.
10 Mar RPA assault Eshimba, N of Kabinda.
Then at Kitanda, SW of Kabalo. ZNA Paras counter-attack, fail, and are surrounded 50km behind enemy lines. (Enslin is shot shot down.)
11 Mar MLC & UPDF recapture Businga.

Change in Command

mid-March Maj Genl Amos Chingombe replaces Maj Genl Mike Nyambuya as overall CO of all allied forces in the DRC.

22 Mar 23 Angolan Regt stabilizes situation at Kabinda.

Ugandan Pilot training

In November, UPDF pilots started to train on ex-Polish jets in Israel.


Mar 1999 UPDF/MLC offensive halts at Businga.
26 May 1999 Syrte Accord, Libyan sponsored, Chad withdraws.
3 July Uganda takes Gbadolite (despite agreement).
15 July MLC takes Gemena (night attack).
Advance on Zongo (across border from Bangui).
Mid Oct FAC offensive (gets nowhere within days)
25 Nov MLC take Basankusu.

Mar 1999 ANC into Kasai Occidental. FAZ retire towards Kananga.
ZDF counter-attack, get nowhere. (p 50) 28 May Rwandans take Pania-Mutuombo and Dimbelenge.
15 June 99 Rwandans take Lusambo.
30 June Rwandans take Kananga. RPA now lacks troops and supplies to continue.

Lusaka Agreement/Ceasefire

July to August 1999 6 nations, 50 rebel leaders sign ceasefire agreement.
All non-regular groups are to be disarmed. All foreign troops are to leave. This does not happen.

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba

5 August 1999 Disagreements in Kisangani.
Ugandan supported Zambian fact finding mission, about Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, was prevented from landing at airport by Rwandans.
7 August dia Wamba prevented from holding political rally in Kisangani, by Ugandans. Firefights and heavy weapons used.
14 August Three day battle. Shelling in Kisangani. 600 civilians dead. Ugandans better secure Kisangani-Bangoka airport.


4 Nov 99 AFZ raid/bomb Nkembe.
ZDF move towards Bokungu. RPA reinforce.
9 Nov ZDF advance stopped.


February 2000, more ceasefire negotiations fail.


More raids, and advance (with Angola and Namibia troop assistance). Relieve Ikela.
Advance on to Opala (threat to Kisangani). But peace accord means half Zimbabwe contingent is withdrawn from the DRC.
March 2000 RPA counter attack. Capture Lodja and Indumbe (in north), Mashala and Demba (in south).


Angolan mechanised units stop advance outside Katanga railway.
. Attacks towards Kabalo, Kongolo and Kalemie divert RPA, who stop attacking.

19 Apr 2000 AFZ AN 8 crashes taking off from Pepa, killing all.

Six day War, Kisangani

5 May 2000 Plnned Ugandan attack in Kisangani called off.
6 May RPA attacks Kisangani-Bangoka airport. In 3 hours, 103 Ugandans are killed, Ugandan staff are forced to retire.
Fighting spreads into Kisangani.
29 May UN discussions attempt the demilitarization of Kisangani.
4 June Ugandans withdraw to Camp Kapalata north of Kisangani.
5 June Ugandan vehicle ambushed. Leads to heavy fighting. 2 Mech Bns from Camp Kapalata drive over Tshopo Bridge, are placed heavy fire, thy are exposed, 1800 are killed and wounded. Artillery fire across/over the city. 60 000 hide.

MONUC organises 9 ceasefires.

11 June fighting over. RPA holds Kisangani.


In May 2000, the FAZ 10 Bde, retrained over nine months by the North Koreans in Lubumbashi, launch an offensive from Mbandaka.
9 July in an ambush of a ferry, the FAZ lose all mortars, MRLs, and AA guns.
Oct Withdraw to Mbandaka.
Nov MLC (Bemba) launch offensive. With Unita Bn arrived via Bangui. FAZ fall back. Ugandan and Sudanese (of WNBF – West Nile Bank Front, anti-Uganda force, lead by Sheriff Taban, son of Idi Amin) over run.
Dec MLC takes Mbandaka.
Kinshasa reinforces, resulting in a stalemate S of Mbandaka.

Pweto Catastrophe

Oct 2000 FAZ - 2 x motor Inf Bdes, FDD (Burundi opposition organisation) - 2 x Bdes, CCR - 1 x Bde in Pweto, along with ZDF Cascavels and Artillery. To attack Pepe - for unknown reasons. However, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in DRC – Zimbabwe Maj Genl Amos Chingombe agreed. (There were only 5000 Zimbabwean troops remaining in the DRC then.)
The Mayi Mayi (generally Hutu) were involved.
Joseph Kabila was placed in overall command of the Pweto operation.
Commenced with aircraft bombardments.
15 Oct Assault. ANC just manage to hold Moba, Pepa, and Moliro. RPA rush reinforcements.
There are heavy Kadogo (child soldier) losses. The Kadogo in Kinshasa revolt. hey are slaughtered. Nindaga in Pweto is assassinated 24 Nov.
FAZ/ZDF cut off east of Pweto. Kadogo desert. ZDF retire across border to Zambia. ZDF lose 2 x Cascavel.
3 Dec RPA infiltrate into Pweto. Take local airport. 1.1 Inf and one Para Bn rushed from Harare. Form new line S of Luva River.

New Situation, 2001

USA Change/Lusaka Agreement

Kisangani, Mbandaka and Pweto are in Kabila opposition hands. But the are unable to advance from Mbandaka.
Jan 2001, (USA elections were in Nov 2000), resulted in Bill Clinton out of office, and George W Bush in. Kagame visits Washington in Jan 2001. Colin Powell says Lusaka Agreement to be followed.

Laurent Kabila assasination

16 Jan 2001 Laurent Kabila killed by Kadogo (over 200 people were then prosecuted, 26 were sentenced to death, but no one was executed). 18 Jan Joseph Kabila (29) in office (with strong Angolan support). He works to end war and foreign influence. All foreign troops are to leave. H talks with local opposition leaders.

  1. [Tom Cooper, Great Lakes Conflagration: The Second Congo War, 1998-2003], Hellion and Company Ltd, (Hellion and Company Ltd, Solihull, 2013), Retrieved: 4 October 2022

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