World News

TIMELINE: Death still stalks Congo after ten years

(Reuters) - War, disease and malnutrition are killing 45,000 people every month in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a conflict-driven humanitarian crisis that has claimed 5.4 million victims, a survey released on Tuesday said.

Here is a chronology of the conflict in the last 10 years:

August 1998 - Rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda take up arms against Congolese President Laurent Kabila.

-- Rebels make major gains. Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola send troops to help Kabila and halt rebels at Kinshasa.

July 1999 - Six African governments involved in the war sign a ceasefire deal in Zambian capital Lusaka. Rebels ignore it.

August - Rwanda and Uganda join fighting between rebel factions but by month-end the two countries agree to a truce and both the Ugandan-backed MLC and the Rwandan-backed RCD rebels sign the ceasefire deal.

Feb 2000 - U.N. Security Council authorizes 5,500-member force to monitor the ceasefire, but clashes persist.

May - Heavy fighting between Rwanda and Uganda in eastern Congo. Three months later Hutu militiamen responsible for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide attack Rwanda from Congolese territory.

August - Lusaka peace summit collapses, fighting goes on.

Jan 2001 - Kabila shot dead by bodyguard in Kinshasa and replaced by son Joseph who promises to revive peace process.

Feb - Joseph Kabila meets Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Rwanda, Uganda and rebel groups back disengagement plan.

2002 - Uganda reinforces its troops in northeast Congo after hundreds die in ethnic clashes. Zimbabwe withdraws some troops and Angola says it has pulled out altogether.

April - South African President Thabo Mbeki submits proposals to break the deadlock. Kabila and MLC rebels agree on new government. Rwandan-backed rebels reject the deal.

July - Presidents of Rwanda and the DRC sign peace pact in Pretoria, foreseeing the withdrawal of Rwandan troops.

Dec 17 - Congo’s warring factions sign peace deal in Pretoria after a month of talks.

April 2, 2003 - Factions sign deal creating interim constitution and a transitional government.

Feb 18, 2006 - Congo adopts a new constitution after a December 2005 referendum paving the way for national elections.

June 22 - A European Union force begins its mission in Congo to protect people during the elections.

July and October - First democratic polls in Congo in forty years protected by the world’s biggest peace mission with EU soldiers joining a 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force. Kabila finally sworn in as president of DRC on Dec 6.

Aug 2007 - Despite the successful elections, fighting continues in eastern North Kivu province, where Tutsi insurgent soldiers, Rwandan Hutu rebels, the government army and local Mai-Mai militia continue to clash and attack the local population.

Sept 6 - U.N. mediators announce a limited ceasefire after nearly two weeks of fighting as thousands of Tutsi fighters loyal to rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda turn the tide on government forces. However rebel soldiers soon abandon the peace accord. North Kivu fighting forces tens of thousands of civilians to flee.

Jan 15, 2008 -- Fresh talks open at a peace conference in Goma but Kabila rules out direct talks with Nkunda.

Jan 22 - The International Rescue Committee (IRC), reveals in a study with Australia’s Burnet Institute, that DRC’s war and its aftermath has caused more deaths than any other conflict since World War Two.

-- Congo’s government and warring rebel and militia factions are expected to sign a deal to finally end fighting in the east.

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit