Chronology of Significant Events: June 1960-September 1992



See original


ABACO Alliance des Bantous du Congo

CNRI      Centre national de recherches et d'investigations

CNS        Conseil national de sécurité

DSP        Division spéciale présidentielle

FCRD     Front congolais pour la restauration de la démocratie

FNLC      Front national de libération du Congo

ITSA      Institut technique des sciences appliquées

LZDH     Ligue zaïroise des droits de l'Homme

MNR      Mouvement national de la révolution

MPR       Mouvement populaire de la révolution

MVR       Mouvement des volontaires de la révolution

PALU     Parti lumumbiste unifié

PDSC      Parti démocratique et socialiste congolais

RDC        Rassemblement des démocrates républicains

RLP         Rassemblement des libéraux pour le progrès

SARM    Service d'action et de renseignements militaires

UDI         Union des démocrates indépendants

UDPS     Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social

UFERI    Union des fédéralistes et des républicains indépendants



30 June

The Republic of the Congo is proclaimed independent (La Grande Encyclopédie du monde 1988, 4926).


Joseph-Désiré Mobutu seizes power, installs Joseph Kasavubu as president of the Republic and orders the arrest of Patrice Lumumba, who is assassinated in 1961 (Documentation-Réfugiés 9-18 July 1988, 7).


Mobutu transfers power to the civilian population. The government is headed by Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula (CIDA 1987).

The Second Republic 1965


The Katanga crisis ends in a coup d'état. General Mobutu seizes power (Documentation-Réfugiés 9-18 July 1988, 7; CIDA 1987).


Mobutu prohibits political party activity for a five-year period, reduces public servants' wages and declares war on corruption. He suspends the right to strike and founds the Mouvement des volontaires de la révolution (MVR) (Revolutionary Volunteers Movement), which, in May 1967, becomes the Mouvement national de la révolution (MNR) (National Movement for the Revolution) (Cornevin 1972, 102).


The constitution of the Second Republic establishes a presidential system. Two political parties, one of which will serve as an opposition party, are authorized (Documentation-Réfugiés 9-18 July 1988, 7).

For the first time in the history of Zaire, women are allowed to vote in a presidential election by universal suffrage (Cornevin 1972, 102).


Mobutu is elected president of the republic by universal suffrage. His power is consolidated with the help of the only authorized party, the Mouvement populaire de la révolution (MPR) (Popular Movement for the Revolution), which becomes the reigning institution of the republic. The "policy of authenticity," also known as the policy of "Zairianization," takes effect. Cities are renamed, and the Congo River becomes the Zaire (Documentation-Réfugiés 9-18 July 1988, 7).


In October, the Republic of the Congo becomes the Republic of Zaire. The "policy of authenticity" becomes official doctrine (CIDA 1987; Europa 1987 1987, 3172).


Joseph-Désiré Mobutu changes his name to Mobutu Sese Seko. The government of Zaire and the executive committee of the MPR, Zaire's sole legal political party, together form the National Executive Council (Europa 1987 1987, 3172).


In March 1977 and May 1978, the Front national de libération du Congo (FNLC) (National Front to Liberate the Congo) invades Zaire, taking control of most of the province of Shaba. Zaire's army drives the FNLC back twice (Ibid.).

The first Shaba war leads to the occupation of the mining centre of Kolwezi. French support helps Mobutu to weather the storm (CIDA 1987).

Some 200,000 refugees flee to neighboring countries as a result of these conflicts (Documentation-Réfugiés 9-18 July 1988, 5).

Fourteen people are found guilty of disturbing the peace in the region of Kwila and are hanged publicly at Idiofa (Amnesty International Report 1978 1978, 93).


A second political party, the Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social (UDPS) (Union for Democracy and Social Progress), is founded. Thirteen members of the National Legislative Council are imprisoned in connection with the new party's founding. In October, the Front congolais pour la restauration de la démocratie (FCRD) (Congolese Front for the Restoration of Democracy), a coalition of opposition parties, is formed (Europa 1987 1987, 3172).

Following a strike, 15 students are arrested and detained at the headquarters of the civilian security police, the Centre national de recherches et d'investigations (CNRI) (National Centre for Research and Investigation), in Kinshasa. According to Amnesty International, these students are then forcibly conscripted into the army and released nine months later (Amnesty International Communications May 1983).



Following the release of a critical report by Amnesty International, President Mobutu offers an amnesty to all political prisoners in exile who return to Zaire before 30 June 1983 (Europa 1987 1987, 3172).



Bombs explode in Kinshasa, and the city of Moba, in Shaba, comes under the control of rebel forces, who are captured by government troops in November of the same year. While Mobutu accuses Belgium of fomenting these rebellions, many reportedly believe that these events were orchestrated to disrupt the normal course of elections (Europa 1988 1988, 3098).


Mobutu is re-elected president for a third seven-year term (CIDA 1987).

A Civil Guard, responsible for antiterrorist and security operations, is created (Europa 1987 1987, 3173).


"Rebels" from Tanzania attempt to occupy Moba. The uprising is quelled, and an estimated 150 people are killed (CIDA 1987).


About 100 people suspected of being UDPS militants are arrested and found guilty of having criticized the government of Zaire (Boyle 1988, 53).


19 March

Amnesty International releases a report condemning the arrests, torture and extrajudicial executions by the armed forces in Shaba. The President admits that some of the allegations in the report are true (Europa 1987 1987, 3173).


The Jehovah's Witnesses sect is prohibited in Zaire (ODR-Bulletin d'information June 1991).


5 and 6 September

Following a symposium in Switzerland, opposition groups announce their decision to form a government in exile. Léonard Mulopo, a representative of that government and a member of the Parti démocratique et socialiste congolais (PDSC) (Congolese Democratic Socialist Party), declares that the exiled government's objective is to restore democracy to Zaire (Keesing's 1988 1988, 35749).


Three former members of the UDPS rejoin the ranks of the Central Committee of the MPR. They have negotiated with Mobutu an unofficial understanding that will allow them to disagree with the MPR's stand on certain issues without risking expulsion from the party (ODR-Bulletin d'information June 1991).

Four Jehovah's Witnesses are arrested in Goma (Amnesty International Report 1989 1989, 97).



The army intervenes during a demonstration in Kinshasa organized by UDPS supporters. Some 50 people are injured (Documentation-Réfugiés 21-30 March 1988, 4).


After the opposition calls for a boycott of the local elections, held on 10 April, some 200 members of the UDPS are arrested (Ibid. 10-19 April 1988, 4).

The four Jehovah's Witnesses arrested in November 1987 are released. No charges are laid against them (Amnesty International Report 1989 1989, 97).

During a women's demonstration in Kinshasa, 88 women are arrested and then raped (New African Sept. 1988, 22).


During a visit by South African president Pik Botha, between 700 and 800 students demonstrate in Kinshasa. Many of them are arrested (ODR-Bulletin d'information June 1991).



Students demonstrate against the scarcity and cost of transportation in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. Following these demonstrations, 38 people are reported dead and 300 more injured. Kinshasa University, the Advanced Medical Institute, the Faculty of Medicine and the Advanced Institute of Applied Technology are closed (Documentation-Réfugiés 4-13 Jan. 1990, 34; ODR-Bulletin d'information June 1991).

6 March

During the night, the Service d'action et de renseignements militaires (SARM) (Military Action and Intelligence Service) arrests the head and cofounder of the UDPS, Etienne Tshisekedi (Documentation-Réfugiés 4-13 Jan. 1990, 34).


Amnesty International submits a memorandum to the government of Zaire calling for the security forces' powers of detention to be reduced and for all detainees to be charged more quickly after their arrest (Amnesty International Report 1990 1990, 268).

23 July

Kinshasa authorities prohibit the religious activities of over 400 communities and sects that have not been officially recognized (Documentation-Réfugiés 4-13 Jan. 1990, 34).

Six Jehovah's Witnesses are tried in Mbanza Ngungu, in Lower Zaire, for desecrating the national flag by "refusing to wear ruling party badges or to chant party slogans." After being beaten, they are released (Amnesty International Report 1990 1990, 267).



As a broad public consultation on the country's future begins, several people are arrested during pro-democracy demonstrations in Kinshasa (Documentation-Réfugiés 13-22 Feb. 1990, 6; ODR-Bulletin d'information June 1991).

23 February

During demonstrations in Kinshasa, a number of sympathizers of the banned UDPS party are reportedly arrested (Documentation-Réfugiés 25 Mar.-3 Apr. 1990, 5).

12 April

President Mobutu announces a series of measures designed to alleviate Zaire's social crisis (Le Devoir 25 Apr. 1990).

24 April

In a "historic" speech, President Mobutu announces the introduction of limited pluralism, the legalization of the UDPS and the release of its cofounder, Etienne Tshisekedi, and a transition to a new constitution, scheduled for April 1991. Mobutu then resigns as president of the MPR, dismisses the Executive Council and proclaims the Third Republic, which will be established the following year (ODR-Bulletin d'information June 1991; Country Reports 1990 1991, 446; Jeune Afrique 7 May 1990, 11).

25 April

Mobutu appoints Lunda Bululu, who is from Shaba, as head of a transitional government (Libération 26 Apr. 1990).

29 April

Mobutu rules that every political rally to be held in Kinshasa be approved one week in advance (La Presse 1 May 1990, E6).

30 April

Zairian government forces kill at least two people in an attack on UDPS members meeting publicly for the first time since the ban on opposition parties in Zaire was lifted (The New York Times 2 May 1990, A3).

The Alliance des Bantous du Congo (ABACO) (Bantu Alliance of the Congo) demands "the immediate establishment of an all-party round table, a transitional government and the drafting of a new constitution" (La Presse 1 May 1990, E6).

1 May

According to Zairian opposition sources, eight people are killed and several more are wounded when Kinshasa police fire on demonstrators gathered in support of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. Tshisekedi, his wife and a founding member of the UDPS are beaten (Ibid. 2 May 1990, E8).

3 May

Mobutu's "democratic calendar" runs as follows: "passage of the parties law, then ratification of the three authorized groups by 30 April 1991; referendum on the new constitution, then a presidential election before the end of that year; finally, in 1992, 'elections at all levels'" (Jeune Afrique 28 May 1990, 18).

9 May

At a student demonstration at Kinshasa University, a student accused of being a police informer is beaten to death by other students (La Presse 10 May 1990).

11-12 May

More than fifty students are reportedly killed on the Lubumbashi University campus, "their throats slit by the knives of Zairian government elite troops" (Le Devoir 23 May 1990).

22 May

The Conseil national de sécurité (CNS) (National Security Council) announces a series of measures designed to end administrative and incommunicado detentions and the practice of internal exile. According to the CNS, detention centres will in the future be used only for imprisoning suspects for short periods. By the beginning of 1991, these measures have not yet been implemented (Amnesty International Report 1991 1991, 255).

23 May

In an open letter to the governor of Shaba, Koyagialo Ngbabe Te Gerengbo, 21 professors at Lubumbashi University confirm the arrival of the commando of the Division spéciale présidentielle (DSP) (Presidential Special Division) suspected of having killed students the night of 11 to 12 May (Le Devoir 24 May 1990, 7).

24 May

The Belgian minister of foreign affairs, Mark Eyskens, confirms the death of several Zairian students at Lubumbashi University on 11 May. According to Amnesty International, between 50 and 150 students were slain. The Belgian government subsequently decides to freeze public credits for Zaire (La Presse 25 May 1990; Libération 26-27 May 1990, 15).

25 May

Students at the Advanced Institute of Education at Mbandaka, in Equateur, demonstrate for an improvement in their living and working conditions. Inunga Nkoy, a student aged 25, is "picked up" by police and dies two days later, following ill-treatment (Ligue zaïroise des droits de l'homme June-Sept. 1990, 7).

A parliamentary commission of inquiry is set up to investigate the events at Lubumbashi. Its chairperson is Mwamba Maleba (Commission Justice et Paix Aug. 1990, 89).

14 June

The owner of the weekly La Semaine (who is also Haiti's consul general in Zaire) is expelled for engaging in "activities incompatible with his status." The weekly is reportedly "the most independent publication to be found in Zaire" and was the first newspaper to publish details of the Lubumbashi massacre (Documentation-Réfugiés 1-10 Aug. 1990, 6).

18 June

Radio Kinshasa announces the arrests of the governor of Shaba and of several other local officials, including the rector of Lubumbashi University and the local head of security, in connection with the May 1990 killings (Le Devoir 20 June 1990, 4).

According to the Zairian parliamentary commission's report, student agitation and violence are not confined to Lubumbashi. Incidents have occurred at Bukavu (where one man was reported killed), Kinshasa (where some 20 people were reported injured), Kisangani, Mbuji Mayi and Mbanza Ngungu (La Presse 21 June 1990, B8).

26 June

In an episcopal statement, the Catholic bishops of Zaire protest against what they see as the halt of the democratization process and call for a full inquiry into the killing of students in Lubumbashi (Le Devoir 27 June 1990, 4).

30 June

Mobutu announces that only the three parties that obtain the most votes during the general elections in January 1991 will be allowed to field candidates in the presidential elections (Amnesty International Sept. 1990; La Presse 1 July 1990, A8).

Meanwhile, all parties will be entitled to "recognized existence until 31 December 1990." Mobutu rejects the idea of an international inquiry into the events that occurred in Lubumbashi in May (Le Monde 3 July 1990, 6).

5 July

The National Assembly of Zaire adopts a new constitution that eliminates all references to the MPR and its leading role. At the same time, the President announces the release of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who has been under house arrest since March 1989 (Amnesty International Sept. 1990, 3).

10 July

Zaire's public servants begin a national strike, demanding payment of several of the wage increases promised by the government (Le Monde 12 July 1990, 24).

15 July

A UDPS activist is beaten to death at his home by members of the Civil Guard in the Mokali district of the Kinshasa suburb of Kimbanseke. Neighbours respond by attacking those thought to be responsible for the murder. Later in the day, the Civil Guard engages in reprisals: they burn houses and rape women, and several UDPS supporters disappear (Ligue zaïroise des droits de l'homme June-Sept. 1990, 7).

18 July

The parliament of Zaire passes a law establishing a limited multi-party system (La Presse 18 July 1990, B4).

9 August

The minister of the interior orders provincial governors to prohibit political meetings and demonstrations (Country Reports 1990 1991, 454).

16 August

The UDPS agrees, on certain conditions, to join in a transitional government (Documentation-Réfugiés 11-20 Aug. 1990, 4).


The minister of foreign affairs circulates two notes among foreign diplomats advising them to restrict their contacts with political groups (Country Reports 1990 1991, 454).

6 October

Mobutu announces that he will "rapidly legitimize all political groups in Zaire" and transform the three-party system introduced on 24 April 1990 into "a full multi-party system." He also specifies that opposition parties will henceforth have access to television and radio (Documentation-Réfugiés 30 Sept.-9 Oct. 1990, 7; Country Reports 1990 1991, 453).

22 October

Essolomwa Nkoy, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Elima, is arrested and detained for 48 hours at Makala prison in Kinshasa (Documentation-Réfugiés 9-18 Nov. 1990, 6).

4 November

Dozens of people are injured and hundreds more taken for questioning when the Zairian army attacks UDPS activists assembled to take part in an authorized demonstration (Ibid. 30 Oct.-8 Nov. 1990, 5).

3 December

Following demonstrations against inflation and the scarcity of basic foodstuffs, four people die and five more are injured in Kinshasa, while two die and six are injured in Matadi. Similar demonstrations are held in Lubumbashi, Bukavu and Mbuji Mayi (Jeune Afrique 12-18 Dec. 1990, 5; Africa Confidential 7 Dec. 1990).

4 December

Zaire's major political organizations--the UDPS, the PDSC and the Union des fédéralistes et des républicains indépendants (UFERI) (Union of Independent Federalists and Republicans)--and other groups, including Lumumbists of all political leanings, launch an appeal for demonstrations calling for the immediate resignation of President Mobutu. The parties also demand the immediate establishment of a genuine government of national unity, a national conference and an international inquiry into the events at Lubumbashi in May 1990 (La Presse 5 Jan. 1991).

14 December

The law establishing a full multi-party system is passed by the Legislative Assembly. It stipulates that each party must apply for registration, the confirmation of which will be officially published within three months (ODR-Bulletin d'information June 1991).

19 December

Several senior officers suspected of plotting against the government are arrested (Ibid.).

31 December

Mobutu announces that he will invite a representative of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to attend the trial of those accused of the May 1990 killings in Lubumbashi (Country Reports 1990 1991, 456).

In his New Year's message to the nation, President Mobutu announces that presidential and legislative elections will be organized for 1991, together with a referendum on a new constitution (Documentation-Réfugiés 29 Dec. 1990-7 Jan. 1991, 5).


10 February

According to a press release by the Department of Territorial Administration, 66 political parties have been recognized (Africa Research Bulletin 1-28 Feb. 1991, 10017).

22 February

N'Sasse Ramazani, regional director of the newspaper Elima, is released. He was arrested earlier in the month for writing an article on the corruption within the Mobutu regime and the regime's judicial irregularities (Ligue zaïroise des droits de l'homme Jan.-May 1991, 33; ODR-Bulletin d'information June 1991).

14 March

Prime Minister Lunda Bululu and his government resign in order to allow Mobutu to form an expanded cabinet, one that includes opposition parties (Le Monde 16 Mar. 1991).

13-15 April

In Mbuji Mayi, in central Zaire, police suppress demonstrations organized by the UDPS. These gatherings, which degenerate into scenes of pillage, leave at least five dead, according to Zairian authorities. The opposition reports thirteen victims (Ibid. 22 Apr. 1991; Ibid. 23 Apr. 1991).

According to the Ligue zaïroise des droits de l'homme (LZDH) (Zairian Human Rights League), the demonstrations claim 42 lives (Ligue zaïroise des droits de l'homme Jan.-May 1991, 12).

22 April

The UDPS joins with the majority of the opposition and orders a general strike, calling for the resignation of President Mobutu and the establishment of a transitional government (Documentation-Réfugiés 8-17 Apr. 1991).

29 April

The National Conference, originally scheduled for this date in Kinshasa, is postponed (Africa Research Bulletin 1-30 Apr. 1991, 10079).

14 May

A student demonstration in Kinshasa is put down by police forces. Two students of the Technical Institute of Applied Science die, and 20 people are injured (ODR-Bulletin d'information June 1991).

23 July

Etienne Tshisekedi refuses the position of prime minister offered to him by President Mobutu and asks the latter to resign (Le Devoir 25 July 1991).

7 August

The National Conference opens. Mulumba Lukoji delivers what he calls an "overall negative" overview of the 31 years that have passed since independence (Documentation-Réfugiés 6-15 Aug. 1991, 5).

2 September

Demonstrators protesting against the "skyrocketing prices" in Kinshasa are violently dispersed by police. According to some witnesses, at least three people are killed. According to a member of the UDPS, dozens are killed (Le Monde 4 Sept. 1991; Libération 4 Sept. 1991; Le Devoir 3 Sept. 1991).

17 September

The United States decides to suspend its economic aid to Zaire due to the human rights violations that have taken place there and the "absence of a coherent economic program" (Le Monde 17 Sept. 1991).

23-24 September

Several hundred soldiers launch a protest in Kinshasa against the fact that their wages have not been paid. The protest degenerates into riots, and about 30 people are killed (Documentation-Réfugiés 25 Sept.-4 Oct. 1991, 4).

14 October

President Mobutu signs an order providing for the formation of a "government of crisis" headed by the new prime minister, Etienne Tshisekedi (Ibid. 5-14 Oct. 1991, 5).

21 October

President Mobutu dismisses Tshisekedi because he refuses to swear an oath of allegiance to the head of state (Ibid. 15-24 Oct. 1991, 5).

23 October

Mungul Diaka, president of the Rassemblement des démocrates républicains (RDC) (Union of Republican Democrats), is appointed prime minister. His appointment is denounced as a "real provocation" by the opposition, which calls for the return of Tshisekedi (Ibid.).

27 October

Explosions destroy the offices of the daily Elima, which had been ransacked on 15 October, as well as the residence of the president of the Union des démocrates indépendants (UDI) (Union of Independent Democrats), a component of the Union sacrée (Sacred Union) (Jeune Afrique 6-12 Nov. 1991, 18).

25 November

UFERI president Nguz Karl-I-Bond is appointed prime minister (Le Monde 27 Nov. 1991).

4 December

Mobutu's presidential term expires; he announces "his intention of seeking a new presidential mandate." The opposition, for its part, asserts that maintaining Marshal Mobutu as head of state is unconstitutional (AFP 4 Dec. 1991).

5 December

The Zairian opposition organizes a one-day shutdown of the city in Kinshasa (Ibid. 5 Dec. 1991).

4-5 December

According to the LZDH, about ten people are killed in Kinshasa by the military and militia. The Ligue also states that "other innocent parties, including children, were seriously injured by bullets as they stood in front of their homes, while the militia also made several arbitrary arrests and abductions" (Ibid. 10 Dec. 1991).


14 January

The National Conference resumes work (Afrique contemporaine 93 1992, 93).

15 January

Ethnic clashes in Shaba pit the local population against people from Kasai. Eight people are reported dead after these clashes, and some 50 more injured (AFP 16 Jan. 1992).

19 January

Prime Minister Karl-I-Bond suspends the work of the National Conference (Documentation-Réfugiés 12-21 Jan. 1992, 5).

22-23 January

Some thirty soldiers reportedly besiege the radio-television compound. They demand the resignation of President Mobutu and Prime Minister Karl-I-Bond and a resumption of work by the National Conference (Libération 24 Jan. 1992).

7 February

After 26 years in exile, Antoine Gizenga, Patrice Lumumba's right arm, returns to the country and is welcomed by some 3,000 members of the Parti lumumbiste unifié (PALU) (Unified Lumumbist Party) (Afrique contemporaine 93 1992, 93).

16 February

Security forces fire on thousands of Christians taking part in "a march for peace and hope." According to authorities, thirteen people die following this police intervention; the LZDH estimates 32 people are dead (Documentation-Réfugiés 11-20 Feb. 1992, 7).

21 February

According to the United Nations report on the Lubumbashi massacre, "there is very good reason to believe that the Kinshasa government ordered or authorized the operation by the two groups which made the attack on Lubumbashi University in the night of 11-12 May 1990 which resulted in the death of at least 10 to 12 students and serious injuries to at least 34 others" (AFP 21 Feb. 1992).

2 March

A leader of the Rassemblement des libéraux pour le progrès (RLP) (Union of Liberals for Progress) is arrested. His arrest may be linked to his role in organizing the demonstrations on 16 February and 1 March 1992 (Documentation-Réfugiés 22-31 Mar. 1992, 7).

4 April

Some 30 members of the armed forces arrested in January 1992 after briefly occupying the offices of La Voix du Zaïre in Kinshasa are tried. Some, whose whereabouts are unknown, are tried and condemned to death in absentia, which arouses fears that they have already been executed. Others state that they have been tortured and subjected to mock executions (Amnesty International 22 Apr. 1992).

6 April

The National Conference, suspended since 19 January, resumes its work (Documentation-Réfugiés 22-31 Mar. 1992, 7).

16 April

National Conference delegates declare that their forum is sovereign (AFP 16 Apr. 1992).

6 June

A Belgian national scheduled to testify before the National Conference commission of inquiry into the May 1990 Lubumbashi massacre is assassinated in Kinshasa by a member of the DSP (Documentation-Réfugiés 10-19 June 1992, 5).

22 July

The director of the satirical weekly Le Manager grognon is arrested (Ibid. 20-29 July 1992, 5).

28 July

After meeting with Mobutu, the president of the National Conference declares that the head of state has agreed to allow the future prime minister to be elected by Conference delegates (Ibid. 30 July-8 Aug. 1992, 6).

29 July

Soldiers pillage Kindu, in central Zaire, following clashes with students (Ibid.).

4 August

To put an end to Mobutism, National Conference delegates decide to change the country's name: the Republic of Zaire will soon be renamed the Republic of the Congo. The national anthem and flag will also be reinstated (La Presse 5 Aug. 1992).

14 August

UDPS president Tshisekedi is elected prime minister by National Conference delegates (AFP 15 Aug. 1992).

30 August

The formation of a new government by Prime Minister Tshisekedi "marks the end of the President's men." Only one minister from Mobutu's entourage is appointed. He will head Agriculture and Rural Development (Ibid. 30 Aug. 1992).


In Likasi, in southeastern Shaba (formerly Katanga), interethnic fighting between the Katangan and Kasai communities leaves 20 dead and 60 injured. About 100 more people are arrested (Reuters 18 Sept. 1992).


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