Six African Nations Sign the Lusaka Peace Accord

The Lusaka Peace Accord of July 10, 1999, was an effort to join together six African nations and put an end to many years of discord, murder, and warfare. Although the accord afforded the area a respite from violence, peace did not last.

Summary of Event

The conflicts that the Lusaka Peace Accord of July 10, 1999, sought to appease cannot be divorced from their colonial roots. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire, has experienced much conflict from its colonial days under Belgian and French control. In particular, Belgium’s King Leopold II, who ruled between 1865 and 1909, controlled the area with legendary cruelty. Leopold established a commercial monopoly, the African International Association, which spurred the “scramble for Africa,” in which other European powers wrangled to divide the continent into areas of control. Lusaka Peace Accord (1999)
Peace negotiations;Lusaka Peace Accord
Congo Peace Accord (1999)
[kw]Six African Nations Sign the Lusaka Peace Accord (July 10, 1999)
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[kw]Nations Sign the Lusaka Peace Accord, Six African (July 10, 1999)
[kw]Lusaka Peace Accord, Six African Nations Sign the (July 10, 1999)
[kw]Peace Accord, Six African Nations Sign the Lusaka (July 10, 1999)
[kw]Accord, Six African Nations Sign the Lusaka Peace (July 10, 1999)
Lusaka Peace Accord (1999)
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Congo Peace Accord (1999)
[g]Africa;July 10, 1999: Six African Nations Sign the Lusaka Peace Accord[10390]
[g]Zambia;July 10, 1999: Six African Nations Sign the Lusaka Peace Accord[10390]
[c]Diplomacy and international relations;July 10, 1999: Six African Nations Sign the Lusaka Peace Accord[10390]
[c]United Nations;July 10, 1999: Six African Nations Sign the Lusaka Peace Accord[10390]
Mobutu Sese Seko
Kabila, Laurent
Kagame, Paul
Annan, Kofi

Through the 1960’s, African countries, including the Congo and the Congo’s immediate neighbors, struggled to become independent from colonial rule. Tanzania gained its independence from Britain in 1961. Uganda and Rwanda gained their independence in 1962, from Britain and Belgium respectively. Zambia gained independence from Britain in 1964, and Angola from Portugal in 1975.

Colonel Joseph Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko) became leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1965 after a series of power plays. Mobutu was wildly popular during the early years of his rule, consolidating his power, crushing outlying rebellions and assassinating dissident politicians. He also implemented a program that he called authenticite (French for “authenticity”—also known as Mobutuism). Through this policy, Mobutu changed the name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Zaire in 1971 and required citizens to Africanize all Christian names and adopt African-style dress.

In addition, Mobutu implemented economic policies that he called Zaireanization, in which he nationalized foreign businesses, reclaiming the copper and diamond mines. However, by the 1980’s, Mobutu’s Zaire was no longer popular among the masses. There were armed revolts in the south of the country. Furthermore, Mobutu seemed to contradict his own policies by becoming increasingly dependent on material support from the governments of the United States, Belgium, France, China, and Morocco.

By 1990, Zaire was in chaos, with astronomical foreign debt and a per-capita gross domestic product at pre-independence levels. There was mass unrest among civil servants and the military, many of whom had been unpaid for years. Accordingly, Mobutu announced the creation of a multiparty system.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda further weakened Mobutu’s Zaire. Ethnicity played a huge role in Rwanda, both before and after independence. Rwanda’s population is 84 percent Hutu, 15 percent Tutsi, and 1 percent Twa. The recognition of people’s ethnicity was supported and cultivated by Rwanda’s Belgian colonial regime: It was a deliberate policy in which the Tutsi minority was encouraged to have the upper hand.

Through the early postcolonial days, the idea that the majority Hutu population had been oppressed by the Tutsi—and not by Belgium—found its expression in the Party for the Emancipation of the Hutu (PARMEHUTU), established in 1959. The PARMEHUTU replicated colonial patterns of subjugation through patron-client relationships: Tutsis were required to have a Hutu patron to gain access to government jobs or economic assets.

Through the 1980’s, Rwanda was marked by the forcible expulsion of up to 600,000 of its citizens to neighboring countries. Over the years, tensions developed with Rwandan refugees in these host countries. Rwanda was characterized by a high birthrate, a dense population, and overcrowding—so much so that it did not allow its exiles to return.

By 1986, Rwandan refugees played a key role in Uganda’s National Resistance Movement (NRM), which sought to overthrow President Milton Obote. Obote had tried to force Rwandan exiles in Uganda to return to their home country, and Ugandan forces exploited this effort to Obote’s downfall.

A whole generation of Rwandans were radicalized by their exile status, and Rwandan exiles in Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Europe, and North America joined together to assert their desire to return to Rwanda. This diaspora movement, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), was founded in Kampala, Uganda, in 1987.

In 1994, in a campaign lasting about one hundred days, the Hutu-led government of Rwanda began exterminating citizens who were deemed national enemies. At least 800,000 people were massacred. The perpetrators were mostly Hutu, members of a paramilitary group known as the Interahamwe (often translated from the Kinyarwanda language as “those who attack together”), and the main targets of the slaughter were Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Victims included critics of the government, and opposition-party members and their families.

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, refugees were banished from Zaire and Tanzania. The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), under the leadership of General Paul Kagame, conducted a huge armed military effort north of Rwanda into Zaire. By 1996, the RPA joined with Zaire’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) to launch a series of attacks on Rwandan Hutu refugee camps inside Zaire. These attacks escalated quickly into broader conflict in both Rwanda and Zaire.

On May 17, 1997, Laurent Kabila, who had worked with Rwanda’s RPA and led the AFDL, seized power in Zaire, renaming it Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kabila led anti-Mobutu rebels across the country in a campaign to capture cities; he finally captured the capital of Kinshasa. His regime pledged to revitalize the country, but it did not hold elections for at least four years. Kabila dissolved the AFDL in January, 1999. He ousted many of his Tutsi supporters, and his relations with former allies Uganda and Tutsi-ruled Rwanda deteriorated. Both Uganda and Rwanda claimed that he supported armed rebels opposed to their governments. Likewise, Rwandans were accused of massacring Hutus inside Congo. Kabila did have some neighboring allies—including Zimbabwe, which provided training and arms for his regime.

The bloodshed and strife finally resulted in a meeting of six African countries in the Zambian capital of Lusaka on July 10, 1999. Those countries were the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The meeting, a call to end the violence and cross-border murders, resulted in the Lusaka Peace Accord, signed by all six countries.

The cease-fire agreement called on warring parties to disarm all militias, including the Interahamwe. The accord also called for international peacekeepers to eventually take over the responsibility of disarming militias, with the stipulation that the peacekeepers be African. Measures for Western monetary and logistical support were also written into the accord. It also called for a national debate that was to include Kabila’s government, rebel factions, and all political parties within Congo. The United Nations pledged twenty thousand peacekeeping forces, approved by the U.N. Security Council.

There were no fewer than nine rebel factions in Congo. The accord was thwarted by one of them, the Congolese Rally for Democracy Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), which held much of eastern Congo and areas in northern territories. The RCD, led by Jean-Pierre Bemba Bemba, Jean-Pierre and supported by Uganda, refused to sign the agreement because of an internal leadership pact. In addition, the rebel Movement for the Liberation of the Congo also failed to accept the cease-fire plan. Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, pleaded with these rebel groups to accept the accord, as U.N. peacekeeping troops could not be deployed until all groups had agreed to it.

While the six African nations signed the Lusaka Peace Accord and the United Nations proceeded to send peacekeeping troops to the area, the two Congolese rebel factions continued to foment discord. This, coupled with the ongoing Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda, hampered the success of the Lusaka Peace Accord.


The Lusaka Peace Accord served as a first step in a very unsteady process toward peace between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighboring countries. It mapped out an end to more than five years of bloodshed and war and incorporated rebel and ethnic factions in Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. While initial signing of the accord was frustrated by the refusal of certain factions to agree to all of its stipulations, all six nations—Congo, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, and Uganda—finally signed on.

The Lusaka Peace Accord was supported by both the United Nations and the United States. However, while some of the signatory countries’ governments supported Congo’s President Kabila, others actively worked against him, and much blood was shed in the process. The accord failed to facilitate lasting peace in the area, and warring factions persisted.

In 2000, an effort by the Organization of African Unity Organization of African Unity (OAU) to revive peace talks was shut down by Kabila, who feared that it did not honor Congo’s sovereignty. In 2001, Kabila was assassinated. His son, Joseph Kabila, assumed the presidency and expressed a desire for renegotiation of the accord, but talks remained inconclusive—and hostilities in the region continued—into the beginning of the twenty-first century. Lusaka Peace Accord (1999)
Peace negotiations;Lusaka Peace Accord
Congo Peace Accord (1999)

Further Reading

  • Fisher, Ian. “Brutal Bands of Rwandans Bar Way to Peace in Congo.” The New York Times, August 4, 1999, p. A1. A contemporary analysis of rebel bands and their part in stalling the Lusaka Peace Accord.
  • Gordon, David. “Owners of the Land and Lunda Lords: Colonial Chiefs in the Borderlands of Northern Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 34, no. 2 (2001): 315-338. Examines the link between Congo’s colonial past and its current political instability.
  • Haynes, Jeff. “Republic of Congo.” In Encyclopedia of African History, edited by Kevin Shillington. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005. Provides background information on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Heath, Elizabeth. “Democratic Republic of the Congo.” In Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, edited by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Good source for basic information on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Moore, David. “Searching for the Iron Fist and Velvet Glove in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines 35, no. 3 (2001): 547-560. Discussion of the political struggles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo both inside its borders and with its neighbors.
  • Reyntjens, Filip. “Briefing: The Second Congo War—More than a Remake.” African Affairs 98 (April, 1999): 241-250. An analysis of the political structures of the Congo and its neighbors.

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