On 9 March 2011, Oxford Professor Philip Roessler and Doctoral student Harry Verhoeven gave a talk exploring the internal dynamics that led to the onset of full-scale regional warfare in 1998.
The story begins in May 1997, when the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre (AFDL), backed heavily by the Rwandan military and other regional powers, toppled the long-running dictatorship of Mobutu Sésé Seko. The post-Mobutu government, with Laurent-Desire Kabila as president and Rwandan James Kabarebe as chief of staff of the new Forces Armées Congolaises (FAC), promised to restore stability to a region wracked by spreading violence and conflict since the early 1990s and punctuated by the 1994 Rwandan genocide. But in late July 1998, a mere fifteen months after taking power, Kabila, in a hasty move designed to catch the Rwandans off-guard, expelled his comrade-in-arms and all foreign forces from the Congo, igniting a second war that would draw in nine regional governments and become the most devastating conflict since World War II. This paper, based on two years of interviews with key players on each side of the conflict, explores the internal dynamics that led to the breakdown of the post-Mobutu government and the onset of the August 1998 war in the DRC.
Listen to a podcast of their talk here.