Foreign policy and defense
Foreign policy is characterized by the fact that
Congo-Kinshasa is a troubled country in a troubled part
of Africa. In particular, Rwanda and Uganda have been
involved in fighting the government army in the Congo
for a long number of years, while several other
countries have fought on the government's side.
Traditionally, the relationship with the Western world
has been good.
Particularly complicated is the relationship with the
small neighboring country of Rwanda. In the early 1990s,
Congolese forces assisted the then Rwandan Hutu regime
during the Rwanda civil war. When the Hutu regime was
overthrown after the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the new Tutsi
government helped Laurent-Désiré Kabila to power in
1997. But the dependence on the neighbor soon turned
into enmity and the two governments ended up in a
protracted war against each other (see Modern History).
Rwanda's continued involvement in Congo-Kinshasa's
internal affairs has continued to poison relations
despite the fact that the countries have also cooperated
with armed militia groups (see Current Policy).
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Democratic Republic of the Congo for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Relations with Uganda and to some extent Burundi are
roughly the same as with Rwanda. Both of these neighbors
in the east participated in the 1998–2003 war, Uganda
the longest and most vigorously and with active support
for Congolese rebels. In December 2005, the
International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that
Uganda violated Congo-Kinshasa's sovereignty through the
occupation of the Ituri region (see Modern History).
Uganda was sentenced to pay up to SEK 80 billion in
damages for looting and violations of human rights.
Congo-Kinshasa and its neighboring countries have
since 2004 taken several initiatives for peaceful
solutions to their conflicts. A Security Commission was
formed together with Rwanda and Uganda in 2004, and
later Burundi joined. Separate agreements on joint
efforts against rebel forces were signed with Uganda and
Rwanda in 2007, but concrete work was limited.
Closer cooperation with Rwanda and Burundi on, among
other things, economic issues and communications is
taking place within the Greater Zealand Economic
Community (CEPGL), an organization that was formed
as early as 1976 but then fell asleep during all
conflicts. In 2007, the three countries decided to
resume work. The relations with Burundi are relatively
good today, and in 2015 they signed an agreement to
jointly fight the Burundian oppositionists who sought
refuge in South Kivu.
Congo-Kinshasa is also a member of the Common Market
for Eastern and Southern Africa, Comesa (Common Market
for Eastern and Southern Africa), which aims to create a
customs union between the member states, as well as the
Regional Cooperation Organization for Southern Africa,
SADC (Sothern African Development Community). It was
with reference to commitments within the SADC that
Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia participated in the
1998–2003 war on the government side (see Modern
Angola, which has long supported Joseph Kabila's
regime, appeared in the summer of 2017 to take a more
critical stance, both against the president's
unwillingness to give up power, and concerns about what
is happening in Kasai. The troubled region borders
Angola where many Congolese have fled. The close ties
between Kabila and the Angolan government began to
tighten after João Lourenço took over the presidential
post in Angola in the fall of 2017. There are also
disputes over oil resources in the sea, which both
countries are claiming. In the fall of 2018, around
hundreds of thousands of Congolese from Angola were
expelled or fled, where most of them have made an effort
to dig for diamonds (see Calendar).
Congo-Kinshasa has good relations with Tanzania.
There are plans to replace Comesa and SADC as well as
the East African body EAC with a new free trade zone
that would include 26 countries: the Tripartite Free
Trade Area (TFTA).
In 2003, the UN imposed a total ban on arms
deliveries to all parties in Congo-Kinshasa, but in 2008
lifted the ban on selling arms to the government side.
The arms embargo for other movements and persons has
been renewed annually, no later than July 2016. Since
weapons are proven to still flow into the militia, there
are special punitive sanctions against those who have
deliberately violated the weapons ban. A special expert
group, which on behalf of the UN Security Council,
monitors compliance with the prohibitions, has
demonstrated cooperation between criminal leagues and
parts of the Congolese army for the illegal extraction
of minerals, illegal taxation of the population and
The close contacts with the old colonial power of
Belgium have been partly retained. After the massacres
of 1990 on students and other protesters in Zaire, named
the country from 1971 to 1997, the Belgian government
broke in practice with the then dictator Mobutu's
regime. Relations with the Kabila governments have been
resumed, but the relationship between the countries is
rather tense. The Congolese government has repeatedly
accused Belgium of colonial attitudes and called for
reprimands on human rights issues.
Congo-Kinshasa's most important partner on the
African continent is today South Africa, much dependent
on South Africa's mediator role during the civil war. A
large number of South African companies are active in
As Joseph Kabila appeared to be increasingly
reluctant to relinquish power, the United States raised
the tone of the regime and imposed sanctions on it in
2016, and the EU followed suit. The sanctions have since
been tightened. Most Congolese rulers are believed to
have most of their assets in Europe.
The defense has undergone major changes since the
fall of the Mobuto regime. The new defense that has been
built up since then was the beginning of the rebel
forces that brought Laurent-Désiré Kabila to power, but
major new recruits were also made, especially by people
from Kabila's home areas in Katanga. Later, a larger
number of Mobutus soldiers were included in the army.
According to the 2002 peace agreement (see Modern
history), rebel armies have formally been incorporated
into the national defense force FARDC (Forces Armies de
la République Démocratique du Congo). But only a small
portion of the FARDC's soldiers have received proper
military training and many still feel the strongest
loyalty to their old rebel commanders. Several army
unions are acting as rebel forces and are guilty of
abuses against the civilian population, especially in
the unstable eastern provinces. The situation is
aggravated by the fact that the soldiers have low wages
and are often not paid at all. According to the UN, for
example, army soldiers are responsible for a large
number of human rights violations.
The UN has had a military presence in the Congo since
1999. Since 2010, it is called a "stabilization force",
Monusco, which in September 2017 consisted of almost
16,700 soldiers, 1,400 police officers and just over
4,100 civilian employees. Since 2013, Monusco has a more
offensive UN force, the Force Intervention Brigade
(FIB), which in 2018 consisted of just over 2,800 men.
The FIB acts largely independently and consists of
troops from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania. In 2019,
however, there were plans to cut Monusco by about 2,000
FACTS - DEFENSE
103,000 men (2017)
The air Force
2,550 men (2017)
6,700 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
0.7 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
6.4 percent (2017)
CNDP advances despite government offensive
The government army goes on offensive against
Nkunda's forces, but the CNDP rebels soon regain lost
land and continue toward the city of Saké, about three
miles northwest of Goma, the capital of Nordkivu.
One million forced flights are fighting in North
Nkunda's CNDP rebels end up in conflict with local
Mai-Mai militia in Nordkivu, which is on the side of the
army. Nearly one million people have been forced to flee
their homes. The violence is also directed at refugee
camps and a large number of women are raped.
New battles in North Kivu
Hard fighting erupts in North Kivu province between
government troops and the rebel force National Congress
for the Defense of the People (CNDP). Rebel leader
Laurent Nkunda refuses to disarm his 4,000-6,000
soldiers on the grounds that they are protecting the
Congolese Tutsis from attacks by the Rwandan Huturebel
Democratic Forces of Rwanda's Liberation (FDLR).
The MLC leader goes into exile
MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba leaves the country, and
travels to Portugal to receive care.
Hundreds of dead after fighting in Kinshasa
Struggles erupt in Kinshasa as Kabila's army tries to
disarm Bemba's bodyguard. Several hundred people are
killed before the clashes are interrupted after
international mediation. Bemba protects the embassy of
South Africa (see also October 2006).