In late May 1997 Laurent-Désiré Kabila, leader of the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Kinshasa (AFDL), completed an astonishing march on Kinshasa to assume the presidency of the newly renamed Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet the air of euphoria unleashed by the ousting of the corrupt dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko was infected by persistent rumours that the AFDL’s initial drive in Kivu province in the former eastern Zaire had been marked by large-scale massacres. The veracity of these claims remains unproven. Four months after Kabila’s offer ‘to work with the agencies of the United Nations’, the specialist investigative team were still ‘left hanging around the Inter-Continental Hotel [in Kinshasa] wishing they had brought more novels’. This article will limit itself to the period of conflict in eastern Zaire between the eruption of ethnic violence in late October 1996 and the dispersal of the refugee camps in north Kivu in mid-November (given this temporal restriction the name ‘Zaire’ will be retained). It was during this period that the possibility of an external peacekeeping intervention in the conflict gained greatest currency.
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