"The Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, is a vast-resource-rich country of 49 million people. Events there affect much of sub-Saharan Africa. In August 1998, Congo was plunged into its second civil war in 2 years. A peace accord was concluded in Lusaka, Zambia, in July and August 1999, and the U.N. Security Council later agreed to send peace monitors and protecting troops, in a force known as MONUC, to assist in the peace process. Deployment was slow, but the assassination of President Laurent Kabila on January 16, 2001, was followed by progress in the peace process. By May 30, 2,150 peacekeepers of a force projected at 3,000 had arrived, and the United Nations is soon expected to propose MONUC enlargement. Congo was ill-prepared for independence in 1960; its first civil war broke out almost immediately, leading to U.N. intervention. U.S. policy-makers took a strong interest in Zaire during the Cold War years because of its resources and central location, but relations with Mobutu cooled in the post-Cold War era. Policy makers initially welcomed Kabila's pledge of elections in 2 years, but problems in democratization and economic reform complicated relations. A limited aid program focusing on democracy, health, the private sector, and the environment has been resumed. Secretary of State Colin Powell has urged all parties to respect the Lusaka agreement and said he is 'cautiously optimistic' about implementation."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB96037