The AFDL and Its Program

Against the Current, No. 69, July/August 1997

B. Skanthakumar

The Alliance for the Democratic Liberation of CongoZaire (AFDL) includes four parties, each with their own ideologies. Laurent Kabila, who leads the AFDL, is leader of the People’s Revolution Party (PRP), which emerged in 1967 out of the defeat and dispersal of Lumumbist forces.

The PRP like many other movements of its time influenced by Marxist ideas but could probably be defined as a radical nationalist party. It had been confined to the Moba and Fizi Baraka districts in Kivu where it had suspended armed struggle for political work in the towns and literacy programs and cooperatives in the mountains. It financed itself through gold mining.

Kivu is not Kabila’s home province; he is a member of the Baluba community in Shaba province. However they have been immersed in secessionist movements and haven’t been supportive of him. Kabila is no “ethnic warlord.” He was a key figure in the “Simba” struggles of the 1960s. But before last year he was an obscure and unknown personality to most Zaireans, in comparison with other leaders like Antoine Gizenga and Gaston Soumaliot.

Since the 1970s Kabila was based in DarEsSalaam, Tanzania where he ran a small business. Dar was an exciting place to be. Its university attracted radical scholars from around Africa and the world and was the site of frenetic intellectual and political activity. The Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni studied there and Dar was also the base or favored exile of several liberation movements. This was where Kabila was to make friends and develop contacts who have been instrumental in his campaign.

Kabila describes himself as a Lumumbist and has distanced himself from an earlier radical incarnation. Although he once lapsed into a vocabulary of old when affirming his engagement not in a regional power struggle but as “a nationaldemocratic revolution to liberate Cong-Zaire”(1) elsewhere he has said, “as far as we are concerned, we will continue the Lumumba tradition of national struggle. We want to be free and sovereign. We want to decide for ourselves.”(2)

The Democratic People’s Alliance is composed mainly of Banyamulenge demanding the restoration of citizenship and an end to discrimination and state-sponsored terrorism of their communities.

The third component of the AFDL is the Resistance Movement for the Liberation of Zaire, which draws support from southern Kivu and the National Resistance Council for Democracy (whose stronghold is Kasai province). The latter’s leader was Andre Kissasse Ngandu. He was also military leader of the Alliance until he was killed under mysterious circumstances in early January. (Apparently his assassins were “spirit warriors” known as the Maimai militia, a mainly Bahunde group which believes in the power of magic to protect them from gunfire. The Maimai had been opponents of the Banyamulenge but were at this point in alliance with the AFDL.) Others speculate that Kissasse was killed in a feud with Kabila over leadership of the Alliance.

In the course of the rebellion the AFDL, which had begun as a predominantly Banyamulenge force, gained tens of thousands new recruits (including the Shaba province). There are a range of individuals within the AFDL, including Information Minister Raphael Ghenda, who apparently reads the late unlamented Kim Il Sung’s works and others — such as Finance Minister Mwana Nanga Mawampanga, formerly a University of Kentucky faculty member — who are procapitalist(3) This breadth conveys the coalition’s ideological heterogeneity as well as some of its tensions.

The program of the Alliance has two phases. First is a “redemocratization” of society through a Western liberal democratic model of an independent legislature, executive and judiciary. Respect for human rights and democratic norms are also promised.(4) The second, a “reconstruction and development” phase involving rehabilitation of the roads, includes support to the informal sector, primary health care for all, a decent education and housing system, restoring purchasing power for wage earners and promoting independent trade unions.(5)


  1. Tajudeen AbdulRaheem, “An Evening with Kabila”, West Africa (London), 31 March  6 April 1997.
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  2. Interviewed by Collette Braeckman for Le Palmares (Kinshasa), March 7 1997 (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, AL/2864 A/2, March 11 1997).
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  3. Michela Wrong, “Kabila’s untried team faces big test”, Financial Times (London), May 20 1997.
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  4. Transcript of a report by the AFDL radio station, Voice of the People (Bunia) in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, AL/2890 A/4, April 11 1997.
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  5. Transcript of a report by the AFDL radio station, Voice of the People (Bunia) in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, AL/2891 A/3 and A/4, April 12 1997.
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ATC 69, July-August 1997