Timeline: The march to peace in Congo, Africa's heartland.

1996-97 Tutsi rebels from the Rwanda-Congo border capture much of eastern Zaire.

1997 Tutsi and other anti-Mobutu rebels, aided principally by Rwanda, capture the capital, Kinshasa; Zaire is renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Laurent Kabila is installed as president.

1998 Rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda rise up against Mr. Kabila and advance on Kinshasa. Zimbabwe, Namibia send troops to repel them. Angolan troops also side with Kabila. The rebels take control of much of eastern Congo.

1999 Rifts emerge between Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) rebels, supported by Uganda, and Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) rebels, backed by Rwanda.

1999 The six African countries involved in 'Africa's world war' sign a cease-fire accord in Lusaka. The next month, MLC and RCD rebels sign on. In December, fighting breaks out in north. US envoy Richard Holbrooke visits to get peace back on track.

2000 UN Security Council authorizes a 5,500-strong UN force to monitor the cease-fire. Fighting continues between rebels and government forces, and between Rwandan and Ugandan forces.

2001 President Laurent Kabila is killed by a bodyguard. His son, Joseph, assumes job.

2001 Joseph Kabila meets Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Washington. Rwanda, Uganda, and the rebels agree to a UN-backed pullout plan.

2001 A refugee agency says the war has killed 2.5 million people since 1998. Later, a UN panel says the warring parties are deliberately prolonging the conflict to plunder gold, diamonds, timber, and coltan.

2002 Peace talks in South Africa: Kinshasa signs a power-sharing deal with Ugandan-backed rebels, under which the MLC leader would be premier. Rwandan-backed RCD rebels reject the deal.

2002 Presidents of Congo and Rwanda sign a peace deal. Rwanda will withdraw troops, and Congo will disarm and arrest Hutu gunmen blamed for the killing of the Tutsi minority in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

2002 Presidents of Congo and Uganda sign deal stating Ugandan troops will leave Congo. Later, Uganda and Rwanda say they have withdrawn most of their forces from the east. UN-backed talks begin in South Africa.

2002 Peace deal signed in South Africa between Kinshasa government and main rebel groups. Rebels and opposition members are to be given portfolios in an interim government.

2003 Kabila approves two-year transitional constitution, pending elections. Last Ugandan troops leave eastern Congo. French soldiers arrive in Bunia, spearheading a UN-mandated rapid-reaction force. Interim national parliament is inaugurated.

2004 Gunmen attack military bases in Kinshasa in an apparent coup attempt. Rebel soldiers occupy Bukavu for a week.

2005 UN peacekeepers in Ituri kill more than 50 militia members in a March offensive, days after nine Bangladeshi UN soldiers are killed.

2005 New constitution is adopted by National Assembly in May.

Sources: History of the Democratic Republic of Congo - Answers.com; BBC.

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