Rose Mapendo was born in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 1n 1997, rebel leader Laurent Kabila ousted President Mobutu, and then turned on his Rwandan allies and solidified his power by aligning himself with the Hutu majority. The Rwandan army invaded in 1998 in response to growing violence against Tutsis in the eastern provinces, and Rose and her family were sent to a death camp. There, she was forced to watch the execution of her husband, and gave birth to twins inside a cell, cutting the umbilical cord with a stick. In 1999, Rose and nine of her 10 children escaped to a refugee camp in Cameroon, and were resettled in Phoenix in 2000. To understand Rose’s story, it helps to see it in the context of the DR Congo’s long, sad history.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a tragic history marked by invasion and brutality by outsiders. DR Congo is the third largest country in Africa, and was the largest European colony on the continent in the 20th century. Although the region spent 500 peaceful years as the Kingdom of Kongo dating from the 1300s, the arrival of the Europeans changed everything.

Trace Congo’s history with the videos, photographs, and resources in this timeline. Zoom in with the slider in the upper right corner for specific dates, zoom out to see longer periods of time. You can also drag the timeline forward or backward with your mouse.