Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to increase: over 5 million dead and 2 million displaced, since World War II. Violent rampages led by rebel groups have recently forced another 400,000 people to flee their homes throughout the southern region. Humanitarian aid is imperative as refuges face starvation and disease – their homes and livelihoods burned to the ground. There are reports of civilians used as human shields amongst the violence. UN officials have dubbed the situation a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
Current instability is deeply rooted in its turbulent past. Portuguese traders discovered the Congo’s vast wealth of resources in the 1480s; and manipulated the kingdom into a state of anarchy. Coinciding with the European slave trade, a staggering four million Congolese were stripped from their homeland. Later in the 19th century, the Congolese survived the “rapacious, barbaric rule” of the Belgian elite. Forced into slave labour for the rubber industry, the underdevelopment of the nation and absence of proper education exacerbated civil war. 1960 brought both Independence and mayhem.
Decades of war occurred during the following dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko who ruled from 1965 until his expulsion by rebel forces in 1997. Foreign governments have been accused of actively supporting armed groups operating within the DRC. Stability in the region would mean a devastating loss of income as plunder of gems and minerals runs rampant.
In 2002, Rwanda signed a peace agreement with the DRC – yet violence remains. The continued presence of armed groups and militias is having devastating effects in the eastern DRC. Land disputes and the struggle to control mineral resources fuel the ongoing crisis.
Although a faction of rebels known as the M23 have surrendered to the Congolese government, demobilization must occur amongst the DRC “rebel kaleidoscope”. The international community must remain vigilant of civilian protection and continued supervision of security situation.
“DR Congo: Cursed by its natural wealth”, BBC News, 8 October 2013.
“Human catastrophe in DRC’s Katanga province being ignored, warns UN”, The Guardian, 30 January 2014.
“Congo-Kinshasa: Thousands Flee ‘Scorched Earth’ Campaign in DRC’s Katanga”, All Africa, 4 February 2014.
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo”, Global Issues, 21 August 2010.
“Instability in DRC ‘benefits Rwanda and Uganda’”, Deutsche Welle, 17 October 2012.
“DR Congo’s rebel kaleidoscope”, BBC News, 4 December 2012.
“DR Congo refuses to sign M2# ‘accord’ in Kampala”, BBC News, 12 November 2013.