Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ranks last in the UN Human Development Index (HDI). Despite being a very rich nation in terms of natural resources, it is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis. One of the world’s most complicated ongoing conflicts continues to cripple the country year afer year. Warfare in DR Congo has been extremely gruesome on all fronts with at least 3 million lives lost, several hundred thousand women raped and kidnapped by soldiers, villages pillaged and children abducted to join the militias.
The second Congo war that begun in 1998, officially ended with the signing of a peace treaty in 2002. However, unrest and armed conflicts has continued to tear the country apart and there are no signs of a peaceful resolution.
Peacetalks failed. Again.
In fact, the situation worsened last year when a rebel group called M23 wreaked havoc over the North- Kivu Province and the city of Goma, causing half a million people to flee in panic.
The 1998-2002 war has been nicknamed the “Africa’s World War”, because the sheer amount of nations participating. Apart from DCR itself, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia were some of the countries directly involved. Of course the UN also sent forces: MONUC (Now MONUSCO). The war today is mainly fought by rebels backed by minority groups or the countries involved and the national army.
The story of the war and the ongoing conflict is a confusing one, with all the militias and guerilla groups involved. Several of these groups finance their warfare through the mining industries by occupying areas in the east. Other mines have been sold to foreign companies for much less than they are worth. According to an IMF report from 2009, the mineral and oil exports that year were USD 4.2 billion. The DRC government only brought in 4 % of that money.
The money from the minerals not only fuel the conflict, but they also make up key components of technology we use every day. Companies in the west can therefore be accused of having supported the conflict and inflicted pain on the Congolese people. However, measures have been taken to amend this. In 2010 the Dodd-Frank Bill was passed in the US, with a section stating that companies must make sure that the minerals they used have not contributed to conflict. The EU equivalent of this is expected early this year. To read more about this, have a look at this report by MakeITFair.
Also, check out this video from the Guardian:
An uncomfortable truth
The civil war is not only fueled by economic interests. The spark in the 1990 was caused by the fighting among the minority groups Hutu, Tutsi, Lendu and Hema. This conflict, especially the one between Hutu and Tutsi is spilling over the borders in this part of Africa. The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 is one example of this.
Some of the most prominent groups in DR Congo are the Interahamwe, originally a Hutu group from Rwanda. The FDLR militia (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) originated from this group. On the opposing side is the Banyamulenge, originally a Tutsi group, from which the AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) militia assembled. Other groups are the Mai-Mai militia, the CNDP (le Congrés national pour la défence du people) which is another Tutsi group, RCD-G (le Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie) a militia backed by Rwanda, RCD-ML a militia backed by Uganda.
The LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) would be worth mentioning because of the KONY campaign in media during 2012, Kony being the leader of the group now classified as terrorists, that is famous for their brutality and abductions of women and children. The currently active M23 is a Tutsi rebel group that deserted from the Congolese army to take down president Joseph Kabila. All of these groups, including the Congolese soldiers, are guilty of crimes against humanity. This war has torn this country apart, exploited the natural resources, raped the women, abducted the children and caused immeasurable pain.
The war in DR Congo is not over, but with legislation controlling the supply-chain of minerals for our technology, at least there might be less money to fund the conflict with. And maybe also a little less blood on our hands.