The Democratic Republic of Wars & Conflict – CONGO
Many people say that numbers do not lie, and it makes sense mostly when you are thinking of votes, people who can access the internet, children that can access education, etc. If you look at this statement in relation to wars and conflicts on the continent, especially the number of war deaths and how long it has been looking at countries and communities separately, you will be surprised. Ethiopia, Cameroun, Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), and the list continues. The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the biggest countries in Africa and one of many that has been through hell until today. The aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda has a lot to do with what is happening now in DR Congo. The failure of the leadership to ensure peace and security of the country led to the first and the second Congo war. We will not go beyond the regime of Laurent Desire Kabila, who took office in November 1997 after overthrowing the Mobutu (1949 – 1997) government. But any relevant information that can add value to this blog that happened prior then will be touched on.
First (October 1996 – May 1997) and Second (August 1998 to July 2003) Congo war
Democratic Republic of Congo wars claimed more lives than any other conflict/war that happened after the second world war, according to International Rescue Committee methodological calculation (n.d). Approximately 4.7 million people were killed in four and a half years since mid-1998 (Astill, Chevallot, 2003). Anyone might ask how did this happen and how did it start?. The 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda lasted a hundred days. It claimed approximately a million lives, and the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) managed to take over the country and pushes the genocide perpetrators to flee the country to DR Congo. Back then, Mobutu was the president of Zaire before renaming it DR Congo; Laurent Desire Kabila joined forces with RPF and the Ugandan army to conduct a coup (October 1996 – May 1997). The Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, or AFDL, was created to join the force. They had taken control of eastern Congo by December and marched into Kinshasa in May 1997 to stage a coup against Mobutu’s government. In September 1997, the country was renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Desire Kabila was made president (Zapata,2011).
After the coup, the Democratic Republic of Congo had a chance to develop under new leadership and a leader who was believed to be a patriotic and a freedom fighter, but the better days did not last. After taking office to avoid another coup, Kabila broke ties with his first allies, Rwanda and Uganda. He made peace with the Hutu rebellions in the Eastern region, which triggered and fueled conflicts with Rwanda and Uganda and led to a 1998 invasion. The second Congo war started in August 1998 to July 2003. Neighboring countries with a good relationship with Kabila came to his defense: Angola and Zimbabwe. From there, the war expanded, the army increased, and Congo was flooded with blood only after a year and a half of mere peace. Angola and Zimbabwe’s involvement was critical. Namibia, the Sudan (which was opposed to Rwanda), Chad, and Libya all assisted in the form of weapons and soldiers. President Kabila won with his allies but was assassinated by his bodyguard in January 2001, and his son, Joseph Kabila, took over. Joseph Kabila proved to be a skilled negotiator, completing successful peace treaties in 2002 that resulted in Rwanda and Uganda’s withdrawal from the Congo. Kabila negotiated a peace deal with internal rebel groups in December 2002, promising them a power-sharing interim government.
SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF WARS AND CONFLICTS IN DR CONGO
After 2003, DR Congo had a second chance like the one they had in 1997 to turn things around, but the treaty of sharing power came with its consequences. The minerals and wealth found in DR Congo were/are used to finance militia and armed rebels that troubles the nation and neighboring countries day and night. It has been over two decades and a half since wars and conflicts in DR Congo started. It is proved scientifically that such tragic events have critical effects on society regardless of age, gender, location, etc. According to On’okoko et al.(2010), In DR Congo, 22% suffer from anxiety disorders (related to war trauma for 18%, sexual abuse for 3.5%, and other factors for the remaining 0.5%). Countries’ health and well-being are seriously affected by war. War has a major impact on a country’s health and well-being. According to research, conflict causes more death and injuries than any other major disease. War kills communities and families, as well as nations’ social and economic progress. Conflict and wars result in long-term physical and psychological harm to children and parents and often a lack of financial and human capital (Murthy, Lakshminarayana, 2006). Sadly, all implications mentioned above can be found in DR Congo today.
One of the implications of war and conflicts is Migration. Even though DR Congo is the largest country in the sub-Saharan region and one of the densely populated on the continent, it records thousands of migrants who have a long list of push factors and numerous reasons never to return. When you look at the numbers of Congolese dispersed in Africa and on other continents under the names refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers, it shows how complex and challenging decisions the country will have to make to stand on its legs again.
DR Congo has had all types of Migration; internal, external, emigration, immigration, return Migration. These movements affect sectors that usually help a country develop, for example, Healthcare, Infrastructure development, Education, Governance, Trade, commerce, etc. Congolese contribute to hosting countries’ development; Eastern African countries alone in 2015 recorded 874 013 people working, studying, consuming goods, and paying taxes. It draws the picture of brain drain, brain circulation, brain gain that Congolese are involved in across the globe. Even if DR Congo manages to retrieve peace and structure today, it will face the reality of lacking skilled and effective labor.
Covid-19 exposed loopholes in the economies, but what is there to expose from countries such as DR Congo, where 72% in 2018 lived under the poverty line according to the World Bank (2020). The global economic slowdown was anticipated to spark an economic contraction (-2.2 percent) in 2020; lower exports would worsen that. DR Congo also does not have complete control over its mineral resources and mine, which puts them in the worst place given that the strategies to fight Covid-19 cut short revenues due to closing borders and the economy. Despite changes aimed at enhancing governance in natural resource management and improving the market environment, the DRC is ranked 184th out of 190 countries in the Doing Business 2019 study on business regulations and must address plenty of obstacles if it hopes to draw investors in key sectors (ibid.). There is a need to put an end to wars and conflicts happening in DR Congo. To achieve poverty alleviation, a country must create an economy that works for the rich and the poor “free market” and benefit them. To increase employment opportunities, have a shared economy, rich education system, you must ensure security first. Numerous international businesses benefit from the wars and conflicts in DR Congo. There is a power dynamic at play when it comes to making the nation great again and responsible for its adversity. This is where we – the youth come in, and the question we should ask ourselves is, “what should we do?.”
There aren’t enough works of literature that talk thoroughly about what is happening in DR Congo or on the continent, and it creates room for international media to twist the stories and sell us lies. We subconsciously believe it as the truth. This was just the tip of the iceberg, and a lot can be misrepresented in the DR Congo situation. Under the United Nations’ watch, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda happened, Boko Haram makes headlines now and then, Somalia is struggling till today. Moreover, African Union is working towards achieving the 2063 agenda aspirations, but it looks as if whatever is going on in DR Congo is not a threat to achieving it. So, whose responsibility is it? You cannot address a problem you have zero knowledge of. I am calling on every youth writer or reader; first of all, there is Hope to see the bright side at the end of the tunnel. Secondly, let us amplify our voices and not let western writers sell stories that characterize their savior complex than the matter at hand. Let’s start today for those who have not and keep up the good work those who have, not only for us but also for future generations.
Zapata, M. (2011). Congo: The First and Second Wars, 1996-2003 – The Enough Project. Retrieved 24 March 2021, from https://enoughproject.org/blog/congo-first-and-second-wars-1996-2003
World Bank. (2020). Overview. Retrieved 28 March 2021, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/drc/overview#:~:text=While%20its%20poverty%20rate%20has,less%20than%20%241.90%20a%20day.
Schoumaker, B., & Flahaux, M. (2016). The Democratic Republic of the Congo: A Migration History Marked by Crises and Restrictions. Retrieved 26 March 2021, from https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/democratic-republic-congo-migration-history-marked-crises-and-restrictions
On’okoko, M., Jenkins, R., Ma Miezi, S., E Andjafono, D., & Mushidi, I. (2010). Mental health in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a post-crisis country challenge. Retrieved 21 March 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6734967/#:~:text=22%25%20suffer%20from%20anxiety%20disorders,depressive%20disorders%20and%20bipolar%20disorders).
Katz, A. (2014). Away from the Front Lines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Retrieved 28 March 2021, from https://time.com/3812033/congo-m23-phil-moore/
LAKSHMINARAYANA, R., & MURTHY, R. (2006). Mental health consequences of war: a brief review of research findings. Retrieved 25 March 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472271/#:~:text=War%20destroys%20communities%20and%20families,in%20material%20and%20human%20capital.
Astill, J., & Chevallot, I. (2003). Conflict in Congo has killed 4.7m, charity says. Retrieved 25 March 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/apr/08/congo.jamesastill
New times. (2020). SADC meets over peace restoration in DR Congo [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.newtimes.co.rw/africa/sadc-meets-over-peace-restoration-dr-congo