The Democratic Republic of the Congo Needs World Support Just as Much as Syria

DRC2
Photo/amicc.org/icc/drc

Comparable to the history of the First World War, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has experienced more war casualties and genocides than any other country in the history of humanity. More than killing, cannibalism became the only way that people could survive both in refugee camps and military camps after successive Congolese civil wars.

Mass raping of both males and females was apart of a reward system for soldiers for many years in the DRC. Child soldiers became more deadly in terms of mass killings, especially in rural areas.

joseph desire mobutu (DRC)The country, between the years of 1960 and 1980 had among the highest amount of industry (mining and processing) in Africa. It was in 1965 with the assistance of the United States that a military coup changed the once DRC to Zaire (1971-1996 name change). The U.S. at the time wanted to ensure that the country would not succumb to communist ideologies, but post coup, military dictatorships like that of the U.S. assisted one-party system of Joseph Mobutu also known as Mobutu Sese Seko (1965-1997 head of state) bred a combination of relative peace and stability while allowing for severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality and corruption.

The DRC borders the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan to the north;Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It is the second largest country in Africa by area, the largest in Subsaharan Africa, and the eleventh largest in the world.  Its own civil conflicts coupled with the insurrections of conflicts in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan has left the majority of the population surviving on less than 1 dollar per day, apart from the land being blessed with untapped natural resources such as gold, copper, diamond, cobalt and tantalum, which many Chinese investors are currently looking to exploit, the DRC remains in crisis.

11 Dec 2007, Sake, Democratic Republic of Congo --- Thousands of Congolese people flee the village of Sake towards Goma as intense fighting takes place between the Congolese Army, the FDRC, and soldiers loyal to the rebel Tutsi leader, Nkunda, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the last few weeks, the FRDC has been making a large-scale military push to take back villages they lost to Nkunda late last year, and the civilian population has been caught in the middle. Thousands of civilians have been displaced from their homes across the region of North Kivu, and are suffering grave health and malnutrition crisis. In the last 12 months, about 410,000 Congolese civilians have been displaced by new fighting, and coupled with the previous 400,000 from past years, there are now about 800,000 internally displaced people in the DRC. --- Image by © Lynsey Addario/Corbis
Photo/daraint.org/humanitarian-response-index/humanitarian-response-index-2008/response-to-crises/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/drc-conflict-fleeing-villagers/

The challenges of the Syrian civil war are wide and varied, but millions of people have lost their lives during war in the DRC, and almost 2 million died as a result of disease, social crimes and lack of feeding in refugee camps compared to 600,000 lives lost in Syria.

In 2009 people in the Congo continued to die at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month estimates of the number who have died from the long conflict range from 900,000 to 5,400,000. The death toll is due to widespread disease and famine; reports indicate that almost half of the individuals who have died are children under five years of age. There have been frequent reports of weapon bearers killing civilians, of the destruction of property, of widespread sexual violence, causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, and of other breaches of humanitarian and human rights law. One study found that more than 400,000 women are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo every year.

In 2015 major protests broke out across the country and protesters demanded that Joseph Kabila step down as President. The protests began after the passage of a law by the Congolese lower house that, if also passed by the Congolese upper house, would keep Kabila in power at least until a national census was conducted (a process which would likely take several years and therefore keep him in power past the planned 2016 elections, which he is constitutionally barred from participating in).

This bill passed; however, it was gutted of the provision that would keep Joseph Kabila in power until a census took place. A census is supposed to take place, but it is no longer tied to when the elections take place. As of 2015 elections are scheduled for late 2016 and a tenuous peace holds over the Congo.

Efforts of UN negotiating for peace and taking responsibility for internally displaced people and refugees has run cold after sometime due to internal forces and countries that have an interest in continued conflict between the country’s leaders. In the words of journalist Owen Jones, is it now time to be honest, do we ignore the Congo’s conflicts, the numerous list of atrocities, the blatant mistreatment of women and children because “its Africa”?