The Democratic Republic of Congo has seen many Civil Wars between 1996-2003. These wars have taken approximately 5 million lives, making it the deadliest conflict since WWII. Despite UN intervention and many attempted peace deals, there is continued violence in the eastern and northeastern regions of the DRC, particularly the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale.
The genocidaires, the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, came to eastern DRC in 1994 to flee from justice. When they arrived, they formed the FDLR, or the Forces Democratique de Liberation du Rwanda. This situation prompted an invasion from Rwanda and Uganda, leading to the overthrow of the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. The leader of this rebellion, Laurant Desire Kabila, appointed himself President in 2007.
In 1998, Kabila turned on Rwanda and Uganda and declared what is nicknamed “Africa’s World War”. This involved various countries and other regional militias until it ended in 2002.
Despite many efforts to ensue peace in the Congo, civilians are still being targeted and killed. The various methods of war include: rape, mass killings, and
Rape as Method of War: The use of sexual violence in the DRC is an all too common war tactic. The Congo is quickly becoming known as the rape capital of the world. Thousands upon thousands of women have been raped by militant groups and armed combatants. A 2011 study released by the American Journal of Public Health reported that “over 1,000 women are raped daily; a rate of 48 women per hour”. Sexual violence has caused approximately 2 MILLION people to be displaced from their homes and tens of thousands of them are completely without humanitarian assistance.
International intervention has created the “largest international peacekeeping force” made up of nearly 19,000 people. It is known as the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Despite the efforts of this force, this crisis still remains and is still very evident.
The Mineral Conflict: The conflict in the Congo stems, partly, from a race for lucrative minerals. The combatants use the money from the minerals to buy weapons, guns and ammunition to supply the war lords. The combatants kidnap innocent civilians and force them into slave labor by working in the mines. The minerals, mainly tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold, go to the world market where they are bought by manufacturers to be used in the electronics industry. They are primarily used in cell phones, computers, and other common electronics we all buy every single day. In 2010, Amnesty International reported that “43,000 children are working in mineral mines and around 4,000 children have been abducted by armed groups to fight as soldiers.”
LRA: Not only are the civilians being targeted by the government and rebel forces, the people of eastern DRC are being attacked by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Since 2008, an alarming 1,900 Congolese have been killed and 344,000 civilians are STILL displaced. Led by Joseph Kony, the LRA is claimed to be the largest threat to the DR Congo civilians.
In 2009, the communities of Makombo and the area of Haut-Uele was attacked by the LRA, massacring more than 321 men and raping the women and children. As well, as the kidnapping of 250 people, 80 of which are children.
NOW: The DRC government and MONUSCO must ensure that the protection of civilians remains the primary priority as they address the threat posed by armed groups.