Congolese Civil Wars and Africa’s World War
The deadliest conflict the world has seen since World War II was waged in the Democratic Republic of Congo in civil wars from 1996-2003. Born of genocide, over 5 million lives have been claimed. Civilians are constantly targeted by rebel and militant groups and the government’s military. In 1994, Hutu genocidaires (perpetrators of genocide) fled from Rwanda, located just east of the D.R. Congo, after the genocide in their home country. They fled from justice, and continued to perpetrate crimes against humanity. The Forces Democratique de Liberatio de Rwanda (FDLR) was formed. This group’s formation led to invasion from the neighboring countries of Uganda and Rwanda, and eventually the overthrow of 31 year dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Known as “Africa’s World War”, over nine countries and many regional militias were involved. Laurant Désiré Kabila, the leader of the rebellion against Rwanda and Uganda, declared himself president in 2007. The D.R. Congo continues to be engaged in the throngs of war, with groups like the FDLR, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and M23 militias working to obtain minerals and resources from the land, and power in the government. The role of conflict minerals in the mix means that over 43,000 children have been forced into slavery in the mines, and over 4,000 have been abducted and forced to become soldiers. Civilians constantly face the danger of mass killings, rape as a tool of war, and torture and mutilation.
18 year old Tantine Ngomora tells the story of her uncle’s murder and her rape during the Congolese Civil Wars. Blunt and horrifying, she relays that she and her uncle encountered Rwandan soldiers while walking. She was immediately raped. Her uncle tried to intervene, exclaiming “kill me instead of raping her”. He was shot. Tantine became pregnant and now lives with her parents and young son in Bukavu. Humanitarian aid in the form of medical treatment and a small loan have helped Tantine and her family start to recover from the horrors of their past. Read more: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/kill-instead-raping-her-teenage-5177107
Tantine and Gloire
A chaotic, flawed, and violent presidential election in 2011 has created political and social unrest in the D.R. Congo. Joseph Kabila, the son of Laurant Désiré Kabila, was awarded the winner, beating the former prime minister Etienne Tshisekedi. Violence immediately broke out as Tshisekedi’s supporters took to the streets. Later that year,Tshisekedi declared himself the rightful president. The capital city of Kinshasa strongly suppported Tshisekedi and his politics, and violence again broke out all over the country as a result.
Civilians continue to be brutally murdered, tortured, and raped throughout the D.R. Congo. The United Nations has deployed the largest peacekeeping force, known as MONUSCO, to the area with over 19,000 members. Despite their efforts, humanitarian aid is still desperately needed across the country. But the UN continues to support D.R. Congo government. Last week it was reported that the UN and the D.R. Congo backed out of a planned joint attack against rebel group FDLR because two high profile generals in their military accused of committing crimes against humanity were not replaced. This is one of the ways the UN is attempting to help D.R. Congo restore and strengthen its government. Prescriptions for international response include the necessity to hold perpetrators of gross crimes accountable, and by backing out of the attack, the UN sends a powerful message to the D.R. Congo Government.
What needs to be done:
- Government structures must be strengthened
- Civilians need to be protected from the government and militant groups
- International donations need to be made in order to ensure that the Congolese government implements reforms and works to improve governance
- Perpetrators of crimes against humanity must be held accountable and brought to justice
- Surrounding countries need to stop providing money, supplies, and support to armed groups