Congo: The Bleeding Heart of Africa

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains the deadliest since World War II and has resulted in the loss of over 4 million lives since 1998 and the displacement of millions more. As many as 1,000 people a day continue to die from war-related causes — mainly disease and malnutrition, but also continuing violence, primarily in the eastern region.

The war began when Uganda and Rwanda invaded to overthrow DRC’s President Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, a bid that was successful. But they invaded again in 1998 to overthrow Mobutu’s  successor, Laurent Kabila. In response, three other countries–Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia–intervened to defend Kabila and fought against Rwanda and Uganda. The withdrawal of these countries from the Congolese territory in late 2002 left behind a DRC in shambles.

Though peace agreements have been forged and the country has moved to an elected democratic government, peace has yet to come to DRC.  Violence continues to wreak the mineral-rich region of eastern Congo, where Uganda and Rwanda are still suspected of  supporting local militias. Minerals mined in the region end up on engagement rings and in computers in America, and proceeds from their sales drive a local war economy.

The D.R Congo is the third largest country in Africa after Sudan and Algeria and the twelfth largest nation in the world . Its geographic location in the heart of Africa and its wealth make it a strategically, politically, and economically important country.  However, this is of little significance if its neighbors are politically unstable.  Congo moved from occupation by foreign national armies to destabilization by foreign and domestic rebel groups, preventing it from progressing after the democratic presidential election of Joseph Kabila on October 29th, 2006. Today, Kabila is stuck trying to address the issue of foreign rebel groups in the Congolese territory. Such groups include: the National Congress for the Defense of Democracy/Front for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), a Burundian rebel group;  Combatant Forces Abacunguzi (CFOA), an armed branch of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR); National Liberation Forces/Party for the Liberation of Hutu People (NLF-PALIHUTUPE) from Burundi; the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group from northern Uganda; and Nkundabatware’s army, a Tutsi pro-Rwanda Congolese rebel group.

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