KINSHASA, Zaire- The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is most notably known for the Second Congo War. The war claimed over five million’s people lives and is sometimes called Africa’s War due to the number of countries involved in the conflict, which include Libya, Angola, Chad, Namibia, Rwanda, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Prior to the war, the country was known as Zaire and was ruled by authoritarian despot Mobutu Sese Seko from 1965 to 1997.
Mobutu developed a cult of personality type rule over the nation, while at the same time creating a regime of plutocracy in which he gained a vast personal wealth, while repressing dissident and opposition groups.
Mobutu remained in power because his strong nationalistic stance against communist influence allowed him fiscal and military support from the United States. Once the proxy-war between the Soviet Union and the U.S. ended after the Soviet Union collapsed, much of the monetary backing Zaire received ceased and his rule began to falter.
In 1993, numerous opposition groups shaped, and by the mid 1990’s, the pressured Mobutu established coalition government the opposition groups, while at the same time keeping stern control over the most commanding ministries and security and armed forces.
The Second Congo War began when Rwanda backed rebels seized chief eastern regions of Zaire, and by 1999, captured the capital, Kinshasha. The rebels renamed the nation the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Significant infrastructure was annihilated and tensions escalated between ethnic groups, principally Hutu’s and Tutsi’s, paralleling the earlier genocide in neighboring Rwanda.
Poverty in the DRC is widespread and unchecked. The nation was wracked economic and political crises following the end of the civil war. The nation is still reeling from the divergence, remaining the second poorest country on earth. Malaria and malnutrition are the foremost fatalities. The amount of wealth dispersed among the population is quite uneven, with almost three out of five citizens living on only $1.25 per day. This does not allow most Congolese proper access to food and health services.
The lack of access to drinking water has led to conflicts over the resource. Mineral resources are plentiful in the country, amounting to about $1.24 billion. This has led to more violence, as political and ethnic groups continue to fight over control of resource wealthy regions. Despite the civil war ending with the Lusaka accord, violent upheavals and inter-ethnic violence continued.
President Joseph Kabila, who succeeded his father, Laurent Kabila, after he was assassinated in 2001, has tried to make push the DRC to a more prosperous future. Critical problems persist in the nation, such as an unchecked military, sexual violence against females and persistent poverty.
Alleged corruption and electoral fraud have prevented the nation from attaining a true democratic government. The central government does struggle with maintaining order, with the fear of a coup a common fear. In 2003, former Mobutu politicians attempted a coup against Kabila, but were defeated. The political situation in the DRC is a reminder that despite the small changes, the fear of the past is still there. Hopefully, the country can move forward.
– Joseph Abay