The Congo Conflict
Since the Democratic Republic of the Congo became independent, many corrupt rulers have come to power, but the large-scale fighting in the area started because of the Rwandan Holocaust (1). To escape from the genocide, many refugees from Rwanda fled to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Additionally, these impromptu refugee camps became the military bases for the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda and due to the lack of supervision, many Congolese were raped, killed, or abused by the Rwandan refugees (1). The eastern congolese then staged a revolt with the intention of forcing the Rwandans out of Congo(2). To extinguish this rebellion, Rwandan and Ugandan forces called the Alliance for Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) took control of the eastern provinces of the DRC and eventually in May 1997, overthrew the president, Mobutu (2). Zaire, the country's previous name, was renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a new president, Laurent Kabila took over (2). However, soon after in 1998 violence continued when Kabila turned on Uganda and Rwanda and the two countries invaded the DRC (2). The Congolese government was able to stop the Rwandan and Ugandan forces thanks to the support of neighboring countries such as Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe (2).
While the tensions between the DRC and Rwanda and Uganda remain intense, there has been internal turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo stemming from several rebel groups that have tried to take control of the struggling government (3). The three main volatile rebel groups have become prominent in the eastern provinces of the Congo (3). These groups are the M23 rebels, the Rwandan Hutu FDLR and various Mai Mai groups (3). Additionally, M23 is backed by Uganda and Rwanda (3). M23, in particular, has caused a lot of violence. In 2009, a militia was supposed to merge with the Congolese Army, but the terms of this little agreement were never fulfilled and thus a group of about 1,000 irate men formed the M23 rebel group and until 2013, terrorized and captured many eastern Congo cities and provinces (3). On November 2nd, 2013 M23 was finally disbanded (3).
In total, this violence has resulted in 6 million people killed and has created 2.7 million internally displaced people (1). There is also 430,000 Congolese refugees living in surrounding countries such as Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. Although some fighting has ceased, many tensions remain rampant (2).
This past February and under the supervision of the UN, 11 countries agreed to stop supporting rebel groups in the DRC and signed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Region in Addis Ababa (4). In addition to this new development, the UN has implemented a peacekeeping mission called MONUSCO. This team has provided aid to the refugees by giving them supplies, setting up camps, and most of all, protecting them from rebel groups. However, it has not always been successful (4). This year, MONUSCO plans on sending an Intervention Brigade to neutralize more of the violence (4).
Overview and Essential Questions
Who are the main opponents? Uganda and Rwandan are historically the main opposing countries to the DRC. Many internal rebel groups like M23 and the Rwandan Hutu Army are also fighting with the Congolese Army.
Any other countries involved or concerned? Other countries include Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe.
How is this conflict being conducted? The fighting is being done through Guerrilla warfare. There is a lot of random acts of violence such as rape, robbery, and kidnappings as well.
What was the cause of the conflict? After independence, the DRC had many corrupt governments come into power. The influx of Rwandan refugees in the 90s sparked violence and exposed the unstable nature of the government, encouraging many countries and rebel groups to take advantage of the economic-rich DRC.
What efforts are being taken to solve the problem non-violently? The UN has been trying to help through MONUSCO. The idea of MONUSCO is a very good one. However, the peacekeeping mission has had troubles keeping up with the violence and enforcing nonviolent rules over the peacekeepers themselves. For instance, there has unfortunately been reports of rape and abuse with these UN-issued peacekeepers. To be more effective, the UN should train all on-foot peacekeepers, encourage transparency between the UN staff and congolese people and ultimately teach peacekeepers how to build trust with the Congolese citizens. Also, considering that this issue is one of the biggest humanitarian crises in Africa right now, the UN should budget more money and troops towards fixing it.
Citations (in order of appearence in summary)
1) "Democratic Republic of Congo Country Profile - Overview - BBC News." BBC News. N.p., 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 05 May 2015.
2) Zapata, Mollie. "A Brief History of Congo's Wars." The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 29 Nov. 2011. Web. 05 May 2015.
3)"Armed Groups | RAISE Hope for Congo." Armed Groups | RAISE Hope for Congo. Enough Project, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015.
4)"World Report 2014: Democratic Republic of Congo." World Report 2014: Democratic Republic of Congo. Human Rights Watch, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015.
By Izzy Braham