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facts about genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has experienced ongoing violence since the mid-1990s. Although the DRC has the potential to be one of the richest countries in the world with its vast resources, parties and rebels in the DRC are taking and profiting from the resources and committing mass murder in the process. These are seven facts about genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Facts About Genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  1. Many believe the genocide committed by the DRC is a result of and closely connected to the conflict in Rwanda in 1994. Fighting still continues today on the Rwanda-DRC border, caused by the persecution of Rwandan Hutu refugees who fled to the DRC. A human rights activist from the border city of Goma told the BBC, “People don’t talk about it enough… but the Rwandan genocide was like flicking over the first domino.”
  2. The main participants in the genocide and violence in the DRC include the national army, the Armed Forces of the DRC and diverse groups of rebels throughout the country, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and Mayi-Mayi militias.
  3. The atrocities of the genocide not only include mass murders, but also abductions, rape, child labor and the displacement of persons. The DRC has been involved in the conflict since 1996, which is estimated to be the cause of more than six million deaths. Because of widespread violence, more than three million people have been forced to leave their homes and many continue to go without humanitarian assistance.
  4. Many of the six million deaths have been indirect consequences of the war. Diseases such as malnutrition and malaria have run rampant due to the country’s political instability and lack of infrastructure.
  5. The violence is far from over. In August 2017, the U.N. reported that in the DRC’s Kasai province, an estimated 2,000 people have been murdered due to ethnicity-based violence and that several mass graves have since been discovered in the area.
  6. Since December 2017, more than 34 villages have been ransacked by Lendu militiamen, who have killed many, including women and children, while also leaving many Hema people homeless. The DRC government has since decided not to intervene. However, the U.N. did warn the government months beforehand about a potential ethnic conflict that could lead to the deaths of many.
  7. There have since been efforts and intervention to address DRC’s genocide. In 1999, the U.N. created the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in order to protect civilians and transform the country. In 2013, the U.N. extended MONUSCO further, making it first U.N. mission to include offensive action to strengthen the peacekeeping operation. The U.N.’s intervention brigade has since helped defeat the M23 rebels and continues to extend its mandate to stop other rebel groups.

These facts about genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are only a portion of the complex situation in the DRC. With the country’s weak governance and many rebel groups, the DRC’s people have been constrained by too many years of violence and conflict. Nevertheless, by putting a stop to corruption, human rights violations and rebel groups through continued international efforts, the DRC has the potential to be a rich and prosperous country.

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

Child RecruitmentThe Democratic Republic of Congo’s national army recently became child-free after being removed from the U.N.’s “list of shame” of armed forces recruiting and using child soldiers. This list details all of the parties in armed conflicts that have “committed serious violations of international humanitarian law against children”.

However, even with their history of abuse and child recruitment, the Congolese army, also known as the FARDC, made considerable progress by releasing 8,546 children from their ranks between 2009 and 2015. The mission was conducted with the help of MONUSCO, the U.N. peacekeeping unit in the country.

Since its creation in 2003, Congo’s national army has experienced a long period of violence and conflicts with multiple Congolese militias. Those conflicts were the scene of several human rights abuses such as sexual abuse, child recruitment and deaths, perpetrated mostly by the FARDC armed forces.

Even though child recruitment has been decreasing, sexual violence against children is still at the top of the list of violations committed by the FARDC. It affects mainly girls, who represent 40 percent of Congo’s child soldiers, according to a MONUSCO report. While some of those girls are forced to join, many of them enlist voluntarily, since being in the army gives them better opportunities than living in neighborhoods prone to poverty and a lack of educational resources.

MONUSCO also revealed that documenting the percentage of girls in armed groups has always been a challenge, as the number of girls is often underreported. Out of the 8,546 freed child soldiers registered by MONUSCO, only 7 percent of girls were documented, which is a radical difference from the 40 percent figure estimated by hundreds of witnesses.

Being delisted by the U.N. is, however, a major win for the Congolese armed forces, whose efforts in stopping child recruitment have led to a positive change towards respecting human rights. Training armed groups on child protection issues and creating standard operating procedures have both helped to free child soldiers and eradicate the practice of child recruitment. Eliminating sexual violence within armies is the U.N.’s next mission to better the lives of thousands of soldiers.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

reject drones
Drones buzz through the skies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to monitor this mineral-rich country that has been racked with war for 20 years. The U.N. Stabilization Mission, or MONUSCO,  a peacekeeping operation with over 21,000 personnel, brought two of these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles into action in the DRC last April. MONUSCO then offered to share drone-collected information with humanitarian NGOs working in the DRC.

The offer was emphatically rejected.

The NGOs reject drones because MONUSCO is a military operation. International NGOs are humanitarian and as such are bound to the principles of “neutrality, impartiality and operational independence.” Using drones for both military and humanitarian information gathering compromises these principles.

A July 14, 2014 statement released by NGOs working in the DRC pointed to the potential for data gathered with a humanitarian objective nevertheless informing combat operations.

2006’s guidelines for how humanitarian actors and MONUSCO are to coordinate has recently been revised, but IRIN reports that a final draft “does not directly address the use of info gained through drones.”

NGOs are concerned that they have no guarantee the info will come from non-drone sources.

Drones have served both military and non-military purposes in the past. For example, while one drone might use its infrared camera to search for people congregating at night (a sign of an attack brewing), another drone might be tasked with monitoring the geological activity of a volcano.

On May 5, 2014, drones in Rwanda that were flying over Lake Kivu relayed information indicating a ferry had capsized, leaving 20 people in the water struggling for their lives. Rescuers saved 14 people who probably would have drowned otherwise.

However, the issue here is not whether drones are capable of serving a non-military function; humanitarian organizations know they would find information gathered by drones helpful. The issue is that, according to certain core principles, humanitarian NGOs cannot take sides in a war.

The drones’ many uses could embroil the NGOs in the conflict because MONUSCO might use “humanitarian information” for military purposes.

The region these drones patrol is highly unstable, with many armed groups fomenting conflict there. Last June, members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a militia group with a large presence in the DRC, proclaimed their desire to disarm and negotiate. Provided the offer to disarm was genuine, some thought this might stabilize the region to a certain extent.

However, recent attacks on barracks in Kinshasa by a separate group highlight how one party’s exit from the conflict can hardly be used to foretell an end to the larger conflict. Because of this, drones will remain a fixture in the DRC’s skies.

-Ryan Yanke

Sources: IRIN, BBC News, The New York Times
Photo: BBC

Poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
A country two thirds the size of Europe, and rich in mineral and agricultural resources, the Democratic Republic of the Congo  is also the site of the “deadliest conflict since World War II,” which has killed more than 5.4 million people. The country is recovering from this civil war, but its infrastructure has been nearly destroyed. As a result, poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is widespread and severe, and it requires urgent attention.

 

Breakdown of Poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

 

Effects of the War
Today, the effects of the conflict in the DRC are extremely apparent. Life expectancy is 49 years compared to the global average of 70 years, and 168 children born out of every 1,000 die before reaching the age of five. In 2011, more than a quarter of the population was sickened by malaria. More than 2.3 million citizens remain displaced from their homes within the country, and thousands more have fled to neighboring countries for refuge from the ongoing violence.

Present Challenges
Though these statistics have improved slightly since the peak of the civil war in the mid-1990s, 71 percent of the DRC’s population continues to live below the poverty line. Experts say that the country’s scale is a primary factor causing many to die from “easily preventable conditions” such as malnutrition, malaria, and pneumonia. Humanitarian and aid organizations struggle to serve the DRC’s large population as “renewed rebel activities” in eastern provinces continue to displace large segments of the population.

Addressing Poverty
The World Bank reopened in the DRC in 2001 after operations were suspended for almost ten years because of political instability and corruption in the country. The Bank has committed $3.1 billion to the DRC, aiming to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, decrease corruption in public and private sectors, and rehabilitate the country’s health and education systems.

The United Nations has also been instrumental in the DRC’s recovery. The Security Council established MONUSCO in 1999, supplying peacekeeping troops to the region. In addition to the UN’s peacekeeping efforts, USAID provides emergency assistance to the displaced and has established long-term programs to address food security, democracy, education, the environment, and global health in the DRC.

Results
Since late 2010, USAID has given a comprehensive malaria prevention package in 70 health zones in the DRC, greatly reducing the incidence of malaria in the country. USAID also provides health services to pregnant women with HIV/AIDs, preventing them from passing the virus on to their children. The DRC happens to be one of the five countries in the world that accounts for half of all child deaths, but USAID recently provided health services to more than 12 million people who previously lacked access to healthcare.

The situation in the DRC remains one of the most urgent humanitarian crises in the world, but efforts to relieve the widespread poverty are proving successful. In order to maintain this trajectory, though, continued funding for USAID will be critical.

Katie Bandera

Sources: BBC, Global Issues, USAID, WHO
Photo: BBC