Congo Civil War
The DRC is a free-fire zone, where members of the security forces, armed groups and militias kill with impunity.
Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills wrote in Foreign Policy magazine "The Congo Doesn't Exist," and that foreign governments and aid agencies should bypass the purported central government, and instead deal with whatever exerts control on the ground - a confusing and ever shifting array of governors, traditional leaders, warlords, and others. Absent a hegemon the Congo provides endless opportunities for plunder. Congolese suspect that US assistance (and all international aid) is provided to weaken the country and advance private business interests. The US is thought to support Rwanda's alleged efforts to annex the Kivus and monopolize the region's resources.
When the state lacks the capacity or willingness to maintain basic control of its territory, the effective “cost" of rebellion is low. Militant activity therefore becomes a more attractive economic prospect, as a small number of armed men with guns can seize control of public resources for private gain. The troubling instances of violence and human rights abuses most commonly associated with conflict in the DRC — atrocities against civilians, sexual and gender based violence, child soldiering, forced labor, and illicit trade in minerals and other natural resources — are tragic outcomes of the broader problems of conflict and fragile governance.
The abundance of natural resources in the Congo helps fuel the flames of conflict. In a context in which the population is desperately poor and the government fails to provide even basic services, taking up arms seems to some individuals and communities to be the only way to break through the corruption, patrimonialism, and government incompetence that prevents their accessing the benefits of the abundant mineral wealth in their territory. Competition over resources has been a factor driving conflict, and the exploitation of Congo’s resources by groups linked to Rwanda, Uganda, and other outside interests has provided particular motivation for local militia groups to act to secure economic resources for their communities — or at least for themselves.
The war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC; formerly called Zaire under President Mobutu Sese Seko) was the widest interstate war in modern African history. The DRC became an environment in which numerous foreign players were involved, some within the immediate sub-region, and some from much further afield. That only served to complicate the situation and to make peaceful resolution of the conflict that much more complex. The war, centered mainly in eastern Congo, had involved 9 African nations and directly affected the lives of 50 million Congolese.
The conflicts in the East have aggravated a worrying trend towards the collapse of state authority throughout the country. While this phenomenon receives international scrutiny in the East, most parts of the state have ceased to function normally throughout the country. The education, judiciary, and health systems have collapsed, with services dependent on under the table payments. Corruption is pervasive, following decades of state sanction and the government's inability to provide basic services. Without regular salaries, the security forces have turned to small- (and large-scale) extortion. In a situation where society is "broken," many donors have targeted security sector reform (SSR --military, justice, and police) as the most pressing area in need of assistance.
Despite enormous natural resource wealth, the DRC remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with an annual GDP per capita of only $171. Following decades of economic mismanagement under the Mobutu regime, the GDRC initiated a series of economic reforms in 2001 that aimed to stabilize the macroeconomic environment and promote economic growth. The DRC's economic environment changed dramatically beginning in late 2008 and throughout 2009 as the country was significantly and negatively impacted by the global financial crisis. The once robust mining sector significantly contracted during late 2008 and early 2009 due to falling international commodities prices, a tightening of international credit and dampened investor confidence in the sector.
The International Rescue Committee said that between August 1998 and April 2004 (when a bulk of the fighting occurred) some 3.8 million people died in the DRC. Most of these deaths were due to starvation or disease that resulted from the war, not from actual fighting. Millions more had become internally displaced or had sought asylum in neighboring countries.
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