The nation-wide conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most devastating since the Second World War, and has gone largely unnoticed by the international community over the past several years.
Currently circulating international media is the strange but not altogether surprising report that the country has boycotted the United Nations emergency conference recently convened on its behalf. World leaders came together in Geneva last Friday in an effort to help raise $1.7 billion in emergency funds to address rampant malnutrition and medical needs in the country, as well as the millions displaced by the conflict.
Congolese leadership responded to the conference by claiming the UN’s assessment of the situation was inflated and that officials are “exaggerating” when describing the humanitarian situation. Unfortunately, the facts speak for themselves:
Today, some 4.5 million Congolese are displaced from their homes – more than in any other country in Africa. Tens of thousands continue to stream out of DR Congo to neighboring countries. Since December 2017 alone, 70,000 have fled fighting in the east to camps in neighboring Uganda. The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates some 600,000 Congolese refugees are currently awaiting a permanent solution to their situation, all dispersed throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
A glimmer of light has shown itself recently for the Congolese people over the course of the recent UN conference. International participants in Geneva collectively pledged over half a billion dollars. The UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator told reporters after the conferences conclusion that he is pleased with the progress. From the current progress, officials estimate the UN is well on its way to achieving their fundraising goal.
While this money is certainly necessary to address the current status of the country, gathering charity dollars is far from a long-term solution for the DRC. If any hope of a stable future for the war-ravaged nation exists, it can only come about with the complete removal of the current government led by President Joseph Kabila. Congolese activists, at home and in the diaspora, have long called for Kabila’s removal, identifying him as the root of the country’s woes, from an economy unprofitable for the people, to a lack of even basic internal security. Kabila's undeniable corruption has led UN officials to echo the calls for his resignation.
Indeed, much of the recent violence is linked to the country’s current political leadership and its unrelenting grip on power. Kabila has delayed elections and used violence, repression, and corruption to entrench his hold on power beyond the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit, which was supposed to have ended in 2016. Further motivating the government’s unrelenting hold on power is the lucrative position they find themselves in. Hundreds of millions of dollars of mining revenue have gone missing in recent years, as President Kabila, his family, and close associates have amassed fortunes. This is particularly disturbing when considering that the Congo’s immense mineral wealth could help address the current emergency and other basic needs of an impoverished population. Sadly, any income from new investments are more likely to end up in the pockets of authorities than back into the country. Furthermore, the fact that much of the DRC’s natural resources have been left untouched by legitimate elements has opened the door for their exploitation by criminals. Ironically, the very mining profits which could be used to save the struggling population have been used to fund militant groups throughout the country.
With any luck, recent exposure of the plight of the DRC can lead to the increased pressure necessary to effect real change in the conflict-ridden country.