In 2008, Reuters reported on Congo’s war-driven crisis: “War, disease and malnutrition are killing 45,000 Congolese every month in a conflict-driven humanitarian crisis that has claimed 5.4 million victims in nearly a decade, a survey released on Tuesday said. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), which carried out the study with Australia’s Burnet Institute, said Democratic Republic of Congo’s 1998-2003 war and its aftermath had caused more deaths than any other conflict since World War Two.”
It is now 2018, and the UN Human Rights Agency reports that “fresh waves of unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have displaced over 1.9 million people since January 2017” (UNHCR-USA). Fifteen years after the Second Congo War officially ended in 2003, the United Nations describes the resulting humanitarian crisis as “the highest level of emergency,” comparable with what is going on in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.
In Congo, decades-long civil conflicts have only escalated in recent years. Territorial clashes between rival militias, armed groups terrorizing locals in towns across the country, mass protests against the current president, Joseph Kabila, and police violence, on top of many other internal issues, have forced millions to flee their homes. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), “weak governance and the prevalence of many armed groups have subjected Congolese civilians to widespread rape and sexual violence, massive human rights violations, and extreme poverty.” Those who did return to what was once their homes found their property, businesses, and schools destroyed and their families killed.
It has been difficult for UN peacekeepers to subdue and mitigate armed violence, particularly in the eastern region of the Congo. At least seventy armed groups are believed to still be operating there. Stronger militant groups in the region, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), continue to grow in power as they tap into the country’s massive resource wealth in minerals, whose value amounts to an estimated $24 trillion.
The international community must work harder to address the issues that have plagued the nation for decades. The current peacekeeping mission is in need of widespread support, resources, and collaboration to effectively combat regional instability in the Congo. Relocating refugees from the borders to new, established camps with enough safe spaces is necessary for them to be ensured adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care.
As of now, the Congolese are not only threatened by armed violence, prolonged displacement, increasing civil unrest, and potential anarchy, but they are also more vulnerable to disease outbreaks than ever, with the current state of public health, water, and sanitation.
Jennifer Park, Grade 11
University High School