Democratic Republic of the Congo


The bloodshed of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide was not containable within one tiny nation.  When the Tutsi rebels captured Kigali and restored order, roughly 2 million Hutus, perpetrators and witnesses alike, fled across the border into the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire).  With them travelled the ethnic tensions that had precipitated the genocide, and the lake districts of eastern Congo were fertile ground for sowing fresh conflict.

Cross border raids by Hutu militias attempting to regain Rwanda had severely hurt diplomatic ties between Kigali and Kinshasa.  So in 1996, the Congo experienced the first of two major wars, which resulted in the decades-old Mobutu regime ousted from power and Laurent Kabila assuming the presidency.  Rwandan head of state Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, had been instrumental in orchestrating this coup, leaving a conspicuous Rwandan influence in its neighbor’s nascent government.  Pressure for Kabila to cut ties with his benefactors generated more strife and eventually culminated in “Africa’s World War.”  This Second Congolese War, the deadliest in modern African history, was exacerbated by a network of alliances that pitted the DR Congo’s allies Angola, Chad, and Zimbabwe against Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda.  Various militia, of both Hutu and Tutsi loyalty, made this conflict particularly factionalized.  After five years of fighting, most of the nation’s eastern half was aligned with either Uganda or Rwanda.  The fringe areas around Congo’s Great Lakes became the war’s epicenter, which developed into two sub-conflicts – Ituri and Kivu.

The latter gave rise to a military chief named Laurent Nkunda, an old rebel comrade of President Kagame, and his successor, ICC indicted criminal Bosco Ntaganda.  These two warlords headed the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) to combat the various Hutu power groups in the region, using child soldiers and mass murder as a deplorable means to a pointless end.  The chaos throughout eastern Congo has taken well over 5 million lives, and holds the statistic of the deadliest conflict since World War II.

After an ineffectual peace treaty in 2009, government involvement in the conflict officially ended.  However, independent militias still operate under the auspices of no one, using civilian killings and rape as a tactic to further their ethnic agendas.  The lucrative mining industry in the region also provides a steady income for these armed groups, a point of controversy that has citizens worldwide demanding manufacturers buy minerals from other sources.  As long as conflicting national interests exist, Kivu and its nearby provinces will be a battlefield for the proxy war between the DR Congo and Rwanda, regardless of any treaty.


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