Flickr/ United Nations Photo

Is it time for the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop looking to the United Nations for support?

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been trapped in a perpetual cycle of crisis after the crisis. A new UN report, which states that DRC has the highest number of people requiring urgent food security assistance in the world, has shed greater light on the severity of the conflict. 

One-third of the country, according to the United Nations, is facing a hunger crisis as a result of a combination of Covid-19 and the continuous conflict that has desecrated communities across the country. An analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase raised the point that of the 27.3 million starving Congolese people, around 6.7 million are facing “emergency” hunger. This is the stage before the most extreme crisis, which is a famine. 

There has been a rise in human rights violations of 21% when compared to 2019, according to the figures published by the Office of the High Commissioner. The Congolese government has utilised authoritarian measures – intimidating, arresting, and violently beating protestors and journalists. The east of Congo has been most affected – such as areas like Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika, as well as the central Kasai province as they have been ravaged with extended periods of conflicts amongst rebel groups. 

Social and political stability is essential to strengthen food security and boost the resilience of vulnerable populations

– Aristde Ongone Obame, Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Congo

Multiple international humanitarian aid groups have underlined that the violent conflict, in particular, has perpetuated the hunger crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Congo, Aristde Ongone Obame, stated: “The recurring conflicts in eastern DRC and the suffering they bring remain of great concern. Social and political stability is essential to strengthen food security and boost the resilience of vulnerable populations.”

The ramifications of consistent attacks from small military groups have been extremely detrimental to the east of Congo particularly. The UN Refugee Agency blames attacks committed by ISIL affiliates in northeastern DR Congo for killing more than 200, displacing over 40,000 people. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees affirmed that: “in less than three months, the ADF has allegedly raided 25 villages, set fire to dozens of houses and kidnapped over 70 people.” 

These attacks were motivated by a desperate need for food and medicine, as well as punishing communities for allegedly leaking information. Around 130 militia groups are active in the east of Congo with the main perpetrators being: the mainly ethnic Lendu association of militia Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), the largely Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Nduma Defense of Congo-Renové (NDC-R), and the largely Rwandan Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). 

930,000 people from Congo were registered as refugees and asylum seekers in at least 20 countries

Last November, 930,000 people from Congo were registered as refugees and asylum seekers in at least 20 countries, which can be seen as substantiating the extensive consequences of the conflict. Achieving political stability is crucial to reducing the hunger crisis – yet with the conflict being a personal feature of recent Congo history. the UN will be forced to engage a lot more. 

The origins of the ceaseless violence in the central African country can be traced back to a massive refugee spillage as a result of the Rwandan genocide. Around 500,000 to 600,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu’s were brutally murdered over 100 days in a mass genocide. Many of the surviving Hutu’s and exiled former Rwandan politicians fled to the east, which saw the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and Hutu génocidaires launch an attack in Congo – formally known as Zaire at this point. 

Zaire was ill-equipped to deal with the massive influx of violent militia groups, which saw the break out of the First Congo war (1996-97) – also known as Africa’s first World War – killing an estimated 200,000 people. As a result of a massive destabilisation in the east, the government collapsed which led to the formation of the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, a power struggle ensued which unfortunately led to the start of the Second Congo War, also known as the Great War of Africa. 

Nine African countries and around 25 armed groups became involved in the war, resulting in the death of 5.4 million people with the primary cause of death being starvation and disease. The Second Congo War became the deadliest conflict worldwide since the Second World War, highlighting the magnitude of the violence the DRC has had to deal with. 

18 years later the country is still suffering from the fallout of the war

The war formally ended in 2003. Yet this has not resulted in peace in the region, as 18 years later the country is still suffering from the fallout of the war. Rampant corruption and inadequate institutions have seen the DRC struggle to combat conflict between innocent civilians and rebel groups in the east. Intervention by the African Union has failed to address the cancerous conflict, resulting in the United Nations attempting to provide a solution.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) was established in 2000 in an attempt to monitor peace in the region, with around $8.7 billion being invested to help the region recover. Yet, following the takeover of the peacekeeping procedures in 2010, MONUSCO has come under intense scrutiny following their failures to make progressive steps towards achieving peace. 

12,000 troops were deployed in the east of the nation, which is an extremely mineral-rich area and key to the nation’s economic power, yet killings have doubled from last year. This has resulted in many young Congolese citizens protesting, as the UN group has failed to prevent the killings. Depaul Bakulu, a civil society activist in Beni, said: “We denounce the ineffectiveness of the UN force MONUSCO, which has an offensive mission but which for years has failed to do anything. MONUSCO must either act or pack up.”

Minimal efforts in the DRC echo many previous conflicts in which not enough has been done to uphold basic human rights

Clovis Mutsova, a member of youth activist group LUCHA, stated: “We only demand two things: for MONUSCO to leave and for the Congolese government to take its responsibility so that we can have peace.”  The minimal efforts in the DRC echo many previous conflicts, in which not enough was done to uphold basic human rights – such as the Rwandan genocide, where conflict was particularly poignant due to Western democracies refusing to intervene. 

The conflict in the region has driven the King of Belgium to apologise for his nation’s historic role in the region. Belgium inflicted 75 years of colonial rule in the region, including extensive violence and cruelty against Congolese people. The Belgian parliament is currently in the process of examining its colonial past. 

Given the historic and contemporary legacy of Western intervention, many feel that countries in the global south can no longer look to the West for support. It is felt that without a vested interest, support will undeniably be inadequate. The resolution most recently passed by the UN Security Council does ensure that MONUSCO will remain in the region for another year. However, with the mission moving towards withdrawal, the international presence in the region is set to be diminishing over the coming years.

International aid is seen to have enclosed African countries in a vicious cycle of continuous political and economic instability, and is often used to mask western ulterior motives to exploit poorer nations for their benefit. Instead, the DRC and its neighbouring African countries may need to look within themselves to find a solution to a war that has effectively lasted 24 years, tearing the fabric of Congolese society. 

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