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World’s Deadliest Conflict

Role of the Government in the Crisis
Three years after the first democratic elections in 40 years, bad governance, mismanagement of Congo’s natural resources, poor rule of law, impunity, insecurity, human rights violations, corruption and many other problems characterize the Congolese government. The Goma peace accords signed in January 2008 by the government and more than 20 armed groups from the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu provided for a cease-fire and charted a path toward sustainable peace in the region. However, since then, continued conflict has resulted in the displacement of more than a quarter million Congolese civilians. Moreover, the Congolese government’s weak response to the crisis has clearly worsened the population’s plight.

How Small Arms Fuel the Violence

The availability of small arms underpins the suffering in the DRC. It is estimated that more than a million small arms are in circulation in the Great Lakes region of Africa with a heavy concentration in eastern Congo. Despite the 2003 UN Security Council embargo on weapons entering the east, guns from the U.S., America, China, Europe, South Africa and the former Soviet Union are routinely smuggled into the country across the borders of surrounding countries. According to U.N. reports, small arms and light weapons destabilize regions, obstruct relief programs; hamper development, and foster a culture of violence. The lack of international and national laws governing the arms trade takes a large part of the blame for the easy entry of guns into the Congo. The government’s capacity to stop the illegal circulation of small weapons is also very limited, since it fuels the circulation of weapons through its armed political and proxy militias.

Economic and Mining Aspects of the Congolese Conflict
The mining sector has always been the backbone of not only the Congo’s economy, but also the main source of economical survival for the majority of Congolese. Congo has massive reserves of gold and diamonds, most of the world’s tantalum and cassiterite (essential materials for most electronic equipment that are consumed in the West) and many deposits of rare materials. Privatization has led to the plundering of this national resource and has ultimately benefited neither the national government nor its citizens. Foreign corporations have purchased large quantities of Congo’s diamonds, gold, timber, copper, cobalt and coltan with little care for the plight of the Congolese. As various militias, often the proxies of surrounding countries, fight for control of mineral rich areas, civilian populations suffer greatly and the lifeblood of the economy is sucked dry. China, India, and the United Arab Emirates, are some of the newest investors in the development of Congo’s mineral resources. Many reports indicate trading interests from these countries are consuming raw materials with little concern for the plight of the Congolese people who remain among the poorest in the world.

Killing and Rape of Civilians by Troops and Militias
Rwandan rebel forces, government army soldiers, Rwandan Hutu militia (called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and their allies, invading foreign armies from Rwanda and Uganda, as well as an assortment of roving militias, have been behind the mass killings and rapes in the Congo. Congo has been recently called one of the most dangerous places in the world for women and girls, with tens of thousands of rapes occuring since 1998, mostly in the North and South Kivu provinces in Eastern DRC. Men and boys are also reportedly being raped.

The Kinshasa government has absorbed several Congolese former rebel forces and militias into its army. With no vetting policy, the military includes former enemies with no salaries, rations, or any formal training, increasing the likelihood of future human rights violations. Protection of civilians can only be taken seriously if known human rights abusers are removed from the ranks of the Congolese army.

Exploitation of Children as Soldiers and Sex Slaves
A recent UN report estimates 3,500 children in the ranks of all armed groups and in a few units of government security forces in the east of Congo. Most are found in armed groups, serving as combatants, porters, spies, and sex slaves. Despite their commitments given at the Goma peace conference to immediately demobilize children, armed groups continued to actively recruit child soldiers into their ranks.

The Role of Rwanda and Uganda in the Conflict
Since Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo in 1996 setting off 10 years of violence that caused more than 5.5 million deaths, they have appropriated the wealth of Eastern Congo either directly or through proxy forces. The December 2008 United Nations report is the latest in a series of UN reports dating from 2001 that clearly document the looting and appropriation of Congolese resources by Rwanda and Uganda. The United States and Great Britain have supported Rwanda and Uganda both militarily and economically. These two countries have received millions of dollars of military aid, which in turn they use in Congo to cause destruction and death. Moreover, the international community — including the media — in general, and the US and Great Britain have kept largely silent on the 5.5 million deaths in DRC while being very vocal on the Darfur humanitarian catastrophe. Their direct and indirect support to Rwanda and Uganda in invading the DRC, fueling the crisis through proxy rebellions and plundering DRC resources, must stop for the country to move toward security.

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