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DRC: Is there still hope for peace?

11.12.2018
For over 20 years there have been clashes between the government and the rebel groups especially in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rather than assessing the issue in terms of internal dynamics, looking at foreign influence from other African nations, such as Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda in the process can help us understand more about the conflict.

To understand the situation better, rather than starting from the colonial history of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the history of the collapse of the corrupt Mobutu Sese Soko regime may show its influence on the current conflicts.

From the mid-1980s onwards, during the period of Mobutu, the state institutions in Zaire fell into corruption due to degeneration and bribery. This was linked to the Western companies who wanted to take advantage of the country’s natural resources and also the elite bureaucrats. This awful bureaucratic system hindered the development of the country and increased the people’s reaction against the government.

With the disappearance of the influence communism in the mid-90s, disagreements began to emerge between the United States, the United Kingdom and France regarding the future of the Mobutu regime.

At the end of this process, the “unresponsiveness” of the United States towards Africa made Mobutu’s regime to lose authority and credibility in the DRC. This led to the collapse of the already inadequate infrastructure and the formation of opposition groups. The different policies implemented by the Western countries played a negative role in the resolution of the growing conflict and subsequent instability in 1996-1997. Because of the varying interests, healthy steps could not be taken to prevent and resolve the conflicts in the DRC between 1996 and 1997. Western countries were late in the peace process before 2003, and the European Union’s peacekeeping missions had a limited impact after the end of the civil war and after the 2006 elections.

During that period, opposing armed groups strengthened themselves, especially in the eastern part of the country and established relations with neighboring countries.

INFLUENCE OF RWANDA, BURUNDI AND UGANDA ON THE PROCESS

Some experts call these non-state-controlled areas as physical “safe shelters” and indicate that these safe shelters emerged due to the inability of the central government to control areas within its borders, and moreover, that these were in the hands of rebels or warlords.

The situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been experienced in southern Afghanistan, especially in the Kandahar region. The reason for the formation of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan was the weakness of the state. The Taliban movement established by Afghan students who took religious education took advantage of the space and took power with the help of Pakistan. Therefore, neighboring countries play a great role in the formation of such local armies and rebel groups.

The weakness of the state mechanism in the east of the country also allowed external players, such as Rwanda and Uganda, to expand its influence in this region, which is outside the reach of the state, through its local supporters.

The mines and natural resources in the eastern part of DRC, especially in the Kivu region have been the main cause of conflict for the past two decades. Gold, silver, cobalt and other strategic mining areas are among the most important natural mines of the region and due to the political and economic chaos created by the civil war in 1998, these natural resources are controlled by armed militias today. Also, as dependency on scarce and depleted resources increases, competition for resources may cause more conflict.

DO UGANDA, BURUNDİ AND RWANDA “REALLY” WANT PEACE FOR DRC?

There are several reasons why conflicts are supported by neighboring countries, especially in the case of a possibility of changing the boundaries of these regions in favor of these neighbors

These regions, where scarcity and conflicts are constant, are among the richest mineral regions in the world. However, in the current situation, it is not easy for DRC to operate these mines. As such, the conflicts, famine and state regimes that have been existing in the region for years are pushing people towards other alternatives.

Secondly, the possibility of a strong Democratic Republic of Congo that can dominate small countries such as Burundi and Rwanda. It should not be forgotten that the Democratic Republic of Congo is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria and it is the largest in the sub-Saharan region. The mighty Congo’s powerful army can have serious political influence, especially in Rwanda, if they ethnic ties.

Thirdly, rich mineral reserves: It is worth noting that the armed groups who have supporters have the possibility of obtaining economic benefits from their rights on mines.

Unfortunately, there is no hope of peace in the near future due to fact that warlords have settled in the regions, where social structures are degrading, famine and injustice increase every days.

Western powers can only succeed in stopping support for the rebels and containing the hostilities in DRC if political pressure is applied on neighboring countries, especially Rwanda.

The main question, however, is whether the West, especially the United States, “really” wants it

AFRIC Editorial Article.

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