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Democratic Republic of the Congo Overview

The Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, is a huge land rich in natural resources located in the heart of Africa. The DRC has been the scene of one of the deadliest conflicts the Africa has ever witnessed. In his 2008 book, the French Historian Gerard Prunier called the war “Africa's World War” and blamed the Rwandan genocide for sparking a horrific bloodbath that swept across Sub-Saharan Africa and ultimately lead to the deaths of millions of people.

The war in Congo began when Rwandan and Ugandan forces invaded Congo (then Zaire) in 1996 with plans to hunt down the Hutu militias, also called Interahamwe, authors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide who found refuge in the eastern forests of Congo. The invading armed forces moved across the vast land quickly and eventually added other tasks to their agenda, including overthrowing the dictator at that time, Mobutu Sese Seko, in Kinshasa. President Mobutu after a year long resistance fled the country in May 2007 once rebel forces reached the capital. A small-time rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila was then installed as president. During his presidency, Kabila was thought to be departing from his old rebel comrades and getting too friendly with the enemy Hutu militias; he was shot dead by his own bodyguards in January 2001. His son Joseph Kabila, then 29, assumed power, still ruling to this present day.

In spite of efforts by the young president to keep a sustainable peace in the country by signing peace deals with rebel groups and the foreign forces involved in the war, peace still seems to be far from reach.

The International Rescue Committee estimated to about 5.4 million people died in this war just from 1998 to 2008. Most of the fatalities were not caused by fighting but from other related war atrocities such as preventable diseases, hunger and displacement.

UN peacekeeping forces deployed in the country (MONUC) seem largely unable to stop attacks and the unreliable Congolese national armed forces itself is responsible for some widespread atrocities in 2009 and is well-known for their appalling corruption, lack of ethics and rape crimes.  The ICC has put additional pressure and media focus on the DRC by issuing four arrest warrant to rebel leaders and warlords.  Military and political leader of the UPC, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, was the first to be tried by the IC, charged with three counts of war crimes.     

For 2010, the casualties have been centered in the Kivu Province of the country. A region well known for its border with Uganda and Rwanda, it is very vulnerable to attacks by Hutu militias. Lately this conflict has caught the attention of the world not only because of its military atrocities but also for its multiple counts of rapes of women and children while civilian males are being slaughtered.

The New York Times reporter Nicolas D. Kristof did an excellent work on the region and we respectfully invite you to watch this video.