Decades of Conflict in DR Congo: A Comprehensive Guide | News

The resource-rich country, now facing a major rebel attack, has been racked by conflict for more than 30 years.

Escalating tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have once again drawn global attention to the security crisis in the African country’s mineral-rich eastern region.

Heavy fighting between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and the M23 rebel group in the country’s troubled North Kivu province has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes in the past two weeks, taking what little they can. Dozens have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since January.

There are fears that the regional capital, Goma – home to some two million people and about half a million displaced people seeking refuge there – could soon fall to an advancing M23, a potentially devastating blow to the Congolese government’s control of the region.

The UN Security Council voiced concern at the “escalating violence” after M23 shelled Goma airport, damaging Congolese military aircraft.

Racked by conflict for more than 30 years, the DRC’s insecurity is caused by complex and deep-seated factors, as well as a multitude of actors. Apart from the M23, numerous other armed groups, Congolese and foreign forces are battling for control, mostly in the eastern part of the country. Some of Kinshasa’s neighbours are also implicated in the crisis.

Approximately six million people have been killed since 1996 and more than six million people remain internally displaced in eastern DRC.

Here’s a guide to the decades-old conflict in the country:

How did the 1994 Rwandan genocide affect the DRC?

The DRC crisis originally began as a result of a series of post-colonial battles for power after independence from Belgium in 1960, which culminated in the assassination of popular leader Patrice Lumumba and the three-decade military rule under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Ethnic tensions in Rwanda forced more than 300,000 people from the Tutsi minority group to flee to neighbouring countries in the 1960s, particularly to the DRC. Some of those refugees regrouped and sought to seize power in Rwanda after the country gained independence from Belgium in 1962.

In the early 1990s, the DRC saw a spillover of civil war and subsequent genocide in neighbouring Rwanda. In October 1990, a civil war broke out after the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi rebel group led by current Rwandan President Paul Kagame, invaded the country from its Ugandan base. In April 1994, extremist Hutu militias attacked Tutsis and moderate Hutus, killing 800,000 to a million people over 100 days in what is now known as the Rwandan genocide. Hutus form some 80 percent of Rwanda’s population.

Kagame’s RPF seized the capital, Kigali, on July 4 as Hutu genocidaires, troops, and former regime leaders fled to the DRC. An estimated two million Hutu civilians fearing revenge and reprisal attacks also poured into the country.

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