Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Wednesday, September 12

Trouble In DR Congo

Renewed hope for peace after DR Congo's historic 2006 election is fading.

Clashes in the long-troubled eastern region have caused fear of war for a country still weary from two conflicts between 1996 and 2003, which directly or indirectly killed almost four million people, an unprecedented number since World War II.

Forces loyal to Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi rebel leader operating in North Kivu province, have fought with government forces and FDLR militia, a Hutu group backed by Kinshasa and inexorably linked with the 1994 genocide in nearby Rwanda.

There have long been skirmishes in the region between the groups, but intensified fighting has displaced nearly 300,000 people since December, including tens of thousands in the past several weeks, according to the United Nations.

The conflict threatens to draw Rwanda back into the conflict, which has previously entered DR Congo to hunt FDLR rebels. However, President Kagame denies his troops are preparing to cross the border, despite reports that he is backing Nkunda.

The Enough Campaign has a policy paper out recommending solutions.

Fighting in the east is particularly brutal because of rape. Indeed, the region now has the troubling distinction of having the highest rate of sexual violence against women in the world, according to the United Nations.

DR Congo has also been in the international news for two other troubling items:

  • The ebola virus has broken out in Kananga, the capital of the West Kasai region. At least 166 have died, and international health workers are working to contain the outbreak, which appears to be confined to several villages.
  • Crumbling infrastructure, as exemplified by a recent New York Times article on Congo's trains, curbs development and contributes to the country's isolation.