DRC: Current Situation
Although the Second Congo War officially ended in 1999 with the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to be plagued by conflict. Experts estimate that since the outbreak of violence in August 1998, over 5.4 million people have died (by way of both direct and indirect causes), making it the deadliest conflict since the Second World War.
Since 2003, the conflict has been centralized in the Eastern provinces, primarily in North and South Kivu, as well as Orientale, Maniema and Katanga. These provinces neighbour Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Zambia and Tanzania.
Since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, refugees and rebels have sought safety in the DRC. Their presence has involved the Rwandan government and army, contributing greatly to the instability throughout the country. Other states, such as Uganda, Tanzania, Angola, and Zimbabwe have intervened in the conflict in various ways. Although Rwanda continues to deny its involvement, the United States has refused to deliver $200,000 in military aid this year, citing the Rwandan government’s support of rebel groups in the DRC.
One major source of conflict is the abundance of valuable minerals in the country’s eastern provinces. Foreign and state-owned enterprises, illegal miners, national and regional armies, and rebel groups are all involved in the extraction, processing and trade of these conflict minerals. The populations of these provinces continue to suffer as a result.
In March and April 2012, soldiers mutinied from the government’s army and formed the March 23 Movement (M23), which also includes rebels formerly associated with the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP). The CNDP formally integrated with the Congolese army (FARCD) in a peace agreement on March 23, 2009. M23 (currently thought to be comprised of less than 1500 members) launched a new rebellion against the Congolese government in April 2012, in North Kivu. Over the summer, the rebels overtook towns and villages on their march towards Goma, a city they threaten to seize. UN peacekeepers are supporting the Congolese army to maintain control of Goma.
Since this phase of the conflict began, the fighting has displaced over 220,000 civilians in North Kivu province alone. UN reports suggest that the security situation in the Kivus has worsened as civilian attacks and ethnic tensions continue to increase.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), currently 4.5 million people are suffering from food insecurity, 1 million children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and more than 2.4 million people have been displaced throughout the country (1.6 million of them in the North and South Kivu provinces) – an increase of 25% since the beginning of 2012. Disease continues to ravage the population, primarily cholera (27,000 cases this year), malaria, and a recent outbreak of Ebola that has thus far killed a reported 76 people.
Earlier this year, UN agencies and their humanitarian partners appealed for $791 million (USD) to deliver humanitarian assistance to the region, but have only received 54% of the funding thus far. Although humanitarian needs have increased in recent years, funding has decreased steadily since 2009, falling from $541 million in 2008 to $391 million in 2011.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
The New York Times
The Sudans: Current Situation
More than five years into the crisis in Darfur, insecurity continues to displace people, humanitarian operations are coming under attack, and a political settlement appears distant. Over 4.5 million people are now affected by the crisis, many of which depend on humanitarian assistance to survive. As the crisis continues, internally displaced persons (IDP) camps are reaching capacity. Furthermore, despite the presence of large-scale humanitarian efforts throughout Darfur, the UN announced that malnutrition rates among children rose throughout 2007, reaching the World Health Organization’s “emergency threshold” for the first time since 2004.
Rebel groups have continued to splinter, adding to the complexity of the crisis and increasing the number of confrontations on the ground. In late October 2007 peace talks opened in Libya. However, it quickly became evident that the talks would not be successful after key rebel groups did not attend and those who were present lacked a coherent set of demands. Lack of rebel unity will continue to obstruct the peace process unless efforts are taken to unify rebel groups.
Over the last year humanitarian aid workers increasingly found themselves under attack, thus jeopardizing the very operations that sustain so many people in Darfur. Insecurity has created a climate where humanitarian vehicles are hijacked, staffers are intimidated, assaulted, and in some cases even killed. Meanwhile, the perpetrators are rarely held accountable.
Some hope came with the deployment of the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in January 2008. Night patrols by UNAMID, which are aimed at increasing security in the face of armed militias, are being counted among the mission’s earliest successes. However, as of February, only 9,000 of the expected 26,000 troops had been deployed and the mission lacked key equipment, including helicopters. Furthermore, the restrictions imposed on UNAMID by the Sudanese government could jeopardize the success of the mission.
The situation may be growing more complex by the day, but it is not improving. According to an August 2007, report by the UN Secretary General, the number of internally displaced persons has now surpassed 2.2 million and the number of conflict-affected people has increased by 500,000 over the summer alone, topping out at 4.2 million people. The lack of rebel unification is currently a pressing issue. To have sustainable peace, all the rebel groups must be willing to come to the table.
With the expulsion of the humanitarian aid groups after Bashir’s indictment by the International Criminal Court, increased conflict in South Sudan, and internally displaced persons camps that grow every year, the situation remains dire.