Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Background and Current Developments *

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Background and Current Developments *

Article excerpt


In February 2011, the Congolese government formally charged one senior military officer and 10 soldiers of mass rape in the town of Fizi, in the eastern province of South Kivu. The 11 were tried in a mobile court setup near the town of Fizi. Congolese soldiers under the command of Colonel Kibibi Mutware attacked the town of Fizi on New Year's day. Dozens of civilians were injured and an estimated 40 women were raped, allegedly in retaliation for the killing of a soldier. The soldier was lynched by a mob after he shot a civilian. In late February, nine soldiers and Colonel Mutware were convicted and sent to prison.

In early October 2010, French authorities arrested the executive secretary of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Callixte Mbarushimana. The International Criminal Court (ICC) said that Mr. Mbarushimana is wanted for five counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2009. In March 2009, the United States imposed a travel ban and an asset freeze on Mr. Mbarushimana. On December 1, 2010, the United Nations Sanctions Committee for DRC added three FDLR members and one other individual to its sanction list. The three FDLR members are Gaston Iyamuremye, Felicien Nsanzubukire, and Innocent Zimurinda. The other individual is Leodomir Mugaragu.

In September 2010, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) issued a strong statement welcoming a report by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) on human rights abuses in the DRC. The report accused several DRC neighbors of serious human rights abuses, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In late August 2010, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed serious concern about reports of mass rape in eastern Congo. Secretary Clinton, in a statement, stated that "the United States is deeply concerned by reports of the mass rape of women and children in the DRC by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed, illegal group that has terrorized eastern Congo for over a decade and elements of the Mai Mai militia group." In early October 2010, U.N. peacekeeping troops in the DRC arrested the leader of a rebel group suspected of orchestrating the mass rape. Lieutenant Colonel Mayele of Mai Mai Chaka was arrested in North Kivu province. An estimated 300-500 people were reportedly raped in July- August 2010.

The DRC, formerly Zaire, has been in political turmoil for years. In May 1997, the Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL), with the support of Rwanda and Uganda, marched into Kinshasa and ousted longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Within one year, tensions between then- President Laurent Kabila and his Rwandan and Ugandan allies began to mount. In August 1998, open conflict erupted between Kabila and Congolese forces supported by Rwanda. Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe joined the fighting in support of Kabila.

In early June 2010, the leader of the Voice of the Voiceless in the DRC, Floribert Chebeya, was found dead in his car. Mr. Chebeya was a well-known human rights advocate. He had expressed concern about his safety in recent months. The State Department offered the DRC government help in the investigation. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that "his work will be remembered as a tribute to Congolese perseverance." Ban Ki-moon also called for a transparent and independent investigation.

In January 2010, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that it was providing assistance to over 100,000 civilians from eastern Congo. United Nations officials report that an estimated 1.7 million people are displaced throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. In a September 2009 report to the United Nations Security Council, Secretary General Ban Kimoon stated that the "humanitarian situation remained precarious during the reporting period due to large-scale population displacements, human rights violations by armed men, including rapes, killings and lootings; impeded humanitarian access; and security incidents against humanitarian workers. …

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