Smuggling Arms in the Eastern of the DRC



Officially, the DRC has been on United Nations (UN) embargo on arms since 2003 due to recurrent armed conflicts in the country. But, that is on the paper and the story on the ground is even silly when in 2008 the UN faced “allegations against peacekeeping troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as a BBC investigation uncovered evidence of illegal gold trading and arms deals with violent rebel groups”[1]

The eastern part of the country is polluted with tens of armed groups and what is paradox about is that the country has the biggest UN mission over 20,000 civil and uniform personnel ever deployed. Troops have been stationed in the country for more than a decade and as today armed groups still have shinning days ahead. There is a vicious circle and that is the alarming problem for those who have been enduring the impact of the armed conflicts.

DRC is surrounded by 9 countries and this means 9 boundaries with a security system that is not reliable to control all entries of the country. So, arms cross the boundaries very easily from neighboring countries and land on hands of warlords. I think the government needs to step up it does want to be accused having acquaintances with many of those groups. It also has been reports that some high ranking officers of the Congolese army have been compromised on weapon deals with rebels. In this confusion, it is difficult to extract good from bad because every one there seems to have dirty hands in this arms smuggling in DRC.


DRC Education System

The education of the DRC system includes the following levels; kindergarten age 3 to 5 for 2 years, primary school age 6 to 11 divided in 3 levels for 6 years, secondary school with 2 levels from age 12 to 15 for lower level and age 14 to 17 for upper level. After completion of secondary school students earn a “diplome d’état,” an equivalent of high school diploma, which is completed after 6 years. In fact, the Congolese formal education structure is 6-6, but schools are generally in much deteriorated condition as the country has been struggling to better itself economically. There is a reason to believe that there’s a clear relation between the deterioration of economy tissue and the school failing system in DRC. The schools of Banga Bola- DR, Congo

After reading the story of Kimpa Vita, a prophet woman in the kingdom of Kongo who influenced the establishment of the independent Catholic Church in the 1600s, I realize how much the West through the church started building school system. Today in Congo, parents are more confident to send children into private schools or conventional schools that consist of church running schools on state programs. There are public schools in all districts, but only those who don’t have the necessary resources who are willing to send their children in there for the reason that the conditions in public schools are extreme for a proper education. Now, on top of all these problems there’s a problem of armed conflicts that worsen the education of children on war zones such as occupation of classrooms by people in uniforms. Hope for better education is there, but there’s a long way to go…



UN NGOs in DRC Helping for Democracy and Stability

DRC as an ongoing conflict country in which several NGOs including the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights [1] and the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict [2] have been operating for the best of the Congolese people. There are many areas where specialized NGOs have been intervening in the country either to end the abuse of children as combatants or serious human rights violations. In the history of UN mission, DRC is the country that has received the biggest mission with a deployment of some 22,016 military [3] and civilian personnel. This is an indication that this country has been in serious trouble with abuses of all kind.

Today, the country is at a defining moment whether to continue installing democratic society through legitimate elections or disrupting all efforts that have been deployed to stop chaotic environment that followed the collapse of 32 years of dictatorship, which disintegrated the political-socioeconomic tissue of the country. In 2006, the DRC held its very first democratic presidential election that was unfortunately darkened by military confrontation in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, as a result of lack of trustfulness between the winner of the election, Kabila and his opponent, Bemba.

In 2011 with the second experience on free election, DRC was hunt by the same pre or post election violence, but this time around the violence erupts between security forces and supporters of  Etienne Tshisekedi, the oldest opponent to the incumbent President, Joseph Kabila. The opponent was banned from holding a campaign rally in the Kinshasa the last day of the campaign. Tshisekedi blocked at N’djili  international airport before his supporters.

Each time DRC holds election there is a spiral violence before and after the election and UN NGOs on ground such UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights that systematically collects information regarding human rights violation to periodically publish a report. This somehow helps for a pushback from those who use some power they hold on the population or sometime callout authorities on their role to maintain peace. However, in course of any election the international community fear pre and post election violence. That said, it has been death already for the coming election that is supposed to be held in November 2016 as required by the DRC constitution and in meanwhile the path to get there bore death in January 2015 when Congolese people protested against the government project to revise the law suspected to delay the election.

There was a Time DRC Became the “Rape Capital of the World”

In fact, the Congolese tradition about women is well known for their role of taking care of children while men’s role is to work. However, the tendency is being reversed in the last decades with the pressure from the West to emancipate women and the power of globalization through its fast communication means such as internet, satellite, or cable networks. In Congo, women constitute 53% of the population and they are becoming the key for food security in families whether in rural or urban areas. Congolese economy is mostly based on informal sector and urban women are actively engaged in proximity businesses for family survival due to an extremely high rate of unemployment. Women in rural areas are very active in the fields for crops that serve families to survive. Nevertheless, women in DRC have been paying a heavy price for political instability in the last decades under the name of civil wars.

Inequality toward women in all components of society structures is a part of Congolese society and impunity for violence against women is well covered by the dominant men. There’s no voice for women as it is happening in the eastern part of the Congo especially in the province of Nord Kivu and Sud Kivu although international community has been exercising pressure on DRC government to show example by punishing its own troops accused for rape on the battlefield. The eastern part of Congo is the main part of the country that have seen a development of several rebel groups in the last decades and they are responsible for making the country earn the title of “Rape Capital of the World.” According to a report, 48 women per hour were raped during 2006-7  in DRC and unfortunately untill today the sufferance of women in that part of Congo is still ongoing.

DRC Miss Opportunity toward Development from Tourism

The country has enormous potentialities to develop very quickly if only its numerous potentialities could be efficiently exploited. Beyond its natural resources, there is a sector which is tourism that has been completely relegated far behind major priorities for the country in term of key sector to generate revenue badly needed to develop the country. DRC has a handful of natural reserves actually known as national parks such as Garamba National Park, Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Salonga National Park, Upemba National Park, Maiko National Park, Kundelungu National Park, Mangroves National Park, Okapi Wildlife Reserve, or Virunga National Park, which is the home of mountain gorilla and many other species. Unfortunately, all these reserves are not well funded and cannot attract tourists normally who would turn their visits into a development motor for the entire country because tourism creates jobs and brings development with infrastructures building. D.C. Congo has two problems that block its development including political instability that fuels civil wars and the lack of clear will of authorities to consider tourism on the list of priorities to seek development. For too long, the government has not been taking this sector seriously and the consequence is that DRC although its immensity of natural reserves is still far behind when it comes to tourism compared to its neighbors in the region. This sector is quasi inexistent in the Congolese culture and this is one of the problems to be fixed and the country is big enough with its 70 million people to count on internal tourism before expecting tourists from the world. Here is an Okapi, which is a shy herbivore found in the Northeast of Congo in the region of Ituri.

When China needs Resources, U.S. eagers Democracy in DRC

Africa is currently a ground of conflicting interests that has been a center of China investments. DR Congo is not an exception of an economic war between China and the West. At this point, the war is still at larval stage. For illustration, the government is looking for unconditioned money that it cannot get from West for the simple reason that the West is now putting string on its money on series of things such as human rights respect, good governance, or democratization of the society. So, in such conditions the Congolese government has been widely open to unconditioned business with China and at this ground China is doing so well in Africa over traditional investments of the West. China is a newcomer in Africa market that is largely controlled by the West from colonization ties, but things have evolved since then. After supporting most of dictatorial regimes in Africa, the West hope now democratic societies there and put money there with no condition as China is doing to get access to natural resources badly needed for China economy.

Specifically for Congo, China wants natural resources from Congo such copper, cobalt, and many other minerals and both countries cut a deal by signing an agreement in 2008 that consisted to invest 9 billions dollars in infrastructures by private companies and banks and in return “China will gain rights to extract 6.8 million tons of copper and 420,000 tons of cobalt” ( Jiang 2009) and that such a deal will plunge again Congo in debt believed the West because they were planning to cancel most of the DRC’s foreign debt as it was done in 2010 by the  Paris Club, an informal group of creditors. The political and geostrategic fallout is that since the Kinshasa regime turned the country to China investments, the West has been an enormous pressure on the regime by forcing it to remain in democratization pace as established in the Congolese constitution. United States has taken the lead to pressure Kinshasa regime to respect the constitution that limit the President’s number of terms, which are two.

The White House has been pointing a special envoy in the region to maintain peace and help a peaceful transfer of power from the sitting President, Kabila and a possible elected president and Washington knows that the current President in Congo was reelected in 2011 on unfair conditions that were denounced by several international organizations that observed the process including Carter Foundation. In fact, this process was assimilated to an electoral holdup by contesters of the results. DRC occupies a strategic position in the region for the fact that a destabilization of this country would have serious consequences on the nine neighboring countries and that humanitarian crisis United States is trying to avoid as this can be understood from the last intervention of Sen. Markey on DRC during the hearing from the Hon. Thomas Perriello, special envoy in the Great Lake region before the US senate.

What Blocks the Road to Development in DRC

Since the country accessed to independence, DR Congo development has been subjected to the governing system put in place. As today, DRC is a 65-year old country since its accession to independence with only four Presidents and the very first five years of sovereign government was chaotic to the point that the world lost its UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, who was killed in a plane crash during the secession war in 1961 in Katanga, a Congolese province that was fighting the central government just months after the independence of the DRC from Belgium. In fact, this country has never operated independently and the problem resides on the fact that when Belgium was handing the country over to Congolese people there were very few educated Congolese and that is the iceberg of all problems the world has been attempting to solve in DRC. The country is in chronic assistance since its accession to independence and the 1965 coup that brought Joseph Mobutu in power followed of 32- year of dictatorship put DRC even in worst economic shape because Mr. Mobutu made his Zairianization (word originated from Zaire, former name of DRC after Mobutu seized power) as an economic model that would make DRC then Zaire an authentic independent model by nationalizing all major companies or businesses owned or managed mostly by the West nationals. This economic plan was in reality an expropriation plan and it became a disastrous economic adventure under Mobutu dictatorship because all companies and businesses were bankrupted by the Congolese elite until the country reached the point where people started to ask for good governance under a democratic society that coincided with the perestroika late in the 1980s, which accelerated democratic claim by Congolese people and seriously weakened Mobutu regime who was finally removed after 32 years in power on May 17, 1997 by Laurent Desire Kabila, the father of the current president Joseph Kabila, who was the head of the rebellion. Unfortunately, Laurent Desire Kabila suppressed all liberties acquired during public disobedience against Mobutu regime so Congolese people hope for democracy vanished then they had to start over again and this time around rebellions surfaced in the entire country and as consequence the country was split in three parts whom two were administered by two major rebellion the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democracy (RCD) in the East and The Mouvement de Liberation du Congo (MLC) in the North-West and the South-West part was controlled by the DRC government. So, in this context the economic development was impossible when each of these parts had different mean to administer the part of the country under their control until the international community including United Nations imposed them a political agreement that united the country in 2003 toward the first democratic elections of DRC in 2006 trough a new constitution adopted by referendum in 2005 that guarantees a democratic society. Upon his election financed and supervised by the international community, President Joseph Kabila system was illustrated by turning the country massively to China investments to build basic infrastructures such roads and hospitals under the slogan of 5 pillars of DRC, which constitute better infrastructure, education, electricity, higher employment, and housing for all and to finance the program Kabila system opted to give Chinese companies mineral concessions for a determined period of time of exploitation and in exchange they would build infrastructures but that deal irritated the world bank that just had partially eliminated the DRC debt in order to allow its development and the China deal has stagnated since then. Since 2006, very few has been done and frustration of the people is palpable today as the attempt by the first ever elected president in DRC to modify the constitution that would allow him to seek a third term has paralyzed the political progress and a good macroeconomic performance observed in DRC for years now but has not translated to the well-being of the vast majority of Congolese people who still live under $2 per day according to World bank data. Here is the link with a 25-minute video that may give any one possibility to understand the complexity of developing a country like DRC: Interview on DRC