The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been racked by war for nearly thirty years. After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when 800,000 Tutsis were massacred by Hutus, a flood of refugees crossed into the DRC. This destabilised the country, and the corrupt regime of Mobutu Sese Seko was overthrown, leading to civil war. Since then six million people have been killed or died from famine and disease. Another six and a half million are refugees. The eastern region of the DRC is worst affected and is gripped by a humanitarian crisis. Human rights violations are widespread. Ahead of presidential elections tomorrow (20th December), the situation is worsened by armed intervention from neighbouring countries like Rwanda and the presence of numerous militias and mercenaries.
Rwandan President Kwagami claims that he is intervening in the DRC in pursuit of Hutus responsible for the massacre in 1994 — but the M23 militia, widely believed to be sponsored by Rwanda, is closing in on the city of Goma and controls an area of the DRC with millions of civilians. It is involved in systematic rapes and massacres and the illicit export of gold and other minerals to the value of $1 billion a year.
The DRC is rich in gold, oil, and coltan, a mineral used in the manufacture of mobile phones and electric vehicles. This attracts a lot of the mercenary forces and western companies, who turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, to secure access to these valuable commodities with the tacit approval of their governments.
The intervention of China may be a game changer. The DRC government has recently acquired Chinese drones, which it is using with deadly effect against Rwandan and M23 forces in the battle for Goma. This prompted the USA to negotiate a ceasefire, which has been extended until 28th December.
After having ignored the suffering while it delivered a profit, the USA is raising criticisms of Rwanda now it is losing the war; but the UK has remained silent. Sunak is still insisting that it is a safe place to send refugees, even though Rwanda and its proxy militia, M23, are adding to the refugee crisis in Africa. This raises the question, in years to come, as to whether many desperate people on small boats will be trying to cross the Channel as they flee the terror of Rwanda’s armed forces? And how safe will they be if the Tories succeed in their policy of deporting those same asylum seekers back to Rwanda?
Some people are claiming that US and UK complicity in Israel’s war crimes in Gaza shows that they are losing their moral compass. The crisis in the DRC is evidence that they have never had a moral compass to lose.
Life long socialist. Now retired, I have been an office junior, a bookseller, a docker and a teacher. I write a lot and read a lot more. Committed member of the Society of Authors, English PEN and the National Education Union. Never voting Labour again.