What is Happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo? A genocide, a military coup, resource exploitation? Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, you might have recently seen the hashtag, #CongoIsBleeding #CongoGenocide. The bleeding of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), its people, and its natural resources didn’t just start in recent months or years, but we can go as far as during the colonization days when Congo was privately owned by King Leopold II of Belgium from 1885 to 1908. Imagine having a whole country as your personal property for that many years. Congo has never recovered or healed from the bleeding that was overseen by Leopold. After taking hold of Congo, “It quickly became a brutal, exploitative regime that relied on forced labor to cultivate and trade rubber, ivory, and minerals.” (BBC News, 2020). The history of Congo, killings, and injustice are very long and still ongoing as I write this. Congolese people everywhere continue to hope, pray, and cry for peace one day and it is time that the world finally listens.
Since 1996, the violence in Congo has killed well over 6 million people. Imagine having over 6 million people dead and the world still remains silent. The First and Second Congo Wars were very vicious and its devastation continues to be felt with ongoing influences in the country and conflicts. These Wars are sometimes called the “African World Wars” because of the wide involvement of African countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Libya, Namibia, and many others who were either on Kabila’s side looking to overthrow Mobutu or on Mobutu’s side looking to help him maintain control of the country.
The world is largely still silent when it comes to the over 6 million Congolese people killed, of whom about half of them were children. Because of the instability and lack of leadership after the Congo Wars, there are an estimated of over 100 rebel groups.
As a result, Fighting continues in the eastern parts of the country, destroying infrastructure, causing physical and psychological damage to civilians, and creating human rights violations on a massive scale. Rape is being used as a weapon of war, and large-scale plunder and murder are also occurring in efforts to displace people from resource-rich land. (World Without Genocide, 2020).
The continuous killings and abuses of Congolese people, most of them women, and children, have been worsened by the ongoing exploitation of Congo’s natural resources. The unrest is of great benefit to many actors whether in the country, Africa, or around the world. Ever watched the movie Blood Diamond or aware of the situation? Although the movie focused on Sierra Leone during the Civil War, Blood Diamond has been unending in Congo for years. Children work under harsh conditions often with no pay or little pay just so big companies can profit. Women continue to be raped and used as weapons so that others can profit from the natural resources. There are also cases where children are forced to take up arms for the benefit of others all because of “The lucrative nature of cobalt mining means that all efforts to ensure production can match the eternally elastic global demand are put in.
The east of the DRC, where the mines are located, is therefore home to nearly 40,000 child laborers digging for the minerals that would eventually be utilized by Apple, Google and other giant corporations.” (Ntreh, 2020). Some of the mining are even in the control areas of the rebel groups and yet the companies and foreign governments continue to operate as business as usual. How is this possible you might ask? Are Congolese lives worthless even after over 6 million deaths?
One person’s cry is another person’s joy; one person’s suffering, is another person’s revenue, and one people’s fleeing for their lives, is another person’s fortune. This is just what has been happening in Congo for countless years. This is why you have seen the hashtag, #CongoIsBleeding, because Congolese people are sick and tired of suffering, torture, fleeing, and dying.
The exploitation of Congo’s mines is of no benefit to the Congolese people and it is time this comes to an end. It is time for greater accountability against human rights abuses among the mining companies operating in Congo. For example, the cobalt used for phones and laptops is often dug by children who have no say in their well-being.
All of this is done with disregard for Congolese life because ”42 percent of the global cobalt supply is used in batteries, including the batteries used in our cellphones, laptops, and the batteries used in electric cars and in batteries designed to store electricity generated from renewable energy sources, such as Tesla’s Powerwall.” (Orr, 2018). And according to reports, over 60% of cobalt comes from Congo which is the reason for the unrest and is of benefit to developed nations.
It is time that Congo’s natural resources start benefiting the prosperity of the Congolese people and the nation.
It is time that foreign governments and companies stop interfering in Congo’s affairs and adding gas to the fire.
It is time to unite and stop Congo’s bleeding once and for all. It is time to build a peaceful and prosperous Congo for the benefit of its people. Time to stop Congo’s bleeding.
Photo Credit: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters
Author: Gerard Mutabazi
Title: Youth, Child & Refugee Advocate
The article as been updated since the day it was originally published.