Crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country whose past is steeped in violence, conflict, internal strife and an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Throughout its history, this country has gone through numerous changes of name and regime. In recent years, it has become the location of one of the United Nation’s longest ongoing peacekeeping operations. Due to civil wars and natural disasters, over 2 million of the country’s 79 million inhabitants are internally displaced, one of the highest levels of internal displacement worldwide. A recent UN report states that over 180,000 civilians have been displaced between July and September of this year alone. Since 2009, over 60 percent of the people who were forced to abandon their homes were under the age of eighteen. These numbers do not even take into account the Congolese who are living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

As well as displacement of their own population, the DRC hosts 120,000 refugees from its neighbouring countries of the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi and others. In addition to those who are without a permanent place to live, a huge portion of the population is food insecure with some estimates putting the number at seven million. This food insecurity again affects children, with the UN finding that three million children are malnourished in the DRC. This malnutrition crisis, as well as diseases such as measles and cholera, means that the DRC has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. In 2015, UNICEF estimated that the number of children per 1000 of the population dying under the age of five could be as high as 129, though this number has been decreasing consistently over the last few decades.

The UN operation has received criticism in the past for being too passive in their actions. One such incidence occurred in 2014 where peacekeepers ignored pleas for help from local villagers. The village of Mutarule in DRC’s South Kivu province was attacked and at least 30 civilians were killed. Despite being informed that there were armed assailants attacking the village, the UN forces chose not to take action. Whether the UN’s efforts in the DRC can be viewed as successful is up for debate, but there is certainly no lacking of manpower on the ground. It’s biggest peacekeeping operation by personnel. The UN has 22,498 people stationed in the country as of 2016. As well as the highest number of personnel, the UN’s mission in the DRC also has the highest budget with 1,235,723,100 US Dollars being pledged for use from July 2016 to July 2017. Even, democracy is questioned as a contentious election draws near. Delayed elections coupled with violence across the country, where 34 people were killed by militia this past November in eastern part of the country, it remains to be seen whether or not the crisis will improve in the near future. The question is whether the UN can deliver peace?

Stuart Cosgrave

Photo by CIAT