democratic republic of congo

Developments in The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Published: Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Changed: Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is serious. The UN classes the entire eastern part of the country as a humanitarian disaster area. Although this is a country with enormous natural resources, the majority of the people live in poverty.

DR Congo is the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country’s capital is Kinshasa and the country is also sometimes referred to as Congo-Kinshasa.

When the country went to the polls in 2006, the mere transport of the ballots to more than 50,000 polling stations in the vast country was a great achievement. It was the first election in 40 years. After many years of war and political unrest in DR Congo, there were high hopes for the democratisation. But in the years that have passed since then, President Joseph Kabila's government has become increasingly authoritarian. The widespread corruption remains one of the country's biggest problems.

DR Congo as a state is a colonial construction, where the boundaries were defined without regard to those who lived there. At the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, the so-called Congo Free State went to the Belgian King Leopold II, who considered the country his private property. His reign of terror ended in 1908 when the colony was taken over by the Belgian State.

On 30 June 1960, the country gained independence. During the dictator Mobutu 1965-1997, a policy of Africanisation took place, where citizens were obliged to change their European names to African ones. Congo was called Zaire between 1971 and 1997. Most foreign-owned companies were nationalized. The economy was mismanaged and the country degraded. After Mobutu's fall, a long civil war followed where many other African countries got involved.

War still rages in the eastern part of DR Congo, where various armed groups and government forces battle against each other. As long as the war continues, most Congolese people will remain poor. Income from the illegal extraction of raw materials is being used to finance the war. More than two million people are displaced in their own country and many people flee to other countries.

Long-term conflict

Many remember the outbreak of war in Rwanda in 1994. The conflict between the Tutsi and the Hutu still rages on in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This Channel 4 feature contains a summary of the conflict’s history.

Unequal society

The conflict in the east and the post-conflict situation that exist in the rest of the country are strengthening the unequal relationship of power between men and women. Many women and girls have been subjected to sexually related violence and violations.

The fight against sexual violence is an important part in the work for equality in Congolese society. The society is traditionally unequal and there are dowries, forced marriages and polygamy. Female representation in politics and within public institutions is very low. At the same time, women account for 75 per cent of the food production in the country.

Dependent on exports

The global financial crisis has hit hard in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country that depends on the export of raw materials. A lot of effort is needed to build up the country’s economy. The strategy for poverty  stakes out important goals along the way.

International efforts

They report from DR Congo. You can also read the report on human rights from the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
The humanitarian efforts in DR Congo are extensive. On the  website RDC-Humanitaire  (in French) you can follow the work, co-ordinated by OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. United Nations large mission in DR Congo MONUSCO  summarizes all activities.   International Crisis Group  is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflicts, producing regular reports.

Sweden’s three focus areas in DR Congo:

  • peace, reconciliation and democratic governance
  • poverty-oriented economic development, with a focus on agriculture and forestry
  • health, focusing on preventing, managing and combating sexual violence and promote sexual and reproductive health and rights

In addition to the funding of long-term interventions in the areas mentioned above, Sweden has a large humanitarian aid to DR Congo.

Read more about Sida's work in DR Congo.

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