democratic republic of congo

Developments in The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Published: 17 June 2009 Updated: 1 May 2015

The Democratic Republic (DR) of the Congo could be one of Africa's richest countries, due to natural resources such as minerals, diamonds and energy. But instead the DR Congo is one of the poorest countries of Africa, marked by corruption, mismanagement and civil war.

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.

The first free elections in 40 years were held in the DR Congo in 2006, and after many years of war and political turmoil there were high hopes for democratization. But since then President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2006, has become increasingly authoritarian. In 2011 Kabila was reelected and since then he has tried to bring about a constitutional amendment to be able to be reelected once more. Corruption is one of the country's biggest challenges. In 2015 the government cracked down on democracy activists.

DR Congo as a state is a colonial construction, where the boundaries were defined without regard to those who lived there. On 30 June 1960 the country became independent. In the years 1965-1997 DR Congo (called Zaire between 1971 and 1997) was ruled by the dictator Mobutu.

Long-term conflict

After the fall of Mobutu a long civil war broke out, where several other African states interfered. Despite peace talks and agreements between the opposing factions there was renewed unrest in the eastern part of the country in the spring of 2012 when a group of soldiers formed the March 23 Movement (M23).

After an intervention by the UN-backed Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), M23 put down their weapons and a peace agreement was signed in December 2013. The fighting is still ongoing in other parts of Congo, however, including between the government and the Hutu militia FDLR.

A major challenge for achieving sustainable peace in the DR Congo is the fact that the groups fighting are made up by undisciplined and poorly paid soldiers who often abuse the civilians.

The wars are largely financed by the illegal extraction of natural resources. As long as the war continues the vast majority of the Congolese population remains poor: over two million people are internally displaced and many also take refuge in other countries.

Unequal society

The conflict in the east and the post-conflict situation in the rest of the country reinforce the unequal power relations between women and men. Many women and girls have been subjected to gender-based violence and abuse.

Fighting sexual violence is an important part of the work for gender equality in Congolese society. Rape has often been a part of the warfare. The community is traditionally unequal and there is dowry, forced marriages and polygamy. The representation of women in politics and in public institutions is very low. At the same time women account for 75 percent of the food production.

Dependent on exports

DR Congo is dependent on the export of commodities, including from the mining industry. Unemployment is high and corruption is rife in all parts of society.


Page owner: Department for Africa

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