congo - our home
Contributed by Wilondja Msiando
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the third largest country in Africa, situated at the center of the continent with 2,345,409 square kilometers of surface area and a population of 58 million people.
Due to political instability since independence in 1960, a 32-year dictatorship regime under Mobutu (1965-1997), corruption and poor economic management, the country has fallen from having one of Africa’s highest standards of living in the early 1970s to one of its lowest for the moment. In 2006, the World Bank estimated that the DRC’s gross domestic product (GDP) was 120 US dollars per capita, one of the lowest in the world.
Actually, poverty is rampant in the country. According to the World Bank’s ‘World Development Indicators 2006’, the life expectancy in the country is now 45 years, under 5 mortality rate is 204 per 1000, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is 5-15% and the country is doing really bad in terms of the Millennium Development Goals. Agriculture is the main activity of the population.
The DRC, and mainly the eastern part of the country has been badly hit by a violent war since 1998 involving 8 African countries and numerous rebel groups and militia. A mortality survey conducted by the American NGO, International Rescue Committee (IRC) in 2002 found that between August 1998 and August 2002, approximately 3.3 million people died, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease, displacement and malnutrition. Actually this number is expected to be over 5.2 million of people who have lost their lives since the war of 2008. The IRC’s conclusion was: “This is the most deadly war ever documented in Africa, indeed the highest war death toll documented in the world since World War II”.
And yet, this Congo disaster seems to be forgotten by the international community as it is not receiving much attention and its consequences in terms of human sufferings and poverty are not attracting enough interventions! This conflict and the related catastrophe are not high in the eyes of the international opinion, and raising money for projects in the Congo remains difficult.
Between 2000 and 2003, rape and sexual abuses against women became a new war weapon utilized by militiamen, Congolese rebel soldiers, Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers in the East of the country. Women and girls have been raped all over the South Kivu and Maniema Provinces, especially in rural areas. This evil practice continues even now after the end of the war. The number of women victims of rape and sexual abuses is still high. The number of orphans and widows is also very high, especially in Eastern territories like in the territory of Fizi. Half of the population of Fizi and Itombwe region (nearly 180,000 people) fled the war since 1996 and lived as refugees in Tanzania and other African Eastern countries. Now, refugees have been returning home after democratic elections organized successfully at the end of 2006 in the country.
Major problems affecting lives of ordinary people in Fizi-Itombwe area, and in the Eastern part of the DRC, are so many, but just to name a few: