One Big Thing: Democratic Republic of Congo
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What is it?
- The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of Africa’s largest countries in land mass and population but still one of the continent’s most underdeveloped. DRC is also endowed with massive natural resource wealth including gold, diamonds, and coltan – used to make most modern cell phone batteries. Despite having these resources, DRC also faces countless other issues ranging from violent rebel groups in eastern DRC, to record-setting Ebola and measles outbreaks, and one of the world’s largest IDP problem.
- In December 2018, the DRC held its Presidential elections which were widely regarded as a sham. It is highly suspected that current President Felix Tshisekedi made a deal with former President Joseph Kabila to allow for him to retain control of the senate and the military. By controlling these important institutions, Kabila effectively remains in power in DRC. Although this represents a failed democratic election, it remains the only peaceful transition of power since the country’s colonial independence in 1960.
Why is it important?
- The world relies on Congo’s mineral wealth for cell phones, electronic car batteries and many other products that make our lives easier and “greener.” The flip side is the demand for those minerals has led to some of the highest poverty levels in the world and contributes to ongoing conflicts and corruption.
- DRC’s prospects for economic growth and stability are huge. It is blessed with natural resources, large able working population, and its central location allows it to act as a natural facilitator for trade from all over the continent. However, almost since its independence, DRC’s corrupt leaders have robbed the country to bolster their personal bank accounts. Tshisekedi seems to have reformer ambitions but Kabila’s continued grip on the government has limited the institutional change he can make.
- Human rights in DRC are some of the worst in the world with both rebel groups and the government at fault for the situation. Aside from the rebel groups and Ebola outbreaks, there is a general lack of freedom in the DRC. The government has also recently repressed student demonstrations, there is no justice system or accountability and most citizens live on less than $1.50 per day.
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