The origins of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The origins of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – formerly Zaire – are rooted both in the 32 years of Mobutu rule and in the lack of national cohesion since independence from Belgium in 1960. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Zaire splintered into various city states which became increasingly isolated from each other as roadways were eroded by neglect and communication systems collapsed. In many parts, conventional administration and the formal justice system disappeared, with several border towns, such as Goma, essentially becoming economic appendages of neighbouring countries. In addition to this decline of the nation state, the current conflict is also intimately connected to the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, where some 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered at the instigation of the extremist Hutu government. In 1996 Rwanda’s post-war Tutsi government invaded the DR Congo in pursuit of extremist Hutu militias that had fled across the border to the Eastern …

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Witchcraft in DR Congo the good, bad and the persecution

The community is the most important tool in conflict management, which is why thebarazas, community-run ‘Clubs of Peace’ in the South Kivu province of DR Congo, play such a vital role in preventing local conflict. For Madame Christine, a 62 year-old woman accused of witchcraft, the barazas were a life line. In the village of Kikongo a mob gathered in the street to burn down the house of the suspected witch. Madame Christine went to the local police accusing ex-soldier Joseph of perpetrating the crusade against her. The police arrested him without trial. This enraged his fellow ex-soldiers so they marched to the local prison to destroy it and free their friend. These actions are an example of the lawlessness of Eastern DR Congo, an area torn apart by decades of war. The threat of violence constantly lingers as ex-militia members like Joseph, and refugees return to their communities. They are a …

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