Democratic Republic of Congo
The DRC, formerly known as Zaire, is Africa’s third largest country, covering nearly one million square miles, with a thin sliver extending to the coast and Atlantic Ocean. Bordering the country are Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania Uganda, and Zambia, a precarious geography that would feed war over the years.
Approximately 71 million people live in the country. And although its citizens are considered among the poorest in the world, the country is said to hold some twenty-four trillion dollars in untapped raw mineral deposits, which in addition to tungsten, tantalum, tin and gold, include diamonds, copper, cobalt and zinc.
The Beginnings of War
Since 1996, when the first war erupted in the DRC, some 6 million people have been killed in the conflict by some estimates. Although the second of the wars officially ended in 2004, the International Rescue Committee estimates that 45,000 Congolese continue to die every month from violence, starvation and disease.
The first war began in 1996 in the DRC, largely between a Rwandan political faction and the existing Congolese regime. The Congolese regime fell in 1997, at which point additional African nations entered what would become the largest war in the history of Africa. In the ensuing years, the wealth of Congo’s mining potential shifted the fight from an ethnic, largely political struggle, to one centered on capturing control of the DRC’s massive natural resources. As Professor Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja writes,
“This was a war in which there was little engagement between the belligerents, and even allies would fight over turf for the control of resources…a war of resources is a war of partition and plunder that is waged against a territory and its civilian population, in which men are perceived as competitors or potential enemies and women are sexually violated”.
As prices for minerals would increase over the years, and as worldwide demand for digital technology would continue to rise, the violence in DRC would also rage on.