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Country profile

Background

  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)-Kinshasa has had a troubled history
  • The country was established as a Belgian colony in 1908 (Belgium Congo)
  • It was ruled as a colonial possession until 1908 by King Leopold II of Belgium as the Congo Free State
  • DRC gained independence in 1960
    http://en.wikipedia.org
  • The history of DRC has been rife with civil war and corruption
  • 80% of the population lives below the poverty line

Name Changes
DRCs instability is reflected in its six name changes since 1885:

  1. Congo Free State (1885–1908)
  2. Belgian Congo (1908–60 [this, incidentally, was the longest period of tranquility the country has experienced])
  3. Republic of the Congo-Leopoldville (1960–64)
  4. Democratic Republic of The Congo-Leopoldville (1964–66)
  5. Democratic Republic of The Congo-Kinshasa (1966-71)
  6. Republic of Zaire (1971–97)
  7. Democratic Republic of The Congo-Kinshasa (since 1997)

Government
Should be composed of the National Executive Council appointed by the president following elections. Last democratically held elections were in 1959

The Executive/President
Head of State: President Joseph Kabila (since 26 January
2001) following the assassination of his father Laurent Kabila.
The president is both the chief of state and head of government
www.odci.gov

Parliament
The Parliament of the Democratic Republic of the Congo consists of two chambers:
1. The Senate (Upper Chamber)
2. The National Assembly (Lower Chamber)

Provinces
The new constitution, approved by an overwhelming majority of voters in February 2006 will see an increase in the number of provinces to 26 from the current 11

Treaties

  • In July 1999, a ceasefire agreement was signed by the DRC, Congolese armed rebel groups, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe although sporadic fighting continued
    - 19 April 2002, marked the Sun City Agreement (see below)
  • In July 2002, The Pretoria Accord was signed between Rwanda and the DRC for the withdrawal of Rwandan troops from the DRC in exchange for international commitment towards the disarmament of the Interahamwe and the ex-FAR fighters
  • In December 2002, a power sharing deal was signed between Kinshasa and the main former rebel groups, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), for fourteen seats in the interim government
  • Negotiations with rebel leaders led to the establishment of an all-inclusive transitional government in July 2003 to pave the way for free elections scheduled to be held in July 2006

The Transitional Government 2002 to date
This was set up under the Sun City Agreement

The Sun City Agreement

  • Signed in Sun City, South Africa, on 19 April 2002 with the aimed at ending four years of war and setting up a government of national unity
  • It laid down a framework for providing the DRC with a unified, multi-party government and a timeline for democratic elections
  • It allowed Joseph Kabila to remain president during a transition period of two years, extendable to three, with Jean Pierre Bemba of the MLC serving as the prime minister
  • It stipulated a power sharing arrangement with four vice presidents – one from each of the two main armed opposition movements, one from the government and one from the unarmed political opposition
  • Ministries were divided up and former opposition fighters integrated into the army and police
  • The partial agreement was reached between the DRC government, the Uganda-backed Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC), and other opposition groups
  • The UDPS of Etienne Tshisekedi and the Rwandan backed RCD
  • Goma refused to sign the accord
  • There were several reported breaches of the agreement, although initially it resulted in a reduction in the fighting.

Elections

  • Elections are scheduled for 30 July 2006
  • After 15 years of instability, the Congolese people took part in massive voter registration, expressing a desire to go to the polls to elect their leaders and start the difficult task of rebuilding their nation
  • The UN has deployed its biggest peacekeeping mission in the country with nearly 17,000 troops and police across the country charged with the dual role of laying the groundwork for the first free polls since independence, and overseeing the disarmament of forces embroiled in the 1998 war

Economy

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo is endowed with vast potential wealth with the mining of diamonds, gold, cassiterite, and coltan - accounting for most exports. This has declined drastically since the mid-80s
  • The 1998 war dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, increased external debt, and resulted in the deaths of more than 3.5 million people from violence, famine, and disease
  • Foreign businesses curtailed in-country operations due to uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict, lack of infrastructure, and the difficult operating environment
  • In 2001, the government of the DRC under Joseph Kabila undertook a series of economic reforms monitored by the IMF: liberalisation of petroleum prices, exchange rates, and adoption of disciplined fiscal and monetary policies reducing inflation by 50 percent per year in 2000 to about 7 percent in 2003
  • Economic stability improved in 2003-05, although an uncertain legal framework, corruption, and a lack of openness in government policy continues to hamper growth
  • In 2005, the mining sector boosted Kinshasa's fiscal position and GDP growth
  • Business and economic prospects are expected to improve once a new government is installed after the 2006 elections
  • Agriculture accounted for 56.3 percent of GDP in 2002

Violence/Conflict

  • More than 1,200 Congolese die every day from conflict-related causes: preventable diseases, poverty, and gender-based violence
  • 3.8 million people are estimated to have died since the conflict began in 1998
  • Continuing insecurity and the lack of basic services have displaced more than 2.4 million people from their homes
  • There are about 1.66 million displaced persons
    - An estimated 40,000 people flee monthly from their homes in Ituri, Kivu and Katanga provinces
  • Continued threat of insecurity: unlawful killings, abductions, sexual violence by security forces
  • Harsh and life threatening prison conditions
  • War crimes by FARDC in Ituri - Mass rapes allegations in Equateur
  • Alleged execution of Mayi Mayi collaborators in northern Katanga
  • Repression of political demonstrators in Kinshasa
    Source: MONUC: Congo – Kinshasa Human Rights Situation in March 2006 report

Refugees/Internally Displaced Persons

  • About 43,000 Congolese refugees returned in 2005
  • 80,000 Angolan refugees settled in Bas-Congo/Kinshasa
  • 13,500 Sudanese refugees are in Orientale Province
  • Influx of refugees expected in south Kivu and Katanga
  • High cross-border movement between the DRC and Uganda with Lake Albert as one of the main transit points
  • Return of Congolese refugees of Tutsi origin from Rwanda and Burundi expected to cause tension
  • Over 2, 3 internally displaced persons
  • 462,000 DRC refugees seeking asylum in Tanzania, Zambia, Congo, Burundi and Rwanda
  • 13,800 voluntary repatriation to the DRC in 2004
    www.unhcr.org

Protection

  • MONUC identifies relevant priority protection concerns through monitoring; to advocate, both inside MONUC and also with the authorities, for those needs to be addressed; and to recommend ways that this can be done. It also carries out facilitation, capacity-building and awareness-raising to increase safe access of humanitarian actors to displaced and destitute populations
  • MONUC is a French acronym for Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies en Republique democratique du Congo, in English: Mission of the United nations (UN) in the (DRC). It was established on 24 February 2000 by Resolution 1291 of the United Nations Security Council to monitor the peace process of the DRC, though much of its focus subsequently turned to the sub conflict in Ituri
  • The headquarters of this mission are in Kinshasa, DRC. The mission views the DRC as consisting of 6 sectors, each with its own staff headquarters
  • In total, 83 members of MONUC have been killed since its establishment. By November 2005, MONUC consisted of 16,561 uniformed troops. MONUC's mandate has been extended to 30 September 2006
    Source: www.monuc.org

Nutrition/ Food Security

  • 71% food insecurity/unstable food security situation
  • In the east access to fields is risky for the women due to the presence of armed men
  • Non-existent feeder roads limits movement

Mortality and Morbidity

Children

  • Over 33,000 child soldiers currently active in DRC
  • An estimated 25,000 street children live in the capital Kinshasa

Education

  • Access/retention and affordability; education is meant to be free in the DRC but there are still payments of quarterly fees
  • Poor teacher remuneration affects learning
  • Less than 70% of children enrolled in primary school with priority being given to boys
  • 3.5 million children do not attend school

Water and Sanitation

  • Deteriorating water supply infrastructure
  • Lack of adequate financial and technical support for the sector
  • Morbidity from endemic water borne diseases e.g. cholera
  • Need to Build latrines, teach hygiene awareness

Health

  • Unaffordable /limited access to healthcare
  • Hospitals are in a state of decay and neglect. Doctors and nurses are rarely paid. Most state hospitals are operating under the system of auto-financing, requiring patients to pay for treatment and medicines
  • Appropriate and timely healthcare provision remains a challenge in the vast country
  • Reduction of contagious diseases e.g. measles, diarrhoea
  • Most deaths in the east and west strata were due to preventable and easily treatable diseases
  • Fever and malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, and malnutrition were the principal causes of death, together accounting for more than 50% of deaths in both east and west
    - Return of sleeping sickness in some areas where the disease was eradicated in the 60s
  • Malnutrition: Primary or contributing cause in 10.9% of all deaths in the east and 8.1% in the west.
  • Maternal deaths were also more common in the east (maternal mortality ratio 1,174 deaths per 100,000 live births) than the west (811 deaths per 100,000 live births)
  • Deaths from meningitis and deaths in the neonatal period were higher in the east than in the west, whereas measles-related deaths were higher in the west, a finding that is consistent with a large epidemic reported by local health authorities and staff of NGOs within two surveyed zones in Kasai Occidental during 2003–04. In the west, there were almost three times as many deaths from measles in 2003–04 (4.6% of all deaths at rate of 0.09 deaths per 1,000 population per month) as in 2002 (1.6% at rate of 0.03 deaths per 1,000 population per month). Source: www.thelancet.com
  • Significant and sustained increase in mortality occurred in DRC from January 2003, to April 2004, compared with the point-estimates for pre-war DRC in 1998 and the accepted norm for sub-Saharan Africa in 2004
  • The crude mortality rate for DR Congo over that period was estimated to be 2.1 deaths per 1,000 population per month, a rate that was 40% higher than the reported baseline for sub-Saharan Africa
    - This translates into an excess of more than 600,000 deaths in total, or more than 1,200 people dying per day, compared with what would usually be expected over this time. Source: www.unicef.org

HIV/ Aids

  • Prevention/care/reduction of the impact of the disease in the DRC
  • 163,620 new HIV/Aids cases expected in 2006
  • UNAIDS estimates that 5% of the population is infected with the HIV/Aids virus with some provinces projecting that as much as 20% of the population is infected

    Source: 2004 Report on the global AIDS epidemic

Landmine Action
In 2005, 21 accidents caused by land mines and unexploded ammunition were reported posing a security threat
- True extent of the security threat posed by the land mine problem in the DRC has not been determined

Natural Disasters

  • Erosion-induced flooding
  • Earthquakes, 5 December 2005 in Lake Tanganyika
  • Volcanoes, e.g. Mt Nyiragongo in January 2002 which destroyed the town of Goma

Humanitarian Needs by region
ITURI

For the 267,000 newly displaced and 170,000 returnees there is need for protection from violence

NORTH KIVU

  • 800,000 IDPs needing food and security

SOUTH KIVU

  • Protection of civilians against violence
  • 456,000 returnees and an estimated 55,000 Congolese refugees

KATANGA

  • Newly displaced persons in the Manono – Mitwabo – Pweto area

ORIENTALE

  • Epidemics: cholera, measles, meningitis, sleeping sickness, plague, river blindness, monkey pox
  • Road rehabilitation

MANIEMA

  • Improve physical access
  • Mine action programmes
  • 252,000 returnees

KASAI

  • Road rehabilitation

EQUATEUR

  • Presence of mines/mine action programme
  • 20,000 returning refugees
  • Basic infrastructure rehabilitation

BANDUNDU/BAS CONGO KINSHASA

  • Protection of civilians
    Source: 2006 DRC Action Plan

Humanitarian Aid/Coordination Challenges

  • Poor infrastructure; roads, dangerous commercial air services
  • Absence of a Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) leading to less than optimal response
  • Of the 2005 CAP US $211.9 million, only 51.3% of the requirements have been covered
  • 2006 DRC Humanitarian Action Plan seeks US $681 million to meet the needs of at least 30 million vulnerable Congolese
    pdf Formatwww.humanitarianappeal.net

The media

  • The Congolese media operates against a backdrop of political power struggles and violent unrest.
    www.cpj.org
  • Media watchdog, Reporters without Borders, says media workers face arrest, threats and violence. Reporters exposing corruption are at particular risk
  • Some publications serve as mouthpieces for opposition parties
  • There are several daily newspapers and many more sporadic publications. In addition, there are dozens of private TV stations and more than 100 private radio stations, some of which broadcast news
  • Church radio networks are growing, but the state-controlled broadcasting network reaches the largest number of citizens
  • The UN Mission in DRC (MONUC) and the Swiss-based organisation - Fondation Hirondelle - launched Radio Okapi in 2002. The network's aim is to promote dialogue across the political divide
  • The BBC is available on FM in Kinshasa; Radio France Internationale broadcasts are available from neighbouring Brazzaville

Sources :

• UNDP Human Development Report 2005
• CAP 2006 DRC Action Plan
• MONUC Congo/Kinshasa Human Rights Situation Report for March 2006
• 2004 Report on the global AIDS epidemic
• UNHCR Global Appeal 2006 for the DRC

External Links:

DRC country profiles
http://news.bbc.co.uk
http://en.wikipedia.org
www.odci.gov
www.state.gov

Humanitarian Situation/Appeals
OCHA HUMANITARIAN APPEALS
pdf Formathttp://ochadms.unog.ch

Health - UNAIDS
2004 Report on the global AIDS epidemic
www.unaids.org

Health - World Health Organization
www.who.int/whosis/
www.who.int/countries

Refugees and Displaced Persons Relief - International Rescue Committee
www.theirc.org
Refugees and other displaced persons - UNHCR Statistics
www.unhcr.org

MSF reports
www.msf.org

Food security
www.fao.org

Children and Education
www.unicef.org

Media Situation
www.cpj.org


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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