Democratic Republic of Congo Civil War

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The Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) Civil War is rooted in history. Hundreds of years before their civil war, many people were kidnapped and forced into slavery. Ensuring a safe place aboard their own ships from disease and illness, European slave traders would employ the help of local tribal leaders to find people to be slaves and bring them to the coast. Slaves were usually traded for weapons to be used in conflicts with neighboring tribes. The Congo region learned early on that their inhabitants and their resources could be subject to exploitation. This is the example that was given when King Leopold II of Belgium gave as he took control the Congo Region and exploited its natural resources for personal gain.

Called the Congo Free State, King Leopold II of Belgium was the sole shareholder and chair of the African International Society, a dummy non-governmental organization that ruled over the Congo region. King Leopold’s rule over the Congo Free State is a classic example of kleptocracy in Central Africa, exploiting the people and natural resources for personal gain. King Leopold used the inhabitants of the Congo region as slave workers to extract the resources that naturally occurred in their region. One of the major naturally occurring resources was the rubber tree. Many Congolese people were enslaved in the harvest of this plant. King Leopold’s rule over the Congo region oversaw the deaths of approximately 10 million people; he is commonly paired with Attila the Hun in his viciousness of slaughtering millions of people. The harsh rules of King Leopold II, tethered with the abduction and forced slavery by European traders, are clear examples how the Congolese people were bred in a mindset of “take matters into your own hands.” This type of thinking is what fueled the civil war almost a hundred years later.

In 1960, a difference in leadership style emerged between Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasa-Vubu. To keep control in the country, General Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, head of the military, took control of the DRC, ousted Prime Minister Lumumba, and returned control to the President Joseph Kasa-Vubu. Later, in 1965, after five years of failed political leadership, Mobutu decided that the government was too corrupt and took control of the DRC for second time, not to relinquish power until forced out 30 years later. Mobutu helped further instill a mindset of taking matters into your own hands attitude by overstepping the government and abolishing it under his own totalitarian rule.

Once Mobutu took power as dictator he changed the name of the country and his own personal name. Joseph-Désiré Mobutu changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko and changed the name of the country from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Zaire in a pro-African move. Mobutu’s rule over Zaire can only be characterized as a kleptocratic leadership following right after the footsteps of King Leopold II himself. He worked hard on little but to increase his personal fortune, which in 1984 was estimated to amount to US $5 billion. He owned a fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles that he used to travel between his numerous palaces, while the nation's roads rotted and many of his people starved. Infrastructure virtually collapsed, and many public service workers went months without being paid. Mobutu saw how easy it could be to exploit the resources of the Congo, and did so for many years. Without proper food and education the Congolese people, perhaps out of necessity, stole and murdered to just stay alive. Without knowing it they were beginning the transition where the common population began to take the matters of failed government into their own hands. With a bounty of resources, the Congo could be very successful and foster a good living for all. Instead, the resources that the country produced was not going to benefit the citizen’s of Zaire, but to Mobutu himself. After years of this style of rule, the...
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