DRC knife-edge

The DRC is again on a knife-edge; the dots connecting its future don’t look good.

In January 2002, mindofafox were invited to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to help the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (ICD) design scenarios for a peaceful transition to democracy after years of brutal civil war. The scenarios and the dialogue worked, but the recipe for war that hovered at the ICD has taken root again. All it needs is a spark.

Firstly, the DRC is a classic case of Africa’s resource curse. For centuries, its vast mineral wealth – enviable resources of gold, diamonds, copper, zinc, tin and cobalt – has made it rich for international pillaging. Bloodshed of an unimaginable scale has followed in its wake – from the brutal colonisation by Belgium, through the post-independence scramble for minerals by Cold War adversaries, to the ongoing ethnic and tribal hoarding that has plagued it since.

Secondly, and following on from the former, the country remains riven by ancestral divisions now manifested in well-armed warring factions – The Economist describes it as “an alphabet soup of acronyms” of different armed groups – each laying claim to legitimacy and loot.

Thirdly, the DRC, (largely as a result of the former two), remains, socially, politically, economically, and infrastructurally, on the verge of disintegration. Since the ICD, the country has been held together, to a degree, by its president, Joseph Kabila. But he failed to call an election due in 2016, and now hangs on to power, illegitimately. His authority – what it was – is quickly evaporating. A power vacuum is a breath away.

Most of the recipe for war in the DRC – vast mineral deposits with promises of great riches, rival factions each laying claim to those riches, and a state unwilling or unable to take control – now exists. The last ingredient: a shock event to ignite it, is in the wings somewhere, waiting.

The DRC cannot be allowed to explode into war. In ‘A Fox’s Tale’, the authors point to its importance: The DRC is central to Africa’s turnaround; it is, in more ways than one, the heart of Africa – a barometer for the continent. If you can get the DRC right, you can get Africa right.

[This article originally appeared on the mindofafox Growing Foxes app in the week of 19 February 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. The app serves to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more].

Image: REUTERS/James Akenaknife