NEW YORK – Perhaps no country on earth – not even Iraq, Afghanistan, or Sudan – has suffered more gravely from armed conflict in the past decade and a half than the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Several million people have died either directly in armed struggle or from forced displacement and the resulting health consequences.
The main causes of the fighting that has afflicted the DRC for so long have been competition for control of that impoverished country’s vast natural resources and neighboring Rwanda’s effort to wipe out what it sees as a potential threat posed by perpetrators of the 1994 genocide who took refuge in the DRC. Several other African states – Angola, Namibia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe – have also at times participated in armed combat within the DRC, either directly or through proxy militias. Suffering continues even in parts of the country where peace has been restored, manifested in the epidemic of sexual violence, much of it committed by former combatants, that has swept the country.