Libmonster ID: SE-304
Author(s) of the publication: G. SIDOROVA

G. SIDOROVA, Candidate of Historical Sciences

Dedicated to all the Congolese people with whom I have worked and witnessed historic events.

Over the past decade, the bleak picture of the tragic events in the DRC has filled the hearts of people who watched the bloody events there with pain. Long-term ethnic and political strife, which resulted in a civil war (1998-2003), depleted natural and human resources, and put the country's 60 million population on the brink of survival. The conflict reached such proportions that it became known as the "first World African War". Nowhere else in Africa has there been such a complex and intricate interweaving of internal circumstances with the intervention of external forces in the context of civil conflicts.* Some even described the situation in DR Congo as "the greatest humanitarian tragedy of our time." 1

GETTING TO KNOW THE COUNTRY

The first thing that impresses when you fly over the territory of the DRC, the former Zaire, is the vast expanses of this truly gigantic country of 2.3 million square kilometers. Almost two-thirds of its landscape is made up of dense forests that hide the overgrown trails of the Stanley and Livingston pioneers. That is why the DRC is deservedly called the "lungs of the planet". Velvety mountain slopes, endless khaki savanna, stormy river flows carrying huge reserves of electricity, active volcanoes of Niaragongo and Niamulangira - all this is the land of the oldest ethnic groups, the diversity of which the DRC is not inferior, perhaps, to any African country-Congo, Lunda, luba, mongo, azande, Bangui... There are more than 400 of them here.

The linguistic palette of these beautiful people, who are very sensitive to traditional culture, is also rich. The population of the DRC, with a few exceptions, belongs to the peoples who speak the Niger-Congo languages2. The official language is French. In addition, there are four national languages - Lingala, Kikongo, Chiluba and Swahili, which are used to publish official documents, including the Constitution.

The confessional structure of the DRC is also diverse. The Catholic Church has gained the greatest influence here. Its committed to-


* See the article by A. Dyabin on pages 37-42.

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cy is more than 50%. There are many Protestants of various kinds. The religions introduced by European missionaries coexist with local religious cults. The most popular form of kimbangism is named after the founder of this movement, Simon Kimbangu (1887-1951). This peculiar syncretism of Protestantism and traditional beliefs, formed in 1921 as a result of a protest against Belgian colonization, is best adapted to the African mentality. According to various estimates, it has today from 10 to 15% of adherents. Islam (3%) and Orthodox Christianity (3%) are not widely spread.

ABOUT RECENT HISTORY

DRC is often associated with the legendary Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of an independent Congo. His name and the history of the first independence days are immortalized in a granite memorial on Lumumba Avenue in Kinshasa. It is a pity that this worthy name was "taken away" from the Peoples ' Friendship University of Russia in Moscow. Congolese people are perplexed, offended and often ask questions about what he "did wrong" and why this happened.

The DRC is also Marshal Mobutu. However, for most Congolese, he is more like Mobutu Sese Seko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, which literally means " a rooster singing victory; a warrior going from conquest to conquest, remaining undefeated." Such is the African wisdom. The photo of this political figure in a leopard cap did not leave the covers of the world press for a third of a century and for 32 years (1965 - 1997) was a symbol of Zaire, nurtured by the West. Meanwhile, the country, rich in natural resources, was falling into disrepair. Clan and ethnic contradictions escalated, and neighboring tribes exterminated each other. The economy was failing, and the state machine was falling apart. For a long time, no one thought about how to preserve the state and ensure peace for the people of this country. As a result, the devastated country plunged into chaos. A feeble dictator, abandoned by his Western patrons, was driven out of the country by the new leader in 1997. Soon he died in a foreign land, leaving the country a debt of 17 billion US dollars! However, in a tribute to the past, the DRC authorities intend to return Mobutu's remains from Morocco, his last resting place, and reburial them in the land of his ancestors.

THE THORNY PATH TO DEMOCRACY

In the course of preparing for the presidential and parliamentary elections, it seemed that many times brilliantly thought - out calendar plans were adopted-a kind of"road map". However, they remained completely or partially on paper. The coalition Government of National Unity has had to divert attention from settling border disputes with neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, to pacifying violent gangs in the east of the country, but more often to settling civil strife between political opponents in Kinshasa. All this threatened to disrupt deadlines and delay the democratic process.

Nevertheless, the scope and ambition of the transition tasks have forced the country to mobilize all its internal resources to implement the planned programs. The Independent Electoral Commission headed by its Chairman, Abbot Malu Malu, had a heavy workload. It was especially difficult during the period of voter registration in remote localities, where to this day there is no transport infrastructure, power supply and communication network. Electoral materials, which include multi-ton equipment in addition to documentation, did not always reach their intended goal. Overloaded canoes sank to the bottom of rivers, trucks overturned on washed-out roads, paper soaked in a tropical downpour.

In addition, the census of the electorate was conducted in the context of a daily struggle between supporters and opponents of democratic reforms. There were frequent cases of arson and looting of electoral offices, murders of census takers, intimidation and death threats against those who dared to take part in the event. The rumor of "kata-kata," the Congolese phenomenon of beheading, was whispered from mouth to mouth. Yet ordinary residents, who did not always understand the meaning of the upcoming events, walked dozens of kilometers away, off-road, for several days to the census centers to participate in the upcoming elections, to get a voter card. Sometimes it was the only document they received for the first time in their lives.

THE PRICE OF DEMOCRACY

The Church plays an important role in the political process of the DRC, and it remains a powerful ideological institution in shaping the worldview of the Congolese people. Religious figures hold high positions in the Parliament and Government. Thus, the head of the Church of Christ in the Congo, the Protestant M. Bodo, served as President of the Senate for a long time. Catholic priest M. Malou, who headed the electoral commission, was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor of France. Church leaders issued appeals to the people and the government, calling on the civilian population and the military to calm down and balance, and political opponents - to sanity, to conduct a peaceful dialogue in order to avoid anarchy and unrest. During the elections, religious missions participated as observers, provided assistance to the electoral commission, and conducted explanatory work in the provinces. Clergymen are active in the educational and social spheres. Catholic schools and universities are respected in the capital. Many hospitals and orphanages are supported by the church. In the bookstores of the capital, there is a wide variety of literature on religious topics.

Despite the machinations and pressure from conservative circles determined to push back the election dates, the electoral commission managed to stay within the schedule for holding them. With the assistance of South Africa, 30 million copies were printed and delivered to all provinces of the country. ballot papers with photos of Candida-

The capital of eight million people, Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville), has the status of a province; the economic capital is called Lubumbashi, located on the southern border with Zambia.

The country's heraldry has changed. On the coat of arms, the lion gave way to the leopard, and the flag returned to its denunciation of the times of 1963-1971.


* Kata - "cut" in Swahili (approx. ed.).

page 43

products and party logos. An impressive amount of literature was replicated, which described in detail the voting system, the structure of the future government, and so on.

From conversations with local residents, it became clear how the Congolese sympathies for their elected representatives are formed. Some preferred those candidates whose posters and brochures looked more colorful and richer, in the hope that their lives would improve in the future. Others were guided by the principle of ethnic or clan kinship. Still others seemed to be against everyone. They ruthlessly destroyed the propaganda products that were plastered over the capital. And some, the most apolitical, paid more attention to grammatical errors made during printing.

Both contenders for the presidential seat - Zh. Kabila and J.-P. Bemba maintained a substantial armed contingent in Kinshasa. On election eve, politicized Kinshasa was like a powder keg. The movement of military and police personnel has significantly increased in the city. The capital was packed with military equipment, and military units from the provinces were being drawn here. Day and night, the Blue Helmets were patrolled by tanks, armored personnel carriers and helicopters. Due to the systematic attacks, the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) building was fenced off with barbed wire, and the office windows were covered with bulletproof film. As military experts explained, the hit bullet "gets stuck" in such a coating.

The day of the presidential (first round) and parliamentary elections, despite the tense atmosphere, according to international and national observers, was successful, without gross violations. Queues gathered around the polling stations, and everyone felt like they were creating a new reality. In the selected box in the bulletin, it was necessary to put a thumbprint by dipping it in "indelible" ink. They were brought from China. Not everyone, however, liked this procedure, so the election commission had to stock up on brushes.

The situation radically changed immediately after the vote count, on the eve of the announcement of preliminary results. The first to feel the "costs" of democracy were the journalists who gathered in the press center on the evening of August 21, 2006, waiting for the speech of the chairman of the electoral commission. In the darkness, the capital stood waiting. But instead of the long-awaited performance, everyone heard the roar of cannonade and automatic bursts. What it was, it became clear only later. And then fans of "fried", overcoming fear and doubt, broke through the cordon of "blue helmets", who came to the rescue. Despite their categorical ban, some daredevils still leaked out on the street to capture a living story. When the shooting subsided a little, UN peacekeepers took everyone home in armored personnel carriers.

By the way, we must pay tribute to the UN Mission. It plays an important role in resolving the situation in the DRC. Its tasks include protecting the civilian population and supporting the processes of democratic construction in the country. Since 1999, peacekeepers have provided security in the most hot spots, hard - to-reach areas and, especially, in the problematic eastern provinces-it is from there that reports of deaths of peacekeepers often come.

Let's return to the events of August 21. That night, clashes broke out in Kinshasa between J. P. Bemba's paramilitary guards and J. Kabila's National Guard. The opponents fired for the next two days. This confrontation cost many military and police officers their lives. There were also civilian casualties. Thanks to the efforts of the UN Mission, the situation in the capital was kept under control.

The situation between the two rounds of presidential elections continued to be tense. J. Kabila and J.-P. Bemba, the main competitors, took an irreconcilable position towards each other. After all, it is not for nothing that they say here: "There is no place for two crocodiles in one swamp." With the assistance of the United Nations and the African Union, an "International Committee of Elders" headed by the former President of Mozambique, J. A. Chissano, was created to mitigate differences and hold elections without bloodshed. He urged candidates to be patient and moderate. For this purpose, mixed commissions were created with the participation of both sides.

Five months after the second round of presidential elections (October 2006), riots broke out again in Kinshasa related to the operation to disarm the paramilitary guards of J. P. Bemba. In the center of the capital, skirmishes broke out between Bembov militants and government troops. The city was emptied in a matter of hours: school students were disbanded, administrative and commercial establishments were closed. For three days, fierce battles with the use of artillery and tanks took place on the streets of the city. Shells hit residential buildings and institutions, killing people. The first days after the "truce", the capital looked bleak. Destroyed buildings, broken storefronts, bullet-riddled stone fences, fallen trees, broken wires, shell casings strewn pavements-the opponents did not skimp on ammunition...

PRIORITY TASKS

In general, the vertical of power in the DRC is built. However, unresolved problems and challenges on a national scale are a heavy burden. There is an urgent need to change the state of affairs in the socio-economic sphere, including infrastructure, health care, and providing the population with drinking water and food.

One of the" painful " points of the DRC is still ethno-national problems. Thus, the enmity between Hema and Lendu, which has deep socio-economic roots, continues. Hema - wealthier and better off-

In the light of UN Security Council Resolution No. 1756, which extended the Mission's mandate until December 31, 2008, its powers were expanded.3 Now the "blue Helmets" have a strong argument for forceful support of the Armed Forces of the DRC, while previously their actions were limited to self-defense, according to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. They will also take part in the training of integrated brigades of the national Army. According to the latest data, the Mission includes almost 22 thousand military personnel and specialists from 119 countries of the world. These are mainly peacekeepers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uruguay, Nepal and South Africa. Russia is also represented.

page 44

financially poor, lendus struggle to make ends meet.

For a long time, interethnic tension has been fueled by the so-called Banyamulenge issue. We are talking about a small (less than 1%) group of Congolese Tutsis of Rwandan origin. "Banya", in the Kikongo language, means "coming", "mulenge" - mountain. They are often confused with an ethnic group. In fact, as the director of the National Archives of the DRC, A. Lumenganeso, explained to me, this is more of a nickname. This is what locals call people who came to Congolese territory from the high plateau located east of the DRC border. Banyamulenge settlements in the border areas with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda emerged as a result of long migration processes in the Middle Ages. Militant Tutsis have always had strong farms, aspired to take command positions in politics, administration, the army, and the business world. Their introduction into the socio-economic life of these regions has generated hostility to "newcomers" among the indigenous people. The Banyamulenge, in turn, put forward the thesis of oppression and insisted on granting autonomy.

The ethnic problem is closely linked to the question of nationality. The DRC Parliament has long had a heated debate over who should be considered a Congolese. Although the law on citizenship was adopted, its interpretation remained controversial. Appointments to government posts add urgency to the debate. There is even a new term "kongolite" in the press, something close to the "real" Congolese.

The problem is still caused by relentless conflicts in the east of the country: in the provinces of East, North and South Kivu, as well as in the northern part of Katanga. They are located far from the capital, about 2 thousand km away. And when there is peace and quiet in the capital, fierce battles can take place in the east at this time. It is not for nothing that they say here: "Kinshasa dances, and the Great Kivu cries."

The standoff between uncontrolled armed groups of Congolese origin is compounded by conflicts with foreign armed groups from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. Military personnel are usually difficult to identify. They don't have the insignia of the regular army. Local residents identify "their" and "strangers" only by their language or dialect. But the trouble is that both of them bring death and destruction. Hiding in the forests, these groups carry out robber attacks on civilians, clash with the DRC Armed Forces located there. They keep the inhabitants of those places in fear: they rob with impunity, take away livestock and food, force them to slave labor, and execute lynchings against the recalcitrant. Entire villages and their inhabitants are often burned to the ground.

It is difficult to deal with such manifestations. The leaders of illegal armed groups, as well as local tribal elites, are interested in maintaining control over the rich land, mines and mines that produce gold, diamonds and other valuable raw materials. Zones of influence between them, as a rule, are divided and jealously guarded. This allows them to continue illegally exploiting the country's natural resources, extracting fabulous profits. Moreover, part of the income received from the sale of smuggled raw materials goes to the purchase of weapons intended for militant formations. For this purpose, expensive and compact diamonds are most often used for transportation, which are called "conflict" or "bloody" diamonds.

The DRC could be called a "diamond country". Even on a run-down, plank-built counter, you will definitely be offered placers of stones and, of course, diamonds. Whether they are real or fake is another matter. But there is always a buyer, which means that the merchant and his family will have bread on the table. The provinces where they are mined and the capital are connected by a whole "bridge" of hundreds of people-buyers, resellers, intermediaries, couriers, just adventurers. And all have their own benefits, firmly rooted in the fabric of the shadow economy.

Illegal activities are difficult to control. According to the DRC Center for the Examination and Evaluation of Precious and Semiprecious Stones, the annual export of smuggled diamonds from the country is about $ 450 million.

Almost all countries bordering the DRC are involved in the production and sale of Congolese diamonds on the foreign market, playing the role of transit points in the chain from producer to consumer. The Kivu region is bordered by Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda; Katanga is bordered by Zambia and Angola. Diamonds, as well as other minerals extracted in the DRC armed conflict zones, freely "float away" along the inter-border lakes on pirogues to neighboring countries. Only the DRC loses from this. With its vast mineral resources, it remains one of the world's poorest countries, with a per capita income of less than $ 100.

The most important problem for the country remains the creation of a unified national army capable of protecting civilians and the country's borders. The concept of organizing the DRC Armed Forces is reflected in the law "On the Organization of Defense and Armed Forces" (2004). It is planned to include veterans from the partially preserved Zaire army, more precisely - its former units "Tigers" and "Armed Forces of Zaire", in the ranks of the DRC Armed Forces. The idea of attracting field commanders and fighters from armed formations is also being worked out. It is necessary to compromise, since the commanders of such units demand the assignment of high ranks, up to general's. However, the question of the criminal past of these people remains open. After all, many of them fall under the article of crimes committed against humanity.

The basis of the future army should be brigades numbering from 2 to 3 thousand sols-

DRC is one of the world's leading producers of industrial and jewelry diamonds. Due to their implementation on the foreign market, a large part of foreign exchange earnings to the state treasury is provided. The main consumer countries are Belgium (more than 80%), Israel, France and the USA. The main production areas are the provinces of Eastern and Western Kasai. Mining operations are carried out in an industrial and artisanal way at small enterprises numbering more than 700 thousand prospectors. As a rule, these are illegal immigrants. But they account for about 70% of all diamond production in the country.

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dates in each of them. The DRC Government has developed a National programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former members of illegal armed groups. It was planned to group ex-combatants in special camps (brassages) in a short time for their subsequent disarmament.

Breaststrokes were deployed throughout the country. Representatives of various military formations who wanted to join in peaceful life flocked there. In exchange for weapons that are publicly destroyed as a symbolic break with the past, they receive a demobilized card, which allows them to monitor the total number of disarmed fighters.

The experience of creating the first integrated teams (2004) showed that in practice this is a difficult exercise to implement. It involves a lot of material costs, patience and endurance of instructors - often Belgian, Angolan and South African. There are also language barriers. After all, many people speak only local dialects. It is not such a rare phenomenon as cases of returning to former field commanders. Initially, it was planned to create 24 such brigades, but the process of their formation was delayed.

* * *

No matter how difficult the road to peace and prosperity may be, the Congolese people have achieved a lot. The main thing is to establish a legitimate vertical of power and create real prerequisites for the further development of the state. And if only recently the DRC was referred to as a "sick giant", today it can be argued that this African country has embarked on the path of recovery.


1 Le Petit fute Congo. Republique Democratique 2006 - 2007. Nouvelles Editions de l'Universite, Paris, p. 65.

2 Isidore Ndaywel ё Nziem. Histoire generale du Congo, 1998. Paris, Bruxelles, p. 255 - 256.

3 Conseil de securite. Vingt-quatrieme rapport du Secretaire general sur la Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies. Republique Democratique du Congo, S/2007/671.


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