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DRC IN A CRISIS: The Defeaning Silence Is Appalling; Millions Are Dying

By Janice Gassam Asare

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country that sits in the center of Africa bordering countries like the Central African Republic, Uganda, and Angola, has a tumultuous history. The DRC has undergone many name changes including the Congo Free State, the Belgian Congo, Zaire, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and like many countries that have been victimized by colonization, the country has had a turbulent past. Under the reign of the ruthless Belgian King Leopold II, who ruled from 1865 to 1909, an estimated 10-15 million people in the DRC (which was then called the Congo Free State) were killed. Despite the brutality of Leopold’s rule, many are unaware of who he is and how much he harmed the people and the country as a whole. In present day, the DRC, which gained its independence in 1960, is still heavily impacted by colonization, the extraction of resources, and outside interventions.

In the months leading up to the national election in December 2023, the Global Conflict Tracker reported that the DRC saw a rise in violence due to “clashes involving militant groups over territory and natural resources, extrajudicial killings by security forces, political violence, and rising tensions with neighboring Rwanda.” Akilimali S. Chomachoma, a journalist from the eastern region of the DRC shared “The current situation in the DRC is catastrophic. The country is facing a tense political situation that is holding up the creation of a new government. The economic situation is very bad, with currency inflation and falling commodity prices. The humanitarian situation in the east of the DRC is more than dangerous, with more than 7 million internally displaced people, most of whom are receiving minimal assistance.”

“The current crisis,” Chomachoma went on to share, “is being fueled by multinational companies that first want to recover the DRC’s strategic raw materials and then divide the country so that a single country cannot have so many mineral resources. To achieve this, they are fueling wars with neighboring countries such as Rwanda and other militias to ensure that the country remains in chaos, and promoting irresponsible leaders with no management skills who are controlled by foreign countries.” Conflicts involving African people and other Indigenous communities across the Global South don’t often receive the coverage and visibility they deserve, despite the severity of the crises. “Unfortunately,” Chomachoma said, “the media [does] not cover the current situation…the conflict is the most devastating of the 21st century in terms of the number of people killed. The media only [talks] about it briefly when there is ‘breaking news,’ and that is often in passing.”

The DRC is a country rich in natural resources like gold, cobalt, and high-grade copper. During the latter months of 2023, though the crisis in the DRC wasn’t largely being talked about, on social media and specifically TikTok, users were bringing more visibility to the ongoing atrocities. In addition to the unrest that was brewing in the DRC in late 2023, the mining of minerals like cobalt contributed to the displacement, conflict, and atrocities being experienced in the country, according to Amnesty International. Some TikTok users even decided to quit vaping as a way to support the people in the DRC, where the expansion of cobalt and copper mines (cobalt is used in vapes, as well as phones and electric cars) has “led to forced evictions and human rights abuses, including sexual assault,” Al Jazeera reported.

“The media coverage of the situation in the DRC is really limited, overshadowed by other global crises or distorted by economic or political interests and this is even where we end up with people who are only there to sell the bad image of this beautiful country,” shared Joviane Chanda, a student, actress, and comedian based in the DRC capital city of Goma. Haissetu Sumbunu, an art critic and freelance journalist shared, “there has been a lack of media coverage, and I wonder why the media [doesn’t] talk about it so much, given the seriousness of the situation…this conflict continues to record thousands of deaths…few media outlets are at the forefront of covering armed conflicts in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The lack of media coverage that the current crisis in the DRC is receiving could be attributed to a variety of factors. First off, the media is still overwhelmingly white, according to the Pew Research Center—our unconscious tendency to center whiteness in our reporting may lead even non-white writers to write from the white gaze and prioritize and highlight issues that impact white people around the globe more than other communities. Second, those crafting the stories may have a lot of unchecked biases and stereotypes about the communities they are highlighting and this shows up in the ways that different communities are written and reported about, and discussed in the media, leading to racist coverage or even a lack of media coverage. Third, the lack of empathy that is collectively felt for Black pain could lead to a lack of coverage about the wars, genocides, and conflicts impacting different Black populations.

With the lack of visibility that the crises in places like Sudan, Ethiopia, and the DRC are receiving, there are few things that Forbes readers can do to amplify these untold stories. “As a young artist in the DRC, I would like readers to help us amplifying our voices, supporting sustainable development programs, advocating for peace and justice and contributing to humanitarian initiatives that address the urgent needs of the population,” Chanda shared. “I think that readers should share articles on the subject and help the victims by demanding justice, and calling on other peoples of the world, in other parts of the world, to be able to step up actions of solidarity with the Congolese people,” shared civil society player Smith Etumba. “This is where we will effectively draw the world’s attention to the dangerous situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is becoming increasingly worrying.”

CREDIT: Forbes



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