The conflict in the DRC is one of the most complex on the continent, as it often connects political, economic, institutional, social and security factors into one complicated and interconnected web of intractability.During the period 1996–1997, the conflict in the DRC was referred to as “Africa’s first world war” – a phrase that highlighted the regional nature of this conflict.Thus, the DRC conflict, particularly its intractability, has numerous risks for neighbouring countries and the region, due to the negative consequences from unstable conflict spillovers.
This period was followed by what is often referred to as the second Congo War (1998–1999), which involved more than nine countries including Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
A 2014 UN report acknowledges the setbacks in stability and conflict resolution in the DRC, pointing out the volatility of the situation in the country and the continuing sporadic attacks, particularly in the eastern DRC.
Apart from land and forests, the DRC has extensive mineral resources including coltan, tin, copper, diamonds and gold.
This resource abundance has made the DRC a theatre for the battle for control and ownership of these natural resources.
In addition, the reality is that collaboration, cooperation and concerted efforts are critical for resolving complex conflicts, such as the violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Increasingly, African leaders are realising that the intervention of Western actors is often determined by Western priorities, which currently seem to be stretched due to the focus on countering violent extremism and terrorism in regions such as Somalia, Libya, Mali and Syria; dealing with the challenge of immigration; and other issues such as the implications of the recent exit of Britain from the European Union.
(GALLO IMAGES/REUTERS/KENNY KATOMBE) Over the past three decades, the DRC has experienced a number of interventions by a wide range of actors including the UN, AU, SADC, ICGLR, state institutions and eminent persons.
SADC has been at the centre of most of these interventions.
On the one hand, the eastern DRC is characterised by communal violence and internal armed conflict among local groups, and community security groups or local militias.
On the other hand, the conflict is also about political power contestations and competition to access state resources, which often play out at the national and local levels.
Furthermore, the social dimensions of the DRC conflict are epitomised by the manipulation of identity issues by various leaders, particularly around citizenship and nationality laws, coupled with the politics of exclusion and the instrumentalisation of ethnicity and the Congolese identity.