Congo Historical/Political OverviewThe Democratic Republic of Congo
is as large as the United States east of the Mississippi and is home to vast expanses of pristine rain forest, rare animal species and highly valuable minerals and natural resources. The history of the Republic of the Congo has been marked by French colonization, a transition to independence, Marxist-Leninism, and the transition to a market-oriented economy.
Prior to independence, the French establishment and Catholic Church feared Opangault's radicalism and favored the rise of Fulbert Youlou, a former priest. The defection of Georges Yambot from the African Socialist Movement (MSA) to Youlou's Union Démocratique pour la Défense d'Intérêts Africains (UDDIA) helped Youlou become Prime Minister in 1958. This led to the establishment of the Republic of Congo on 28 November 1958 (with Brazzaville replacing Point Noire as the country's capital). Human rights
The human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remained grave. All sides in the country’s ongoing armed conflicts continued to attack civilians and commit other serious human rights abuses. Military operations against foreign and domestic armed groups in the east and north were on a smaller scale than in previous years. Efforts to integrate armed groups into the national army were hampered by former rebel leaders, such as Bosco Ntaganda, who flouted orders from the army’s central command and pursued their own interests. Ntaganda is facing an International Criminal Court (ICC)
arrest warrant but remains in charge of military operations in eastern Congo.
Politically motivated human rights violations increased as elections approached. UN investigators reported 188 cases before the official campaign began in October. Violence perpetrated by police and other state security services included restrictions on political activities, unnecessary force against demonstrators, and arbitrary arrests primarily directed toward opposition parties, their supporters, and journalists. For example, on October 6 the police violently crushed a demonstration by the Union pour la Democratie et le Progres Social (UDPS)
opposition party in Kinshasa, using teargas and firing live rounds in the air. One person was killed and at least 10 others were wounded. Some candidates and their supporters also used inflammatory language and hate speech, inciting youth groups and others to use violence against their opponents. Economy
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is home to a vast potential of natural resources and mineral wealth, its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US$ 24 trillion, yet the economy of the DRC has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. The mining sector dominates the D.R.C.'s formal economy and is expanding (12% of GDP in 2010). Minerals account for the vast majority of the D.R.C.’s exports and represent the single largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI). Copper, cobalt, gold, coltan, tin, and zinc are the most important metals mined and produced in the D.R.C. State-owned mining company Gecamines is the largest actor in the copper and cobalt sectors. Gecamines’ independent production capacity collapsed due to corruption, civil unrest, world market trends, and failure to reinvest profits toward routine maintenance and innovation. Gecamines is now most often a state partner in public-private mining partnerships with foreign companies. The diamond sector currently accounts for about 10% of the D.R.C.'s export revenue. This is from both gem and industrial-grade diamond sales that were around $875 million in 2008 and were projected to approach an estimated $1 billion in 2009. Production by the D.R.C. parastatal, MIBA, has significantly declined from past decades; MIBA ceased operations in 2009 and 2010 due to technical and financial difficulties. Rich in minerals, the DRC has a difficult history of predatory mineral extraction, which has been at the heart of many struggles within the country for many decades, but particularly in the 1990s. The economy of the second largest country in Africa relies heavily on mining. However, much economic activity occurs in the informal sector and is not reflected in GDP data.