In Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness one of the last words Kurtz says is Horror. Whatever criticisms might fairly be levelled at the novella, as a word to describe the last number of years in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Horror would be pretty close to ideal.
The immensity of the problem there is difficult to comprehend. The Belgians had made practically no effort to help the country during their rule of it and made no more effort to prepare it for independence. With independence in 1960 there was an immediate army mutiny and in 1965 Mobutu began his cleptocratic reign which only ended in 1997. The Rwandan government blamed Mobutu for supporting the Hutus who had massacred some 800,000 Tutsis in 1994 prior to being militarily defeated. In 1997 the Rwandans invaded alleging that the war criminals who had been involved in the genocide were hiding in refugee camps in DRC and were attacking ethnic Tutsis there. What followed has been described as Africa’s First World War involving Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Uganda
which resulted in over 5 million deaths and supposedly ended in 1999 with the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. Whatever the proclaimed reasons for getting involved in the war, the neighbouring countries were all involved in plundering the vast wealth of DRC and had very little interest in helping its population.
Peace agreements and ceasefires have come and gone: the latest round of fighting has resulted in a summit in Nairobi which is again trying to end the violence. However, the ethnic divisions along with the vast natural wealth of DRC will always provide a potentially explosive mixture which will tempt all sides to try to gain personal wealth just as it did Kurtz. Sadly as in Conrad’s book those who suffer the most, the local population; will remain afflicted by poverty, disease, starvation and death.