…By Paul Ejime
DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, the current AU Chair has declared a ‘state of siege on his country’s eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri due to heightened attacks and civilian killings by rebel groups in the area.
The declaration at the weekend followed Tshisekedi’s visit to France on Tuesday for a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, during which he appealed for French support to deal with the destabilizing insecurity, which has claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions in eastern DR Congo.
Both leaders also used the occasion to issue a joint statement urging support for the Transitional Military Council that seized power in Chad following the death of President Idriss Deby on April 19.
The Council, which is facing opposition by Chadian rebels is headed by the late Deby’s son, Gen. Mahamat, 37.
DR Congo, with an estimated 105 million people is the largest concentration of the World’s French speaking population.
The vast former Belgian colony in Central Africa is rich in natural resources but remains poor and in chronic instability, characterized by coups and civil wars.
More than 100 armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), branded jihadists, are operating in the volatile mineral-rich provinces.
The ADF was reported to have killed more than 1,200 civilians in 2017 alone.
The armed groups continue their deadly activities despite the deployment of the 17,200-strong UN Stabilization Mission in Congo, MONUSCO and the sporadic raids by the Congolese military.
But amid the instability, foreign companies continue to exploit the country’s resources leaving the citizens impoverished under successive corrupt and bad administrations since independence in 1960.
Originally called the Belgian Congo, or the Congo, the DRC, is blighted by ethnic violence and poverty-related conflicts.
From the crisis that predated its independence through the 1960s resulting in the execution of its first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the Congo was plunged into civil wars in the 1990 and early 2000.
The wars sucked in 11 countries including Uganda and Rwanda killing more than five million people and displacing millions more.
Then emerged dictator Mubutu Sese Seko, who seized power in 1965. He changed the name of the country to Zaire in 1971 and ruled until he was succeeded in 1997, by Laurent Kabila.
Kabila rechristened the country, DR Congo, but was himself killed by his body guards in 2001.
Laurent Kabila’s replacement by his son Joseph Kabila marked another chapter of violence in the Congo’s political history.
Joseph Kabila did very little to change the country’s fortunes. He ruled with an iron fist and support from foreign powers, that continue to cut dubious deals for the continued exploitation of the country’s mineral resources.
After much delay, Joseph Kabila organized general elections in 2018, and eventually handed power to President Tshisekedi, son of the late veteran opposition politician Etienne Tshisekedi.
Tshisekedi Jr. is now saddled with the mammoth insecurity challenges in the DR Congo.
From its independence, the country has oscillated from Communism to liberal economic systems. But the Chinese have since joined Western countries in the scramble for the economic exploitation of DR Congo with the active collaboration of the governments in Kinshasa.