Dominican Republic of the Congo

Map of DR CongoA vast country with immense economic resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has been at the centre of what some observers call "Africa's world war". This has left it in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. The five-year conflict pitted government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.

Despite a peace deal and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, people in the east of the country remain in fear of continuing death, rape or displacement by marauding militias and the army.

The war claimed an up to six million lives, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition. It has been called possibly the worst emergency in Africa in recent decades.

The war had an economic as well as a political side. Fighting was fuelled by the country's vast mineral wealth, with all sides taking advantage of the anarchy to plunder natural resources, and some small militias fight on.

At a glance

  • DR Congo is struggling to recover from Africa's ''world war'' in which millions died between 1998 and 2003
  • Former rebels joined a power-sharing government
  • Eastern regions are still volatile despite 2013 peace agreements
  • DR Congo hosts the UN's largest peacekeeping mission

The history of DR Congo has been one of civil war and corruption. After independence in 1960, the country immediately faced an army mutiny and an attempt at secession by its mineral-rich province of Katanga.

A year later, its prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, was seized and killed by troops loyal to army chief Joseph Mobutu.

In 1965 Mobutu seized power, later renaming the country Zaire and himself Mobutu Sese Seko. He turned Zaire into a springboard for operations against Soviet-backed Angola and thereby ensured US backing. But he also made Zaire synonymous with corruption.

After the Cold War, Zaire ceased to be of interest to the US. Thus, when in 1997 neighbouring Rwanda invaded it to flush out extremist Hutu militias, it gave a boost to the anti-Mobutu rebels, who quickly captured the capital, Kinshasa, installed Laurent Kabila as president and renamed the country DR Congo.

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