It rarely makes the headlines these days, but ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is devastating children’s lives
Disputed elections have recently put the Democratic Republic of Congo back in the news. But, for more than 20 years, families have been struggling through blood-stained conflict.
As always, those suffering most are children.
In order to properly understand life for children in the DRC, it’s important look at the country’s past since colonisation by the Belgians in the 1870s:
- 1870s Belgian King Leopold II sets about colonising the area as his private holding. During his reign Congoloese were used as forced labour and some historians estimate around 10 million people were killed.1
- 1908 Congo Free State placed under Belgian rule following outrage treatment of Congolese.
- 1960 Independence, followed by civil war and temporary fragmentation of country.
- 1965 Mobutu Sese Seko seizes power.
- 1997 Rebels oust Mobutu. Laurent Kabila becomes president.
- 1997-2003 Civil war, drawing in several neighbouring countries.
- 2006 Presidential elections. Thousands are displaced in the north-east as the army and UN peacekeepers step up their drive to disarm irregular forces ahead of the elections.
- 2006 Presidential and parliamentary polls are held – the first free elections in four decades. Joseph Kabila is declared winner of run-off presidential election. The poll has the general approval of international monitors.
- 2007 Major outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
- 2011 Presidential and parliamentary elections. Mr Kabila gains another term. The vote is criticised abroad and the opposition disputes the result.
- 2013 3,000-member UN Intervention Brigade deployed to fight and disarm rebels in the east.
- 2015 Dozens are killed in protests against proposed electoral law changes, which the opposition say are designed to allow President Kabila to remain in power.
- 2016 A political deal signed between President Kabila's ruling coalition and the opposition to delay the presidential election until 2018 sees Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and his cabinet resign, paving the way for a new cabinet to include opposition figures.
- 2017 DRC is experiencing a "mega-crisis", with conflict having forced 1.7 million people to flee their homes during the year, aid agencies say. DRC is worst-affected by conflict displacement in the world, they say.
- 2018 Presidential elections held at the end of the year with hopes they will lead to the DRC’s first democratic transfer of power since independence.
- 2019 Felix Tshisekedi decared president. Election results are disputed by opposition.
Whatever happens next in the DRC, children in the country have been living with conflict since they were born. Although they often to struggle to articulate how violence has affected their lives, they are missing out on the joy of childhood – and we continue to do everything we can to give them a safe and happy future.
Here are some of the life-threatening issues children in the DRC are facing and the work we are doing to support them.