Arts, Culture & Media

Congo's violent past

What is now Congo came into being back in the late 1800s, and was called Congo Free State then, but in reality it was the private colony of the King of Belgium and he made billions of dollars off it, according to this historian. He created an infrastructure solely for getting the natural resources out and he was most focused on ivory and rubber. Over time other resources were discovered including gold, diamonds and uranium. But the historian says a pattern of violent competition for those resources has plagued the country ever since, including multi-national corporations, local militias, African tribes and the Congolese people are suffering from this. The most recent conflict in Congo has connections to the ethnic genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 when Hutu militias slaughtered thousands of Tutsis and then fled to Congo. The Rwandan government has used that to justify attacks into Congo. This researcher says links are being investigated between the Rwandan government and Tutsi rebels in Congo. All of these armed groups have committed human rights violations, he says. Ethnic tensions only partly explain the current conflict in Congo though, according to the first historian, and it's still just as much about a quest for mineral wealth.

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