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Cracking The Geopolitical Chessboard: Unveiling The DRC's Unending Conflict

Image Credit: JRC, EC, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Within the why of longevity of the Democratic Republic of Congo's longstanding tension is a battle for geopolitical influence. Western powers, Russia, China, and neighbouring nations such as Rwanda have expediently conspired inside this chessboard (DRC), playing mates over the conflict to guard their interests and assert control.

It is seen that, even though the West had been claiming to advocate human rights, their approach had been criticized for prioritising their interests over the welfare of the Congolese. Kinshasa has been bewailing over Kigali's covered-up hand in the M23 insurgency, but for the long past years, Western powers and international organizations had been paying lip service to the matter until they were constrained to act by the anti-Western sentiment. Be that as it may, there have been no firm measures taken against Rwanda other than purging a condemnation of Kigali to terminate its activities and sanctioning rebel leaders. It must also be admitted that with the presence of international peacekeeping missions, the West and United Nations were able to de-escalate the situation around 2013 though the terrorists resurface again around 2021.

With the scramble for clean energy resources, superpowers had been blindfolded from focusing on the pressing matter of concern. Thus, undoubtedly Kinshasa’s massive reserves have made it a spot for geopolitical influence contention, Beijing and Washington, the hegemonic contenders are seeking to break into the new technological market which is in high demand with the advent of climate change and advocacy for green energy. The interest in their presence in Congo has been availed by the Joe Biden Administration which confessed that Beijing's monopoly in Congo mining industries is turning out to block Washington's clean energy desires.

With a zeal to have a hegemonic influence around the central and East African region, Russia motivated by its expansionist policy endeavor attempted to capitalize on the DRC's conflict. Its aspiration to create relations with Kinshasa was the need to maintain dominance over the energy market. A leaked document reflected that Congo had been regarded as a location which suited Russian interest criteria and this explains all about the several security pacts signed and the military aid in 2022. Asserting itself as a responsible actor in contrast with the felt defects of Western powers by Congolese. Russia was alleged to be another option for Congo in its bid to end the conflict as evidence from the Central African Republic and Mali has shown how efficient Moscow was with its use of private military.

In addition, it must be noted, that Russia had been previously using this strategy to gain traction over such scenarios as evidenced by cases from the Central African Republic and in these cases it was shown that Moscow prefers to trade mineral concessions for security works. However, despite these gestures, there had been no advancement in solving the conflict, raising questions about Russia's true plans.

Despite portraying itself as a champion for peace and holding several diplomatic and military aid to Congo, Beijing's solidarity with the Congolese had been questioned and exposed as self-serving. Its military aid and peacekeeping presence have been alleged to be targeted on its nationals only and securing access to the DRC's bountiful resources since it is the largest investor, no wonder why MUNSCO is China’s fourth largest peacekeeping operation. This dual role has raised eyebrows about the genuineness of China's humanitarian efforts. However, it must be admitted that despite such interest Beijing has once reiterated the need for a genuine approach to long-lasting peace in Congo.

Rwanda has never been spared from prying into the DRC's affairs. It is said that Kigali sees part of Congo as a sphere of its influence and the M23 rebel group serves Rwandan interests as Kigali considers the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda as its security threat since it consists of forces who fled to Congo to avoid facing justice over the genocide. Its involvement with the Kinshasa affairs had been revealed as dating back to Kabila's reign amid allegations of helping regime changes and this is also the alleged reason behind its proclaimed support of M23 as there are allegations of vexing due to Kabila's betrayal and this had been hading in difficulties to bring a resolve to the conflict. However, it must also be noted that concerning this view, Kigali has argued that M23 advances are in response to Kinshasa’s decision to expel the East African Community Regional force.

Underneath the geopolitical power struggles, economic interests have a noteworthy role which factors in the longevity of the conflict. It is argued that external actors are easily looting DRC's vast natural resources, so they contribute to the cycle of violence and instability through financing rebels. The United Kingdom and Belgium have previously been alleged to have undermined their development assistance and diplomatic efforts to end this prolonged conflict by failing to crack down on companies operating within Eastern Congo. Instead of these companies buying from Congo-licensed exporters, their middlemen benefited from the conflict by buying minerals from rebel groups that control a vast amount of resources in the region. However, it must be noted that all external actors dispute this fact, despite the robust evidence provided by the Global Witness report.

Rwanda is also accused of funding the rebels to maintain Kinshasa as a source of revenue. Formal and informal trade has been thriving between the DR Congo and Rwanda, especially in gold which is a vital source of foreign currency for Kigali. It is believed that much of this gold is coming from Eastern Congo. Considering these economic gains from violence in Congo, Kigali has also banked on the conflict by financing the M23. However, it must be admitted that with the mounting pressure which was given the international organization by the Congolese, the international community has recently publicly condemned Rwanda to cease its actions also this move is trying to bear some fruits as the international court has sanctioned some of the rebel influential leaders.

While probing on why Kivu continue to sneeze Kinshasa is catching a cold. The harsh realities around the conflict in the DRC drive one to consider the standpoint that the Congolese people now might be in realization of the fact that external assistance may not be coming with purely selfless intentions. With this long-term conflict turning out to be a plague, international policing bodies, including the United Nations' actions and priorities have raised doubts about their genuine commitment to the DRC's well-being thereby prompting a critical evaluation of their effectiveness and approach to African pressing issues out of sanctions and adjudications.

The prolonged conflict in the Eastern Congo coupled with the international community's hesitance to address it directly underscores the need to question their response and compare it to their actions in other global conflicts. Moreover, the failure to hold accountable those implicated in the conflict, such as Rwanda, raises further concerns about the true commitment to justice and the recognition of the Congo's plight. In light of these considerations, this supposition raises that a network of mutuality exists, binding us together under the shared aspiration for peace in Kinshasa, which has long been yearned for, much like rain after an extended period of drought.

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