The Democratic Republic of the Congo: a country between crisis and hope
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on his arrival in Goma., © Xander Heinl/photothek.net
For decades, one of the most serious conflicts in recent times has been simmering in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During his visit, Foreign Minister Maas underscored Germany’s commitment to stabilisation and the protection of women in conflicts.
A country confronted with challenges
For decades, the eastern part of the country has been ravaged by war, making it the worst humanitarian disaster since the Second World War. Dozens of armed groups, many of whom have links to the neighbouring countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, are active there, carrying out brutal attacks on the civilian population, creating humanitarian emergencies and causing people to flee their homes.
The largest UN peace mission of all times is stationed in the eastern part of the country. In recent years it has been able to guarantee a minimum of stability. Foreign Minister Maas will visit the mission’s headquarters and talk about Germany’s stabilisation efforts.
As if this were not enough, since 2018, the region has had to cope with the largest outbreak of Ebola to date. So far, almost 3000 people have been infected with the virus. Germany is engaged in the distribution of food and health care.
“The man who repairs women”
Protection from sexual violence in armed conflict is a central issue for Germany’s membership of the UN Security Council. The UN Security Council adopted the resolution on sexual violence submitted by Germany in April. In the conflict in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sexual violence is used deliberately as a weapon. Women are therefore particularly frequent victims of barbaric acts of violence. Gynaecologist Denis Mukwege founded the Panzi Hospital to care for abused women and enable them to have a decent quality of life in the future. In 2018, Mukwege was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his engagement. A Belgian documentary described him as “the man who repairs women”.
Hope of a democratic transition
In December 2018, elections, long awaited by the people after having been postponed for two years, finally took place. At the beginning of the year, opposition politician Félix Tshisekedi was inaugurated as President. In Kinshasa, Foreign Minister Maas will meet representatives of the new government and the President of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo.