In the 1990s, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire under military officer Mobutu Sese Seko between 1971 and 1997, was at the center of “Africa’s War,” a multi-nation conflict that claimed the lives of 6 million people.
Mobutu established a military-backed kleptocracy and amassed a large personal fortune through corruption, which led to the collapse of the economy.
Following independence from Belgium in 1960, Mobutu came to power during a military coup in 1965. An army mutiny soon after independence resulted in the assassination of the nation’s first elected leader, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. The CIA had first attempted to poison Lumumba, and later arranged his assassination.
Political, social, and economic instability from the “Africa War” of the 1990s reverberate throughout the country today, primarily in the eastern provinces. According to The UN Refugee Agency, as of August 2018 the DRC hosted more than 536,000 refugees and 4.5 million people displaced. In June alone, tribal warfare displaced more than 300,000 people.
The DRC is the second poorest nation in the world despite its abundance of natural resources. The average annual wage is less than $800. Over 80 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day.
Mobutu was followed by two other corrupt leaders, namely Laurent-Désiré Kabila and his son Joseph Kabila, both who were assassinated.
The current Congolese president, Félix Tshisekedi, has struggled to contain an influx of Islamic militants, eliminate widespread corruption, and reduce tribal conflict. And armed groups have pillaged the nation’s resources, including gold, diamonds and oil.