DR Congo: Africa’s sleeping giant?
Al Jazeera investigates when the African country will wake up from its ‘long sleep’.
DR Congo is known as a nation with vast quantities of natural resources: Gold, silver, timber, copper, tin – resources that have changed the face of the Western world, but have brought nothing but chaos to most Congolese people – fuelling war, corruption, dictatorship and violence.
On June 30, 2010, Kinshasa, the capital of DR Congo, celebrated the country’s 50th anniversary of independence from Belgium. Joseph Kabila, the country’s president, was keen to put on an impressive show – thousands of people turned up.
The whole area was given an entire makeover: Roads were repaired and new streetlights were put in place. The world saw an image of an advancing and prosperous capital city.
“Slowly but surely Congo is recovering, as a giant who is waking up after a long sleep,” Kabila said.
But DR Congo’s so-called long sleep has been nothing short of a nightmare for its beleaguered population. The average yearly wage is $300 – in real terms less than what it was at independence – making it the poorest country in the world.
The formal economy has virtually collapsed, infrastructure is in a state of total decay and it has been said wryly that it is easier to start a rebellion than a business in DR Congo.
And in the east of the country a long-running conflict has claimed the lives of over five million people and drawn in neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, fuelled by rebel groups and conflict minerals.
Is the “great new country” Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese independence leader and the DR Congo’s first prime minister, envisioned about to awaken, or is the sleeping giant malevolent?