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article imageDemocratic Republic of Congo turns 50

By Christopher Szabo     Jun 30, 2010 in World
Kinshasa - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) has celebrated 50 years of independence with ceremonies around the vast central African nation, with international dignitaries attending.
President Joseph Kabila was joined by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, King Albert II of Belgium, the former colonial power, and more than a dozen African heads of state. Kabila called for a “moral revolution,” Al Jazeera reported. Speaking in an address in the capital, Kinshasa, Kabila said the people of the DRC should end “attacks on human life and dignity” and get rid of:
"Tribalism, regionalism, favouritism, irresponsibility, theft, embezzlement of public property and everything else contrary to values."
The celebration included a vast military parade through Kinshasa involving 15,000 soldiers and hundreds of tanks and other military vehicles.
However, many are not happy with the achievements of the last half century. Congo’s bishops wrote in a joint statement marking the milestone:
"As far as we are concerned, the DRC has moved backwards more than forwards."
Congo has had ongoing civil wars since independence and when dictator Joseph Mobutu took power and renamed the country Zaire, he introduced some stability at the price of freedom.
After his death, a civil war lasting from 1998 to 2003 left an estimated three million people dead. During the war, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola sent in troops and took large concessions of mineral wealth. In many cases, it was reported at the time, individual generals or presidents used their armies to build their own mining empires.
The major fighting ended when Kabila was elected in 2006, but rebel groups continue their struggles in north western Congo. These groups use child soldiers and rape as a weapon of war. As a result, the UN’s biggest peacekeeping mission is to be found in the DRC, with more than 20,000 personnel.
Kabila has called for this force to leave Congo by 2011. It is not clear who or what is to replace them.
The country is extremely rich in mineral resources. The report says DRC has 30 percent of the world’s cobalt and 10 percent of its copper, as well as other resources, but remains desperately poor.
The lavish celebrations have been criticised by human rights group Amnesty International, who said it was:
"Nothing short of hypocritical for Congo to throw nationwide celebrations without acknowledging the appalling state of human rights in the country today. The Congolese people are trapped in a limbo between an unsatisfactory peace and the threat of further approaching crises."
China has invested heavily in Congo, providing infrastructure such as schools and clinics in return for mining concessions, but Western nations also invest in the country.
A recent claim involves the Canadian government lobbying the World Bank and IMF not to forgive the DRC’s debt until it ends a mining dispute with First Quantum, a Canadian mining company.
More about Drc, Africa, Independence, Years
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