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The Democratic Republic of the Congo (known as Zaire until 1997) has suffered two wars since 1996. The first war (1996) began as a direct result of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The second began in 1998 and involved the armed forces of at least seven countries and multiple militias. According to the International Rescue Committee, since 1998, an estimated 5.4 million people have died, most from preventable diseases as a result of the collapse of infrastructure, lack of food security, displacement, and destroyed health-care systems.

In 2006, DRC held the first multi-party elections in over 40 years, and over 25 million citizens participated. The elections signified the end of a three-year transition period during which time the country moved from intense war to a system of power sharing between the former government, former armed forces, opposition parties, and civil society. However, national and provincial structures remain incapable of ensuring basic security for communities, providing transparent management of resources and wealth, and addressing entrenched problems of corruption, poverty, lack of development and heightened ethnic and regional tensions.

In the East, the war never conclusively ended. A range of armed forces continue to perpetrate violence against the civilian population, including forced displacement, abductions, looting, forceful recruitment and use of child soldiers, and massive sexual violence. According to the United Nations, 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, a figure that represents only those assaults that were officially reported. Ethnic hostility, fed by inter-group violence in Congo over the past ten years in addition to the impact of genocide and violence in Rwanda and Burundi, has produced an environment where groups fear their entire existence is under threat and engage in pre-emptive attacks. Multiple armed forces, including the national armed forces and various militias engage in armed conflict and prey on the civilian population. Among the most brutal of the armed forces are the FDLR, a group whose leadership is associated with the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.


 

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