On 19 December 2016, Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, reached the end of his two presidential mandates, the maximum term a president is allowed to serve according to the country’s constitution. Kabila’s consequent refusal to resign, however, triggered numerous protests across the entire country. After two years of censorship, militarization and violent clashes (in the Central Kasai region thousands of people lost their lives in just a few months), the Congolese people were finally able to vote on 30 December 2018, electing Félix Tshisekedi, son of the late Étienne Tshisekedi, a long-time opponent of Kabila.
Although the country had a new president, however, various crisis situations remained unchanged and in some cases worsened. One such case is that of Nord Kivu, which for many years had been consumed by a conflict that caused 100 thousand people to flee in the month of April alone. Ebola too has returned to take more victims: since August 2018 more than 1000 people have died and this figure relates only to the officially registered deaths. This silent health emergency has found fertile terrain in the numerous situations of instability within the country; instability caused primarily by the presence beneath the ground in Congolese territory of enormous quantities of raw materials: the DRC, in fact, is a treasure trove of gold, coltan, diamonds, cassiterite (tin ore), silver, copper and cobalt. In spite of this wealth of resources, the national economy is on its knees and the number of internally displaced people fleeing conflict zones is ever increasing. Many end up in the slums of Kinshasa, a megalopolis of almost 12 million people, others have managed to reach refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile the great Congo River continues to flow majestically and elephant-like, connecting remote villages in the forest whose inhabitants subsist on fishing and who, not infrequently, die of measles, cholera, malaria and malnutrition. Nevertheless, the indomitable spirit of the Democratic Republic of Congo can still be found in its population that strives for a better future, creating inspiring initiatives such as the band made up of disabled musicians or the groups of engineers who design robots to regulate the traffic in the streets of the capital
Text by Valentina G. Milani