As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) might witness political instability due to a possible delay to the presidential elections, scheduled for this November, IBTimes UK speaks with a prominent Congolese activist who is calling on the whole world to pay closer attention to human right abuses occurring in his homeland.
John Mpaliza was born in eastern DRC in 1969. Following increasing violence and instability, he left the country in the 1990s and moved to Italy. When he visited DRC in 2009, Mpaliza found out he had lost his father while one of his sisters and several cousins had gone missing. He explained that this is a very common situation in the eastern part of DRC, where abuses are still carried out by militants as well as government troops.
Following his 2009 trip, Mpaliza founded a movement to highlight human right abuses occurring in the African nation. The activist has become famous worldwide after organising marches across Europe during which he meets as many people as he can to discuss possible ways to help DRC. Known as the Peace Walking Man, he is now planning a march in Africa.
Violence in DRC
Millions of people have been killed during conflicts in DRC since 1996 with the eruption of the First Congo war, which ended in 1998. The Second Congo war – also known as the Great War of Africa – broke out in 1998 and officially terminated in 2003.
However, hostilities and frequent attacks on civilians, especially in the north-east, have continued with at least 50 different armed groups currently operating along DRC's eastern and western borders.
Violence against women and girls is particularly widespread in DRC, often labelled as "the rape capital of the world" and "the worst place to be a woman" . The use of child soldiers is also a common practice in the nation.
Mpaliza aims to educate people on what he calls "an economic war" affecting DRC, due to its richness in natural resources.
Minerals such as coltan are highly requested by the technology industry in the western world. Thus, Mpaliza believes that everyone who uses technological equipment such as smartphones and laptops should be aware that the materials used for these devices often fuel conflict and rights abuses in DRC.
"Congo is defined as a paradise, a paradise that today has become hell on earth," Mpaliza said. "It is the poorest country in the world, but it could be the richest given its minerals and natural resources. This economic war orchestrated by hi-tech multinational companies has caused millions of deaths while the international community remains silent.
"It seems that Congolese people are not human, it seems that we are animals," he continued. "I mean, millions of people die. Peace is possible, but we must look for it."
Incumbent president Joseph Kabila is bound by the constitution to step down after serving two consecutive terms since 2001. The leader has not made a public statement on his future political career, but his spokesperson has always maintained the president respects the constitution.
Kabila said the election should be postponed, arguing that the country was not ready and more time was needed to revise voter rolls and raise funds. Earlier in December, the leader called for dialogue with the opposition. However, his proposition was rejected by some opposition groups who argued it was a way for Kabila to cling on to power.
In recent developments, a timetable purportedly prepared by the country's electoral commission (CENI) suggested that presidential election could be delayed by a minimum of 13 months and 10 days. In an exclusive report by IBTimes UK, opposition leader Moise Katumbi rejected the possible election delay.
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