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Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Democratic Republic of Congo: going backward or moving forward?

In north-western Democratic Republic of Congo, where HOPE International Development Agency is at work with severely poor families, the effects of the eastern region’s latest dip into armed conflict have not been felt too acutely. This is no reason to celebrate. While our work is undisturbed, the DRC’s latest humanitarian crisis is a serious discouragement for those us of who have been keeping our fingers crossed since the country’s historic (and undisputed) democratic elections in 2006.

Why the instability? Why the violence? For those of us living in peace and plenty, the situation is absolutely mystifying. Without attempting to deliver a hackneyed history lesson, the DRC is a classic example of a chronic problem: a track-record of poor governance and ethnic violence coupled with an abundance of natural resources. The horrid poverty of the majority exacerbates any kind of tendency towards conflict. People in great need (who see that others fare much better) often resort to violence.

What can be done? HOPE’s answer is simple: more, not less. More opportunities for the poor to become self-reliant, not less. More anti-poverty work, not less. More help for Congolese families, not less. The only way to secure peace for the future is to relieve the present realities of the poor.

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