Coltan or Columbite-tantalite is a metallic ore, found mainly in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When this substance is refined it becomes a vital component in cell phone circuit boards (http://www1.american.edu/ted/ice/congo-coltan.htm). In the DRC Coltan is mined by hand by many individuals as this is a highly profitable career, typical salary of an average Congolese worker is $10 per month but a Coltan miner can earn as much as $200 per month. 80% of the world’s known Coltan supply is in the DRC, which should be a positive for the DRC’s economy. However, this ore has fueled violence across this country and caused environmental degradation (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8234583.stm).

The mining of Coltan comes with a direct human cost. Local militias follow the freelance miners and demand cuts from their profits. These militias terrorize the surrounding villages to ensure that they receive a cut of all profits. Women in these villages are often raped in front of their families. This insures that the local people are scared of these militias and are not likely to rise against them. Coltan is not only causing social issues within the DRC, the mining of this ore is also causing environmental degradation. The Kahuzi Biega National Park is the main area where Coltan is mined. The Park is constantly being cleared to make mining easier, which is has a direct impact on the natural environment and the species that live there. For example, in the Kahuzi Biega National Park the gorilla population has been cut nearly in half. The destruction of their natural habitat has reduced the available food and basic necessities for this species. Also, gorillas are being hunted at an increased rate as a food source for miners and rebel armies in the area (http://www.cellular-news.com/coltan/).

Companies that use Coltan are now starting to demand that their Coltan only comes from legitimately mined sources. Some major companies are even refusing to purchase Coltan from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Coltan is an important part of the DRC’s economy. In order to preserve Coltan as part of the DRC’s economy the government must work to make a Coltan industry that is more environmentally and socially friendly. Government support of this industry would encourage international companies to promote this industry in the DRC stimulating the economy. Also, government support and intervention would allow the industry to become more legitimate.

 

HIV/AIDS has become an increasing problem in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The vast majority of people living with the AIDS virus in the DRC are deprived of lifesaving treatment. Currently it is estimated that more than one million people in the DRC are HIV-positive. Of these one million people 350,000 could benefit from antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, however, only 44,000 people are actually receiving this treatment (http://www.irinnews.org/report/95412/drc-hiv-effort-needs-government-donor-commitment-to-succeed). At the moment there is a waiting list in order to receive this treatment. Unfortunately, only way to get onto a treatment list is to wait until a space opens up due to a death or dropout. The only other way to get this treatment is to seek the severely limited treatment options available outside the government’s programs. However, few people can afford private treatment. This is especially a problem in rural areas where people do not even have access to private treatment.  

 The DRC is one of the two lowest ranked countries in western and central Africa in terms of preventing the mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Currently only about 1% of pregnant women have access to treatment. Without this treatment approximately one-third of babies born who have been exposed to the virus will be born with HIV (http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/press/release.cfm?id=5742). Without this treatment HIV will continue to persist throughout the DRC. Another issue concerning HIV is that the public has limited knowledge of HIV and there is minimal testing. This means people are often diagnosed in very advanced stages of illness. This in turn puts more work on the state, as more intense and expensive forms of treatment must be provided.

 The government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo needs to make HIV a priority.  Currently foreign aid is covering the cost of HIV treatment in the DRC (http://rhin.org/documents/HIV-AIDS_Health_Profile_Democratic_Republic_of_Congo_English.pdf). In order to take care of this issue the government needs to use their own revenues in addition to foreign aid to pay for HIV treatment. In addition the government needs to take the lead on providing accurate HIV information to its people. People with diagnosed with HIV are shunned because people do not understand how HIV is transmitted. Through education people would know that someone living with HIV is just like anyone else they should not be shunned. In this case the government needs to take the lead in solving this issue. The people of the DRC believe the government to be incompetent and completely unconcerned about the general population. If the government makes the appropriate stride in combating this issue the general public will look more favorably at the government. Having the respect of the public will be essential in ensuring that the DRC moves out of its status as a failed state. 

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo one in four children aged 5-17 is missing out on the fundamental right to education. This indicates that approximately 7.4 children in the DRC are not in school. The number of children who are not in school is three times higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Girls are especially affected and account for more than half of those who are not enrolled (http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/drcongo_68298.html). 

In 2010 the Congolese government decreed that there would be a gradual transition towards free primary education for the population. However, the elimination of school fees has not become operational in many provinces. Families still have had to pay a monthly “minerval” which covers the cost of incentives for teachers, a school uniform, and learning materials. Many families cannot afford to pay the $5 “minerval” payment, preventing their children from attending school.

In addition to financial concerns there are other issues surrounding education within the DRC. There is a severe shortage of teachers for the public school system. Currently, the national average is one teacher for 37 pupils; however, in rural areas there can be more than 100 pupils per class. These teachers are not able to focus their attention on each pupil, which compromises the children’s ability to learn. Another issue that has had a negative effect on the education system in the DRC has been the use of school land by private developers. The schools cannot longer accommodate all of the children, as the land keeps getting taken (http://www.irinnews.org/report/94196/drc-millions-miss-out-on-basic-education).

UNICEF and other partners have created programs to attempt to promote education in the DRC. One of these programs is entitled the Back to School Campaign. This program recruits adolescents to be advocates for education. These young advocates attract teach other children about the importance about education (http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/drcongo_70708.html). This has been an effective program as children are more likely to listen to their peers than outsiders from UNICEF.

Education has the power to make the Democratic Republic of the Congo a successful state. Increased education typically results in: raising income, improving health, promoting gender equality, mitigating climate change, and reducing poverty (http://www.globalpartnership.org/who-we-are/the-value-of-education/). If these were the results of an increased desire for education in the DRC the state would benefit substantially. 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been a major presence in the news this past week. Although war in the DRC ended a couple of years ago, there are militia groups still fighting the Congolese government. This past week one of these groups surrendered ending some of the conflict in eastern DRC. M23 has wreaked havoc across eastern DRC since April 2012 when its insurgency officially began (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24849814). This group is comprised mostly of people from the Tutsi ethnic group, which is a minority in eastern DRC. However, this ethnic group has strong ties with Rwanda’s leaders. It is unclear if Rwanda has been helping this group, however they have denied all involvement. This group is called M23 in reference to a 23 March 2009 peace deal, which a former militia group the CNDP signed with the Congolese government. The M23 rebels said the government had not lived up to its promises in the deal.

The Congolese army backed by the UN led a crushing offensive this past weekend, which resulted in the ultimate surrender of the M23. The UN and the Congolese government have made it a priority to stamp out rebel groups accused of human rights abuses including rape, murder, and recruiting child soldiers (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-11-06/rest-of-world/43730967_1_sultani-makenga-m23-rwandan-border). This past time Sultani Makenga, an M23 commander, handed himself over along with hundreds of M23 fighters to Uganda. Col Makegna, another M23 commander, and about 1,700 fighters have been disarmed. This group is being held in a secret location. No decision has been made on whether the M23’s commanders would be handed over the DRC. This puts Uganda in an interesting diplomatic position, as both the DRC and the UN are adamnet that the M23’s top commanders will not be given amnesty. The Democratic Republic of Congo says it will sign a peace deal with M23. (http://www.euronews.com/2013/11/08/dr-congo-peace-deal-with-m23-to-be-signed-on-monday/). The signing ceremony will take place in Kampala in the presence of officials from the African Union and the UN. Analysts say the surrender of Col Makenga, if confirmed will be a major success for the Congolese army, which has been struggling to restore calm in the eastern DRC for two decades. The Congolese army is expected to tackle other rebel movements in the east of the country.

 The elimination of this rebel group is a significant victory for the Congolese government. The disbanding of the M23 marks the clearest military victory for the Congolese government since 1963. This event should prove to be positive for the Congolese government. The people of the DRC should have some of their faith restored in the Congolese army. Also, this should give the Congolese a positive view of their government. This state has a lot of potential, and the Congolese beginning to believe in the government is a step in the right direction. 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a legacy of conflict, environmental degradation, rapid urbanization, and under-investment in water infrastructure all of which has negatively impacted the availability of drinking water in the DRC. The Democratic Republic of the Congo possesses over half of Africa’s water reserves, however, 74% of its population do not have access to safe drinking water (http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/water-issues-democratic-republic-congo-challenges-and-opportunities). The problem is water management- delivery and quality rather than quantity. The body charged with providing water in the DRC is the National Water Distribution Company (SNDE) established in 1967, delivers poor quality water that makes people sick (http://www.irinnews.org/report/82248/congo-where-water-is-bad-for-your-health). It has been found that inadequate water and sanitation delivery in the DRC’s rapidly expanding urban centers is due to insufficient, aging, and overloaded networks, combined with the degradation of critical water sources and watersheds. The water quality in rural areas is especially worrisome. The state water utility continues to pump water to needy and rural areas through rotting pipes (http://thewaterproject.org/water-in-crisis-congo.php). Thus, these communities continually have to find natural sources of water. The wealthy in the DRC rely on imported bottle water for their needs rather than tap water provided by the state. One liter of water costs about $1, which may seem like a relatively low cost. However, in the DRC, the majority of people make less than two dollars a day. Thus, the majority of people can not afford to buy safe water.

 

Currently, the state water utility in the DRC does not have the ability to improve its water pumping system because they lack the funds to undertake the project. However, this issue has come to the attention internationally. With international partners the DRC’s government hopes to make tap water safe for everyone. The Congolese government’s goal is to reduce by half the number of people who have no access to drinking water by 2015. In fixing the water infrastructure the state will create legitimacy. The state’s job is to take care of the basic needs of its people. Fixing an infrastructure that is causing people to be ill, will create good will amongst the general public. 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the agricultural potential to feed the entirety of Africa. As this country is located on the equator, its climate favors the cultivation of a wide range of crops. However, at this point it has been estimated that only 1-2% of the nation’s arable territory is under cultivation at any one time. The DRC does not grow enough to meet the basic food need of its 52 million citizens. At the moment up to 60% of DRC’s population has to participate in subsistence farming on a micro level just to meet their basic food needs. This issue is only going to get worse. At the moment agricultural production is only growing at an average of 2% per year, however, population growth is growing at an average of 3% per year. This is only going to increase food shortage problems within the country (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-adv/specialsales/spotlight/congo/food.html).

There are several factors that inhibit the DRC from realizing its agricultural potential. Over the past 20 years the government has barely invested in agriculture, which has substantially limited the growth of this sector. Many farmers have struggled to gain access to credit, which has had negative impacts for farmers across the nation (http://www.new-ag.info/en/country/profile.php?a=641). Another factor that has limited agricultural potential in the DRC has been transportation. There has been a deterioration of agricultural feeder roads, as well as, a disruption of major waterways and railways. Without an effective transportation network it is impossible to move products where they need to go. Food is a product that needs to get places in a timely manner, thus transportation is an important component of this sector. The final factor that is impacting the agricultural sector is the use of low-tech agricultural practices. This limits the overall production of crops (http://www.dounia-risri.net/spip.php?rubrique21&lang=en).

The DRC has to learn to capitalize on its unrealized agricultural capacity.  This country has the ability to provide for its citizens. If the government can learn to utilize the immense agricultural resources that they have this will help the entire state. The government providing its citizens with basic needs is a step in the right direction to ensure that this country will eventually become a stable state. 

Discrimination is extremely high in the DRC, especially against indigenous cultures. For this blog post I chose to focus on the blatant discrimination against an indigenous group called the Bambuti. The Bambuti are a pygmy group that live primarily in the Ituri forest in the DRC.

Discrimination against pygmies dates back hundreds of years and is deeply ingrained in Congolese society. DRC’s indigenous people have been described as some of the most marginalized people in the entire world. This is particularly true of the Bambuti. This group lacks government support and is routinely denied public services. Government officials and other authority figures do not take pygmies seriously and send them away. The pygmies are especially marginalized in society, as they have no land or money. In order to make money for their families, many Bambuti have moved to cities to try and get jobs (http://www.irinnews.org/report/90354/drc-displacement-and-discrimination-the-lot-of-the-bambuti-pygmies). However, it is hard for the Bambuti to find jobs due to the stigma that follows them, and even when they find jobs, they are paid much less than Bantu laborers. At best a pygmy laborer makes about half of what a Bantu laborer would earn for the same work. Typically, the average monthly income of a pygmy laborer is only $20 (http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/afr/research/all?count_exact=Congo%2C+Democratic+Republic+of&qterm=&lang_exact=English&teratopic_exact=Education&majdocty_exact=Publications+%26+Research). Poverty is widespread in the DRC with 71.7% of the population estimated to be poor, however, 84.8% of the pygmy population is considered poor. As a result of the Bambuti’s poverty, school enrollment rates are low, as many parents do not have the means to pay for their children’s education (http://www.pipesinternational.org/index.php/pygmy-book/bambuti-pygmies). Negative attitudes toward pygmies still persist in the education system. Pygmy children tend to stand out in school typically lacking school uniforms, pens, and books, making them easily identifiable. The overall superior attitude against pygmies in general in the DRC continues to prevent the Bambuti from integrating into society, as well as, preserving their culture. 

Discrimination against specific groups is a sign of a weak state. This blatant discrimination against particular groups creates problems for the government. As these groups are forced to leave their traditional homes, they encounter a world in which they have no skills. With the discrimination against this group they cannot afford to take care of themselves or their families. This causes issues amongst the state, as the government now has a group of people that need welfare, but the country does not necessarily have the means to fund this. The government needs to take a stand to stop the discrimination against these groups. As of right now it is so ingrained that this group should be mistreated that culturally it will take a long time to change this societal structure.