Tag Archives drcongo

Women’s Week 2023 | From young girls to “bush wives”: Armed conflicts are traumatising girl soldiers in Africa, and post-conflict peacebuilding and rehabilitation efforts could be making it worse

Women’s Week 2023 | From young girls to “bush wives”: Armed conflicts are traumatising girl soldiers in Africa, and post-conflict peacebuilding and rehabilitation efforts could be making it worse

As armed conflicts persist across the world, children are repeatedly recruited into armed groups as soldiers, robbing them of their childhood. While some estimates reveal that girls comprise almost half ...

Environmental destruction and resistance: a closer look at the violent reoccupation of the DRC’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park

Environmental destruction and resistance: a closer look at the violent reoccupation of the DRC’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park

The decision of the indigenous Batwa to reoccupy parts of eastern DRC’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park by force shocked many outside observers. They were further shocked when the Batwa started to ...

COVID-19 and Conflict | Economic downturn, precarity, and coping mechanisms in the Eastern DRC

The Kivus in the Eastern DRC do not seem to be getting a break. Besides facing a protracted armed conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic downturn in the region as mining activities have been limited or shut down completely. In light of this intersection of crises, the region’s inhabitants have had to find ways to cope, defying lockdown measures in the process. Yet, the social ties of the region is what is keeping it alive, write Christo Gorpudolo and Claire Akello.

"TwangizaArticanalMiners" by USAID_IMAGES is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has faced a long period of protracted conflict, situated in a part of Africa that at one point in time has faced multiple conflicts or genocides, making the region highly volatile (Buscher, 2018: 194). The Kivu provinces in the Eastern DRC are facing a protracted armed conflict that has been widely reported on and has also been discussed on Bliss (see this article, this one, and this one).

As part of a research project hosted at ISS called ‘When Disaster Meets Conflict‘(Discord), we conducted a brief study of COVID-19 responses in the DRC, trying to find out what the responses were and how these were viewed and experienced on the ground. We conducted desk research and interviews with Congolese living and working in the Eastern DRC and the Kivus. We found that the intersection of the ongoing conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to great uncertainty in the region that people have sought to counter in their own ways.

Besides the prevailing economic situation as a result of violent conflict, the DRC has also experienced a new outbreak of communicable and highly infectious diseases, like its tenth Ebola outbreak in 2018, (see this WHO news article) as well as measles, yellow fever and, most recently, the outbreak of COVID-19, which occurred amidst the worst Ebola outbreak on the continent at the time (Mobula et al., 2020: 3). With the coinciding occurrence of COVID-19 and Ebola and an ongoing conflict, many Congolese families and miners feared the loss of their livelihoods and were at a greater risk of falling further into poverty due to dwindling incomes and severe health risks.

Following the recording of the first COVID-19 case (GARDAWORLD, 2020) on 10 March last year, on 24 March the DRC government announced a state of health emergency, declaring a nationwide lockdown to be observed in all of the country’s 11 provinces. Since then, the lockdown has been extended five times by the national assembly, with various forms of preventive measures introduced (Atlantic Council, 2020). The lockdown measures have immensely affected mining activities in the DRC (IPIS, 2020) a country where residents rely heavily on income from the mining sector. According to a report by the European Network for Central Africa (EurAc), insecurity in the mineral supply chain due to the outbreak of COVID-19 has had an impact on the Congolese economy in general, with the country preparing for a potential catastrophic economic downturn in the mining sector (Business and Human Rights Resource Center, 2020).

Mining activities in the Kivus and the Eastern DRC are conducted in person, with a strong reliance on human or person-to-person interaction. Thus, with the introduction of preventive measures, the livelihoods of miners and people living in Eastern DRC have been negatively impacted, as these preventive measures according to respondents run contrary to the somewhat informal practices in the DRC, particularly in the mining sector. Some prevention measures introduced by the government included the prevention of the movement of people, the closing of borders, and the limitation of legal mining activities, which forced small-scale miners to cease their operations that provided them with incomes necessary to survive.

One of the respondents participating in the research stated that with no definite time of earliest recovery in the mining sector, there is increasing anxiety and fear amongst miners and people living in the Kivus of little chance of a swift economic recovery as the situation moves from a short-term health crisis to a prolonged economic downturn.

In the Kivus, some areas such as Biholo, Nalucho and Kalehe have suspended mining activities, while in other sites artisanal miners continue to work amidst strict guidelines and awareness campaigns about the containment of COVID-19 by different civil society organizations. However, the situation is far from ideal. It was also highlighted by respondents that the closure of mining activities affects the wider population in the Kivus because many people rely on the income from the mines.

Defying lockdown measures to counter anxiety

These economic impacts have caused distress among families, miners, and people living in the Kivus. As a coping mechanism, the population in the Kivus find social gatherings important (although these gathering are not permitted) as a form of mental support. According to four of the six respondents interviewed for this study, families and residents living in Eastern DRC and the Kivus meet in what they referred to as ‘secret bars’ operating undercover. These bars usually appear closed or isolated from the outside, but are booming inside. Respondents also stated that most of the friends/or families meeting inside these ‘secret bars’ have a mutual agreement, as these gathering places remain secret to those outside the trust circles. These gatherings involve the sharing of drinks and friendly conversation. It is considered a way to handle anxiety that comes with uncertain times, including the current state of the Congolese economy.

A major risk factor posed by this form of coping mechanism is that it makes the population more vulnerable to COVID-19 and increases the risk of widespread COVID-19 transmission due to increased social interaction. Yet people felt that they had to defy lockdown measures to cope and were willing to take the risk. Consequently, social gatherings still take place, serving an important function in a time of economic precarity and great uncertainty. This form of coping may be the lifeline for many in the Eastern DRC and elsewhere, and its value should not go unrecognized.


Atlantic Council. 2020. “Shaping the global future together.” Accessed 25 July 2020 https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/about/

Büscher, K., 2018. “African cities and violent conflict: the urban dimension of conflict and post conflict dynamics in Central and Eastern Africa.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 12 (2): 193-210.

Business and Human Rights Resource Center. 2020. “Mining minister warns against the social and economic impact of mine closure during the COVID-19 pandemic.” https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/drc-mining-minister-warns-against-the-social-and-economic-impact-of-mine-closures-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

GARDAWORLD. 2020. “DRC: authorities declare state of emergency March 24/3.” https://www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/326271/drc-authorities-declare-state-of-emergency-march-24-update-3

IPIS. 2020. “The impact of COVID-19 on the artisanal mining sector in Eastern DRC.” https://ipisresearch.be/publication/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-artisanal-mining-sector-in-eastern-drc/

World Bank. 2020. “World Population: DRC.” Accessed on 16 June 2020 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=CG-CD

Mobula, L. M., H. Samaha, M. Yao, A. S. Gueye, B. Diallo, C. Umutoni, J. Anoko, J. P. Lokonga, L. Minikulu, M. Mossoko, and E. Bruni, 2020. “Mobilizing the COVID-19 response in the DRC.” Accessed on 23 June 2020 https://www.path.org/articles/mobilizing-covid-19-response-drc/

About the authors:

Christo Gorpudolo is a development practitioner who has been working in the development sector since 2014. She is an early career researcher with an academic interest in topics including humanitarian aid, gender, peace, and conflict. She has a Master’s of Arts Degree in Development Studies from the ISS.

Claire Akello graduated from the ISS in 2019 with a major in Human Rights, Gender and Conflict studies. She has been engaged in both media and development work for local and international organizations for over five years, focusing on issues related to health, education, and access to justice.


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ALL Black Lives Matter in the Congo

ALL Black Lives Matter in the Congo

On behalf of East Congo Tribune representing the Banyamulenge diaspora in the Netherlands After decades of civil warfare, peace is the priority for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet the predicament ...

“Whose responsibility is it anyway”? Questioning the role of UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO in stabilizing the eastern DRC by Delphin Ntanyoma

“Whose responsibility is it anyway”? Questioning the role of UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO in stabilizing the eastern DRC by Delphin Ntanyoma

In the highly volatile eastern DRC, where over the past decades violent conflict and political instability have claimed the lives of thousands of civilians, UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO has intervened ...

Complexity of Micro-level Violent Conflict: An ‘Urban Bias’ lenses of a Native Researcher? by Delphin Ntanyoma

Micro-level violent conflict is complex, and the triggers of violence are unpredictable. Building on long-seated unresolved grievances coupled with the presence of foreign armed groups in Eastern Congo, the South-Kivu province is facing a barely noticed humanitarian crisis whose understanding can even puzzle a native researcher. In such a context, can a ‘native researcher’ with lenses affected with ‘urban bias’ understand complex contours of micro-level violent conflict? 

This blog post tries to raise awareness on complexity of micro-level layers of recurring violent conflict. It builds on Kalyvas’s (2006) understanding of ‘urban bias’[1].  He states that urban bias refers to lack of information on countryside violence but also the tendency to paint gunmen involved in violence as primitive and criminals. Though Kalyvas stresses on reporting and accounting on civil-war violence, this blog post considers that ‘urban bias’ is widely embedded in understanding the local context while little attention is paid to those painted as ‘criminals’.

In March 2019, I visited Minembwe in the South-Kivu province, the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It was amid tense violent confrontation between opposing local armed groups largely affiliated to ethnic communities in the region. The MaiMai groups are affiliated to Babembe, Banyindu and Bafuliro communities against Gumino, while Twirwaneho are linked to Banyamulenge community. However, local armed groups are currently being supported by foreign groups from Rwanda and Burundi, the two DRC’s neighboring countries. The reasons for my visit to this region were twofold. One, I had to use this opportunity to teach two courses at undergraduate level within Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe. Two, this is a region I had to visit as part of my fieldwork. Although I am a native of this region, however, this time, I came back as a researcher in conflict economics studies.

The background of Eastern Congo violent conflict is complex with different layers. The region I visited has been under regular clashes between communities – due to mutual contestation, confrontation around ‘autochthony’ versus ‘immigrants’, misunderstanding between farmers and cattle herders as well as other dynamic motives. Community clashes have been going on for decades. Recently, Burundian and Rwandan rebels have been involved in clashes that are supported by local groups. Burundian and Rwandan groups are respectively supported by Kigali and Bujumbura with aims of overthrowing regimes in their countries. They are meddling into local problems with an intent of creating an unoccupied space for further military plans.

Subsequent to recent clashes, roughly 150 villages (including my parents’ village) were burnt down between 2018-2019. It has led to approximately 200,000 internally displaced people. Most of these have been concentrated in Minembwe facing high risks of hunger and diseases. Hundreds are estimated to have died during this period. Existing schools and health facilities have been destroyed. Moreover, due to limited access to transport infrastructures and media, the tragedy happening in this region remains unnoticed to a large extent.

Despite efforts deployed by the local opinion leaders, the neighborhood of my village named Kidasi, part of Minembwe region, was attacked on 13th June 2019 due to a shooting of one person; and a revenge that killed tens. Local population have fled towards Minembwe due to an incident that could have been prevented, if there have been a presence of committed security services. Such incidents build on collective sense of victimization and popular prejudice. Nevertheless, a ‘mundane incident’ can spread widely to hundreds of kilometers. Guns are used to settle family issues as was done in my village’s neighborhood wherein driven by hatred and jealousy, one sibling killed another.

However, when visiting my own village during the fieldwork, I appreciated regular dialogue between ethnic communities. For example, the local opinion leaders managed to save the life of a local chief who was arrested by a group of gunmen. The local chief was released following their interventions. During this visit, I managed to learn also from some members of a committee in charge of reconciliation and dialogue. It was impressive to hear testimonies and efforts of ethnic communities regarding their cohabitation.  One could hope that this would be a local model of trust among communities.

My impression was that these local initiatives aiming to sustain peace needed some support. I thought my intervention could be oriented in exchanging ideas with primary and secondary school teachers. We discussed possibilities of re-constructing my primary school made up of woods and straws. Due to poverty and inaccessibility in terms of transport infrastructure, the local population cannot afford costs of a decent building. Moreover, parents are also burdened by remunerating schools’ teachers. Children from these schools drop out due to their inability to pay school fees. My discussion with teachers focused mainly on these features of having a school reconstructed and possibilities to support vulnerable parents.

We had a fruitful exchange and looked forward to support the education of the vulnerable. Together, we introduced a request within a local NGO to see their possibility to help building a school. We shared information about channels through which we can involve state authorities. Beyond that, we discussed negative effects of violent confrontation. We had many old and recent references about how violence can hardly spare any of these ethnic communities. Their role as members of the ‘literate’ class was touched.

Though these were likely minor efforts on my side, I was more oriented on normative ideas to find urgent solutions to the challenges presented in these schools. I seem to have concentrated on ‘literate’ class alone and missed to talk to someone who could just shoot (un) intentionally in the air; and will kill all efforts. As a matter of fact, the shooting by unknown assailants of a member of Babembe ethnic community, has drawn wide retaliation by (counter) attacking and ‘revenge’ on Banyamulenge ethnic community. After leaving my village, I was told that I should have met Mutamba[2]. Why? Was the view I had of the local context be interpreted as an ‘urban bias’?

Regardless of Mutamba’s literacy level, his influence relies on manipulating young people to express themselves by ‘shooting bullets in the air’. I am not yet sure if meeting Mutamba (whom I called later on phone) could have prevented my neighborhood to fall into clashes. However, I argue that in such volatile context coupled with collective victimization guns have more power than anything else. As I question Kalyvas (2006), I felt that, meeting teachers was sufficient. However, I certainly had no clue and clear information on Mutamba. I wish that I could have met many of such people if this would have spared this region.

[1] This is a given name of the guy whom I was indicated he could, by shooting in the air or target someone for his own interests, pull the neighborhood into intractable clashes.
[2] See Kalyvas, Stathis N. (2006:38-48) in “The Logic of Violence in Civil War”. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

About the author:


Delphin Ntanyoma is a PhD candidate at the ISS. His research falls within Conflict Economics and is part of the Economics of Development & Emerging Markets (EDEM) Program. With a background of Economics and Masters’ of Art in Economics of Development from ISS, the researcher runs an online blog that shares personal views on socio-economic and political landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo but also that of the African Great Lakes Region. The Eastern Congo Tribune Blog can be found on the following link: www.easterncongotribune.com.






Kidnapping in the Eastern Congo: ‘Grievance-oriented’ struggles and criminality? by Delphin Ntanyoma

Kidnapping in the Eastern Congo: ‘Grievance-oriented’ struggles and criminality? by Delphin Ntanyoma

From August to November last year, 83 cases of kidnapping were reported in Ruzizi Plain alone, part of Uvira territory in the Eastern Congo. While kidnapping can be viewed as ...

Elections in the DRC: Compromises, surprises and the ‘game of gambling’ by Delphin Ntanyoma

Elections in the DRC: Compromises, surprises and the ‘game of gambling’ by Delphin Ntanyoma

The results of the general elections recently held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after being delayed for two years show interesting developments. The opposition remained weak despite ...