A tank of the UN mission in Rumangabo, DR Congo

Democracy and human rights Pervasive corruption and violence

The DR Congo still has a long way to go before it can be regarded as a democratic state under the rule of law. The separation of powers exists solely on paper. Freedom of the press and other media is severely restricted.

People working in the public sector misuse their positions for personal gain – often because their wages are not paid. Corruption pervades every level of government.

The constitution that entered into force in 2006 provides for numerous civil and social human rights. In addition, the DR Congo has ratified a number of international human rights conventions. In practice, however, the majority of the population is denied fundamental rights such as adequate food, education and health care. Government institutions are extremely weak, there is no independent judiciary and large parts of the country – especially in the east – are not under government control.

The prevalence of sexual violence is alarming. Rape has been – and is still – used systematically as a weapon of war in the DR Congo, both by rebel forces and by the military and the police.

Millions of people displaced

In the eastern part of this fragile multi-ethnic state, there are repeated outbreaks of fighting between the Congolese armed forces and various rebel groups. The rebel groups are fighting for political influence, land rights and access to raw materials.

According to United Nations reports, there are about 5.2 million internally displaced people within the DR Congo. More than 960,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring countries (as at September 2021).

Regional agreement

2013 saw an important step taken to prevent the entire region’s destabilisation: the signing in Addis Ababa of a Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework. For the first time, all the countries of the region, as well as the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations, came together to agree who would take on which roles and responsibilities.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is obliged to reform its security sector, strengthen the authority of the state in the east of the country, devolve central powers to subsidiary levels, and take measures to boost the economy. The countries of the region have agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of their neighbours, not to provide assistance to any armed groups, and to foster regional cooperation.

In a progress report published in September 2021, the UN Secretary-General did praise the cooperation progress made by the participating countries and the efforts of the DR Congo to foster good relations with its neighbours. However, the report says that the security situation in the eastern provinces of the DR Congo has worsened once again and the number of refugees has increased. There continue to be reports of serious violations of human rights from these parts of the country. In addition, the economic and social repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region are described as alarming. Since October 2021, the north has also been experiencing its 13th outbreak of Ebola.