The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire and Belgian Congo, was theater to one of the most extensive post-Cold War wars in Africa, following the collapse in 1997 of the long-standing Mobutu regime. Often seen as the archetypal African kleptocracy, Mobutu’s formal ascension to the presidency in 1965 temporarily stabilized the Congo in the wake of political instability and regional secession attempts following independence in 1960. Throughout various regime phases, natural resource extraction has played a central role in the governance of this vast country of 68 million people and 250 ethnic groups, with four times the area of France and as many as 700 local languages and dialects.
By 2012, the international community had devoted significant resources to the stabilization of the Congo and the government of President Joseph Kabila. Following its initial deployment in 1999, the UN continues to maintain a force of almost twenty thousand troops in the DRC under the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO). Despite its resource wealth, the DRC continues to be subject to large aid. At the same time, concerns linger over poor governance and a predatory civil and military apparatus (including extensive human rights violations and sexual violence), as well as over the army’s inability to defend the country’s population or its international borders. The latter phenomenon is most vividly reflected by instability in the country’s east.