Globalization is an extremely important aspect of today’s society that plays a role in basically everyone’s lives. As time has went on, people around the world have become more and more interconnected and dependent on each other. Things such as global trade, the internet, air/sea travel and cell phones have allowed people from all walks of life to have access to different cultures and lifestyles.
As a result, many cultures around the world are slowly becoming more similar, which is leading to less global diversity. And while the world getting “smaller” may have its benefits, it certainly has its setbacks. Many less developed nations have not been able to grow at the same rate as other, more developed nations, which has led to them being left out of the astronomical benefits present in other nations.
Few nations fit this description as perfectly as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Ever since the DRC’s inception, this large African nation has been plagued by death, conflict, disease, starvation and general violence, all of which can be tied back to globalization in some form. With a population of 83,301,151 (as of July 2017), it is the 16th most populous country in the world, and the 4th largest in Africa. It is also one of the biggest countries on the planet in terms of area, spanning a total of 2,344,858 square kilometres. The country is one of the poorest on Earth, with 63% of its population living below the poverty line, and the average GDP per capita in 2017 was a measly $800.
It’s major resources consist of materials such as gold, tin, copper, cobalt, tungsten, oil and timber products, though the amount of minerals exceeds what is listed by a large margin. Mining, mineral processing, cement production, consumer products such as textiles and plastics, metal production and timber exports make up the nation’s major industries.A large aspect of historical globalization is the conquering of new lands as a means of gaining power and wealth. After the Berlin Conference of 1884/1885, many portions of Africa were formally divided among several Imperialist powers around the world. The Congo River Basin was bestowed upon King Leopold II of Belgium, who then claimed what would, when it was proclaimed as a Belgian colony and affectionately renamed the Belgian Congo up until the nation’s independence in 1960. This entire colonization period was troubled by countless problems and served as a predecessor to the death and poverty that still exists in their society to this day.
With an estimated death toll of around 10 million people, this is one of the most brutal and aggressive colonizations in history. Rubber was an extremely popular export in this region during this time, which led to many citizens being forced to work in excessively unfavourable conditions. It was not uncommon for strict restrictions to be put in place to ensure demands are met. “A common tactic used in the Congo Free State was to demand a certain quota of rubber from each village. Missing a quota was punished violently.” These punishments include things like public beatings, mutilation/amputation of limbs or sexual assault. The Congo Civil War was yet another dark moment in the DRC’s long and twisted timeline. StartingFrom the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 to the “end” of the Second Congo War in 2003, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been stuck in a series of devastating international wars, the effects of which are still being felt to this day.
While the country may no longer be involved in an “official” war, the violence in this struggling nation is ongoing, especially in the North and South Kivu regions.With over $24 trillion dollars of untapped mineral wealth sitting beneath the surface, the DRC has been both blessed and cursed by its vast potential. The unprecedented amount of natural minerals present within its borders, especially in the aforementioned Kivu regions, serve as the main motivator for what would eventually lead to over 5.4 million deaths, giving it a death toll exceeding the Holocaust and making it the most deadly conflict since World War 2. There are over 5,000 mines located in the Kivu regions alone, with the most sought after resources of these mines being the “three T’s” (tantalum, tungsten, and tin) and gold. Together, these make up what are known as “conflict minerals”. These conflict minerals are present in many aspects of our lives, whether we realize it or not.
They are used in many electronic products, such as cell phones, televisions, video game consoles and computers, which means that large transnational corporations such as Apple, Microsoft, HP and Intel are active consumers of these minerals. While they claim that their products are “conflict-free”, tracing every component’s origin point can be extremely difficult. And while there are mines in the DRC that legally produce and sell these products, the majority are plagued by extremely poor working conditions, long hours, lack of proper equipment, extremely low wages or even no wages at all.
Rape and sexual violence takes place on a regular basis in the areas surrounding the mine as a way of ensuring power and showing the citizens who is in charge. The consequences of the ongoing violence in the DRC goes beyond death, disease and starvation. Rape and sexual assault have been a staple of Congolese society for years, often being used as an intimidation tactic. However, while a large portion of sexual crimes are carried out by civilians within the DRC, many militant groups use their power to exploit women for their own personal needs whenever they desire.
In these cases, villages are usually pillaged and destroyed in an effort to gain control over the region. Then, all of the girls and women in the village are raped and/or sexually assaulted, typically in plain sight. While this is mainly done as a sort of reward for the soldiers, it also instills fear in the general public and can leave lasting psychological and physical scars on the victims. Even if they were to survive these attacks, which is much less likely in less developed nations like the DRC, things such as HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and physical injuries (both external and internal) can present life-threatening challenges to the citizens living in a country with one of the least advanced health care systems on the planet. Victims are also often shunned and made fun of by many people, including their own families, which commonly leads to them opting to live on their own, often times leading to increased levels of poverty and an inability to find a stable source of financial support. Being pulled out of school is another consequence that can prevent what little chance they already had of finding a reliable source of income.
In addition to this, the children commonly birthed as a direct result of these rapes face their own set of problems that can follow them throughout their lives. Ridicule, lack of education, being forced to work extremely long hours in very poor conditions as street children, and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and suicide are commonplace for these young individuals who had absolutely no control over the situation they were put into.