The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is Africa’s third largest country. It is Africa’s second largest diamond producer, and its believed to have the most unexploited mineral wealth on the continent.
Nature has been generous to DR Congo. It has Africa’s largest population of bird species, and its largest number of plant species.
For most of the last 15 years, though, the DRC has been at war. There is intense logging going on, and poaching is rampant, all partly a result of successive governments in the capital Kinshasa that have never had real control of all the country.
Conservatives estimates put the number of people who have died both directly and indirectly as a result of the war at around 2 million. Overzealous estimates, mostly by humanitarian organisations that are often accused of inflating the number to keep them in business, put the figure at 5 million.
Now, historically, countries have been good at replacing their dead. However, they are hopeless at replacing lost wildlife and plants. The dysfunctional and corrupt state in DRC is costing both lives, and nature. Since its last election in 2006, the DRC is relatively stable. Despite its seemingly unending epidemic of rape, fewer people are dying – but the attack on the environment continues.
There is a lot of uncertainty about the elections scheduled for November 2011. The international community rallied in 2006 to make that election possible, the first free poll in the country for 40 years. It is unlikely the world will come together this year for DRC as did in 2006.
For the sake of the plants and birds of the DRC, that election needs to happen and to produce a credible street. If one were to be cynical, one would argue that the Congolese, as we all know, can produce a lot of children – conflict or no conflict. So it’s the plants of the DRC (and the world) that most need the election most, because the Congolese are terrible at protecting their environment.