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Perceived Origins of the Conflicts

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The conflicts in eastern Congo are rooted in a variety of complex and interlinked causes. The survey asked respondents what, in their opinion, are the main origins of the conflicts. Almost one in two respondents attributed the conflicts to power/politics (47%), showing disillusionment with politics and politicians. Other frequent answers included the exploitation of natural resources (37%), land issues (35%), and ethnic divisions (29%), which are all well-known causes of the conflicts in eastern Congo. A noticeable regional difference concerns Ituri, where land disputes were seen as a cause of the conflicts by 60 percent of the respondents, while conflicts over power, politics, and natural resources were less frequently identified.

In all three regions, problems of nationality (15%) and the relationship with Rwanda (5%), including the influx of refugees after the 1994 genocide and Rwandan support for rebel groups, were also mentioned. This perception that local conflicts may be, in part, a result of spillovers from neighboring Rwanda are rooted in the history of conflict dynamics in the region. Threats to the citizenship rights of minority Congolese Tutsis during the waning years of Mobutu’s regime account for their significant role in the 1996–97 AFDL rebellion, which they helped found and lead to victory under Laurent Kabila. Members of the same community dominated the main faction of the RCD rebellion during the 1998–2002 conflict, drawing massive military support and intervention from Rwanda. RCD’s identification with an occupying foreign army accounts for the lack of popularity it enjoyed in eastern Congo and was a leading factor in its electoral defeat in the 2006 elections. The predominance of Tutsis in the elite units of the RCD army explains the subsequent difficulty of integrating them in Congo’s new army (FARDC) because they resisted deployment away from their communities. The other pole of Rwandan-related factors concerns the destabilizing role of the FDLR as a threat to Rwanda and the Tutsi community, which General Nkunda continues to use to justify his rebellion and which Rwanda has invoked to justify its massive military support during the 1998–2002 conflict and could still invoke if appropriate circumstances arose to intervene militarily in the DRC for the third time.

Table 4: Origins of conflicts

Table 4 - Origins of conflicts