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An Old King for Congo

An Old King for Congo | Geography Education |

"On December 20, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had been a democracy for the past decade (flawed though it was), lost that distinction. The backsliding of democracy in the country was preventable; it unfolded slowly and under the watch of the international community. DRC President Joseph Kabila, faced with the end of his constitutional mandate, had two options: call elections or resort to repression to stay in power. He chose the latter. Kabila’s ultimate decision is not that surprising. He faces deep levels of unpopularity. A Congo Research Group poll of 7,545 Congolese showed that he would have only received 7.8 percent of the vote if elections had been held this year. Furthermore, the presidency guarantees his safety. As Brian Klaas of the London School of Economics has noted, 43 percent of African leaders have been jailed, exiled, or killed after losing power since 1960."


Tags: DR Congo, political, conflict, Africa.

MARTIN'S Gonçalo Wa kapinga's comment, January 24, 2017 9:52 AM
Mr Dixon, after reading your intervention on Kabila and the DR Congo, I have understood that you are also victims of the post-truth! Some Western media, without even checking the facts on ground, they rely for talking about watered down by some opposition and some media which has the sole purpose of undermining national unity obtained at a high price in human life in order to succeed their dirty work, that of the Balkanization of the DR Congo! This be seen to yield parts of the DR Congo to Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda in order to establish the hegemony of the Nilotics peoples in Central Africa! Of course of the Balkanization of Congo-Kinshasa plans exist and were designed by then President Usa Bill Clinton and implemented by Condoleeze Rice, a plan until today ' today valid for USA administrations ! By checking the facts on ground, we discover an any other truth; the current president of Congo-Kinshasa says do not want to cling to power, but he wants a calm, different from the 2011 election where the opposition refused to recognize failure in accusing kabila of have stuffed the ballot boxes. This is the basis of all this instability in the country. On this Kabila suggested the Government to conduct a general population census as did all the other neighbouring countries. By the way, with these censuses of Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Zambia, etc, the population of Congo-Kinshasa has increased sufficiently by flows of the repressed Congolese of these border countries, then there is a 12. 000 000 of the new major and also there are more than 3. 000 000 other citizens who died, expatriate, disappeared in nature, etc. This prompted Kabila to request referral of the 2016 election at least for a year and a half in order to enlist the 12. 000 000 Congolese citizens without registration cards, record the mass of the repressed of the neighbouring country and cancel deaths, missing persons as well as migrants. Just so we can have peaceful and credible; However the opposition childish together at a Western media type played sounding board from around the world, managed to manipulate international public opinion. Kabila is not a saint, but the majority of the charges against him is that manipulation by the opposition and Western governments who want Kabila because he never tried to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors in this debt to the near the Breton Wood institutions. And especially the United States, Britain and the France keep a tooth inflamed against Kabila because he is the initiator of cooperation Cino-African, a mode of South-South cooperation that enabled China to capture almost all raw material contracts, what robusti growth Chinese compared to other global economies. Kabila came to power after elections in 2006, he found a moribund economy with inflation at 2000%, a GDP to $87, pro-capita, flat growth since 1990, etc. Today inflation is 2.5 percent, per capita income rose on average to $700, the economic growth of this last quinquennium rotates between 7. 5-10%! Unfortunately these latest events and violent demonstrations have made down the growth planned for this year below 5%! So, as Congolese living in the West, I can only see evil intent in the writings of several Western media! In April, I went back to the country, I opened a company in 3 days only paying $120! Something unimaginable other times.... Make a value judgment on the governance of African by taking Western values to measure deviate you from the reality! There people ethnically reason before thinking globally. Better taken into account!
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DR Congo election: 17 dead in anti-Kabila protests

DR Congo election: 17 dead in anti-Kabila protests | Geography Education |
Three police officers and 14 civilians die in Kinshasa, capital of DR Congo, during protests calling for President Joseph Kabila to step down.
Seth Dixon's insight:

The DRC is a land of great wealth but is impoverished.  This may seem strange to outsiders but the weakness of their social institutions pays a key role in keeping the economy from reaching it's potential.  Strong institutions matter more than resources for sustained economic development. The most important line in the article was the last one: "DR Congo has never had a smooth transfer of power since independence more than 55 years ago."  That is a staggering historical burden.  


Tags: Congo, political, conflict, Africa.

Nevermore Sithole's curator insight, October 24, 2016 7:46 AM
DR Congo election: 17 dead in anti-Kabila protests
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A short, recent history of Congo

Mapping the war in Congo: mineral wealth, militias and an epic march
Seth Dixon's insight:

To understand much of the political situation in Central Africa, a short history of the recent political and ethnic turmoil in Rwanda and Congo are helpful.  This particular videographic from the Economist is a few years old, but the historical context is still incredibly relevant  This series provides a wealth of information and several will be added to the place-based geography videos interactive map.

Tags: Congo, political, conflict, devolution, refugees, Africa.

Brian von Kraus's curator insight, January 12, 2016 6:15 PM

Amazing videographic from The Economist showing the recent history of Congo that explains the current instability of the country. 

Matt Danielson's curator insight, November 19, 2018 1:55 PM
his is a great short yet informative breakdown of recent conflict in the Congo. this mineral wealth has lead to much conflict over groups attempting to gain control over it ranging from local militias, the government troops, and outside conflicts spilling in (Rwanda rebels for example). These conflicts have had a severe negative effect on the countries population ranging from political issues, to economic lack of growth because even though minerals are being sold, the wealth gained is not spread to better the country, but to retain control on the mines and for making themselves rich.
Stevie-Rae Wood's curator insight, December 9, 2018 4:06 PM
The natural resources located in Congo have caused a lot of government instability. There are many competing groups of violent people in the small country of Congo. The country of Congo has been through a lot militia struggle and people trying to seize power of the country, not always for the resources but in some cases for ratification of minority group that the majority group does not like. Congo is at the bottom of the spectrum of health and wealth as well.
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A Boot Fit for a King

A Boot Fit for a King | Geography Education |
Among King Leopold II's legacies in central Africa is the Congo Pedicle, an odd stick of land that nearly divides Zambia in half.


This is a nice case study for political geography of Sub-Saharan Africa.  This exemplifies the concept of 'superimposed borders' and shows the land-hungry colonial spirit that led King Leopold to call the continent a 'magnificent African cake.'

Don Brown Jr's comment, July 17, 2012 8:05 PM

It is difficult for a nation state to form a national identity when it has superimposed boarders. Many African leaders now face the political challenges of uniting various factions (some former states) in order to create a new national identity.
Nicole Canova's curator insight, March 24, 2018 10:19 PM
The borders we see today are remnants of the history of colonial rule in Africa.  In the 1880s, European countries carved up the continent like "a magnificent African cake" at the Berlin Conference.  They arbitrarily decided borders, irrespective of tribal or ethnic ties or enmities.  This led to problems during the colonial era and has led to continued conflict in the post-colonial era.
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Selling condoms in the Congo

Selling condoms in the Congo | Geography Education |
TED Talks HIV is a serious problem in the DR Congo, and aid agencies have flooded the country with free and cheap condoms. But few people are using them. Why?


This video highlights why some well-intending NGOs with excellent plans for the developing world don't have the impact they are hoping for. Cultural barriers to diffusion abound and finding a way to make your idea resonate with your target audience takes some preparation. This also addresses some important demographic and health-related issues, so the clip could be used in a variety of places within the curriculum. FYI: this clip briefly shows some steamy condom ads.

Crissy Borton's curator insight, December 11, 2012 9:45 PM

Marketing is not something I would have thought about when trying to get people in the Kongo to use condoms. Her research into the brands they use and why may save many lives.

Nick Flanagan's curator insight, December 12, 2012 8:27 PM

I was surprised actually that it took this long for someone to think of this, given the fact that the AIDS crisis in Africa is practically a pandemic.However it is a good idea that someone had finally started to do something about it.  

Kaitlin Young's curator insight, November 13, 2014 5:37 PM

This video explains the errors that a lot of NGOs make when attempting to help the developing world. While the NGOs have done a service providing condoms in the DRC, they lack appropriate marketing and merchandising for the product itself. In a way, the organizations need to eliminate their egos in the situation and allow for the product to be marketed appropriately.

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This is where your smartphone battery begins

This is where your smartphone battery begins | Geography Education |
Workers, including children, labor in harsh and dangerous conditions to meet the world’s soaring demand for cobalt, a mineral essential to powering electric vehicles, laptops, and smartphones, according to an investigation by The Washington Post.
Seth Dixon's insight:

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a land rich with minerals and resources vital for high end consumer goods (laptops, cellphones, electric cars, etc.).  This in-depth investigation from the Washington Post of the cobalt mining districts in the DRC (60% of global cobalt production) is incredible.  It has great videos, maps, and an detailed article that cuts across the geographic themes (exploited local labor, global commodity chains, political governance, polluted water supply, medical geography, etc.).  


Just two days ago, the United States pulled the families of all governmental officials out of the DRC amid political turmoil and violence in the streets of Kinshasa, highlighting the fact that the weakness of political institutions in the DRC are a major reason for this situation.  


Tags: Congolaborwatermedical, environmentpollution, political, conflict, resourcespolitical ecology, Africa.

David G Tibbs's curator insight, March 29, 2018 3:36 PM
We take the luxuries that we have for granite and forget where it comes from, or who pays the physical price for us to have them. One example is electronics and the Congo. The Congo is a country filled with Colbolt which is critical to lithium batteries which powers majority of products that are rechargeable. The price they pay is unsafe mining conditions, indecent wages, and environmental hazards to local communities. 60 percent of the cobalt used today comes from the Congo, and while some companies track it to make sure its "clean" some companies do not check its origins. In 2010 there was a push to add cobalt to a list of resources that come from the Congo to be from a militia free mine. Individual companies have started to be stricter about where they get their Cobalt it's still not mandatory under international law. However with the demand for cobalt is increasing due to more electric power styling for vehicles and other products. In order to meet these demands the cobalt will continue to come from abused people until companies or international law limits and outlines how to deal with the cobalt question.
Douglas Vance's curator insight, April 21, 2018 2:10 PM
Given the absurd amount of minerals present in the country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo should be basking in immeasurable wealth. However, as shown by this inetractive and enormously in-depth piece by the Washington Post, the country constantly struggles with child labor, water pollution, and widespread dangerous working condition because of the global demand for minerals like cobalt and copper. 
David Stiger's curator insight, November 10, 2018 4:05 PM
The Congo, like Venezuela, is another example of a post-colonial country rich in valuable natural resources whose people, ironically, live in abject poverty. The Congo is a victim of its own geographical blessings as the industrialized world's bottomless need for Congo's cobalt, copper, and other minerals has put this former colony of Belgium on the map. The Congo reportedly supplies half of the world's cobalt. With few other options for mineral sources, lithium-ion battery manufacturers turn a blind eye as Congolese "diggers" endure inhumane, dangerous, and unfair conditions to produce cheap cobalt. Companies have not reacted to this injustice because of a desire to maximize their profits. With Western consumers acting as indirect accomplices, China leads the pack of this neo-colonial process of exploiting the Congo for its valuable underground minerals. The Chinese companies offer so little money for the cobalt that workers are forced to put up with hazardous conditions and unbelievably low pay for their labor. 

The problem lacks an easy solution because it is highly complicated by the forces of globalization and geographical factors. Congolese diggers obtain the raw materials, who sell it to Asian middlemen, who then sell it to big Chinese manufacturers. These manufactures produce rechargeable batteries to sell to Western companies like Apple and Samsung. These products are then sold all over the world. The long supply chain makes it difficult for consumers to feel and see how their actions are impacting the lives of other people. The companies who should be held accountable justify their business decisions because there are not sources of cobalt to turn to. If there were other sources, companies like Huayou Cobalt could turn to other sources that treat their workers better, forcing Congolese suppliers to raise their labor standards. 

A short-term remedy, it seems, would be to classify Congolese-based cobalt as a conflict mineral. Western countries should fine and punish companies that are linked to the unjust cobalt trade, forcing these companies to raise their standards. 
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Too rich for its own good

Too rich for its own good | Geography Education |
The Democratic Republic of Congo is potentially one of the richest countries on earth, but colonialism, slavery and corruption have turned it into one of the poorest
Seth Dixon's insight:

One thing that baffles many students is how a resource-rich region can be an area of underdevelopment and poverty.  Understanding the historical geography is key for students being able to see that natural wealth does not correlate to enriching the local population.  Kinshasa, the capital that seemed so promising as the site of the famous "Rumble in the Jungle between Ali and Frazier, is now a city of chaos.  

Tags: Congo, political, conflict, resourcespolitical ecology, Africa.

Zavier Lineberger's curator insight, March 31, 2018 4:47 PM
(Africa) This article chronicles why the Democratic Republic of the Congo is among the lowest ranked countries on the Human Development Index despite its plethora of resources. The inciting action leading to DRC's modern problems is slavery. The Portuguese promoted internal warfare to topple the advanced Kingdom of Kongo in the late 1400s to allow better access to slaves. Later, the Congo's vast natural resources would actually be their bane; Europeans would be attracted to the land's fertile river soil, gold, diamonds, oil, and other minerals. The British and Belgian conquered the region ruthlessly first for rubber, then copper for WWI, then uranium for WWII, all the while keeping the Congolese subjugated without rights.

When the DRC gained independence in 1960, there was no framework or educated citizens who could provide stability and civil war predictably ensued, leading to a dictator unchallenged by the modernized world because of his sale of resources. Several African countries invaded, leading to hundreds of domestic and foreign militants fighting in chaos. Now, there is almost no infrastructure. The country's problems go back hundreds of years to a series of inhumane foreign interventions powered by the DRC's wealth potential.
Matt Danielson's curator insight, November 19, 2018 1:45 PM
It is mind blowing sometimes to look at a country at face value having that much wealth yet  being poor. There has been a struggle in the Congo for hundreds of years ranging from colonialism, to civil war, to today with rebel groups fighting for mineral control. The issues of needing minerals from the Congo, with its unstable corrupt government, will always lead to rebel groups (or the government itself) creating conflict to attain resources for wealth.
Kelvis Hernandez's curator insight, December 14, 2018 1:30 PM
Why are so many resource-rich countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo so poor and unstable? More modern reasons like the corruption, the dictators, and wars come to mind sure, but what put countries like the DRC is these positions? Naturally, it all goes back to colonialism and slavery. The second that Europeans learned of the immense resources they carve up the territory, they have a skirmish to see who gets a bigger slice, and oppress the people so there is no chance of rebellion. In the DRC after Belgium finally left the Congolese had none of their own who were trained or had the experience to run a nation. I am sure there are people fighting for the best of the country, but when you have been kicked down for so long by so many peoples it is tough to get back up.
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The 10 Stories You Missed in 2012

The 10 Stories You Missed in 2012 | Geography Education |
2012 has had many stories around the globe have grabbed the headlines with their shocking tales.  Some of the most important shifts in the world however are incremental processes that happen slowly...

This article from Foreign Policy shares some great global stories that may end up impacting the coming years as well:  

1) India and Pakistan start trading more

2) Brazil becomes an immigration destination

3) Inuits strike it rich

4) A tropical disease nearly eradicated

5) The copyright wars go 3-D

6) The end of the Indian call center (Philippines)

7) Hong Kong fights back

8) Moscow on the Med (Cyprus)

9) Oil discoveries in Central Africa

10) Island dispute between Iran and UAE

Kristen McDaniel's curator insight, January 4, 2013 9:57 AM

What was missed in the news?  Take a look at some of the stories from around the world!

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Globalization: Intertwined Economies & Environments

Globalization: Intertwined Economies & Environments | Geography Education |
The technology in smartphones and laptops includes minerals mined in areas of Africa riven by warfare. But fighting back does not mean giving up technology, reports Kate Dailey.


This article, titled, "How to offset your 'conflict mineral' guilt," drives home the interconnectedness of the modern globalized world.  While no one would be in favor of slave labor in mines that support African warlords, the production process to make cell phones, laptops and just about any portable electronic device are dependent of the raw material coming out of mines in Eastern Congo under these conditions.  


So what is a consumer to do?  This article outlines some ideas for people to be social advocates to change the geographies of their commodities without completely separating themselves from the modern world.  For more on the U.S. law for corporate disclosure of 'conflict minerals' in their products, see:

Alisha Meyer's curator insight, March 24, 2016 9:09 AM
This article brought to life of where all these devices come from and the effects of our technology on the world.  We don't see it first hand here in America.  We need to find balance in how we are utilizing our planet.
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Awaiting Tomorrow - People Living with HIV/AIDS in Africa

From | "Awaiting Tomorrow" tells the story people living with HIV/AIDS in the war-torn Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo...


This video provides a chilling glimpse into the struggle of Africans with AIDS/HIV without sufficient medical care.  

Lisa Fonseca's comment, December 5, 2011 12:49 AM
Many more people should be aware of this clip. Here is a twenty five year old with four children, and now has been dealing with aids for one year. The likely chance of him surviving being that he is living in such poverty, is very low. It is awful to see his four children watching their father slowly die of aids, but it also can be seen as a lesson to the children to learn and become aware of aids and learn how to avoid them. This young adult not only wanted to survive but also wanted to survive to be a spokesperson to the world. I think more and more people need to be aware of situations like these. Yes, many people know Africa has a high percentage of aids but 2.6 million people in just Democratic Republic of Congo are living with aids. If people became more aware of this situation by watching videos like these and seeing how they could make an impact I think this number could be lowered. Possibly we can start by showing videos like this to adolescents and getting them knowledged in this area at a young age.
Maegan Connor's curator insight, December 17, 2013 8:36 PM

This video is so sad because HIV/AIDS  in the DRC and other African countries is definitely preventable and treatable but due to the immense amounts of poverty and the lack of information about contraceptives and protection, millions are infected every year.

The man featured in this video mentions that the government does nothing to help fund medical centers or any other assistance and it is truly shameful.

Sarah Ann Glesenkamp's curator insight, September 16, 2014 12:17 PM

Unit 2