Despite the defeat of the M23 militia group in late 2013 by the Congolese army and UN troops, the Democratic Republic of Congo remains a country largely enveloped in tragedy. Attempts at peace talks between the DRC government and the rebel group have failed to produce any fruitful results, with President Joseph Kabila urging an end to the talks in late 2013 in light of the lack of progress. Following the surrender of the M23 and the signing of a peace agreement on 12th December, 2013, the country’s problems remain far from solved. The DRC remains riddled with rebel factions fighting over the country’s vast mineral wealth, and together with rising inequality and falling economic opportunities, there remains little hope that the people of the DRC will be able to find true peace any time soon.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is arguably a prime example of a country whose immense mineral wealth has undermined its ability to foster the foundations needed for lasting peace and security. The paradox of plenty suggests that when a country is abundant in primary commodities, such as diamonds or minerals like coltan, it is more prone to violence. This is because countries, like the DRC, but also Nigeria, the Sudan and Libya, become increasingly dependent on the natural resources sector of their economy for revenue and profit, causing other, more labour intensive areas such as manufacture to become less competitive. This subsequently leads to slower, or even negative growth, increasing poverty and inequality within the country, thus feeding people’s grievances against the government.

In 2009, Global Witness suggested that there should be stronger focus on the economic motives behind conflicts in African countries like the DRC, which fuel corruption, human rights abuses and ultimately, state failure. If there is to be any meaningful progress at attempting to address the grievances and deeply embedded issues, both financial and political, in the DRC, then it is imperative that the West does not just haplessly throw aid at these countries in hopes of solving the problem. Such action is simply a temporary fix that does more harm than good in the long run. Rather, what is needed is the fostering of stronger institutions that can promote a healthier relationship between the state and its people. In order to begin to do so, the West needs to encourage greater transparency regarding its trades with the DRC, and countries alike. Though this is undoubtedly easier said than done.