It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I thank the Speaker for selecting this important debate on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I also thank the Minister for coming to reply to the debate.
I will start by making three points that I want everyone here to remember. First, a staggering 4 million lives are estimated as lost due to conflict and conflict-induced poverty in the DRC. Secondly, although it is a country rich in resources, which if used properly could transform the DLC, it is one of the poorest nations in the world, ranking 187th out of 187 in the UN human development index. Thirdly, the average life-expectancy for a man is only 47 and for a woman, 50. The infant mortality rate is around one in 10.
The DRC is the second largest country in Africa by area, and the 11th largest in the world. With its population of 66 million, it is the 19th most populous nation in the world and the fourth most populous in Africa.
The DRC is a vast country with immense economic resources, although it has been at the centre of what could be described as Africa’s world war, which has left it in the grip of an ongoing humanitarian crisis. The five-year conflict pitted Government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. Despite a peace deal and the formation of a transitional Government in 2003, people in the country still remain in terror of marauding militia and the army. It is estimated that the war claimed in excess of 3 million to 4 million lives, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition.