Bioethics Blogs

Can wars ever be just or are wars merely justifiable?: The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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By: Louise Boshab

The concepts of justice and injustice are not effective in defining war in an objective manner but on the other hand easily bring on a subjective understanding of war among populations, which will then influence either their opposition or their support of war (Gaoshan 280).

In a lecture at the Carnegie Council, David Rodin of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict addresses the issue of the ethics of war and conflict, and caused me to reflect upon what makes a war just. I will explore the ideas of justified and unjustified wars discussed in Rodin’s talk through the example of the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the initial reasons behind the intermittent conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo taking place since 1997 has to do with the status of the Banyarwanda—Congolese people of Rwandan descent—and of the Congolese Tutsi within Congolese society. The strong anti-Rwandan feelings that existed before the war only grew worse.

In African Affairs, author Filip Reyntjens attributes this deterioration of relationships between ethnic groups to the behavior of the Banyarwanda and Congolese Tutsi towards the general population. Reyntjens explains that “local populations were harassed, insulted and humiliated; the ‘liberators’ seized household appliances, communication equipment, cars, cattle and houses” (243). He then adds: “already by the end of 1996, a number of organizations and movements started to emerge whose stated objective was to fight ‘Tutsi hegemonism’ and which used violent anti-Tutsi language” (243).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.