FP has a live stream discussion on the issue of failed states. Catch it here
Update: Texas in Africa has a post on the conflict in eastern Congo.
The DRC might have a space program, but don’t be fooled by this rather strange choice of resource allocation in a country of nearly 69 million souls and per capita income of US $300. All forms of atrocities still take place unabated in the eastern regions of the country. When will those with the ability to stop this madness start giving a rat’s ass?
The pictures say it all. King Leopold’s ghost never left the vast central African country that is the DRC. In the East, a man by the name of Nkunda is waging a war against the Kinshasa government for God knows what reason. I don’t buy the story that he is protecting Tutsis from Hutus. If the rumors are true, Rwanda is in this for the minerals. Nkunda is an accomplice. Since when did an African warlord care about the people? This man thinks that the lives of Eastern Congolese people are expendable. He does not care about the people. I say he gets captured and taken through a public trial and then offered as an example to all future rebels.
In Kinshasa, Kabila is just as guilty. He is responsible for the power vacuum in the East that lets lunatics like Nkunda run around killing innocent women and children. His own soldiers, according to the NY Times, are killing people. Shooting the very civilians they are supposed to protect in the back.
It is time to stop pretending. Rwanda, if it supporting Nkunda should stop immediately. I am a fan of Kagame and I’d hate to see him tarnish his legacy this easily. Kagame, you saw it happen in your country, do not let the madness continue in the DRC. Kinshasa should be given an ultimatum: win the East or give it up. Fair and square. If Kabila’s forces cannot impose his will in the region, he should cede authority to the only force that currently seems to have the power to do so – that of the rebels led by Nkunda.
4 million human beings have died already. How many more can we let die before something gets done? I want to see people getting tried and punished for war crimes. I want to see Kabila out of power. I want to see Nkunda jailed or neutralised for his crimes. I want retribution. I want peace for the people of the DCR. If they can’t be a rational-legal state I want to see it split up. And my only reason is pure and simple: Enough is enough.
So Gen. Nkunda and his men have yet again captured an army base in the East of the DRC, further raising questions of the viability of this vast country as a united nation-state. The news reports did not come as a surprise. I have said again and again that Kabila seems unable to take it to Nkunda and his army and because of this I think that the DRC should be split up. Millions of people should not live forever in misery and at the mercy warring armies simply because of King Leopold’s greed several decades ago.
Kabila does not have complete control of the country and because of this the African Union and the UN should consider putting the Eastern part of the country in a trusteeship with the aim of granting them complete autonomy if they so choose in a referendum some time in the near future.
Time will not stand still to wait for Kabila, Nkunda, Museveni and Kagame to resolve their differences. As they, through their surrogates, squabble, millions of real people continue to die or be confined to lives as base as no human being should have to countenance in the 21st century. Addis Ababa and New York have buried their heads in the sand for too long over this matter. It is time to wake up and face the realities on the ground.
Yes, I know this seems as too simplistic a suggestion. Rwanda has a stake in this because of the deposed Hutus in the region – Nkunda himself is a Tutsi claiming to be fighting to defend his ethnic kinsmen from these Hutus. Uganda is involved too, perhaps because of the minerals or just because of Museveni’s need to keep his army busy to avoid discontents at home. It is a complicated mess to put it mildly. But all these other facets of this conflict do not negate the fact that the DRC, a vast country that is the size of Western Europe, is too big to be governed by a weak government in Kinshasa. Kinshasa cannot project its power throughout the country. Period. No society, at least not in the modern political economy, can exist without government. The chaos in the East of the DRC are as much a result of Kinshasa’s ineptitude as they are of foreign meddling by Kagame and Museveni. I say divide the country, or give the East more autonomy and move one.
One of the defining characteristics of a legitimate state is that it ought to have a monopoly over the use of violence. The army, the police and all physical security apparatus belong to the state. When a state cannot command enough authority and support to have this monopoly – for more than a decade – then the question of whether such a state is legitimate ought to be seriously considered.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is such a state. This central African country is the size of Western Europe but with an infrastructure that is probably worse than the Persians’ during the reign of Xerxes. Strictly speaking, the DRC has never been a cohesive nation-state. It began with Katanga secessonists right after independence. Mobutu’s kleptocracy barely held it together with an iron feast and bribes. With Kabila I came the chaos in the Kivus. Kabila II keeps losing battles to ethnic Rwandese rebels. Kinshasa’s control and political legitimacy does not extend to the Eastern region of the country.
So the big question is: Is the keeping of the territorial integrity of the DRC worth the 4 million lives and counting it has cost thus far? I say no. If Southern Sudan is anything to go by, sometimes partition can be the answer. It is almost certain that Southern Sudan will vote to secede in the forthcoming referendum. May be Eastern Congolese ought to be given this option as well. Kinshasa is very far from the Kivus – both literally and figuratively. The Easterners are closer (culturally and economically) to the Swahili speaking East Africans than the inhabitants of the Western parts of the country. It is and will always be very hard to forge a cohesive nation-state out of the mess that is the DRC.
So as I have stated before, Kabila II has two options. Either declare an all out war and defeat the rebels once and for all (I am no fan of rebel movements, regardless of their cause, and never will be) or agree to lose the Eastern part of the DRC. Eastern Congolese have had enough of this war of attrition. News that Gen. Nkunda has captured yet another vital army base just serve to confirm how weak Kinshasa is. If you cannot fight for the East let it go, Kabila. Let it go!
Negotiators from the government and rebel movements in Eastern DRC have indicated that a deal could be made soon to end a war that has led to the loss of thousands of lives and displacement of more than 450, 000. General Nkunda, the leader of the main rebel movement in the East of this vast central African nation seems to have finally gave up his war of rebellion against Kinshasa which he claims is aimed at defending his Tutsi people from Hutu rebels from Rwanda.
The European Union and the United States have pledged to ensure that the deal goes through unhindered and have also promised to provide up to 150 million dollars to help in the reconstruction effort. Most of the regions infrastructure has been destroyed by years of conflict going back to the mid 90s during the Kabila rebellion.
This is welcome news coming from a region that has in recent past seen the flaring of tensions in Kenya, the former oasis of peace and stability. Stability in the DRC is vital for the entire region as this single nation has about 60 million people – a size-able market for the other countries’ struggling economies.
It is my hope that the peace agreement is comprehensive enough to settle the dispute once and for all so that Congolese can for once concentrate on the project of economic development and modernisation.