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!