21 June, 2013

The DRC: Beyond Short-Term Solutions

by Hussein Solomon

From Congo Free State under the tyrannical rule of Belgian’s King Leopold to Zaire under the kleptocratic dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko and now as the “Democratic Republic of the Congo” under the leadership of first Laurent and now his son Joseph Kabila, the DRC as lurched from crisis to crisis. Disconcertingly, the most discouraging fact is that the international community have always engaged in short-term solutions which involved propping up whoever occupies the Presidential Palace in Kinshasa – where Mobutu or current incumbent Joseph Kabila.
President Joseph Kabila (Photo: European Parliament)

So it is at the current juncture with more international troops coming to the rescue of the eastern DRC from the rapacious M-23 rebels. At no point does the international community want to recognize the fact that Joseph Kabila is part of the problem; that the Congo hardly exists as a country; nor that a regional conflict system exists in the Great Lakes Region where sources of insecurity in each of the countries reinforce those of other countries.

The deep structural malaise that is the DRC today is best reflected in the fact that it, together with the likes of Somalia, tops the Failed State Index. Failed states are those which fail to provide the basic functions that a state must perform in order to be recognized as sovereign. Topping these functions is that of security to its citizens – to protect them from internal and external threat – a singular appalling failure on the part of the Kabila government on account of it not having a monopoly of force in the country. Without such security neither governance nor economic development is possible. This is one reason why, despite the existence of its vast mineral riches, its people are so desperately destitute. Another characteristic of state failure, and a concomitant of the previous point, is that the government needs to be viewed as legitimate. The corruption of the Kabila regime and the thuggish brutality of its security forces however have robbed this regime of this popular legitimacy. Still another aspect of state failure is destructive ethnic mobilization. This we see especially in the eastern DRC and is a reflection of the failure of Joseph Kabila and his pillaging cronies to articulate a common identity and to define what being Congolese is.

Under these failed circumstances, the deployment of additional international troops is made to the eastern DRC. This will serve to ameliorate none of the structural failures alluded to above. It will merely buy time for Kabila to loot state coffers further.

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