Monday, December 03, 2012

The struggle of the DRC

In 1960, there was hope and optimism in the Congo. The country has just gained its independence from the suffocating and exploitative government of Belgium, who years prior, under the auspices of King Leopold II, began a brutal campaign to takeover this vast land in central Africa for its own benefit. Congo, under the leadership of its young and energetic Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, appeared to be poised for a breakthrough. Yet the vicious cycle of corruption and exclusiveness would stay in areas like Kinshasa and Katanga. What seemed like the beginning for a new part of Congolese history would really turn out to be a continuation of old practices.

Fast forward to 23 March 2009. Peace accords were signed between the government of President Joseph Kabila and the Congres National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP). Through a policy called brassange, rebel forces were integrated into the national army. Three years later, several hundred Congolese soldiers formed their own group, called M23. The name is in reference to the 2009 peace accords. They allege that President Kabila has violated the treaty and continued to perpetrate against the people of the Congo, namely those in the Kivu provinces in the eastern part of the country. The M23 has demanded it have political positions and that the government improve infrastructure in the country, among other things. They have also accused President Kabila for running a corrupt government (one that is consistently ranked in the bottom of Transparency International's corruption ratings), committing human rights infractions, withholding pay from soldiers in the national army, and creating poor conditions in the military. 

Yet the M23 has problems of its own. Just recently, three of its soldiers were sanctioned by the UN for overseeing massacres, rapes, and other human rights violations and for recruiting child soldiers as young as the age of eight to join their cause. It appears that the M23 is guilty for the very things it is accusing Joseph Kabila and the Congolese government and military for doing. It is also common knowledge that Rwandan President Paul Kagame is allegedly funding and backing the rebel group, although he vehemently denies this charge. Rwanda and the DRC have been at odds end for years, stemming from ethnic conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi. 

Two weeks ago, the M23 forces seized the eastern city of Goma, publicly embarrassing the government in Kinshasa. This act is an example of the negative civil-military and military-military relations that exist in the DRC. Keeping in mind that M23 was created by disenfranchised soldiers unhappy with the military, breaking off to form their own faction was not a surprising move. Yet, these soldiers also represent civil society, as citizens are tired of the corruption and lack of democracy in the country. 

It appears that the DRC is stuck in this cycle of corruption, lack of separation between the military and civil society, and poor democratic practices. Rebecca Schriff, in discussing her Concordance Theory of Civil-MIlitary relations says the state must have three groups: the military, political elites, and citizens. These three groups must come together (as separate entities) and work on four issues: 

  • Social composition of the officer corps.
  • The political decision-making process.
  • The method of recruiting military personnel.
  • The style of the military. 
If and only if the groups can reach an agreement on these things, then the national military will be less inclined to get involved in domestic issues. 

For class discussion: 
1. Will the DRC ever be able to only be involved in domestic issues or will Rwanda always be another actor in the Congolese conflict? 
2. If the DRC is able to only deal with domestic issues, can these three groups come together and collaborate?
3. Will the country ever be able to rid itself of this vicious cycle? If so, how? Will it be through a complete overhaul of government?
4. Do you believe that Schriff offers valid arguments in her Concordance Theory? 

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