"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

6.30.2009

happy independence day



Today marks 49 years of independence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It's too depressing to think about how few of those years were free from civil war, dictatorial regimes, and/or economic collapse. Suffice it to say that the hopes of le 30 Juin have never been fully realized, and it's not likely to get much better any time soon.

Security and governance (or, more specifically, the lack thereof) are the central problems in the Congo these days. Each is dependent on the other and no one can figure out how to make either happen. Attempts to reform the FARDC (Congo's national army) are pretty much a disaster. (As I've written several times before, it should've been blatantly obvious from the beginning that giving uniforms to war criminals would end badly.) The government can't establish territorial control or create/strengthen institutions without basic security, but the army can't create a secure situation without basic insitutions of governance and civilian control overseeing its actions. The understaffed and underfunded MONUC peacekeeping operation - which needs about eight times as many troops as it has - cannot secure the entire territory all at once in order to give the government time to figure it all out.

Nowhere is this dilemma more apparent than in the disasterous Kimia II operation currently being conducted by the FARDC and MONUC in South Kivu. (Of course, we have to pretend that the FARDC only needs "support" from MONUC to carry out a major operation when in reality nothing would happen without MONUC's helicopters and trained personnel.) By all accounts, the mission is an absolute disaster. As human rights groups warned before it even began, civilians are bearing the brunt of the fighting between government forces and the FDLR Hutu militia. Both sides are responsible for massive human rights violations, particularly around Minova, a small town on the shore of Lake Kivu in the far northern reaches of South Kivu.

The worst part? It's far from clear that the operation is doing much of anything to knock out the FDLR rebels it's directed against. That's not surprising; few of these operations really have much of an effect. It's too easy for the rebels to disappear into the forests, and the FARDC is too lacking in discipline to accomplish anything.

That makes this independence day far from happy for the people of the eastern Congo.

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