A recent report
called Congo "the most dangerous place on earth for women and
children," owing to widespread violence fueled by illicit mineral exploitation
and a long-standing rape epidemic
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit there today has brought
renewed focus on the country where 4 million people died between 2000
and 2004. Here, we provide the three best opinions on what happened in
Congo and what to do about it.There Is No Congo
As Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills put it
in Foreign Policy, "The Democratic Republic of the Congo does not
exist." The authors attacked the idea that "one sovereign power is
present in this vast country" of "67 million people from more than 200
ethnic groups," arguing that any international efforts "predicated on
the Congo myth" are "doomed to fail." From mineral-hungry colonialists
to the unqualified son of a Che Guevara colleague who became president,
the authors detail Congo's slide into "ungovernable fiefdoms" built on
"repression and patronage."
Focusing on two large and
especially troubled regions, the authors suggest splitting them off.
"It is time to ask," they wrote, "if provinces such as the Kivus and Katanga (which
themselves the size of other African countries) can ever be improved as
long as they fall under a fictional Congolese state." They also argue
that the international community should work with local forces to
develop infrastructure. "Deal with whomever exerted control on the
ground rather than continuing
to pretend that Kinshasa is ruling and running the
country," they advised.Systemic Corruption
Adam Hochschild reported
in the New York Review of Books on the "unimaginably horrifying"
culture of widespread rape and forced labor by warring militias in "the
world's largest failed state." Hochschild explained that oppression has
been "considered the right of armies" from the colonial Belgian
occupiers through today. Hochschild blamed "ethnic warlords and their
backers, especially Rwanda and Uganda" who exploit the country's
massive natural resources to fuel endless civil wars, abetted by a
government of bribe-seeking bureaucrats. "Government as a system of
organized theft goes back to King Leopold II, who made a fortune," he
wrote. He recounts being approached by a stranger in the streets
offering to sell him uranium for $1.5 million.
The UN's 17,000
peacekeepers are insufficient, Hochschild wrote, quoting an
off-the-record UN official who told him 250,000 are necessary.
Stability must he come, he argued, from enforcing payment of soldiers.
"The outside world has influence over the Congolese army, because we're
partly paying for it," he wrote. "Underlying the army's long-standing
practice of looting civilian goods and food is that soldiers often
don't get paid." He went on to praise a small pilot program that
oversees soldiers' salary payments. Hochschild criticized Herbst and
Mills's position of dealing with militias, which he called the
"incorporate-the-warlords" approach and argued is already common
practice by Congo's government. Economic Reform
only by exposing and stopping the scam that Congo's tragedy will end,"
Pierre Englebert of the Christian Science Monitor wrote
Clinton should push for widespread change in the government by
targeting top Congolese officials who are "getting rich from keeping
their state dysfunctional, and promoting local violence to serve their
interests." Clinton and the U.N., he wrote, could oversee the Rwandan
army in rooting out rebel groups and demilitarizing the troubled Kivu
Helping to build a manufacturing sector, he suggested, would provide a
competing revenue source to the economy of war of corruption. Englebert
also argued for sweeping land reform. "The legal authority of local
state agents must be curtailed," he wrote. "A land reform would deprive
chiefs of the opportunity to give land to their ethnic kin, which feeds
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