The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa

By René Lemarchand | Go to book overview

Chapter 14
The DRC: From Failure to Potential
Reconstruction

The African continent is littered with the wreckage of imploded polities. From Guinea Bissau to Burundi, from Congo-Brazzaville to CongoKinshasa, and from Sierra Leone to Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, failed or failing states confront us with an all too familiar litany of scourges—civil societies shot to bits by ethnoregional violence, massive flows of hapless refugees across national boundaries, widespread environmental disasters, rising rates of criminality, and the utter bankruptcy of national economies.

In its most recent avatar—the DRC—the former Belgian colony is widely seen as the epitome of the failed state, whose descent into hell has set loose a congeries of rival factions fighting proxy wars on behalf of half a dozen African states. Statelessness conveys a more realistic picture of the rampant anarchy in many parts of the country. Carved into four semi-autonomous territorial enclaves, three of which are under the sway of rebel movements, it is the most fragmented and violent battleground on the continent. The scale of human losses is staggering. According to the International Rescue Committee, the death toll since 1998 could be as high as three million. In comparative terms this is roughly the equivalent of the human losses of 9/11 on a daily basis over a three-year period. Meanwhile, disease, starvation, and homelessness are said to have affected sixteen million out of a total population of approximately fifty million.1 The economy is in ruins, with approximately half of the country’s mineral wealth mortgaged to President Joseph Kabila’s allies; the other half, looted by invaders.

There is no precedent for the multiplicity of external forces involved in the destruction of the state and the plundering of the country’s human, economic, and environmental resources. In 2001, at least six states were militarily involved, officially or unofficially: Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi on the side of the rebellion; and Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia on the side of the Kabila government in Kinshasa. Putting the pieces back together is all the more problematic because of the extent to which intervenors are using the chaos to serve their own interests. Even

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