State collapse in Africa : the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tshileu N'Kolomona, Olivier-Issa (2002-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The African State is a product of colonialism. It did not emerge from the needs of African people; indeed, the very concept is foreign to traditional African notions of authority. When the colonial era came to a close, its institutions were turned over to local elites who were either too inexperienced or too out of touch with the people they supposedly represented to effectively govern and manage the newly independent states. The result was widespread and continual ethno-regional violence, coupled with the progressive disintegration of the state authority and civil society. When such conditions remain unchecked, they ultimately lead to what political analysts refer to as the collapse of the state. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, constitutes a recent example of this phenomenon. At present, approximately half of its territory is under foreign military occupation, with no fewer than six states involved, whether officially or unofficially: Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi intervening on the side of the rebels, and Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia supporting government forces (These states have since withdrawn their forces). To this number must be added a number of opposition groups from neighbouring states, including The Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), some elements from the all-Hutu militia wing of Burundi's Conseil national pour la démocratie (CND) and remnant Rwandan Hutu, the so-called Interhamwe, as well as Mai-Mai and FRF (les Forces républicaines fédéralistes, led by Muller Ruhim) factions who fight the presence of the Rwandan army in the DRC (neither of which could be described as pro-governmental). The DRC is a failed state. All structures of legitimate power and authority have disintegrated; political order and the rule of law have been suspended. As a result, the state is rendered impotent: it cannot seek the welfare of its citizens, provide health care and education, dispense justice or maintain existing infrastructure. Civil society lacks the ability to fill the vacuum, and tribal and ethnic conflicts have steadily intensified. The study analyses the reasons for state collapse in general and examines the immediate causes of the conflict in the DRC in particular, including the legacy of colonial rule, land shortages and ethnic rivalry. It attempts to show that the collapse of the state in the ORC resulted largely from the imposition of poorly adapted western-style political institutions on traditional African structures of authority. Against this background, the study shows that the poor performance of the Congolese government in terms of its ability to constitute a legitimate arena for political activity, to confer a national identity and to act as security guarantor for its population represent the broad causes of the failure of the ORC state. State collapse is a long-term degenerative process, marked by the loss of control over political and economic space. As neighbouring states encroached on the failing ORC, its legitimacy was gravely undermined through the direct involvement of these states in its political processes. Moreover, these neighbouring countries harbour dissident movements who seek to influence ORC politics from within the safety of their borders. The collapse of the ORC poses a grave threat to African, and indeed global, stability, compromising neighbouring states through the vast influx of refugees and stimulating the illegal arms trade. The extent of the crises compels the international community to intervene. The immediate priority should be the reconstruction of a legitimate state system within the limits of the present borders. This can only be made possible through the implementation of the Lusaka agreement, which offers the most hope for a solution through the restoration of legitimate government, the reassertion of Congolese sovereignty, the reconstruction of a disciplined and efficient military and the convocation of a body for inter-Congolese dialogue. The ORC has been characterised by gross mismanagement ever since its independence in 1960; it is of the utmost urgency that the crisis not be allowed to escalate further. The ORC state needs total reconstruction: a process that will be extremely complex and time consuming, aimed at reviving institutional mechanisms that will return legitimate power to the state and re-establish social trust. In order to achieve these goals, a forum of national reconciliation, where all the belligerents in the conflict must participate towards finding a solution, will have to be established. The first priority of such a body should be the creation of a strong democratic transitional government before any further reconstruction of the state can be attempted.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die staat in Afrika is 'n produk van kolonialisme. Post-koloniale Afrikastate was nie die natuurlike uitvloeisels van die behoeftes van Afrikane nie; inderdaad, selfs die konsep van 'n nasiestaat was vreemd binne die konteks van tradisionele, inheemse gesagstrukture. Die plaaslike elites, in wie se hande die koloniale instellings, en daarmee saam die staatsgesag, oorgegee is met die beëindiging van koloniale beheer, het nie oor die vaardighede beskik om effektiewe regering en beheer oor die nuut onafhanklike state uit te oefen nie; hulle was meestal onervare of uit voeling met die bevolkings oor wie hulle regeer het. Die gevolg was wydverspreide en voortslepende etniese en regionale geweld en die geleidelike verbrokkeling van staatsgesag en die burgerlike gemeenskap. Wanneer sulke omstandighede toegelaat word om hul loop te neem, lei dit onvermydelik tot die uiteindelike totale verbrokkeling van die staat. Die Demokratiese Republiek van die Kongo (DRK) - die voormalige Zaïre - is 'n voorbeeld van hierdie verskynsel. Nagenoeg die helfte van die oppervlakte van dié land is tans onder offisiële of nie-offisiële buitelandse militêre besetting, met nie minder nie as ses state wat betrek is by die konflik: Rwanda, Oeganda en Burundi ondersteun die rebelle; Angola, Zimbabwe en Namibië (hierdie state het sedertdien hul magte ontrek) veg aan die kant van regeringsmagte. Afgesien van hierdie magte, is daar ook verskeie opposisiegroepe wat vanuit buurstate optree, insluitende UNITA vegters uit Angola, elemente van die uitsluitlik Hutu militêre vleuel van die Burundese Conseil national pour la démocratie (CND) en oorblyfsels van die Rwandese Hutus (die sogenaamde Interhamwe), asook Mai-Mai en FRF (les Farces républicaines fédéralistes, onder die aanvoering van Muller Ruhim) faksies. Laasgenoemde twee groepe veg teen die teenwoordigheid van die Rwandese weermag in die DRK; nie een van die twee kan as pro-regering beskryf word nie. Die DRK is 'n mislukte staat. Alle legitieme mag- en gesagstrukture het verbrokkel; politieke beheer en wetstoepassing is opgehef. Die gevolg is dat die staat onmagtig is om die welvaart van sy burgers te bevorder, gesondheidsdienste en opvoeding te verskaf, regspleging uit te voer of bestaande infrastruktuur in stand te hou. Die burgerlike gemeenskap beskik nie oor die vaardighede om in die gaping te tree nie, en stam- en etniese konflik neem steeds toe. Hierdie studie ondersoek die algemene redes vir staatsverval en die spesifieke oorsake van die krisis in die DRK, waaronder die koloniale invloed, grondkwessies en etniese konflik. Daar word gepoog om aan te toon dat die staatsverval binne die DRK grotendeels toe te skryf is aan die afdwing van ontoepaslike, Westerse politiese instellings op tradisionele, inheemse gesagstrukture. In die lig hiervan word daar verder aangevoer dat die swak vertoning van die Kongolese regering - die onvermoë om as legitieme politieke arena te dien, 'n nasionale identiteit aan staatsburgers te verleen en hulle veiligheid te verseker - die basiese oorsaak is van die mislukking van die staat in die DRK. Staatsverval is 'n geleidelike proses; 'n stelselmatige en langduringe aftakeling, gekenmerk deur die verlies aan beheer oor die politieke en ekonomiese sfere. Namate buurstate toenemend betrokke geraak het in die probleemgeteisterde DRK, is staatslegitimiteit verder ondermyn deur die direkte politieke inmenging van hierdie buurlande. Daarby huisves hierdie lande ook afvallige groepe wat poog om politieke invloed op die DRK van buite die landsgrense uit te oefen. Die verbrokkeling van die staat binne die DRK is 'n wesenlike bedreiging vir stabiliteit binne Afrika, maar ook op 'n internasionale skaal. Sy buurstate word bedreig deur grootskaalse vlugtelingbewegings en die voorslepende konflik stimuleer onwettige internasionale wapenhandel. Die omvang van die krisis noop die internasionale gemeenskap om in te gryp. Die onmiddellike prioriteit van sodanige ingryping behoort die rekonstruksie van 'n legitieme staatstelsel binne die bestaande landsgrense te wees; dit kan slegs bewerkstellig word deur die implementering van die Lusaka ooreenkoms. Hierdie ooreenkoms bied die meeste hoop vir 'n oplossing tot die krisis deur die daarstelling van 'n legitieme regering, die herbevestiging van Kongolese soewereiniteit, die rekonstruksie van 'n gedissiplineerde en effektiewe militêre mag en die skep van 'n nasionale versoeningsliggaam. Sedert sy onafhanklikwording in 1960, is die DRC gekenmerk deur ernstige wanadministrasie. Dit is van uiterste belang dat hierdie situasie nie toegelaat word om voort te duur en te vererger nie. Algehele rekonstruksie is nodig - 'n uiters komplekse en tydsame proses met die uiteindelike oogmerk om daardie institusionele meganismes wat 'n terugkeer tot legitieme mag en gesag en 'n herbevestiging van burgelike vertroue tot gevolg sal hê, te laat herleef. Ten einde hierdie doel te bereik, sal 'n nasionale versoeningsliggaam geskep moet word. Alle partye in die konflik behoort betrek te word in 'n poging om 'n oplossing te vind. Hierdie liggaam sal 'n sterk, verteenwoordigende oorgangsregering daar moet stel voordat enige verdere vordering met die rekonstruksie van die staat sal kan plaasvind.

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