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A Big No to “Congwanda”

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A Big No to “Congwanda”

Posted by Maggie Fick on December 22, 2008

A Big No to “Congwanda”

I loved the movie, but here is one for the very bad ideas file: Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland, recently proposed creating a whole new country within Congo, or a “buffer state on the western shores of Lakes Kivu and Tanganyika” that “could be achieved by regional forces with Monuc-EU backup.”

For someone like Foden, who has often railed against the negative effects of colonialism in Africa, this idea sounds a bit like colonial redux to me, and it does not belong in an op-ed in one of Britain’s premier newspapers. Creating a new state is not a viable strategy for addressing the root causes of Congo’s chronic instability. Foden’s proposal is indeed reckless, as UN Dispatch blogger John Boonstra noted, and here are just a few reasons why this idea should be shelved:

  • Redrawing international borders would undoubtedly result in further violence as armed factions fought for control of the territory and its resources.
  • Current relations between Rwanda and Congo are extremely tense. Both countries would have vested interests in asserting proxy control of a new “buffer state.”
  • The “MONUC backup” Foden refers to should be used to secure eastern Congo, not to patrol some new “buffer state.” MONUC is strapped for resources and deeply unpopular among Congolese civilians, and becoming the police force for a newly formed state would not likely improve their stature in the region.
  • Foden is right about one thing: President Kabila’s government has proven utterly incapable of providing basic services to its citizens, and the Congolese army should stop committing crimes of sexual violence with impunity. The international community should hold the Congolese government accountable for these failures, but they should not appoint a new government or take control of the territory. Again, colonial redux.

While it may be true, as my Enough colleagues recently wrote, that “nothing concentrates the minds of diplomats like the possibility of a new state,” this is certainly no way forward for Congo.