Understanding the Congo-DR War in the Dialectic of State formation, Nation-Building and Nation-State Building

by admin on June 2, 2010


From: Fidele A Lumeya

 State formation

 After 4 years of an intermittent civil war that started in 1996 and 5 years of a transitional government, the enduring tribulations of the war to peace transition and political process didn’t seem to forecast a less than positive socio-political future for the Congo and the entire Great Lakes Region.  As it has been said, there cannot be peace in one of the Great Lakes countries without peace in the entire region. One can explain this phenomenon by pointing out that the Great Lakes countries such as Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda present symptoms of failing states in Post-independence Africa and the non-achievement of the complete Nation-State process.

Burundi, the DRC, and Rwanda were ruled by the same master: Belgium.  What was referred to by Patrice E. Lumumba as the “Africanization” or “indigenization” of Post-Independent African political institutions turned out to be a superficial, rather than radical transformation. The armies, called “national,” were such only because the top elite were Africans.  Yet the all structures remained a carbon copy of the Belgian army- even its philosophy, as a repressive machine, remained the same.

An appropriate metaphor was offered by one of the old guard Congolese political leaders, the late Mungulu Diaka. When asked if Kabila has brought change, he said “No, Kabila is a new driver, driving an old truck without changing the parts.”  He added, “Congo-DR should be seen as a football field, where the players remain the same, but they have merely changed their uniforms so as to give the impression of new team.”

This, unfortunately, is not a new behavior, but rather a symptom of the lack of nationhood or statehood.  Statehood is achieved when the structures of the state-institutions, practices, are recognized by all and are functioning.

 In the case of the DRC, this stage has not yet been achieved due in large part to the lack of a transitional period between the passage of the DRC from a state personally owned by Leopold II to the reign of Mobutu. The period when such a transitional period should have taken place is actually marked by a low degree of statesmanship by Congolese political leaders.  In 1960, none of the Congolese political leaders who were leading the country to independence had such a stature. They either came from backgrounds of theology or worked as clerks and had become politicians by virtue of their natural charisma.

The question of legitimacy, central authority, and central government has been key issues not yet resolved in Congo since its independence. The same can be said for Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda as well. Why?

Absence of a Cultural Framework

A cultural framework from which Congolese citizens could discuss issues such as legitimacy, central authority, and central government has been missing from Congo’s public and private political debate. The reason for the lack of such a cultural framework can be found by looking at history.  In the DRC, as in many colonized countries, a paternalistic system killed creativity and initiative from the bottom, leaving it to be manifested by the top, the elite.

read about Nation Building next week

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