To make peace in Congo we should engage the Congolese

In an opinion article for Foreign Policy Magazine, two established scholars, Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills, make a case for the abolishment of the Democratic Republic of Congo as a unitary state: rather than focusing on the promotion of the Congolese state, they say, foreign governments and aid agencies would do better dealing with those agents and institutions that are “actually running” the country. Instead of the usual panoply of ministers and state administrations, this would bring to the fore a “confusing array” of governors, traditional leaders, warlords, and whomever exerts control on the ground. The reason, they say, is that the country is just too big to be governed by a single state: resource rich provinces such as the Kivus and Katanga (themselves the size of other African countries) could never be improved as long as they fall under a “fictional” Congolese state. Besides economic federalism, their reimagined approach also assigns priority to the US’s historical ally Rwanda, given that much of the current violence in Eastern Congo derives from the wake of the 1994 genocide. Get this right and there might actually be a chance to reduce the violence that has haunted the Kivus and the Congo for the last decades, they say.

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