DRC not the only failed state?

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SINCE its independence from Belgium in 1960 the Democratic Republic of the Congo has functioned spasmodically as a state. ))The number of people killed in civil wars probably runs into millions. Its nightmare compares with that of Somalia which, unfortunately, is not a state in the true sense of the word. This month’s visit by Ban Ki Moon to that troubled land must remind many of the attempted visits to the Congo by another secretary-general of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld. He died in a plane crash in Ndola, then Northern Rhodesia, before he could reach what was then called Congo (Leopoldville). The other Congo was colonised by the French and was called Congo (Brazzaville). It too has had its problems, some of them leading to many deaths. But as a “trouble spot” it has been entirely overshadowed by the DRC, which was once called Zaire under the rule of the late dictator Joseph Mobutu, who died in exile after fleeing like a common criminal WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE in his own country.
Elections held this month resulted in many deaths –inevitably. The re-election of Joseph Kabila, whose father Laurent was killed by one of his own guards, was disputed — inevitably —by his opponent, the long-time opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. The prediction then was that there would be more bloodshed before the country settled into anything remotely resembling “a state”, in the conventional definition of the word. It is probably hypocritical for any of us to blame the problems in the DRC on the Belgians. Their colonialism of the Congo was one of the cruellest on the continent.Its mineral riches accounted for their reluctance to give it up. I say “hypocritical” for the reason that it has been fashionable for the African beneficiaries of independence to blame all their post-independence traumas on the former colonialists. It is true that, in their unwillingness to leave all those riches, the colonialists were completely irresponsible in their piecemeal preparations to hand over the country to its original owners. In many instances, they were accused of deliberately plotting for the failure of the new states — in the hope that they would be recalled to put things right and thus perpetuate their stay — if in a different guise. This theory ignores the role of the Africans themselves. In negotiating their freedom, few of them were prepared to admit that they needed some assistance from their former masters. They would not admit that, during the struggle, they had most likely not drawn up any post-colonial programme which would result in the period immediately after independence not degenerating into chaos, during which things would go so horribly wrong it would take years for them to create the semblance of normalcy required of a functioning state. Unfortunately too, after independence, there was much haggling for power among the African politicians themselves. Most of it was anchored on the perceived wealth of the country. To many cynics, some of the new leaders desired to play the role played by the colonial masters — to be in complete control of everything in the country including, particularly, its natural wealth. The welfare of the ordinary people, who had sacrificed a lot in helping defeat the colonialists, was hardly seen as a priority. Was there ever a new president who postponed his entry into the State House until all the underprivileged people had been provided with decent housing? Was there ever a new president who disdained the Rolls Royce official car until people in the poorest areas had been provided with enough public transport to go to and from work? Even after independence, only a few leaders thought to pay immediate attention to the needs of the very poor. In Zimbabwe, there was something like an attempt at this: small houses were hurriedly built for the very poor in Chitungwiza near the capital Harare. They were nicknamed “tuZvobgo” because they were particularly small and built very close to each other — they were named after the then Minister of Housing, the late Eddison Zvobgo, a stalwart of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF, now buried at the Heroes Acre.
People still speak of the houses with contempt.

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