In response to our November post about conflict in the DRC, Sofia Shariff argues that lasting peace can only come from within the country itself – not the international community – by integrating former rebels into a new state military.
The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) does not fit with many of our preconceptions of a civil war. There isn’t a unified opposition fighting to rid a clearly defined area of an oppressive government or leader that has over stayed their welcome. No distinct class or ethnic group has risen up to demand rights or access to a resource others in their society enjoy the monopoly of.
Of course these dynamics exist and have played a role in the uptake of arms by some, but it simply isn’t possible to boil the conflict down to such a clear motivation. The civil war is one of profiteering and patrimony, with different groups clashing at the national, regional, local and even village levels. Not only do the groups involved in the fighting change frequently but their demands and aims also fluctuate. Control of mineral deposits is as much the desire for many involved as political change or institutionalised authority.
A sustained, successful and legitimate political system can only be established if the subjects of that system place trust in its institutions. In the DRC, this relationship has been broken due to years of protracted and deep rooted violence. For the country to move forwards, and for murder, rape and forced confiscation of land and natural resources to become the exception rather than the norm, the reconstruction effort – and, by extension, the new politics of the DRC – must focus on cementing a real and lasting trust between the state and its people. Lessons from Rwanda teach that reconciliation and truth telling can bring a once genocidal society back from the brink. Continue reading