A Vanquished Peace: Prospects for the Successful Reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of Congo
By Gerrie Swart (ed.)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has endured a long, difficult and brutal chapter in its history of independence, characterized by chaos, turmoil, instability, violence, conflict and one of the most brutal wars Africa has witnessed to date. It is regrettably a chapter that has defied a satisfactory and peaceful conclusion- and one that continues to be written each and every day, adding further casualties in its wake with each passing year. As the country prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence on 30 June 2010 from erstwhile colonial power, Belgium, there is a real danger that the ‘politics of forgetting’ could once again set in- forgetting that this vast country is nowhere near being ‘at peace’ with itself and the rest of the Great Lakes Region.
The country had accumulated a history of protracted violence, with little or no shared experience of genuine peace to offset these negative interactions. Throughout its various incarnations, as the Congo Free State (1885-1908), the Belgian Congo (1908-1960), the Congo Republic (1960-1971), Zaire (1971-1997) and finally the Democratic Republic of the Congo (since 1997), an enduring feature and image that has held sway in all narratives has been that of an entity immersed in an unrelenting sense of statelessness, further embedded in a perpetual state of chaos. At the turn of the twenty-first century, Congo had become the veritable epicentre of conflict in Africa and the dearth of peaceful coexistence in the country has vividly revealed the numerous flaws that peace can possess if it is devoid of structural stability, integrity and most importantly the ability to address the underlying causes and factors that continue to foment and facilitate conflict to take place in this war-torn nation.
The aim of this volume is to serve as an ‘audit’ and appraisal of the DRC’s post-conflict peace dividend - in particular to undertake a post-peace accord appraisal of the various gains achieved and also the numerous setbacks that continue to challenge the behemoth that is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in its long and arduous journey to peace, prosperity and national unity. An observation that could be made from the very outset of this analysis is that the ideals of a positive, sustainable (let alone perpetual peace) in the Congo has largely been a vision etched on numerous paper peace agreements, yet remains largely unfulfilled in Congolese citizens’ everyday reality. Even where some laudable progress has been made, the threat of large-scale reversal and a return to full-scale conflict and combat remain omnipresent
Gerrie Swart lectures African Politics at the Department of Political Science, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa