Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Secession Solution: Congo Edition

In yesterday's NYT, J. Peter Pham argued that we should let the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fall apart--that separatism would somehow make things better.  While the government has had problems governing the entire country, most of the problems that Pham cites in the piece are not about different ethnic groups with different preferences, but about poor leaders and the challenges of having too much in the way of minerals (the resource curse and all that). 

The militias he refers to as protectors?  Well, these folks are the threat, and it is not clear how allowing several of them to have their own countries will make them any less rapacious.  Yes, DRC is an artificial state, but so are most countries in the world (Japan, the Koreas not so much). 

To be clear, as a scholar of separatism and its international relations, I am not opposed to DRC falling apart due to precedent setting (I tend to believe that precedents do not matter that much).  It is just not clear in this article how secession would solve any of Congo's problems.  Would the smaller hunks be that much easier to govern since they would still be big, landlocked, mineral-rich, and so on?  The Africanists on my twitter feed think this particular "solution" is no solution at all. 

If the piece was about recognizing Somaliland, I would take a different stance as separatism can be a reasonable approach under some circumstances ... like if Texas was willing to pay of its share of the national debt as it left the US ;)

1 comment:

R. William Ayres said...

Related problem - neighboring states (Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda) have an interest in this fight, and there are cross-border tribal loyalties that matter. Broader war, anyone? Rwanda is already neck-deep in the DRC; do you want to carve out a piece in the east for them to meddle in instead? I agree, it's not clear that the misdrawn boundaries are the problem here, or that redrawing them would solve much. And I tend to be a fan of secessionists (biased though the term may be...)