Clinton's challenge in Congo
To stop the human-rights tragedy, she'll have to address the political scam.
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What can she do? First, she must exert vigorous pressure on Congo and Rwanda to neutralize once and for all the remaining 5,000 or so Hutu rebels and their genocidal leaders, who have wreaked havoc in the Kivu provinces since being chased out of Rwanda in 1994. In addition to their own atrocious exactions on local populations, these rebels have provided the trigger for larger conflicts in the area, and the motivation for the formation of many xenophobic Congolese militias. The Rwandan Army is best suited to do this, and it should do so under the authority of the UN. Belgium or France, which have significant historical responsibility in this conflict, should also participate. United States Africa Command can play a logistical role and redeem itself from its association with botched operations against the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Congo in 2008.Skip to next paragraph
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Second, the current policy of integrating defecting rebels into an ever-growing and ever-more-dangerous military must be abandoned. Eventually, the Kivu provinces must be demilitarized.
Yet no lasting peace will come until the power of the state to dominate and predate is curbed. The US must more forcefully support Congolese human rights groups in pushing back the overwhelming culture of impunity. Local self-help initiatives, which have sustained people during years of state truancy, must be encouraged as they provide the foundations of accountable state reconstruction. Simultaneously, the legal authority of local state agents must be curtailed. A land reform would deprive chiefs of the opportunity to give land to their ethnic kin, which feeds inter-communal grievances.
Finally, rather than sinking more aid in the quagmire of Congolese corruption, the US should help create a manufacturing sector that would deflate the importance of land and public office, and offer youth an alternative to warfare. Congolese labor is cheap. Rwanda, whose leadership has visions of becoming an African Singapore, could help create a free-trade zone with eastern Congo. Congo would then become eligible for the many benefits of the US African Growth Opportunity Act, which Clinton has promoted throughout her trip. Together, these efforts may finally give the country a fighting chance to escape misery.
Pierre Englebert, a professor of African politics at Pomona College, is the author of "Africa: Unity, Sovereignty, and Sorrow" as well as three other books on African politics. He's visited Congo four times, most recently in 2005.