n African Renaissance - The Democratic Republic of Congo : finally enroute from Hell?

Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1744-2532
  • E-ISSN: 2516-5305


Violent clashes between the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and an armed militia loyal to former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba shook the capital city, Kinshasa, in March 2007. Occurring only three months after the end of the transition, the clashes elicited different interpretations.

One interpretation, the old afro-pessimism, saw the conflict as a confirmation of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as one of the basket cases in Africa, where peace, if it breaks out, is tenuous, full of unresolved rivalries, tensions and temporary (Furley & May, 2006). Afro-pessimism posits that external actors exert pressure on the primary actors in a conflict to establish or re-establish democratic political structures and cultivate tolerance during the peace-making and transition processes. It further posits that half of Africa's civil conflicts have re-ignited after a few years of ending because new authoritarian styles of government emerge after the end of the transition process, the transition leaders fail to differentiate between permanent structures of statehood and the transitory organs of government, or the emergent post-conflict governance institutions and political structures fail to address the root causes of the conflict.
Opposed to afro-pessimism is a view, which interpreted that violence as a manifestation of the many challenges that a country that is transforming from a protracted and deep-rooted conflict confronts. In this view, the DRC was once on the 'road to hell' as depicted by René Lemarchand, a prolific scholar on Central African political issues, in a paper : (2000). But René's conceptualisation has to be seen within the context of the time. Indeed, the raging conflicts had all the hallmarks of intra-state wars, ethnic-identity conflicts within each country and across borders, and a conventional war between states. The DRC had been carved into four territorial enclaves, three of them under rebel movements; at least six states were militarily involved in the civil war, some supporting the government, others backing different rebel movements; the death toll was approaching 3.5 million; displacements, disease and starvation had affected as many as 16 million people; and the economy was in ruins (Lemarchand, 1999). The state had not just failed; it had simply collapsed. As Jennifer Widner explains, "state collapse and state failure may have related origins, but they are not the same. Not all failed states in Africa collapsed" (1995).
However, the transition process of the last six years has transformed the conflicts into ones that can be approached constructively and the DRC is on the 'road from hell'. In this article, we contextualise recent developments through reviewing the challenges of post-conflict reconstruction (PCR). The theoretical and analytical foundations of this review include weak-state approach, war economies and post-modern warfare framework, and ethnicity and identity perspectives. However, the review does not delve into details of these frameworks.

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