The fifth in a series of posts from my correspondence with a Chicago reader. He asks a big question:
How do we fix the DRC?
If you define “we” as the US, I believe “we” can’t do anything to fix the DRC–but the Congolese can. However, the US, the EU, and the AU can help the process along. The UN has a role, too, although I’m afraid that its authority and stature have been irreversibly impaired by its seeming impotence in the current crisis in the Kivus and Haut-Eule.
The first step is to bring a halt to the lawlessness in the east through cooperative military action by legitimate armed forces. The current actions by Rwanda and Uganda in concert with the government in Kinshasa has the potential to accomplish that end (even though I am deeply suspicious of the real aims of those operations). The UN should be protecting the civilian population–as is their mandate–while this is going on. They’re not, from the reports I’ve read, but they should be.
Once peace is restored, people can return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives while the DRC begins the long, expensive development process. US, EU, and Chinese investment–not aid–will be key. One component in both keeping peace and promoting economic development would be establishment of a “common market” in the mineral-rich eastern provinces. This would encourage the flow of capital to the region, taking the place of rogue armies and slave labor in operating the mines and other concerns.
Many of my Congolese friends protest that their country’s wealth should not be exploited by outside interests. They’re right, of course, but they often fail to differentiate between investment and exploitation. Aside from peace, what the DRC needs more than anything else is capital. There is no reason that fair and equitable commercial partnerships can’t be formed with foreign companies in the DRC as they are in the rest of the world. That’s the only way that funds can be attracted to the DRC.
This is obviously a very brief, simplified overview of a very complex situation. Many, many obstacles have to be overcome before these things can happen. As an objective observer, however, I believe the Congolese people can and will achieve their country’s full potential.