Friday, August 08, 2008

Zombies and ghosts getting lots done

Back in Goma after a refreshing week in Dakar. Marathon return journey via Bamako, Nairobi, Kigali, then Goma. I'm still in a zombie state--just as the Congolese who are forced to put up with this ni paix ni guerre situation as it drags on and on.

In 2003-2004 we used to call the Congolese state an Etat fantome, because there was no administrative presence anywhere in the country outside the capital. Yesterday during closed door talks a lead figure in our group of international representatives referred to us as 'zombies'. I had to laugh: zombies controlled by phantoms. Hard to get less visceral than that.

But it's true, we wander from one event to the next, trying to move molehills that the belligerents perceive as mountains. There is little if any political will on any side of the conflict, meanwhile money is flowing hand over fist to keep all these armed groups at the negotiating table.

A high-level delegation came to town yesterday to let all the armed groups know that they had done nothing since signing peace agreements in January, except run up enormous hotel bills in town that they expected the government to pay. Somehow the ultimatum did not seem to catalyze any sudden commitments to withdrawal of troops, disarmament or demobilization of troops.

A friend asked me this morning if western powers should just get out and let the cards fall where they may. It is befuddling why international efforts to broker peace fail in so many situations.

A colleague mused yesterday on Herodotus and our situation here. The story goes something like: Representatives from an occupying power (Athens?) visit a newly conquered but recalcitrant state that refuses to pay tribute. The messengers say, "We are here with the most powerful of gods, 'power' and 'force', so you must obey and pay us tribute." Receiving officials in the occupied land respond, "Oh that's nice, lucky you. We here are under two other gods, 'poverty' and 'incapacity'."

The moral here being that rule of law and military might are impotent before the inertia of destitution, dysfunction and incapacity.

It definitely captures the inability of the international community to get anything done in Congo, particularly on this peace process.


Anonymous said...

Y're amazing!!!! But you don't write much of Somalia. Did we scare you?
I read your blog all the time. Good job!!!

edward b. rackley, phd said...

dear anon

you guessed it, somalia scared, scarred and almost killed me repeatedly. used up all my nine lives there. as i havent been there in a while, and without direct knowledge i cannot write anything of worth. sorry to disappoint you.

Safia said...

I am Sorry that you have used all your nine lives in Somalia! We therefore formed a prayer group for you to have another 9X10 lives more to use in Africa and its disasters.


edward b. rackley, phd said...

Thank you... I can always use more lives, and prayers. Where are you writing from Safia?

Safia said...

I live in Virginia! your "blog" was sent to us from a cousin of mine, I am married to an Italian and my husband likes to read more about Africa. So she send us links/webblogs about Africa almost everyweek. And my husband became interested in Africa, but we like your blog and we read few places about Somalia but not so much so we asked you the first question of why you don't write much of Somalia, but you explained to us. Thanks

Here are some of our favorite sites

and my husband's favorite on youtube Safia

edward b. rackley, phd said...

i know some of these but will def check out the new ones -- thanks!!