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.