http://www.guardian .co.uk/world/ 2008/nov/ 12/congo
Unaccountable outsiders should never replace elected African governments, says Adekeye Adebajo
Dr Adekeye Adebajo
Wednesday November 12 2008
Paul Collier's prescriptions for resolving the recent post-election crises in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are deeply flawed (Naive faith in the ballot box, November 3). Collier states: "What is needed is a massive contracting- out approach to health and education, using whatever agencies work: NGOs, churches, private firms." But fledgling civil society groups - while they are often courageous - cannot be a panacea for providing security in post-conflict situations. As the current crisis in eastern Congo demonstrates, governments in Africa urgently need to be strengthened, to provide security and promote development.
Civil society actors are no substitute for a strong state. Collier overlooks the fact that many NGOs lack the capacity to absorb large funds as well as the security to undertake the work of government. His dismissal of the need for an effective Congolese state, claiming that "donors and government share an attachment to the chimera of 'building an effective state' ", repeats the dangerous proselytising of his former employer, the World Bank, which for decades called for less government involvement. This approach did much damage to health, education and social services across Africa.
Equally dangerous is Collier's disregard for the sovereignty of African states: "The international community has been frightened to infringe on sovereignty ... post-conflict governments must accept limits on their behaviour." This represents an increasing neo-colonial western discourse in which unaccountable outsiders are urged to make decisions for elected African governments. By strengthening their states, many African governments would, in fact, gradually develop the ability to tackle corruption and provide services to their citizens. To suggest, as Collier does, that "in societies at very low levels of income, democracy does not appear to enhance the prospects of peace" is ahistorical. In countries with similar levels of income, such as Namibia (1990), Mozambique (1992) and Sierra Leone (2002), elections did help to bring an end to long-running conflicts.
It must also be noted that, even though the African Union is aiming to establish a standby force by 2010, external support for African peacekeeping has been grossly inadequate. A year after 26,000 troops should have been deployed to Sudan's Darfur region as part of a UN/AU mission, barely a third of the force is on the ground. Collier's proposal for the UN Peacebuilding Commission to step into the breach in the Congo ignores the spectacular failure of this new body in the smaller cases of Burundi and Sierra Leone.
And he fails to recognise that 17,000 thinly dispersed UN peacekeepers are insufficient to secure the Congo - a country the size of western Europe with dilapidated infrastructure. The fact that about 50,000 troops were sent to Bosnia and Kosovo - far smaller territories - makes clear the inadequacy of the UN's Congo presence.
As African governments and senior UN officials have consistently argued, the peacekeepers will need to be greatly bolstered if the current crisis in the Great Lakes region is to be stemmed.
• Dr Adekeye Adebajo is executive director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town, South Africa, and a visiting fellow at Cambridge University adebajo@ccr. uct.ac.za