Monday, December 27, 2010

"Congo Fatigue" in US diplomacy in the DRC 2006-2008

Interesting interview with experienced former US diplomat Tony Gambino (by Jason Sterns / Congo Siasa).   Here's some long snippets.  Gambino says the US basically needs to pay more attention.
JS: "What would you do differently?"
TG: "My list of three priorities for the US: Help secure the eastern Congo, see that elections are free and fair and get serious about governance as a whole. This list is not different from the list you would hear from US officials. But while the US says it cares about these, it has not organized its engagement to make a serious difference in any of these areas. It’s the level of engagement and commitment that needs to change."
Some recent background:
TG: "After the Congolese national elections in 2006, the US and other concerned states made a fundamental mistake. It is well known that countries coming out of civil war with a fragmented, fragile political system are at high risk to relapse into conflict. Therefore, increased, enhanced engagement is what is required. However, the US and other Western states decided that once elections had been held, now Congo was OK – it was, after all, a democracy now – and it was time to scale down. Ultimately, this decision was driven by nothing more than “Congo fatigue” in Washington and other Western capitals. “Congo fatigue” is an intellectually barren way of thinking about the Congo, and it led the US in 2007 and 2008 to do precisely the opposite of what it should have done. US policymakers still struggle with the consequences – an international community that keeps providing money, but remains intellectually and diplomatically disengaged. As a result of this international disengagement and extremely poor governance within the Congo, the country began to drift. Conflicts broke out again in the East, and there was a lack of progress in consolidating state institutions to provide a basic minimum of security, justice and other basic state services. This is the situation in the Congo today."

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