Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Negative Sovereignty and State Failure
by Peeler, Dietrich D., M.A., The American University of Paris (France), 2010, 73; 10305787
Abstract (Summary)

The Democratic Republic of Congo is renowned to anyone who studies international affairs and development as one of the more tragic stories in the world. The DRC is the center of one of the bloodiest conflicts in Africa which has created a massive refugee problem and impeded any meaningful economic development. In addition, the situation in the DRC has created regional instability which invited intervention and increased insecurity and draining of valuable resources. The fact that the DRC possesses unimaginable mineral wealth, vast arable land, and a large capacity for hydroelectric energy renders its current condition all the more tragic. What is important to remember is that the DRC has never been a functioning state and has declined significantly since independence. Jackson (1990) reveals that it is widely assumed that since developed countries exist, any country can achieve that goal and furthermore, "the knowledge required to bring this about either exists or can be acquired" (p. 110). However, it is not clear that countries such as the DRC are developing on the same track as historic nation-states and that it may be the case that not every territorial entity in the world can hope to achieve the level of political and economic development of the West. It does not seem that countries like the DRC are developing towards what could be considered a sovereign nation state, and it's difficult to envision the eventuality of this ideal considering current international law.

The strength of the state-centered world is such a powerful idea that it is taken for granted. It is believed that any deviation from this system will lead to chaos and it is this very system that has created global stability. The paradox however, is that as interstate conflicts have decreased, internal conflicts have proliferated; perhaps these conflicts represent where borders should actually be, if they should exist at all. The exponential increase in internal conflicts makes one question the very idea of the state system. However, I am not advocating abolishing the state-centered organization of international politics or even allowing multiple systems to exist. I merely suggest that we return to a pre-WWII conception of sovereignty with the necessary exceptions that would prevent a return to colonialism. The idea that people should not live under foreign rulers is a laudable ideal; meaning that for example the Kurdish people should not be ruled by the British. However, I would go a step further and suggest there is nothing more moral about the Kurds living under a Sunni or Shia Arab government or under a Turkish government. The principle of self-determination that was necessary to end colonialism seems to be applicable in most places in the world where internal conflict reigns. The system that holds fragile states together is not strong enough to prevent conflicts and is not endowed with efficient authority to stop them. A country such as the Sudan can be accused of the worst human rights violations against an ethnic group, yet the international community must have the permission of the leaders to stop the violence, and must defend Sudanese territorial integrity. It is apparent that this system while creating relative international stability, if viewed from the perspective of interstate conflict, is a catalyst for internal and ethnic conflict.

That brings me to the purpose of this paper which attempts to show several things about failed states, or what Jackson calls "quasi states". The question for me is not whether or not these artificial political creations can be viable and truly sovereign nations, but how long will the international community tolerate their existence while they are not? And is there a better way of dealing with dubious sovereignty? This paper begins with a history of the DRC briefly describing its colonial past and legacy followed by international engagement in the country. The section on UN intervention will show how UN's mission shifted from peacekeeping to holding a fragile nation together. This set a precedent during one of the UN's earliest interventions for denying the claims of secessionists; a shift from neutrality and peacekeeping to intervention in internal politics. This section will be followed by a definition and history of classical positive sovereignty which will set the foundation for discussing Jackson's theory on quasi states and negative sovereignty. His theory will shed light on how failed states are able to exist despite no real sovereignty and the problems that creates for these states and the international system. I will use Jackson's theory to discuss the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo and how it epitomizes the issues that Jackson raises in his book Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Haegel, Peter
Commitee: Perry, Susan
School: The American University of Paris (France)
Department: International Affairs
School Location: France
Source: MAI 56/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, International Relations, Sub Saharan Africa Studies
Keywords: Congo (Democratic Republic of), Failed states, Negative sovereignty
Publication Number: 10305787
ISBN: 978-1-369-49351-1
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