Survivor states…… are those which contain a people that has suffered attempted genocide, or that perceives itself as having been so threatened. While the first type deals with reality and the second largely with self-created myth, all survivor states are ferocious when they perceive themselves in danger; expansive where lost historical territory, Lebensraum, or the need for defensible borders are concerned; intolerant to the degree that they view neighboring populations as less fully human than themselves; and obsessed with the notion of a historical mission.
By all reasonable assumptions, given its recent history, Rwanda should be a failed state. Remarkably, pragmatic leadership at home and within Central Africa has spearheaded a Rwandan recovery that is alternately marveled at for progressing so far from a genocide ravaged basket case and criticized for not going far enough into a model (by Western standards) African democracy .
In their do-anything-to-survive obsession, survivor states often will abrogate the rule of law, cut deals with criminals or even terrorists, and commit war crimes themselves—justifying their actions by all that their people have suffered in the past.
The survivor state framework Peters suggests in “Hidden Unities” is of utility in understanding Rwanda’s challenges, behavior and mentality as well as that of other survivor states such as Israel and Armenia. While not all states meet every trait Peters describes, Rwanda entails most of them. Critics of Rwanda who don’t comprehend the differences a survivor state like Rwanda has compared to other countries are central to causing policy errors and abetting misplaced criticism.
Rwandan leaders, in their pre-occupation with survival, have “abrogated the rule of law”, “cut deals with criminals” and did lead their nation to “commit war crimes itself”, while “justifying their actions by all that their people have suffered in the past”. Does this make it a rogue state as some seem fit to ascribe it as? Countries with far less at stake (like Zimbabwe or Iran) that commit such crimes are rightfully pariahs for it, yet its hard to lump Rwanda in with them.
Rwanda has been linked to or blamed for arguably a disproportionate share of the responsibility for bloody conflicts that have taken the lives of millions of civilians, especially in the Eastern swathes of the Congo. While not denying a role in the violence, Rwanda’s leaders have considered their actions vindicated by the presence of armed Hutu groups, some led and manned by the orchestrators of the 1994 genocide, who have been killing Tutsis in the Congo as well as conducting attacks within Rwanda. Some of these groups truly believe in finishing the genocide and Hutu superiority, whereas others are attracted to brigandage by the spoils of rapine and looting .
The clear and present danger to the security of the Rwandan state as posed by the Hutu groups (commonly lumped together as the FDLR) is not appreciated by most observers. Nor is its precedent in history widely understood, as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (which stopped the genocide in 1994 and now features many of its own in power in Kigali) was once an armed group outside Rwanda seeking to overturn the established order itself, much like the FDLR today.
So it is of near certainty is that Rwanda faces an existential threat, given the lessons of history and present conditions in flux outside of its control. Appraising the danger, experienced Rwanda hand, Tom Odom, a retired Army Foreign Area Officer (FAO) adds “not only is (another) genocide possible, it is likely.”
Considering what Rwanda might be capable of to defend itself, it is best we keep in mind it is a survivor state, and that terrible deeds are often committed in defense of freedom and civilization. Critics on their high horses living in ideal worlds where abuses never happen and laws are always followed should recall this.
While rape has always been a weapon of war, researchers say they fear that Congo’s problem has metastasized into a wider social phenomenon.“It’s gone beyond the conflict,” said Alexandra Bilak, who has studied various armed groups around Bukavu, on the shores of Lake Kivu. She said that the number of women abused and even killed by their husbands seemed to be going up and that brutality toward women had become “almost normal.” Malteser International, a European aid organization that runs health clinics in eastern Congo, estimates that it will treat 8,000 sexual violence cases this year, compared with 6,338 last year. The organization said that in one town, Shabunda, 70 percent of the women reported being sexually brutalized.At Panzi Hospital, where Dr. Mukwege performs as many as six rape-related surgeries a day, bed after bed is filled with women lying on their backs, staring at the ceiling, with colostomy bags hanging next to them because of all the internal damage.
“I still have pain and feel chills,” said Kasindi Wabulasa, a patient who was raped in February by five men. The men held an AK-47 rifle to her husband’s chest and made him watch, telling him that if he closed his eyes, they would shoot him. When they were finished, Ms. Wabulasa said, they shot him anyway.In almost all the reported cases, the culprits are described as young men with guns, and in the deceptively beautiful hills here, there is no shortage of them: poorly paid and often mutinous government soldiers; homegrown militias called the Mai-Mai who slick themselves with oil before marching into battle; members of paramilitary groups originally from Uganda and Rwanda who have destabilized this area over the past 10 years in a quest for gold and all the other riches that can be extracted from Congo’s exploited soil.The attacks go on despite the presence of the largest United Nations peacekeeping force in the world, with more than 17,000 troops.
Few seem to be spared. Dr. Mukwege said his oldest patient was 75, his youngest 3.
I cannot begin to wrap my head around what is unfolding in the Congo at this point given the dozens of factions and agendas among armed groups, neighbors and multinational corporations (though one day I hope to).What I do understand is the horrible price of missing American leadership, in this case, the circa 1994 Rwandan genocide ghosts of inaction and obstruction, exacting a high cost on the African continent once again (not to mention the dreadful consequences of European colonialism). America cannot be everywhere, and certainly neither can the UN, but given the disgraceful role the US played in obstructing other nations from acting to stem the killing by Hutu Power, we should have a special interest in what our ignorance and evil has accomplished. Not to mention the fact we let the killers go free (while feeding, clothing and protecting them when they fled the scene of the crime), and they’ve been terrorizing millions of people ever since, quite successfully I might add.The current violence in some of the Congo makes me ask two questions that have implications far beyond this hellish zone of human suffering:
1. What are the long-term consequences on societies and cultures of such widespread breakdowns in morality and family as described in the above article? Am I wrong to surmise this is the first time in modern history such an environment has not only been cleaved out of the dying heart of a failing state but has thrived for more than a decade, with no end in sight?
2. Thinkers from Robert Sowell to Ralph Peters have speculated on the future of African societies and cultures in the aftermath of full-fledged system crashes like this, exacerbated by the onslaught of AIDS, ravenous resource hungry neighbors, cheap automatic weapons, climate change and international myopia (i.e. the $500 million dollar election fiasco from last year).
Their line of thinking compares similar events in Europe after the Black Death and WW2, as well as modern-day China, in asking if such an African renaissance is possible. What could be the factors that could bring about such an emergence from the abyss? Is Thomas PM Barnett right in saying, first the economics, then the political, then the security, in the context of growing Chinese and Indian interests in the region? Is it African entrepreneurship, the proverbial triumph of the “cheetah” over the “hippo?” Will it be AFRICOM and patient, expansive American strategy for developing states and building relationships? Is it all of them and then some?