Extract from my latest in the National:
In fact, if there is a European analogy to be applied in the Congo, it would be the brutal Thirty Year War in Germany that ended in 1648, fought largely by mercenary armies commissioned by foreign powers who rampaged back and forth across the countryside, sustaining themselves by preying upon the civilian population, in the process killing 20 per cent of Germany’s population and devastating its economy.
In the Congo, where life expectancy is 45 years, the conflict looks like the war of a generation. Many of the frontline troops joined (and continue to join) their militias as children: teenagers in the North Kivu region have known no other life. War is less of an aberration than it is the organising principle of society, determining how resources are allocated, who will eat and who will starve, who will live and who will die.
The Thirty Years War ended with the Peace of Westphalia, which established the ground rules of national sovereignty that still underpin modern Europe. But in the Congo, the post-colonial African state has collapsed, and amid the global economic slowdown and the drought and famine brought on by climate change it is difficult to imagine an end to the carnage. More likely, perhaps, is that versions of its grotesque experience will be repeated in other fraying polities at the margins of a faltering globalisation.