Home Non-Fiction Politics There should be no Congo

There should be no Congo


Herbst and Mills (2009) make a compelling argument to provide a solution to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (henceforth: Congo) problems by no longer treating it as sovereign (Herbst & Mills, 2009). This was put forth in the simple phrase that there should be no Congo. Their reason was that Congo does not possess the necessary requirements to be considered sovereign and that this misdiagnosis is preventing appropriate solutions. Its government has minimal authority past the capital, there is no semblance of national unity, the state holds no monopoly on the use of force and, ultimately, there is no respect for Congo’s borders (Herbst & Mills, 2009). They finally believe that Congo’s population would benefit more from treating the territories of Congo as separate states, ultimately revoking Congo’s status as a nation-state.

This essay will be expanding on these ideas by examining the basis for sovereignty, if the Congo fulfils Empirical and Juridical requirements for sovereignty, and if the article is correct in its rejection of the Congolese state. This essay will ultimately find that Congo fails to fulfil the requirements of statehood and should be treated as a myriad of separate entities.

Weber (1982) argued that statehood was defined by a “continuous organisation” claiming jurisdiction over a territory with the use of a “monopoly of force” (Jackson & Rosberg, 1982:2). This can be seen as empirical sovereignty. Brownlie (1982) argued further that a state must possess a permanent population, a defined territory and a capacity to enter into foreign relations (Jackson & Rosberg, 1982:3). This is seen as Juridical sovereignty. Furthermore, as argued by Jackson and Rosberg (1982), states need to have a form of unity (Jackson & Rosberg, 1982:5).

Congo does not possess the necessary unity, efficiency or authority to be considered empirically sovereign. Its institutions are inefficient (Jackson & Rosberg, 1982:9), it cannot defend its borders or even maintain authority over its own people  (Herbst & Mills, 2009), and ultimately lacks the capacity to govern. Without the ability to create and enforce law within its own borders (Jackson & Rosberg, 1982:6), the Congolese government exists merely ceremonially.

Despite being a member of the UN (United Nations, 2015), Congo’s independence is constantly overlooked. Congo’s neighbours often undertake military action within Congo’s borders without warrant by the Congolese government and some even, unnofficially, refer to Congolese territory as their own  (Herbst & Mills, 2009). As a UN state, Congo is protected by Article 2.1 of the Charter which respects the equal sovereignty of all nation-states (United Nations, 2015). This is not the case, as the Congo factually stands as a veritable extension of foreign aid organisations, UN peacekeeping forces and neighbouring states.

Dizolele (2013) responded to Herbst and Mills (Dizolele, 2013). Dizolele argued that previous secession attempts ended in violence and that there is Congolese national unity. Herbst and Mills responded by stating that despite sentiments, the state of Congo is disastrous and that the separate territories of Congo should be given the opportunity to seek out political alternatives.

Dizolele has made a logical error in claiming that Congo is united while also bringing up the dangers of secession. A desire to secede is the biggest indicator of a dissatisfied and disunited populace. Herbst and Mill’s assertion still stands.

The UN should allow and defend secession attempts in the future to avoid further casualties. Maintaining colonial borders has led to disunity among the population and an inability of any central government to govern such a large territory. It would ultimately benefit the Congo to be split up into smaller, but more efficient, states with their own identities. This will solve the crisis of identity, innefficient governance and a multitude of security concerns as local militaries focus on smaller territories with help from UN peacekeepers.

Mineral inequality may cause conflict, but UN peacekeepers should focus on defending secessions on individual merit. The less-resource rich states can still benefit from the more efficient government that decentralisation will bring.

This essay, using the “There is No Congo” article, examined the basis of sovereignty and found the Congo to be lacking both empirical and juridical sovereignty. It has found that Herbst and Mills are correct in their assumption and that their suggestion of no longer recognising the Congo as a single sovereign state is a meritorious idea. It has asserted the proposition of a split up Congo as more efficient and potentially more peaceful.


Dizolele, M., 2013. Congo is Too Big to Fail. Available: http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/09/03/congo-is-too-big-to-fail/
[2015, August 4].

Herbst, J. & Mills, G. 2009. There is No Congo. Available: http://foreignpolicy.com/2009/03/18/there-is-no-congo/
[2015, August 3].

Jackson, R. H. & Rosberg, C. G. 1982. Why Africa’s Weak States Persist: The Empirical and the Juridical in Statehood. World Politics, 35(1): 1-24.

United Nations, 2015. CHAPTER I: PURPOSES AND PRINCIPLES. Available: http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter1.shtml
[2015, August 3].

United Nations, 2015. Members. Available: http://www.un.org/en/members/
[2015, August 3].