Even the presence of government -- and we're using that term loosely in this case -- hasn't helped the Democratic Republic of Congo. While instability in Chad and the Central African Republic has destabilized the entire region and made it a hotbed of human rights violations and terrorist activity, the hostilities and crimes that have transpired during the presidencies of Laurent-Desire Kabila and his son, Joseph, have been particularly heinous.
The country's easternmost portion -- once invaded by Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe -- have served as a killing field during the ongoing civil war. More than 6 million have died as a result of the sprawling conflict since 1998, including those forced from their homes and left to combat starvation, disease and roving bands of government, rebel and foreign forces who kill and assault with impunity. More than 45,000 die per month, while it is estimated that 400,000 women are raped each year. Kabila and his administration in Kinshasa has done little to prevent it -- leaving the task to a large United Nations occupying force -- and, instead, have engaged repeatedly in election fraud and corruption. His is a country filled with resources including an estimated 30% of the world's diamonds and 70% of its coltan -- the mineral used to make screens in phones, tablets and other mobile devices. The value of the DRC's resources is estimated around $24 trillion, but Kabila's regime has already been accused of hiding millions in mining income -- not a small deal when much of the country's road and air infrastructure is built by those companies for their exclusive use.
The issues of failed statehood aren't exclusive to Africa, either. The Top 15 nations in the
Failed State Index
are riddled with names that should be familiar to any U.S. citizens keeping up with current events: Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan all qualify thanks largely to unstable governments, scores of displaced residents, continued sectarian violence, nearly nonexistent security apparatus or an overt reliance on the presence of other nations for financial and physical security.
Looking for an example that's just a little closer to home? Try Haiti, where a political coup, an ineffective replacement government a series of devastating storms, a cholera outbreak and a magnitude 7.0 earthquake -- all within the past decade -- have created a cycle of flight, poverty, corruption and abuse that continues to this day. In spite of a presidential election two years ago and a string of controversial incidents, including its role in the cholera epidemic, a United Nations peacekeeping forces has maintained a presence in Haiti since the coup in 2004.
None of the above absolves the U.S. government of its failure to keep its doors open, its employees paid and its mechanisms in full, working order. What it does do, however, is offer a measure of hope. Political gaming aside, if U.S. citizens are passionate enough on one side of the debate to fight for extended health care benefits for everybody while those on the other side care enough about the country to want to keep its books balanced and solvency assured, that's putting the U.S. well out of the failed-state race.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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