Since the assassination of the first democratically-elected President of the DRC the beloved Patrice Lumumba, then the era of brutality of General Mobutu Sese Seko, followed by the assassination of Kabila Senior, the DRC has not known peace!
The mineral rich vast territory of the DRC had been the envy of foreigners and neighbors alike, and while the Congolese people are too busy excelling in the music entertainment industry, the enemies of the Congolese people are busy raping their territory.
DRC has a weak national army and over 20 splinter armed groups causing mischief in the land of milk and honey, some searching for the mineral wealth while others are bent on advancing their selfish tribal interests. Neighbors from Angola, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Uganda have at different times (by invitation or otherwise) and at varying levels of intensity engaged in the plunder of the DRC!
Today, rebel troops led by renegade General Laurent Nkunda, a native Congolese Tutsi, have taken control of Eastern Congo and the national Congolese army is ill-equipped to protect its citizens from the rebels. It looks as if this power-hungry general is bent on capturing Goma and then moving on to Kinshasa to un-sit the government of President Joseph Kabila. Who is behind this guy?
More than 1.2 million people have been displaced as a result of the endless wars in Eastern Congo while hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives. When will this bleeding stop and allow the Congolese people peace, tranquility and reap the benefits of their mineral rich economy?
Paul Kagame, the Rwandan President has a different story. He accuses the DRC government of harboring and supporting Rwandan Hutus, Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) based in the DRC with intent to overthrow the government of Rwanda. It is alleged that these troops are the ones that carried out the Rwandan genocide in 1994 who fled across the border to plunder the riches of the Congolese people.
So Paul Kagame is supporting Nkunda’s ranks while Joseph Kabila is in league with FDLR forces? This appears to be the crux of the matter and if not resolved, peace will not be known in Eastern Congo and civilians in the region will continue to pay dearly for these warring groups.
From the Ugandan side, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been making incursions in Northern DRC killing civilians, abducting children, burning homes and schools. President Museveni of Uganda may from time to time find justification to cross into the DRC to chase the LRA rebels. This further complicates the equation.
The UN peacekeeping force in the DRC, MONUC, with 17,000 peace-keepers is said to have received approval from the Security Council for a further increase of 3,000 more soldiers. Will this move end atrocities in the DRC?
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recently dispatched former Nigerian President Olusegum Obasanjo, now UN special envoy for the Great Lakes, to seek a political solution to the conflict. What the DRC needs immediately is a capable UN force that can protect civilians from further attacks from the various war-mongering groups in DRC and allow the smooth flow of humanitarian aid.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has investigated crimes committed by LRA soldiers and issued warrants for the arrests of five top LRA soldiers, Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Raska Lukwiya and Dominic Ongwen. Of the five named in criminal proceedings, two are reportedly dead: Lukwiya and Otti.
It is not clear when and if the ICC will look into the other rebel forces fighting in the DRC as the killings of innocent civilians, rape of women and abductions continue.
The origins of the instability in Eastern DRC started with the inflow of Hutus involved in the Tutsi killings in Rwanda in 1994 prompting Tutsi-led Rwanda to invade the mineral rich eastern Congo while Nkunda who defected from the DRC army in 2004 claims to protect the Tutsi minority, one of the over 200 ethnic groups in the Congo.
Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) and the Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are the epicenter of the this endless quagmire in the DRC. Add to it the LRA elements from Uganda, it is obvious that all parties from the DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda have to sit and negotiate a permanent solution to this African nightmare.
The UN peace-keepers are only a transitional window to help protect civilian lives and facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid to the distressed populations. Lasting peace will only come when the DRC has a strong army capable of disarming all rebel groups while the neighboring states agree to talk peace and observe a permanent ceasefire.
To the extent that rebel groups are able to obtain regular supplies of lethal weapons in the DRC and as long as Africa is living in denial to create a continental federal government with a rapid deployment force to quell internal strife within the continent, no foreign intervention will end this pathetic situation.
Let it be known that the same intervening forces are the same ones arming the rebel groups to the teeth. Africans must wake up to this international conspiracy aimed at robbing our continent of its riches for the benefits of others while giving us arms to divide and kill each other while they stand with arms akimbo laughing at our stupidity.
Once again, I call for African Unity now! The solution of African problems lies in unity. No unity, no peace and no economic prosperity. Africans must wake up to this reality if we are to be the future of human progress as it was destined by Creation.
Opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not represent those of Mshale.