3 July 2012

East Africa: Region Is in Fresh Danger of Anarchy


The Great Lakes region, which became infamous for insecurity more than a decade ago, is in danger of sliding into widespread anarchy once again.

The relatively successful African Union peace enforcement mission in Somalia, and Kenya's involvement in particular, has become a constant source of insecurity for our neighbour to the east with incessant terrorist attacks. Moreover, the latest strategy of gunmen attacking churches with guns and explosives is extremely worrying because of its callous character and ability to spark off religious conflict amongst communities that have lived together peacefully for ages.

One doesn't have to look as far as Nigeria for evidence of what this kind of terrorism can do. Now with that happening in Kenya, it's very likely that we might see the same tactics attempted in Uganda. But even in the absence of an actual terrorist attack, if worshippers in Kenya, Uganda and Burundi now have to go through metal detectors before entering churches or mosques, or have to pray with one eye open, it is a sign of how the security situation in the Great Lakes region has deteriorated.

Meanwhile, fighting has flared up again in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as a new rebel group named M23 causes mass displacement of people. Inevitably, thousands of refugees fleeing from this conflict have fled into Uganda. DR Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting the rebels and although Kigali vehemently denies this allegation, a UN report released last week appears to back it.

That conflict has potential of bringing the two countries to the brink of war again. With South Sudan and Sudan conflict threatening to develop into an all-out war, this region seems to be sitting on a time bomb. Yet the region had made tremendous progress in the last one decade and this was mainly because of the stability realised after the war in DR Congo ended.

Now the events in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and DR Congo show that the region could erupt in instability once again. This must not be allowed to happen. The governments involved, the peoples, and the international community need to work together to guard against the likelihood of the Great Lakes region descending into anarchy again.

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