6 September 2012

Southern Africa: Let Us All Serve and Save Eastern DR Congo


THE 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) has expressed its readiness to send troops to DRC to ensure peace and stability in the country, especially in the crisis-ridden eastern part of the country.

This is a commendable move indeed. It is not a secret that DRC, one of, if not the most natural resource-endowed country in Africa, has experienced turmoil for most of its independent life, especially from the last half of the 1990s, leaving a trail of destruction and misery in its wake.

The facts and figures on such destruction and misery in the vast mineral reach country since the trouble began in its eastern province way back in 1998 are very chilling to say the least. It has been reported that more than 6 million people have died since then in the fighting between government and rebel forces, the vast majority having died from non-violent causes including disease, malnutrition and hunger.

Some 45,000 people continue to die each month from such war-related causes, a human tragedy indeed. Although many have returned home as violence subsided on some occasions, there are still some 1.5 million internally displaced persons or refugees clustered in neighbouring countries, including Tanzania, posing a number of problems, including environmental plunder and security risks for the host nations.

Hopefully, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) will respond positively to the SADC offer as resolved at the end of the regional body's Troika Summit in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday. Addressing a news conference at the end of the summit, President Jakaya Kikwete said the regional grouping would gladly participate in the effort to bring peace to eastern DRC by providing military and logistic support in DRC if ICGLR decides so.

Mr Kikwete is the current Chair of the SADC's Organ on Democracy, Defence and Security. The conflict in the DRC is threatening peace, security and stability not only to Tanzania but also to other countries in the region. A regional solution to the conflict is therefore most welcome.

The international community has also got a key role to play by supporting the ICGLR effort to end the conflict in DRC as well as stepping up humanitarian assistance to the displaced people in the war zone. Let such combined efforts go into motion more now than before to check further tragedy in that part of the region.

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