columnBy Mboneko Munyaga
If reports coming out of Uganda and Rwanda were to be believed, then eastern DR Congo will never see peace until the "security concerns" of the two countries were taken into consideration. Admittedly, I have never known what security threats a restive eastern DR Congo poses to solid regimes like Uganda and Rwanda, which do not even have a spillover problem of refugees from the conflict there.
But there is serious and very heavy fighting in Kivu region that has claimed the lives of thousands and left many others internally displaced. There is also what could clearly be termed as plundering of the region's rich natural resources. The two factors have combined to make eastern DR Congo almost an ungovernable region. Thus, it is little surprising that restoring peace there has also proved rather problematic despite the UN and international community pouring massive resources in the region to that end.
A recent UN report accuses Rwanda of backing rebels in the region whose ultimate goal appears to be wrenching Kivu away from the authority of Kinshasa. Kigali of course denies the charges. I stand to be corrected, but I have always remained hazy as to the exact intentions, objectives and mission of M23, which now appears to be "the de factor government"Â in the region.
M23 is made up largely by former Tutsi rebel fighters who rejected integration into the Congolese army according to a 2009 peace deal because, the group claims, the terms of the agreement were never fully implemented by the government in Kinshasa. And, so? Resort to further fighting in which the main victims have been largely women and children.
DR Congo is a member of the 14-member Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) that include also Africa's economic and military powerhouse, South Africa and regional power broker, Tanzania, which doubles as a member of the East African Community (EAC) that groups together also Uganda and Rwanda. SADC has decided that enough is enough with the instability in one of its member states and has resolved to work for the restoration of peace there.
Since the scenario is a military conflict, SADC has decided to send to DR Congo 4000 peacekeeping troops for restoring order there. Of course peace in the DR Congo is also the ultimate objective of the international community, irrespective of the past initiatives and mistakes that tended to leave the situation on the ground even more confusing.
It is in the interests of SADC and the EAC to see peace restored in DR Congo and Tanzania occupies a unique link-place and position for initiatives from the two blocs. The success of the African peacekeeping mission in Somalia led by Burundi, Kenya and Uganda, which are all EAC members has won respect for Africa as a continent that has finally managed to sort and clean its mess.
After Somalia, DR Congo is certainly the next mission and it will be a great honour for Africa to also bring peace to that resource rich country where civil strife has lasted for more than half a century. In my opinion, peace in DR Congo will be a continuation of the liberation struggle for Africa. The origins of the crisis issue from the irresponsible and near hooligan manner and style by which the former colonial masters, tiny Belgium handed "independence"Â to the country in 1960.
If Africa today can stand up and accuse Belgium of committing political hooliganism in DR Congo fifty years ago, the continent cannot, ipso facto, turn a blind eye to the political and military thuggery carried out by M23. It is a dishonour Africa cannot live with and I believe, such is the spirit behind the SADC peace mission to DR Congo.
My only cry is that it has taken rather too long for the continent to act but as they say, it is better late than never. DR Congo deserves peace and anyone distracting or obstructing that process deserves the wrath of all Africa. It is the only way for the continent to be counted among the world comity of nations.