The New Times (Kigali)

22 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: DRC - Blame It On Western Powers

Hundreds of government soldiers and police in the Democratic Republic of Congo have surrendered to rebels at a stadium in Goma. ( Resource: DR Congo Troops Surrender to Rebels

opinion

The current conflict in eastern DRC has escalated to this level largely because the prescription provided by Western powers is simply wrong.

After the fall of Goma, one can hope that the international community will accept failure and agree to a new strategy of handling this crisis before it once again, escalates into a regional conflict.

The solution to peace does not need rocket science. It lies in what the region and particularly Rwanda has been proposing all along ---engaging the belligerent forces into dialogue.

Unfortunately rather than support this proposal, the international community, has acted either with intent or out of ignorance, as force against it. The rhetoric and tone from these western capitals is indirectly encouraging the continuity of fighting rather take time to diagnosis the problem and seek a peaceful solution to ending the crisis.

And this how our friends have gotten it wrong.

First, the international community has become obsessed with statements condemning 'external support,' to the conflict, in manner that could easily be described as idle but which evidently complicates the problem further. By conveniently including 'external support' in their rhetoric, the international community portrays this conflict as more of an external aggression rather an internal conflict.

But this is simply hoodwinking each other. The reality is that this conflict is a result of a weak and dysfunctional government that has evidently failed to fix its own domestic problems.

This false use of an 'external' support is simply helping to mask Kinshasa and giving it false confidence. It has been fooled to believe that by western powers chorusing this line, it can ignore what the region is proposing and defiantly act in manner that only pleases itself.

Because this accusation resonates with their wishes, it becomes a tool for Kabila to act stubborn as opposed to sitting down and engaging in a genuine internal audit to examine where things are going wrong.

The reality is that eastern DRC is cut off from the rest of Congo. The authority of Kinshasa is absent. It is home to an ill-disciplined, under-paid and inadequately supplied army that largely survives on looting and pillaging. It has the worst cases of human rights violations.

How then do you blame such a situation on 'external' forces? What has the international community, represented well by the UN done to rescue this situation?

Secondly, the use of 'external support' is a tool for Kinshasa to divert the attention of its population from the actual problems that their country faces. It's a strategy to cool off the mounting internal pressure by exporting its problems elsewhere and Rwanda becomes the easy target.

That said, much of the blame, especially in as far as the latest crisis is concerned lies squarely on the shoulders of the western powers. They have chosen to fall in the trap of some groups whose interest is nothing short of milking the Congo under the guise of defending human rights. For them the longer the crisis, the fatter the bank accounts back home.

These powers have failed to support the regional proposal through ICGLR and have instead devoted their energy and time on wanting to punish an imaginary "external support" as opposed to engaging the region to seek a solution.

They have failed to listen to the real causes of conflict and therefore missed many opportunities to understand the root cause of the conflict then assist to find a solution.

By chorusing 'external support', they have blessed a contested report done by a group of individuals whose biasness is a public secret, thereby complicating the entire process because such a position only plants seeds of mistrust and suspicions among the key players.

However, one can hope that after the fall of Goma, DRC and these powers can take time to listen and probably change their discourse to one that is more useful for all concerned as opposed to the continued pointless, result-less and destructive approach.

As a Times story reported on Tuesday this week, M23 didn't necessarily want to take the strategic eastern cities of Goma or Bukavu, and certainly didn't want to advance on the capital Kinshasa. What they wanted, according to the Times, was for government to honor the integration deal it agreed on March 23, 2009 and since it hadn't- the rebels were trying to force it to.

If these fellows have openly called for negotiations, what is hard in facilitating this process? Why is the international community more obsessed with 'external support' as opposed to pushing Kinshasa to honor what it agreed to do? Do we need this mayhem to escalate before we act?

The earlier the international community wakes up to this reality and pushes for the most viable solution, the better. Otherwise we risk a situation that could escalate into another regional war.

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