opinionBy Pan Butamire
The call by Presidents Kaguta Yoweri Museveni and President Kagame Paul that M23 withdraws from Goma has punctured the bravado balloon of the international community.
Where this 'community' (Western powers and their errand boy, the UN) thought it'd bombshell its dubious prescriptions onto the Great Lakes Region, now the two leaders have prevailed over President Kabila Kabange Joseph to join them and together to expose the truth that only the people of the region can solve its problems. And that an outsider can be useful only in assisting.
By together embracing this simple truth, the three Ks will place DRC on the road to peace and development. Together, the three countries will be the stronger, the richer and the more peaceful for it. But can the 'community' give them that chance?
I fear some of its members might try to sabotage this effort. It's not for nothing that they have never tried to bring the three leaders together. And that, instead, they have chosen to accuse the leaders of Rwanda and Uganda of complicity in the problems of eastern DRC, without actually helping DRC leaders to take charge of their situation. When you see them pour more than $1bn every year on an inept peacekeeping colossus, it's not because they don't know that in over a decade of its presence, MONUSCO has proved to be useless (earning itself the name MONUSELESS).
Which points to one thing. The wellbeing of the citizens of DRC is not among the priorities of this community; its priorities lie elsewhere. That's why it is happy to continue working with a government like Kabila's that hardly has any presence on any part of its territory. And if it is not working for the good of the people of DRC, it cannot welcome the cooperation of three countries, in which two are nosy hardheads who might expose its machinations.
So, the hoopla was up. At the UN headquarters, members of the UN Security Council were running around in blind circles over the capture of Goma town by M23. Our ears were bombarded to bursting with resolutions passed thousands of miles away from our groaning neighbour. Rwanda and Uganda had to be condemned and sanctioned. M23 had to withdraw from Goma, disband and lay down arms. And, bingo, a durable solution to the malaise that afflicts DRC.
There was no roadmap suggested. No talk of what DRC leaders were going to do about the multitude of rebel groups. The status quo was to prevail, with its accusations and eventual sanctioning of Rwanda and Uganda. And that would keep M23 at bay, it was assumed.
They forgot that it is exactly this kind of hoopla that led us to where we are today. If these powers (the real actors behind those "unanimous" resolutions) could stop their whole williwaw for one second, they'd remember how these mutineers came to be. Before the powers invoked the horror Schwarzenegger-movie images to call for the arrest of "Terminator" Ntaganda, with intentions to use them for sanctioning Rwanda and Uganda, of course, things had calmed down.
For sure, the calm was not a solution for the DRC. But, at least, this particular group of young men (by any stretch of imagination, not children) had agreed to await implementation of the March 29th 2009 agreement, while integrated into Congo's regular army.
But even after a mutiny, did the powers give regional players a chance to try their hand at directing the situation in the pursuit of peace? No, sir! When the ICGL chair, Uganda's President Museveni, had negotiated a ceasefire that was holding, the UN rose to call for sanctions against M23 leaders, ignoring the ongoing ICGLR initiative. Uganda was lumped together with Rwanda and the two became the object of a witch-hunt that projected them as the dreaded "external-Terminator" supporters.
But, as a gentleman from the land of these powers points out in a tweet, why would anyone "seek foreign support to fight a bunch of delusional alcoholics"? Not a kindly reference to our dear neighbours, but a stark expression to give meaning to how M23 needed no support.
And, indeed, anybody watching closely how these towns (Goma, Sake, Shabunda) have been falling like dominoes would share the gentleman's incomprehension. In Goma there is a considerable foreign media presence that's feeding us with reports of how a handful of M23 fighters brushed off the supposedly powerful presidential guard. Meanwhile, the soldiers they'd come to boost had melted away, carting off whatever loot they could carry but, luckily for us, with no time to rape. And leaving UN peacekeepers, who'd come to their rescue, high and dry!
No, barring a dialogue, nothing can redeem the DRC. Its leaders must listen to rebel groups that have genuine grievances so that together both parties can eliminate killer gangs and work with all citizens to give their country a sense of direction.
President Kaguta and President Kagame have shown President Kabila the hope that the ICGLR holds in working with him to find a lasting solution. Now it's up to him to take up the gauntlet. The international community, if it has the good of DRC at heart, should rise to the occasion and support this noble effort.
Otherwise, a war of words and baseless accusations can only expose the international community as the promoter of African wretchedness, for ulterior motives. None of us in Africa would want to imagine that that's anywhere near the truth. Or do we have another think coming?