The New Times (Kigali)

30 January 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: Too Many Cooks in Solving DRC Crisis

opinion

I have lost count of the different groupings and international organisations engaged in finding a solution for the current crisis in DRC.

As a matter of fact, if you asked me about progress made so far, I certainly cannot point to any since the entire process seems to have been hijacked.

The fact that this crisis is close to 10 months and with hardily any tangible solution on paper can be traced far from the complexity of the conflict to the fact that there are too many cooks involved in solving this predicament.

When this conflict broke out, the first formal grouping that intervened was the International Conference on Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). It came up with some solid suggestions on how to halt the fighting and suggested creation of a neutral force drawn from African states to monitor and create a buffer zone ahead of any dialogue.

The region welcomed this move as a good initiative and indeed as an 'African response to an African problem.'

However, no sooner had the ICGLR proposal developed into a concrete plan than the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) emerged with a parallel initiative: calling for troop deployment of SADC forces and somehow sidelining non-SADC members that are key to this resolving this crisis.

That, too, was announced, stalled and probably is now buried. After SADC, came the Kampala talks mediated by the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. These talks began on a good note-promising a realistic solution from the very people affected most by the crisis - Kinshasa, Kigali and Kampala. It got the three most concerned leaders to sit tête-à-tête and discuss how to end the crisis. Unlike other initiatives, these talks presented the only opportunity where the two warring factions would come to a roundtable, iron out their differences and come up with a practical solution to the crisis.

Today, because of limited backing from the international community, the future of these talks lies in balance.

Then came AU-UN sponsored proposal that was tabled in Addis Ababa, this week, but seems to have died a premature death as some member states of some regional groupings rejected it.

The proposal calls for deployment of an extra brigade of about 2000 soldiers to bolster Monusco, along with drones. This, too, seems to have been hijacked by the UN as a similar proposal calling for additional troops had been fronted by both the ICGLR and SADC.

Added to this list of entities scrambling for 'solutions' are the opportunists disguised as humanitarian workers or human rights activities that have other schemes.

Basically, it is a cocktail of so many conflicting interests. It is a scramble for recognition by entities parading in the name of saving the DRC and yet, a good number are only driven by desire to accomplish what King Leopold started.

The problem of having so many players is that you are dealing with a multitude of competing interests. You are dealing with so many forces pulling in different directions and a solution from one entity is seen as edging out the other.

The internal leadership weaknesses within DRC do not also help the situation. Since they have no firm grip on what they think is best for them, they make it easy for any grouping to come and divert any discussion to wherever they want.

Yet, the ordinary person continues to suffer. Congo's neighbours in whose hands the solution largely lies are caught in an awkward position of having to deal with this politicking and pretence as the after-spills of this crisis continue to affect their economies and security.

In my own view, additional forces will not bring any difference. The proposed 2,000 force is only a tenth of the 20,000 Monusco troops that have been in DRC for over 10 years and which has largely contributed towards enriching the individuals involved in this mission as opposed to bringing peace to the Congolese.

In fact, a new force might worsen the situation. Because having two parallel contingents with differing mandates will create tensions between them, since, largely, they will tend to undermine each other. Next, you hear of them exchanging fire during a patrol.

But even then, the solution does not lie in increasing the number of peacekeepers. But in understanding the root cause of the conflict, which is failure on the part of Kinshasa to treat all its citizens equally. It is a problem of trying to reduce a section of its people to second-class citizens and denying them their basic rights.

Therefore, any solution that does not address this problem is as good as building on sand. The DRC airspace can be crowded with as many drones as possible but peace will remain elusive unless these problems are tackled head-on.

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