All the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t put Congo together again
AUGUSTIN Mwanke Katumba was without a shadow of a doubt the most brilliant political strategist in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the beginning of this century.
He inherited a dismembered and devastated country full of armed opposition groups challenging the authority of the central government of Kinshasa and managed to pave the way out towards peaceful development and the harmonization of regional relations and beyond.
Mwanke Katumba managed the balancing act of engaging with the Chinese while maintaining relations afloat with Western donors despite the growing number of detractors. Most of all, his clear vision of the national and regional politics made him a proactive actor in the relations with the movements in Eastern Congo and Kigali. The political arrangements supporting a constructive relationship with Rwanda were completely under his guidance handled with the utmost care and diplomatic prowess. The 2009 integration process of most armed opposition groups gave Congo the opportunity to engage in a peaceful development of the nation.
It paved the way for the 2011 elections and a healthy regional collaboration. That second election was indeed one of the biggest tributes to this man’s greatness; the way he got it off the ground and landed softly after highly criticized polls is all in his honor. Both the presidential and legislative elections were fully supported by other African countries including Rwanda, Angola, South Africa and the people of Eastern DRC, to the contrary of Western donor countries who viewed them with a pessimistic mindset.
Halas the February plane crash in which Mwanke Katumba lost his life also marked the beginning of a new era of crisis in the DRC.
His seat now empty, a tug of war ensued between Katumba’s potential successors. Is this how we should read the reality beyond the new conflict in Eastern DRC? Is it because his potential successors wanted to show President Kabila that they were ready to take on the job?
It is hard to believe that Mwanke would have started a new war knowing he wouldn’t win it, a conflict that would drag the country back into nightmares rather than the development of the nation. This second mandate for President Kabila needed to be about delivering and progress, paving the way for the imminent rise of the Congolese society.
The entouage of Kabila drew the bad card by plunging again into a conflict that in any case scenario will have a disastrous impact on his presidency. The role of the Western “lesson givers” who have been supporting DRC in reorganising and training the Congolese army cannot be minimised as they seem today part of the stakeholders in this disaster for DRC.
It took the Congolese leadership ten years to build a framework of hate and fear for the populations in the East. A framework wherein some Congolese nationals were treated as second class citizens, and vilified as agents of Rwanda, the usual suspect in the DRC’s problems. A framework built through hate lingua and media supported by the Kinshasa leadership.
When in 2009 Rwanda and DRC decided to have a radical move towards a peaceful and constructive relationship between the two nations it somehow put a stop to the past escalation. To show how much Rwanda was ready to contribute to the effort, Kigali swallowed the CNDP problem and opened up a way for Kabila to integrate its opponents. Kinshasa on the other hand allowed the fight against FDLR as if the harm caused by the genocidairs was only affecting Rwanda. Again it seems that Kinshasa lacked a real assessment on the root causes for its problems in the East. Probably Kabila and his entourage never accepted the fact that they had been pushed, defeat after defeat, to accept the military setback, as they never understood the misery of the Kivu populations being hostages of genocidairs forces as an actual national disaster.
During the following years Kinshasa focused in reorganizing its national army without the integrated elements. The Congolese leadership never dismantled the hate frame built against the Congolese Rwandophones and associates. Making it even worse by developing tribal aversion against Congolese Tutsi. Three years later we’re back to square one. Kinshasa wants to give the Rwandans a “bloody nose” and prove to all that Congo is back like in the old Mobutu days.
Same scenario as previous picture: defeat of the glorious Congolese army, over equipped with ten times more troops than the “rebels”. Who is to blame? With the traditional support of UN “experts” and “leaked” reports, follow my eyes: Rwanda.
The mutiny doesn’t need Rwanda to defeat the Congolese armed forces, that’s only the excuse and everyone knows. The mutineers of M23 have a legitimate cause, despite what the US envoy in DRC and others have to plead. And as long, as the root causes aren’t being taken into consideration and dealt with by the Congolese leadership, they will hasten the collapse of Kabila.
A military solution is suicidal, a political resolution is the only way out. If Kabila doesn’t understand that the security of every community including the Rwandophones needs to be guaranteed as a priority, and address the issue of FDLR, which is a threat to the populations of Eastern Congo, Kinshasa will lose the Kivus – and probably more – on a longer run.
President Kabila is fighting his own shadow, shooting his own feet, creating his own downfall. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t put Congo together again.
The author is the Director of Contact Media
Contact email: alberuda[at]gmail.com