Listen before crucifying M-23
I received a message from a European friend recently asking me why Rwanda was again at war with its vast neighbour, DRC.
As I laboured to explain the background to this crisis and showing how DRC’s conflict is a cocktail of so many interests at hand, he’s questions only pointed to one thing: the ignorance out there on the real problems that sparked the latest wave of fighting.
This misrepresentation and distortions of facts is mainly the work of some loud-mouthed groups masquerading as humanitarian NGOs but also made worse by the rumours carried in the infamous GoE interim report.
As a result of this diversion, the international community has completely ignored the root causes of the problem and instead fallen in the trap of aggravating the conflict to one seemingly between Rwanda and DRC.
There seems to be a deliberate intention to undermine the reasons for the M-23 uprising and international actors have conspired to portray these rebels as a group of mutinous rogue soldiers whose demands are farfetched or whose sole reason is to wreck havoc.
There’s also a false impression created by these foreign actors bent on downplaying the military capabilities of this rebel group and instead suggesting a ‘foreign hand’ in their military advances.
But this is simply fooling the world.
Much as any rebellion to a legitimate government should be discouraged, it is equally important to contextualise issues and take time to digest the underlying causes of such a rebellion. This has not been the case with the M-23 rebellion – they have largely been denied a voice.
By the time of writing this column, an International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) was taking place in Uganda’s capital Kampala. One of the key proposals tabled was setting up an international neutral force to deal with the rebels inside eastern DRC.
Though we are yet to learn what kind of mandate this force will have, what I can predict is a clash of egos mainly from foreign actors whose involvement in the Kampala meeting has seemingly been minimal.
They will work hard to undermine the establishment of this force because it comes as a slap in the face of Monusco and certain individuals within this UN body will use all means to discredit it or bad-mouth it using international NGOs.
Then there is the questionable seriousness of the Congolese government when it comes to the implementation of this proposed new initiative. The problem with the guys in Kinshasa is that they agree to something today and do the opposite tomorrow.
There have been so many regional initiatives, from the Lusaka Accord to the Pretoria Agreement to Nairobi Declaration to Tripartite Plus – and now what will come out of the Kampala talks – yet all these have come and gone but the Congo problem remains.
In my view, the biggest obstacle has been the lack of genuine commitment on different parties but most especially on Kinshasa and, as a result, these agreements have largely remained on paper as opposed to their implementation.
Therefore, much as a regional solution to the crisis is important, and should be encouraged, its implementation is likely to suffer the same fate as the preceding agreements.
But one thing that could possibly yield results and probably working parallel to this new initiative (if it sets off) is an endeavor of taking time to listen to grievances or the root cause of the latest uprising in DRC.
Fortunately, the M-23 has requested talks but up to now, nobody seems to be picking up this request. Yet by ignoring their appeal, this group is pushed to the wall and left with only one option of defending themselves.
The reasons for their rebellion are not a secret – whether legitimate or illegitimate, the solution does not lie in crucifying them. The fact is that their people are dying each day at the hands of extremist militia groups inside eastern DRC. Hundreds of thousands of their kith and kin have been made stateless and those who remain behind risk complete annihilation.
In Libya, when the people of Benghazi were called rats by the late Libyan dictator, the internationally community responded by ousting and killing Muammar Gaddafi (RIP). The same happened in Iraq and now in Syria.
The M-23 has not asked for regime change – all it demands is a solution that guarantees protection for their people who are treated like second-class citizens today. Isn’t this something worth listening to?
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Contact email: akaeus[at]yahoo.com