Crisis in the DRC: When will the international community learn?

A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding again in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the last week, images of innocent civilians on the run, hungry, confused, and clearly desolate have hit our television screens.
L-R: Congolese civilians on the run, hungry, confused, and clearly desolate, FDLR  rebels in DR Congo forest.
L-R: Congolese civilians on the run, hungry, confused, and clearly desolate, FDLR rebels in DR Congo forest.

A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding again in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the last week, images of innocent civilians on the run, hungry, confused, and clearly desolate have hit our television screens.

Reporters have been dispatched to the ground and some have not even had time to do the minimal background reading to familiarize themselves with the real situation on the ground.

Some refer to CNDP as a Tutsi rebel group; some cannot tell whether Goma is in the DRC or whether it is Rwanda; no reference is made to the Interahamwe/FDLR as the root cause in this crisis; and yet others even make ridiculous claims that Rwanda has ambitions to annex part of the Congolese territory.

Then there is the misconception that for some reason, Rwanda must have something to do with this crisis. The sad fact is that this catastrophe was foretold and preventable.

And yet, innocent people continue to suffer. And one wonders: have we not seen all this before?

Does the international community have to wait until a catastrophe hits them in the face for them to be able to react?

Have we learnt from the 1994 genocide of the Batutsi in Rwanda?

Given that this crisis has been festering for the last fourteen years, what does shuttle diplomacy serve if the international community cannot put in place mechanisms, robust enough to avert such a catastrophe?

What should be made clear is that this crisis is not a matter between Rwanda and the DRC. It is a matter between the Congolese people themselves, and it symbolises all the other ills that have characterised that country for decades now.

Nkunda and his rebel movement are an external manifestation of the very serious and abject failure of the leadership of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and viewing it in isolation is a false start.

It is also an inability, and indeed, the unwillingness on the part of the international community to find a lasting solution to the problem. MONUC, the United Nations peace keeping force was sent to the region more than ten years ago to find a solution to the problem. And they cost the UN a whooping one billion dollars every year for doing nothing!

So, on one hand we have a United Nations mission that buys time and simply picks its pay cheque at the end of the month, and, on the other, a failed leadership in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that lacks the will and the competence to resolve this problem, but chooses instead to cry foul and present the crisis as originating from Rwanda.

The irony of it all is that the crisis in Northern Kivu, dubbed complex by some political analysts, can, in actual fact, be resolved tomorrow if only the Congolese leadership and the international community bit the bullet and garnered the political will to do so.

Nkunda appeared on the scene because his people were threatened with extermination, and as a result of the politics of extremism that has always characterized the Congolese leadership.

Removing General Nkunda and his rebels without tackling the root cause of the problem would be prolonging the agony of the Congolese people as it would not constitute the solution they expect. They rebels would resurrect in another shape and form and we would be back to square one.

The root cause of the current crisis (and the ones that preceded this) is the presence in Eastern Congo of the very people who committed genocide in Rwanda and have found a safe haven there.

These evil people cling to the ideology of genocide and they continue to plunder, kill and maim innocent Congolese people, their main target being the Tutsi.

The name Tutsi is anathema to them and they still think they can exterminate them from the face of the earth. Instead of disarming them and repatriating them as it has promised on several occasions, the Congolese leadership has found it convenient to arm them instead and co-opt them into their army.

They in turn can afford to buy their survival by fighting alongside the Congolese army, a ragtag of men in ramshackle uniforms who lack the desire and the spirit to die for a cause they have never understood.

The Congolese leadership, therefore, think they have every reason to keep the Interahamwe/FDLR on their territory for as long as they can.

Clearly, if the problem posed by the Interahamwe/FDLR had been solved, the politico-military arena in Eastern Congo would be having a different shape.

All the tribes in the Kivus would be enjoying peace, security and stability they always enjoyed before Habyarimana embarked on a course to destabilize the area and sow the seeds of hatred and discord whose repercussions we are witnessing today.

Those who scapegoat Rwanda and blame it for all the ills in the DRC choose to ignore the truth or live in cloud cuckoo land. Peace in the Eastern Congo is in the best interest of Rwanda.

Rwandans know that and they will go the extra mile to normalise relations between the two countries and to promote good neighbourliness.

In conclusion, let me say that when the leadership in the DRC realise that they have had enough of the Interahamwe/FDLR and decide to send them where they belong, the long-suffering people of Congo will begin to savour the peace and stability that have eluded them for so long.

And then they can begin to rebuild their lives and do the things that really matter to them: develop their country and pave the way for a better future for their children. Enabling them to do that would not be a Christmas gift to them. They deserve it and they have long waited for it. 

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