A BIRD’S eye view of the Great Lakes Region provides very interesting insights. There is war. Two wars really. One war brings people together and the other divides people.
It is clear thinking and diplomacy versus misplaced priorities and guns.
East African countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya are striving to realise economic emancipation and integration of their peoples. This has resulted in moves to improve infrastructure, trade and citizens’ movement in the three countries.
Burundi and South Sudan have requested to join. The only EAC member missing is Tanzania.
The results are already being realized: first, the three presidents opened a new berth at the Port of Mombasa that made it the biggest port in eastern Africa.
With all the focus and effort on making the port efficient, this is good news for the business sector and the economies of these countries and the region.
The countries have also signed a trilateral deal that allows their citizens to freely move in their territories with only identity cards.
This is in stark contrast with Tanzania’s move to expel ethnic Banyarwanda who for all intents and purposes are as Tanzanian as they come.
These progressive developments by the three countries mentioned earlier are clear proof that the talk of integration is not bar room chat.
Without diminishing the presidents’ laudable efforts, they have not invented anything new, really.
What they are doing was envisaged many years ago in the East African community charter, but as Ugandan President Museveni put it, the implementation part had been plagued with ‘political anemia’.
This is a war against endemic poverty and division that has bedeviled our region as a whole. It is the war of the East African Community and it unites us.
The recent events in the Congolese city of Goma and its environs is an unfortunate example of the second war. War as we know it, guns, chest thumping and propaganda.
There is no doubt that Goma and eastern Congo should be an economic driver in the east and central African region. It is the gateway to Congo from the east and it is blessed with good fertile soil, minerals, and seemingly everything.
However, rather than harness all these blessings for the benefit of the citizens, the leaders constantly divide and tribally profile their own people. Divisive talk of who does and who doesn’t belong is rife. It brings to mind Mahatma Gandhi’s quip that the world has enough for all our need but not enough for one man’s greed.
The truth about the causes of unrest in eastern Congo are murky, especially now during the war when truth becomes the first victim of the various propaganda machineries.
Two things can help us unravel this mess though: one, sobriety and two, honesty.
There is and has always been a Rwandophone community in Kivu in the Mulenge and Masisi areas.
They were there before Congo as we know it came to be. Given that the area borders Rwanda and given that colonial boundaries that split communities everywhere in Africa, this should not be surprising.
What is surprising is when someone comes by and expects them to go back to Rwanda; they were never from there in the first place. When these people migrated in the seventeenth century, Rwanda or DRC as we know them existed. Congo found them there. Besides, didn’t everyone migrate from some place?
As any Congolese would tell you, the place is bustling with resources, so what’s the fuss?
Intelligent reasoning demands that a causal relationship to current problems be established and addressed. There is need for separation of fact from fiction.
It is summed up quite well in the old Swahili saying: kuelewana ni kuzungumza (understanding comes from having a dialogue).
Before the UN and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) put a spanner in the works, these talks between the Congolese government and M23 rebels were ongoing in Kampala.
Instead they brought the big stick, the big scary UN Intervention Force “to wipe out all the rebels.”
The drums of war began beating, a war against the people of Congo. Now we see Congolese citizens running for their lives all over the place as refugees. There can be no justification for that.
There are two telling differences in these two wars. In the East African war, the colonial boundaries are being done with.
Allowing citizens of three countries to freely travel with only identity cards is quite a step towards integration. In the second war, a country is rejecting its own citizens and trying to make them stateless.
Again the first case the actors fully own the process, each country is responsible for specific activities. We are doing it for ourselves. The second scenario is the opposite.
The second war has been the bane of Africa…when thinking is left at the parking lot. The first war represents a breath of fresh air, we need more of these!
A word of caution to the gun trotter: It has been said, wars begin as you will, but never end as you please.
Sam Kebongo is an Entrepreneurship Development Consultant.