Last Saturday, Ivan Simonovic, a UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights wrote in commentary published by this newspaper, crying out to the world to rush efforts of thwarting South Sudan’s current political quagmire.
It’s significant to note that twenty years ago, this April, there was no The New Times in Rwanda, what the country had was Kangura, an extremist newspaper infamous for publishing ‘the ten Hutu commandments,” aimed at inciting hatred, and discrimination against Tutsi.
In the build-up to Rwanda’s mass murders in 1994, General Dallaire was relentlessly faxing from Kigali to New York alerting Kofi Annan, then UN director of Peace keeping efforts, of an impending genocide.
But Annan sat on the red alert messages, acting lackadaisical to each of Dallaire’s requests that would have saved lives or even thwarted calamity. Ten years later in 2004, Kofi Annan apologised for his actions admitting that he should have done more.
In his letter, Simonovic sounded like Dallaire in 1994 saying; “there are credible reports of mass and extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, sexual violence…” It’s hard to say who Simonovic’s meant by ‘world’ aside from the international community which would be his own New York based UN.
The ‘world’ that holds the key to peace in South Sudan (SS), CAR and DRC is not in New York but right here in the EAC as Mwene Kalinda, a commenter on Simonovic’s article rightly observed.
“It would be far better for South Sudan’s neighbours who are most affected by its bloodletting, mayhem and instability to take the initiative to find a peaceful resolution of the conflict. If the UN must be involved let it be in a supportive role to sub-regional efforts not as the driver.”
Lately, the UN Security Council meetings have been dominated by discussions on CAR and SS but a real lasting solution for peace in these troubled countries, including DRC must involve an empowered EAC to help weak governments in those states enforce order and stability.
Any resolutions without a focal future role of EAC governments and the wider geo-political elements at play will only serve as a temporary solution for peace.
Precisely, the EAC should consider expanding by admitting the CAR, SS and the DRC into the integration to foster stronger governments for stability and ability to manage state resources for social-economic benefits of nationals.
EAC countries like Uganda and Rwanda have a legitimate stake in the stability of all these countries due to their geographical proximity and the UN knows this fact.
When DRC soldiers couldn’t defeat M23 rebels, Tanzanian forces were among those that went in to intervene helping President Kabila to attain victory.
When violence erupted in SS, UN boss Ki-moon telephoned Uganda’s President requesting him to intervene resulting in the contentious deployment of UPDF troops to reinforce government forces.
In CAR, Rwandan troops are providing security to the interim president Catherin Samba as well as other key government installations.
Since 1999, the EAC has toyed with the idea of a joint regional brigade but these instances of individual countries sending troops to enforce peace and stability in the neighbourhood shows there’s demand for such a force.
Integration is likely to achieve stability by helping establish and maintain strong governments in these countries whose current lawlessness is breeding grounds for insurgent groups seeking to destabilise some EAC member states.
After South Sudan became independent and a key ally of Kampala, Joseph Kony’s LRA fled to CAR and now SS is acting as a buffer state for Uganda against Kony’s attacks. By adding CAR to EAC, Kony and other militias operating there would gradually lose their cover.
Meanwhile, DRC’s membership would also help future Kinshasa governments oversee stronger state control of its massive territory and rid its jungles of ADF rebel groups and militias such as FDLR which’s bent on destabilizing Rwanda.
Absence of strong state apparatus in these countries is at the core of their conflicts; for instance, CAR is reportedly losing 30 to 50 percent of all its annual diamonds, in DRC, several militia groups control mineral rich areas feeding black markets while in SS, instability will put oil resources to waste.
Integrating these countries into EAC could potentially foster stronger governments that would lead to stability and create economic opportunities for millions of these countries’ nationals currently living as refugees.
nfortunately, the current EAC is too weak and in need of central leadership to support these expansions. Tanzania, a founding member, is reportedly hobnobbing with hostile forces that want to destabilise Rwanda, a newly recruited member.
If the EAC is to take on further responsibilities, it needs a leader to hold it together and crack the whip where necessary but which member can wear this cloak?
Kenneth Agutamba is a post-graduate student at the Communication University of China.