We live in the most beautiful, most naturally endowed neighbourhood with the most wonderful people on earth. I am not exaggerating. The Great Lakes Region of Africa is all these things. Everything is plentiful. We have even had some of Africa’s most consequential leaders. Naturally we would want to enjoy all this beauty and bounty, take advantage of it, make it serve us and help propel us forward. This, unfortunately, has proved difficult. Even the bad is in plenty. This region also has some of the most dangerous spaces in Africa. It has had a disproportionate share of wars and conflict, rebels and terrorists and other malefactors that prevent the enjoyment of nature’s abundant gifts and exercise our full potential. In the largest country in the region, nature’s bounty seems to have been extravagant. But that has been of very little use to its inhabitants beyond making them boast about it. In fact, it has caused them great suffering since their country was cobbled together by a greedy European king. Perhaps it is a curse of plenty? The country has another sort of abundance, of inept political leaders, some of whom have failed to make the transition from sponsored hecklers or nightclub bouncers in foreign lands to statesmen. I suppose it is too big a jump to ask some of them to make, physically and intellectually. Wise people observed a long time ago that birds of the same feather flock together. It remains true today in some of these places. In our neighbourhood failures of every kind: politicians, soldiers, activists, even genocidaires flock together. Their interests converge but so too their fortunes, which often means more failure. Failed politicians, clueless about how to govern or even how to win power democratically beat the drums of war the loudest but also cry out for help the most want to use this alliance to cling to power and also destabilise neighbours. Defeated groups such as the genocidal FDLR and ex-FAZ generals see a chance in the alliance to avenge their defeat. Trouble is, nothing new or productive, only destruction can come from such alliances. They too have not made the transition from the past to the present in terms of mindset and ideology. They simply want to carry on as before. If they heeded the advice of a Rwandan singer, they might see the futility of their plans and perhaps act differently. Theogene Ntamukunzi sang: Intambara irasenya ntiyubaka...Sergeant wihishe iyo, soldat wihishe iyo,.. wararwanye uratsindwa... Uwagutsinze ntaho yagiye.( Loosely translated: War is only destructive...Sergeant, serviceman hiding out there, you fought and were defeated. The one who defeated you is still here) How often have you heard this: history repeats itself? Often, and it does not seem to change. It is happening again in the DRC. We are learning that the Congolese authorities have hired European mercenaries to fight against M23 and their alleged Rwandan supporters. It is not the first time soldiers of fortune get involved in DRC. They were there in the 1960s and 70s and contributed to the destabilisation of Congo whose effects are still felt today. Some of you might remember Bob Denard, Jean Schramme, Mad Mike Hoare, and a host of others and the hordes they led. Recourse to mercenaries can mean several things, but is certainly not conducive to a peaceful solution to Congo’s problems. Clearly, it is admission of the government’s weakness and failure and incompetence of the national army. Or that the leaders there have no confidence in its ability to defend the country. You can bet they are also encouraged in no small measure by some powerful foreign countries. It is proof, if any were needed, that the Tshisekedi government is not interested in peace brokered by the region. He seems to have no confidence in the East African Regional Force. In any case, it is difficult enough for the EARF to work with an army that has genocidaires in its ranks. Adding mercenaries to an already toxic mix could become a real problem for the East African force. Like mercenaries, the United Nations have been in Congo since its independence more than 60 years ago. In recent times, foreign civil society organisations, various research groups have set up shop, apparently permanently. In this sense, the international community has added and contributed to the dangerous situation there, or souring regional relations. In all this time, they have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. They are expected to be neutral arbiters or mediators, but have clearly taken sides. Where relations with Rwanda are concerned, they have often stoked anti-Rwanda sentiments. They are also in the habit of leaking reports of so-called experts, or selective parts of it, especially those that fault Rwanda for one thing or another. In the ongoing fighting between the DRC government and M23 rebels, for instance, they have leaked to the media only those parts that point to Rwanda’s alleged support for M23 and conveniently left out those that condemn the close collaboration between the government and FDLR and other armed groups. And so some people, keen to hide their inadequacy or responsibility deflect their problems on Rwanda and want to draw us into the mess they have created and refuse to clean up. And yet, all that Rwandans want is really to mind our own business, grow our economy, improve the lives of our people, celebrate our achievements and make more. But we keep getting distracted by noisy neighbour’s intent on putting the brakes on what we do. It is like what one sees in some football matches where players pull the shirt of opponents to prevent them from going past and probably scoring a goal. When the hands are not fast enough to grab the shirt, they trip their opponents. I suppose it is understandable, although not acceptable, in football. It is a competition and some will use every means, foul or fair to gain advantage or thwart an opponent. But we are not in competition with anybody. Just doing our thing, which obviously does not please some people. We want to enjoy what nature has gifted us and also create our own marvels. Other people’s curse or whatever it is that keeps them back should not be visited on us.