DRC: The trouble with Africa

An alien visiting from Mars last week would have captured a true reflection of the problems facing Africa from the handling of the DRC political situation.

How an otherwise noble initiative needlessly became divisive would be a key takeaway.

Here was an organisation that had in its hands the opportunity to set a precedent that would give direction to an entire generation of politics on the continent.

However, it managed to steal defeat from the jaws of victory due to petty competition and rivalry. This is the spell that Africa has been trying to exorcize for more than the past half century but with nothing to show for it.

President Kagame’s colleagues urged him, in his capacity as Chairperson of the AU, to convene a special sitting of Heads of State at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa to deliberate on the political unravelling of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as a result of the tension before and after the elections in that country.

At the time of the meeting, the situation was still volatile amidst reports that almost 1,000 people had been killed in election-related violence.

This suggested that it was imperative to contain the situation before it escalated into a full-blown political crisis and possibly civil war in a country that remains fragile.

A key outcome of the AU meeting, according to the communique that was released to the public, was the decision that a high-level delegation visits Kinshasa to engage the key protagonists with the aim of de-escalating the rhetoric and to search for common ground on the impasse.

Moreover, the same meeting reached a decision that the DRC authorities refrain themselves from confirming election results until the delegation had engaged these actors.

As the delegation prepared to embark on the visit, the DRC Constitutional Court pronounced itself on the legal challenge in favour of Felix Tshisekedi, a result that his main challenger, Martin Fayulu, rejected.

Immediately after, congratulatory messages began to pour in, some coming from the very Heads of State who had required the DRC to refrain from such definitive declarations.

Crucially, the legal challenge was only a part of the problem.

As Fayulu’s statement after the court declaration showed, the political problem still remained.

His reaction was to be expected. For one thing, you would be hard-pressed to find any reasonable person – let alone the AU or SADC – who would dismiss the claim that the elections were marred by irregularities; it was not evident who had been the choice of the Congolese people. This is what makes the problem primarily political rather than legal.

Secondly, the outcome of the court did not surprise anyone. This implies that nothing unexpected happened to force the Heads of State who had gathered in Addis to change from their agreed position and begin sending out congratulatory messages that pulled the rug from under their own initiative.

A rather noble initiative was derailed, as a result.

It was not only noble. It was essential for the strategic security of Africans. 

By seeking to bring a solution to the political crisis in the Congo, the AU was filling a void that has historically been occupied by forces that only know how to conceive Congo as their source of plunder.

In other words, the precedence to get involved in the Congo was intended to wrestle the country from these forces and to begin the process of handing the DRC back to its people.

A strategic pursuit – and noble cause – was quickly turned on its head and bastardized.

Analysts from the very countries that have historically preyed on the Congo turned to innuendo that personalized what had been a collective decision. Ironically – but unsurprisingly – they were supported in this by some African “analysts” who also doubled down on the innuendo that the intention was to tilt the outcome in favour over one candidate over another, and that this was being done on behalf of the very Europeans whose historical interference the initiative actually sought to undercut.

It was a theatre of the absurd.

For emphasis, the tactical aim of the French and Belgians to ensure their preferred candidate triumph at the polls was never in competition with the strategic intent to begin a process that frees the Congolese people from the diktat of the Europeans.

However, the failure to make this analytical distinction allowed some “enlightened Africans” to fall into the trap of their fellow European “independent analysts” whose views often happen to coincide with the interests of their countries.

Here’s how the strategic intent in the mission to Kinshasa was lost: A status quo in the Congo – whether “victory” belonged to Tshisekedi or Fayulu - means the Europeans won the war of strategy and were eager to concede the battle to the joyful Africans.

Africa remains a collection of balkanized cantons that are not viable as effective states largely because at independence a discussion at the OAU on the future of its borders degenerated into petty rivalry along the Monrovia and Casablanca camps, the former wishing to retain the colonial borders and the latter wishing to reengineer borders with the view of making the resultant states viable enough to fulfill the people’s aspirations that came with self-rule.

Now – as then – much of the disagreements involving Africans at the highest level of leadership produce immaterial chest-thumping “victories” that come at the cost of strategic aims.

The key difference is that those who had reservations then aired them openly without feeling triumphant in pulling the rug from under the very initiatives they endorsed.

Imagine a scenario where someone is asked to initiate reforms. Then the very people who have done the asking turn around and begin to whisper reservations about the personality of the very person they have endorsed, thereby forcing him to reassure them that their focus and energies should be on the good of the reforms rather than the person tasked – by them –  for the initiative.

If this got the visiting alien embarrassed for a people without a sense of shame, would they care at all?

Twitter: @LonzenRugira

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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