Niger’s Maman Sidikou is the new UN Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, appointed Dr Sidikou to replace Germany’s Martin Kobler making him the political head of MONUSCO, the peacekeeping force whose mandate is to bring stability to the DR Congo.
The DR Congo needs a ‘special envoy’ because it is a ‘special’ country. It is ‘special’ for all the wrong reasons, however. Even more problematic is that the reasons that make it so special have existed for so long that in the conscious of many it has become normal that the country is treated as such.
Normalised as it may be, however, it is a consciousness that undermines the dignity of the Congolese people.
That is because it conditions them to accept that their country must continue to survive in a comatose state where a caregiver, in the shape of special envoys and stabilising forces, must administer intermittent doses in order to ‘resuscitate’ the body-politic.
Worse still, there is disappearing hope that any such prescription or intervention will lead to a cure in which the DR Congo recovers from what appears like a terminal ailment, to graduate from its ‘special’ status.
The meaning of its ‘special status’ is concealed in diplomatic niceties. Underlain, however, is the message that the DR Congo is yet to acquire the requisite capacities to manage its own affairs and to find solutions to its problems; that, to put it rather crudely, it must be babysat.
Think of a period in African political history when states were neither colonised nor independent, under the tutelage or trusteeship status of Europeans and the League of Nations.
But the League of Nations graduated into the United Nations and the DR Congo gained independence. That was more than half a century ago.
Effectively, however, the DR Congo has remained under the trusteeship of the United Nations despite the fact that its flag flies high at the United Nations Headquarters in New York along those of independent states.
Horror in the mirror
Such symbolism ought to bring deep sorrow for anyone with a heart for the people of the DR Congo.
Such hurt gets compounded when one considers the infinite potential of that country not only to deliver prosperity for its people but also to serve as an economic powerhouse capable of catalysing the African renaissance.
In this regard, the DR Congo is a large mirror that reflects upon the African conscience. Crucially, however, for the same reasons that it possesses redeeming potential for the African, its psychological baggage also holds the potential for pulling down anyone with the determination to make something positive of themselves, to drag it along into the abyss.
It gets worse. When Congo bleeds, the vultures dance: rebel outfits and multinational corporations eager to fish in murky waters, for instance. Consequently, the vultures simply love a ‘special’ DR Congo, and have interest in its continued path under international suzerainty.
A ‘special’ DR Congo, however, facilitates an unsafe neighbourhood of mutual enmity and suspicion. Which is why it has, over the past two decades or so, undermined the development of positive state relations with neighbours such as Rwanda and Uganda.
For Rwanda, the DR Congo’s direct and indirect support for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia has not only provided fertile ground for the germination of destructive ideologies, but has also helped to erect a mirror of horror in which Rwandans continue to see a threat to their very existence.
The Kinshasa Elite
Unfortunately, a selfish elite in Kinshasa has behaved no differently from the vultures. Where it could consider devising a strategy for graduating from the ‘special’ status the country finds itself in, efforts are placed in reinforcing the idea that the country requires baby-seating, care-giving.
This elite insists that it requires an intervention force, for instance, to prevent a ‘nefarious’ plot, itself borne out of concocted logic, to cause the secession of the Kivu region.
All the while, the objective is to create antagonisms that prevent a return to peace in that area, which they perceive as a threat to their political survival.
Which is why many were caught flatfooted recently when, while on a courtesy call to Kigali recently, the Defence Minister of the DR Congo, Ngoyi Mukena, delivered an “emotional speech” that, according to one observer, revealed that a “warmer relationship” between the two countries was emerging.
Tweeter was abuzz: “Today is historic for #Rwanda - #DRC relations. The two countries will work more closely to build peace & prosperity.” Or this one, “#Rwanda and #DRC set to cut MONUSCO out of the equation in tackling FDLR. Could mean much quicker path to peace.”
Less than 24 hours later tweeter awoke to this news: “#DRC defence minister who praised #Kagame in #Rwanda & agreed cooperation against #FDLR returns home to lose his post.”
Old, ‘special,’ habits die hard.