A special summit of the Heads of State of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) is due in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, this week, with illegal mineral exploration top on the agenda.
It’s only fair to state that the regional organisation, which brings together at least 11 countries, has registered some progress since its inception in 2006.
They body was set up against a backdrop of deadly atrocities in the region, including the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
On the surface, the ICGLR looks to have the backing of the ‘international community’, if the proclamations by such diplomats as the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, are anything to go by. Of course, some Western nations have never hidden their suspicious geographical interests in ICGLR.
In May 2007, a Secretariat was set up in Bujumbura, Burundi to implement the Pact on Security, Stability and Development, of December 2006. The Pact seeks to transform the region into a “space of sustainable peace and security for peoples of the region, political and social stability, shared growth and development, a space of cooperation based on convergent strategies and policies driven by a common destiny.”
Yet, over the recent years, the interests of ICGLR members and those of the West have developed signs of divergence, with the member states’ anticipated progress largely viewed by the West as a potential threat. While Europe and America attempted to create an impression that they were wholeheartedly behind the ICGLR idea, they appear to have started developing cold feet in the recent past, if not almost openly pursuing the very projects that undermine ICGLR’s agenda. And, by extension, the UN, for obvious reasons, too, seem to have lost interest.
While, the commitment of member states to the grouping may be at different levels – partly due to varying reasons behind their membership – most of the members appear to be dedicated to broad-based strategies to change the socio-economic and political landscape of the region, while international development partners seem to be reserved, especially on real development initiatives.
Most, if not all, ICGLR member states appear committed to moving forward and healing the wounds inflicted on their peoples by past violence, but some Western partners are unsure whether a violence-free, stable and developed ICGLR would not turn to be a threat to their geopolitical interests.
The latter would rather continue to deal with individual countries on development issues, and not through the wider ICGLR platform. Their interests would be best served dealing with individual weak African states, instead of a strong bloc of nations, whether through ICGLR or EAC, SADC, COMESA, ECCAS, etc. To the West, it even signals a more worrying trend when member states from these regional groupings start to pursue inter-bloc shared economic interests; it means each individual state’s dependence on the West will increasingly dwindle as African states start to rely more on each other.
So, their strategy is simple, keep these African states and regional economic blocs divided and each separately and perpetually dependent on the West. Then, when the divide-and-rule tactic results into chaos, rush in, broker a peace deal, and reassert your indispensability in the survival of these poor and violent Africans!
These strategies define the motives behind certain indescribable actions and policies towards Africa. The recent so-called UN Mapping report on the alleged human rights violations in the DR Congo, was compiled and released in the same context.
Several experts in international law as well as renowned international diplomats, including former EU special representative to the Great Lakes Region, Ambassador Aldo Ajello, thoroughly demonstrated, during a two-day conference in Kigali, last week, how the report and its architects did not only breach every fundamental principle of credible investigation, but also attempted to rewrite history.
On her part, ICGLR Executive Secretary, Ambassador Liberata Mulamula, questioned with great concern the motives behind the report and its timing, considering that it came out at a time when the region was experiencing unprecedented cordial diplomatic relations and economic development.
“The report was a great disservice to the region that is committed to peaceful coexistence, cooperation, improving relations, reconstruction and development,” noted a seemingly troubled Mulamula. “The report does not benefit anyone in this region.”
In fact, the real faces behind the mapping project must be disappointed that the report and its ill-intentioned leakage have not resulted into another cycle of atrocities.
Instead, the region has strongly condemned it. As the ICGLR Heads of State descend on Lusaka, this week, they must lay down concrete strategies to counter similar ill-intended projects that undermine the dreams of Africans. We must learn from experience and ensure that our destiny firmly lies in our hands.
The author is a training editor with The New Times and 1st VP of Rwanda Journalists Association