These words of wisdom should, in our view, be the leitmotiv of any member of the current diplomatic ballet around Kinshasa. And this is not only our opinion but it is increasingly being shared by most of those really concerned about the plight of the Congolese people, especially those in the North and South Kivu.
Thus, Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, dismissed calls for an escalation of the military presence led by European countries.
He told France 24 on Thursday 30: “We are on the side of the DRC, but I do not believe in the military option. By taking the diplomatic and political option we will be able to sort this conflict out in the long term.”
On the same day, the Congolese Parliamentarians unanimously requested the Government to immediately open dialogue with the rebellion.
In a plenary session, the General Assembly approved a “recommendation” appealing to the Executive to take into account the rebellion’s claims and abandon the idea of a military solution”.
Unfortunately, these appeals to reason do not seem to reach President Kabila’s Government which continues to dismiss the rebellion’s demands for direct negotiations to end the escalating violence in The North Kivu province.
Maybe he is still under illusions, thanks to French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner’s promise that he was discussing the possible deployment of 400 to 1,500 European troops to the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Is it possible to send some other forces? My personal attitude is to try to do something”, he said. France, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, must convince the bloc’s other member states.
If they agree on a common course of action, a force could be deployed within “8 to ten days”, Kouchner said. If this was to happen, far from easing the situation, it would make things much worse due to the involvement of European forces, a kind of “Artemis II”.
General Nkunda warned he would not hesitate to fight against it, with disastrous humanitarian consequences. Why do we say this? Let’s just briefly review what happened recently to enlighten the Public.
The CNDP has many times condemned what it considered as the bias of the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC) troops, who, it claims, has shot at its troops when they violated the ceasefire but only requested the national army to stop when they committed similar violations.
Adding to that, the CNDP claimed before the resumption of the August 28 hostilities that government troops were reinforcing to attack them in a strategy of militarily annihilating them.
This mutual suspicion resulted into the failure of the Amani programme for the security and the reconstruction of Kivu, launched in April by the international community, which had envisaged the implementation of the ceasefire, the demobilization of troops and the creation of conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people.
And probably the last straw was the use of two FARDC battalions trained by MONUC specifically for fighting the Hutu-based FLDR but who instead, on September 25, attacked Nkunda’s forces in Kabiso and Tongo in the north of Masisi territory.
Later on CNDP troops overran the military camp of Rumangabo, killing about 100 government soldiers and capturing tonnes of military hardware, including four Katyusha rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns, mortar launchers and vehicles, in what appeared to observers as a repetition of the Mushaki disaster of December 2007, when after an attack on an FARDC military camp the CNDP captured six tons of ammunition, 45 armoured vehicles, 20 RPGs and 15,000 boxes of grenades.
Now, on October 30, Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda confirmed his soldiers are poised to take the city unless the Government agrees to a ceasefire.
“We are going to continue fighting, but it will not be our choice. We want to negotiate, we want to talk, we want to resolve problems,” he said. He emphasized he wants assurances from the Government that his Tutsi community will be protected from Rwandan Hutus in the area.
He argued that the inhabitants of Nord-Kivu were still vulnerable to what he said were atrocities committed by Congolese forces and their allied Rwandan Hutu rebel group and, he would have to take control of Goma if MONUC proved unable to protect civilians there.
“If MONUC is incapable of securing Goma, then I have too,” he said. One would not be clearer.
The DRC government’s first reaction was to ask the UN Security Council to call an emergency meeting to censure what it described as an incursion into its territory by government forces from neighbouring Rwanda.
Congolese UN Ambassador Ileka Atoki said the Congo had hard proof that the Rwandan forces had been on his country’s soil. “We have captured some Rwandan soldiers,” Atoki said, adding that his government would soon show them to the media.
This promise was never to materialize to confound Rwanda. Not only would the UN force on the field have substantiated the report if it were true, but also European diplomats represented there confirmed that they had no evidence of Rwandan military involvement.
In any event in their view it was unlikely because Nkunda’s troops, numbering somewhere between 3,500 and 6,000, did not need the support of the Rwandan Defense Force to face the FARDC - estimated at 25,000 troops in North Kivu.
In their view Rwanda’s support was not needed because Nkunda’s troops were more disciplined, skilled and motivated and because after the Mushaki and Rumangabo battles they now have tons of military equipment.
A Western diplomat commented, “In the Congolese military’s view, the defeats at Mushaki and Rumangabo are not their fault but the responsibility of the international community which should have supported them.”
It may be difficult for the Congolese authorities to admit that for years they have been unable to win against the renegade general and his troops despite a ratio in their favour of five to one.
They may believe that all the problems of the Congolese army will disappear once they defeat Nkunda. But that is probably a mistake.
Let us stress this point: it is not probably, but certainly a big mistake. Professor Kä Mana, a Congolese citizen who can hardly be accused of Rwandan links, wrote on 07/10/2008 in Congolite: “In the current situation in Kivu, the FDLR issue is a thorn in the relations between our country and Rwanda.
Having become a State within a State, these former soldiers of the Rwandan army at the time of Juvenal Habyarimana serve our own cause in the distrust that we have with our Eastern neighbour and stir in this neighbour doubts about our deep desire to be at peace with the current power in Kigali…
In a famous interview with Colette Braeckman, Paul Kagame has been clear about this: he made it clear to Joseph Kabila Kabange that his current strategy of war would blow into his face, as an irretrievable disaster.
This is not just a prophecy of doom. It is a thinly veiled threat, whose meaning is linked to the support Kinshasa gives FDLR by letting it live on its territory as a State within a State, with the power to raise taxes, disciplining the population, to recruit militias and serve as a supplementary force to a Congolese army, like Angola did a few years ago to support Laurent Desire Kabila when Rwanda sought to overthrow him from Bas-Congo.
As long as our country will not understand that we have no interest to meddle with the FDLR and that we gain nothing in giving Nkunda a secure backyard that would be permanently Rwanda, we will not have a coherent strategic vision for building peace.
We risk to be embroiled in a situation where war calls for war as “money calls for money.”
This vicious circle must be broken by the courage of direct negotiations with Nkunda, who is now requesting for it.
Likewise the issue of FDLR should be once for all be resolved, based on the various agreements signed before that have only lacked the political commitment on the part of Kinshasa for their execution.
If done in this manner, the doors of peace would indeed open for building a viable GLR.”
Prof. Mana continues to argue that “we should understand that the struggle of these men ( I believe meaning ethnic minorities like the Congolese Tutsis) and women against the humiliation and frustration is not a struggle fuelled by a narrow tribal, ethnic and diabolically destructive ambition, but a struggle essentially and eminently political at the heart of the Congo: a struggle for recognition of fundamental rights and essential duties without which there is no humanity possible for an individual or a people…
We need a different interpretation, more historically-based, more responsive to issues of substance, more oriented towards a willingness to build peace through sustainable and viable solutions, rather than inflaming deadly hatred instincts and emotions in ethnic groups in the East and in the mentality of Congolese.
Such an interpretation should be able to respond primarily to the following questions: (1) What are the roots of the whole situation now which has set ablaze the Kivu region? (2) What are the dimensions most relevant to understanding the challenges of the current war? (3) What problems, conscious or unconscious, this war can claim to be a solution to?”
It is my view that these views are genuinely aimed at peacefully resolving this very unfortunate conflict that has engrossed the Eastern DRC for over a decade now yet with a clear vision and commitment would be easily resolve.