Currently, the media is awash with stories of recent fighting in eastern Congo. Quite often, the turn of events can be ugly.
Just in conformity with the old adage, which says, where two elephants fight, the grass suffers, Congolese civilians are facing the brunt of the fighting more than any other party.
Last week, Congolese soldiers were reported to have looted, raped and maimed civilians in DRC’s town of Goma-sending many people fleeing to Rwanda.
The pictures of those desperate for aid look ugly too. The women, men and children who cram roads looking for secure places are not amusing either.
Carrying luggage on their heads, including mattresses, guitar on the back, some move along with goats. For sure, the actions of Congolese soldiers have exposed them fully.
This is not surprising though, as last month, the same soldiers arrested Rwandans visiting their towns of Goma and Bukavu and demanded heavy ransoms-before releasing them-typical of Somali pirates.
One Rwandan of Rubavu district in Western Rwanda who was arrested in Goma, reportedly paid $ 1500!
Their conduct is not surprising because it is believed that a person adopts the habits of his or her closest associates.
If the Congolese soldiers have been in bed with FDLR rebels for more than a decade, then what kind of conduct would they learn from the rebels.
If we were to apportion blame, Kabila’s government would take the lion’s share. The Congolese government’s refusal to talk to General Laurent Nkunda, or at least recognise his reasons for fighting leaves a lot of scepticism.
Recognising realities is vital in problem-solving.
The mere fact that Nkunda was gates away from capturing Goma, but restrained his forces-and declared a ceasefire-yet government forces had fled shows that he is not at all interested in fighting.
Miserable, most likely underpaid soldiers, in a vast mineral rich country, where the rule of law is elusive, were bound to commit the kind of atrocities they committed while retreating.
They are good students of FDLR rebels. It’s no wonder that many of the Congolese soldiers falsely resent Rwandans-blaming them for the chaos in their country.
But which Rwandans are they talking about? They are the ones that committed genocide and are wanted by courts of laws. Let there be no deception of any sort.
It’s not enough for the government to sign for peace accords when it is not committed at all.
Certainly, this can’t justify their actions, but it shades light. Kabila was or is wrong to assume that he could let Rwandan rebels be responsible for the genocide, operate freely, fight alongside his soldiers, and then not taint the image of government forces.
The soldiers may fight on, but it will be a matter of time and they will freely hand themselves over or at worst declare a mutiny.
Various politicians are urging Congo to find solutions to solve their civil strife instead of trading accusations. By opening the door wide open to so many rebel outfits in the region, Kabila has guaranteed that they will never have a stable government.
Tired of fighting, his soldiers are now diverting their anger to innocent civilians. The government seems not to mind what is happening to its people.
Whereas other governments labour to resettle all their citizens, the Kinshasa government doesn’t make efforts to ensure that all Congolese leave refugee camps- many of whom are in Rwanda.
As I write this, other hundreds of Congolese have fled their country to neighbouring countries including Rwanda and Uganda-and this, leads me to another question: When will the refugee problem, especially in Africa, end?
As expected, just as it was in Rwanda during the genocide, the UN has been quick to evacuate aid workers most of whom are foreigners, leaving Congolese to sort out themselves.
It’s against my wish to spell doom, but unless Congolese themselves find a negotiated settlement to arrest the situation, the international community may come in too late.