Battling to maintain a resemblance of still being in charge, the United Nations Security Council last week voted to increase the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) by 3,000 men, to raise its capacity to 20,000 peacekeepers.
Let’s face it. Whether they are 20,000 peacekeepers or 200,000, there is no peace to keep in the DRC unless the key player, the government of the DRC, makes appropriate moves by implementing the Nairobi Accord.
President Joseph Kabila ironically becomes enemy number one of the Kivu region for failing to bring peace to this region. Every once in a while a nation gets a father-figure, a patriot, a Mandela.
This simply means a leader in the true sense of the word leadership, someone who is interested in furthering development for his people and his country, and not his person, family and close friends.
This is Africa’s bane – the lack of people who can live and die on visionary leadership alone, and not power, dollar and mansion acquisition. The many players in the internal politics of the DRC are not helping issues at all.
The DRC courted China, which has invested close to $10 billion in the vast country, counting too the $9 billion loan for infrastructural development. Its impact is yet to be felt, but the country being vast, it is expected that this dollar injection will be no more felt than the fart of a mosquito.
It is to be expected that China will continue throwing dollars at the DRC to graduate its presence in the country from a mere toehold to a firm foothold –complain the IMF as much as it will about Chino-DRC dealings.
Great sacrifices need to be made by all players in the DRC field. China’s presence there is only to serve its strategic and commercial interests, and the sooner the leadership in Kinshasa understood this, the better.
It is only a modern day Belgium, and even if it was not China it would still be another moneyed country that is only ever ready to do the DRC the “favour” of having bilateral dealings. It’s all too familiar, and Africa has been there before. The problem of bilateral dealings is that African countries continue getting a raw deal.
China is now into mineral concessions and road and railway construction in the DRC. But instead of getting a better deal
for the Congolese, the natives will be getting no jobs from this vast investment windfall. Instead, China will be flying in its experts and foot soldiers, the manual labourers.
This is exactly the kind of deals we get from “over there” – you get money or aid only in theory. The bulk is transferred back to the donor countries in salaries and bloated allowances for their “experts”, even if they sometimes turn up to be no better than apprentices. The aid then becomes nominal.
President Kabila needs to come off his high horse and placate all the warring groups. This cannot be easy with all of them, government and rebels alike, feeding on bloated egos of power and might.
Now, if I was to speak and act like the visionary leader I wish for the Congo, I would swallow all my pride and chase away the FDLR. Then I would suggest constitutional amendments to make the DRC a Federal State.
This is the only way to manage the great swathe of central African territory that the DRC is. The major provinces of Equateur,Orientale, Bandundu, Kasai-Oriental, Maniema, Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Kasai-Occidental, Katanga, Kinshasa would remain, but with some merging with one another, like the Kivus would become one; the Kasais, and Bandundu and Kinshasa.
Of course some of the current outlandish names would go, as it does not mean anything now to have “Occidental” and “Oriental” Congos. Names are serious things, as was seen in the immediate reversion to the Democratic Republic of Congo from Zaire by the late president Laurent Kabila.
Dissident general Laurent Nkunda would become my Vice President, if he turned down the opportunity to become governor of Kivu Province.
The FDLR purge would already have addressed his overriding concerns and the reasons for his continuous waging of war, to wit, the protection of his people from marauding FDLR bands. Otherwise rounds and rounds of peace initiatives will continue being discussed and passed, butwill fail in implementation.
Pacifying the DRC needs bold, active steps and a lot of politicking, but nevertheless committed leadership towards resolving conflict and pain amongst peoples, as well as proactive tackling of the chronic underdevelopment that has been the hallmark of the Congo for almost all its existence.
It appears every leader who ascends the throne is only interested in maintaining the status quo so that they find it easy to plunder an uninformed population and an undeveloped nation.
The difficulty with this federation prospect is finding a person with the charisma to take it up; one who will rise above petty differences and settle for the general Congolese good.
Can Kabila really rise to the occasion?
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org