History may not always repeat itself, but it does occasionally produce the perfect rhyme to an ongoing crime; such is the unfortunate plight of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Constantly pushed into crisis mode, the prospect of peace in the Congo is facing yet again another predictable downward spiral into oblivion. This cycle has become as predictable as the stakeholders that keep it going round, powered by the same oversights, over and over again.
There is an obvious lack of permanency on the DRC file.
And yet what seems obvious to many a trained eye keeps escaping those who hold the cards in their hands; all the dots MUST be connected! Otherwise, what’s the point? (No pun intended)
It is a matter of fact that the show of force by any rebel army is what gives the government they oppose (anywhere in the world) incentive to join the table of negotiations.
The seizure of Goma by the M23 gave the Heads of State of the International Conference on the Great Lakes (ICGLR), during their 5th Summit hosted in Kampala in 2012, the obligation and the responsibility to call for a negotiated resolution by the two main belligerents.
The resolution defines the territories controlled by the different parties, including an outlined Security Zone controlled by MONUSCO, along with clear guidelines as to what was to take place subsequent to handing over the city of Goma to the Kinshasa Government; the Kampala negotiations were if anything a key component.
Despite the signatures of 11 Heads of State gracing this declaration, it was never to be implemented, not by a long shot.
What resulted from the declaration instead? The M23 rebels seized the moment and fulfilled their end of the bargain by handing over Goma to MONUSCO, resettling in defined perimeters, ceasing all fighting and sending a full-fledged delegation of negotiators to Kampala. MONUSCO on the other hand never created the Security Zone they were meant to and Kinshasa never respected its part of the commitments neither.
It seems everyone has been keener on monitoring the rebels than holding all the players accountable for their commitments vis-à-vis the ICGLR declaration.
And to make matters worse, in came the Addis Framework that got everyone all hot and heavy about yet another proposed solution spearheaded by South Africa, a late entrant in the game, at the request of President Kabila himself.
Right of the bat, South Africa struck a different tone and tune, shifting towards a complete and unequivocal annihilation of the M23 movement by way of military intervention.
The UN must shoulder some of the blame for its lateness in acting and its introduction of the “Force Intervention Brigade” mandated to go on the offensive against what has been dubbed as negative forces in the region, but essentially focuses on the M23 rebel group, originally not part of the list.
This is a complete U-turn from what the ICGLR Declaration meant to accomplish.
By doing so, the UN and Kinshasa’s allies provided Kabila with a good reason not to negotiate but instead boost its military provisions contrary to the ICGLR declaration of Kampala.
Despite Mary Robinson’s insistence on a political solution rather than a military one, Kabila seems dead set on playing the hand he has been dealt by his friends; outsourced warfare.
Come to think of it, there never really were any negotiations to speak of; only a careful game of hide and seek to save time while working out ways of saving the status quo.
It seems now more than likely that Kinshasa and its partners, both silent and vocal, never truly were intent on giving the M23 a fighting chance… this would explain why Kinshasa only sent a half-baked delegation after being summoned by UNSG Special Envoy Mary Robinson, feigning genuine collaboration.
In the meantime, the FDLR and Mai-Mai militias have multiplied destabilizing activities in the M23 zone, a move seen by many as Kinshasa seeking to test and further weaken the rebel movement by lending its support to illegal terror groups operating on its soil against its people.
But pressure is mounting on the DRC to re-enter negotiations with the M23 and Kabila is running out of excuses not to. So, once again, supported by his own structure and the help from committed activist networks, reports after reports are being produced like rabbits out of a magician’s hat, speaking of atrocities upon atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the M23 soldiers.
From mass rapes to the recruitment of ‘child soldiers’, there seems no end in sight to what this rebel movement will stand accused of.
Why would a movement ready to give up its upper hand on the field to favor negotiations turn around and commit atrocities only bound to weaken its stance and credibility? After capturing the city of Goma, Gen Sultan Makenga, the military commander of M23, committed to leaving it to the control of MONUSCO and retired his troops as a clear show of good will.
Ironically enough, even Kinshasa spoke of how disciplined the rebel army was, often accusing it of being composed of Rwanda Defense Forces soldiers, it seems a trademark!
Any self-respecting expert could therefore never interpret the convergence of all these damning reports on the M23 as true or coincidental. They are just about as true as the ever-floating rumors of Makenga’s death and mass defections in the rebel ranks; the aim is clearly to discredit and weaken the rebels to a maximum while Kinshasa desperately attempts to destroy them militarily ahead of the deployment of the FIB.
Unfortunately for Kabila, it has so far been without great success, despite claims to the contrary by the DRC’s usual cheerleaders. Such was the case with the FARDC recent attack on the M23 positions around Mutaho and Kanyaruchinya on the 15th of July 2013.
Once again, we are back to square one! Some observers have expressed doubts about who fired first but in the wake of the first skirmishes the Government didn’t hide their intention to eliminate the rebels.
Despite the government and some observers lauding the “good” job of the FARDC it turns out that on the ground the situation didn’t swing in favour of either party.
And the Kinshasa government showed another terrible flank of its unscrupulous methods with the desecration of fallen combatants, the shelling of civil population in Rumangabo and neighbouring Rwanda, with the massive arrests of “Rwandophones” or related in the Kivu.
The latter is developing strongly and worrying different stakeholders, triggering a “Déjà-vu” effect.
The Government’s position, shared by these observers, shows that there is no intention of negotiating with the rebels whatsoever. It bears instead all the signs of a revenging side that would rather go for a “final” solution than a negotiated peace.
Negotiations, are however, not up for ‘negotiations’ again, no pun intended. They are a necessary step towards true and lasting peace for the people of the DRC, a national mosaic of cultures and customs, bound by more than just laws and frontiers, but by a common dream of lasting peace and prosperity shared…
The 6th Extraordinary “ICGLR Heads of State Summit of Nairobi took it up, with even more backers, from where the previous summit had left it: once again urging all parties to resume the Kampala talks.
Will they make a difference this time … with more people on board to steer? It is utmost important for this process to succeed someone starts telling the Government of DR Congo to act responsible.
Yesterday already and today even more, is the time for Kinshasa to break the rhyme of the ongoing crime by living up to its people’s aspirations, time to go to the negotiating table… for the sake of lasting peace.
The writer is a political analyst for the Great Lakes Region