The quagmire in the Democratic Republic of Congo is well documented and researched. Here are some indelible facts; the various conflagrations have brought a huge death toll, either directly through armed conflict or, indirectly, through diseases and hunger.
Women and children have borne the brunt- rape of women and induction of children into rebel armies are facts that are beyond dispute. However, what is in dispute is whether another armed conflict can be the key to relieving the suffering of the Congolese people.
I won’t talk about the effects of the Congolese instability to its neighbours because it seems that that is of no consequence to members of the international community. I will concentrate on Congo and its people.
Various international bodies, the United Nations notwithstanding, have sounded a hue and cry about the joint Rwanda-Congo military manoeuvre in the eastern part of the Congo.
While MONUC wrung their hands impotently, the International Criminal Court issued indictments and human rights organisations printed documents declaring ‘j’accuse…, j’accuse…’ the people of the Congo kept dying.
While Rwandan forces kept within their territory, they were accused of unspeakable things like recruiting children for Nkunda’s CNDP and being the cause of the continuous conflict in eastern Congo.
While we tried to mind our own business and rebuild our own country, we were accused of not doing enough to help reduce the fighting. In fact, we were accused of actually increasing the fighting.
So, here was the situation; Congo was falling apart at the seams because the various insurgencies (some led, or caused by Rwandan FDLR fighter) kept making effective governance by the national government an impossibility; in true international community fashion, its flagship enterprise, MONUC, was more or less toothless in the face of well armed groups [who can forget UNAMIR] because they didn’t have the stomach for a real fight and, in a time tested way, the last cog in the Congolese Farris wheel were the countless human rights organisations that issued more and more alarming reports-reports that were of no practical importance to those most affected by the fighting.
Well, as we Africans have found out the hard way, we are truly the masters of our own destinies. So, what do the governments of the Congo and Rwanda do? Sit down, iron out their problems and forge a strategy that is mutually beneficial to the peoples of both nations.
The people of Rwanda get a chance to sleep soundly knowing that the threat of an invasion through our western border is nullified while the people of the Congo have one less insurgency to deal with. With that in mind, a joint military exercise is begun.
However, that’s when things become confusing. Instead of lauding the maturity and ability of both sides to look beyond their differences, there is a sense of alarm.
People are falling over themselves to show just how the joint exercise is a sham and will only lead to more loss of life. Their logic, which I find extremely flawed, is thus- “it’s better to have the ‘usual’ loss of life by doing nothing rather than risk a ‘greater’ loss by attempting to find a long lasting solution.
It seems to me that they have forgotten that people are dying because there was a, previously, intractable conflict…and the only way to stop the deaths was to remove the root cause, the inability of the Congolese government to effectively protect their citizens from harm.
I’d hazard the guess that the critics have their priorities totally wrong. As usual, they’ve refused to see the bigger picture. Don’t they realise that only through military action can the insurgency be defeated? Don’t they realise that if the status quo is maintained the conflict will continue without cease?
Certainly, innocents will lose their lives-that is the cold, hard fact of war, however, on the other hand, if the joint-exercise is well coordinated [and there is no evidence to make us believe that it isn’t so] then, in the long run, far more people will have the chance to live their lives in peace and security.
Certainly, there are risks in choosing the military path. But lets us review the victories so far; Nkunda’s insurgency is a thing of the past, FDLR fighters are being repatriated while its leadership is on the run and the governments of the Congo and Rwanda are putting to the side their past antagonisms.
Just on that evidence I believe that the joint exercise was, and still is, the way to go. Let us not put the cart before the horse; remove the insurgents’ ability to wage war on the government and the people by any means necessary and to hell with warnings of a “humanitarian crisis in the making” by the people who will have us prevaricate as they have.