Rwanda and DRC have presented the Great Lakes region with the ultimate New Years’ gift – a concrete prospect for peace. Many, including major media houses, were taken aback when Kigali and Kinshasa; hitherto bitter foes, announced a joint military operation to hunt-down and repatriate the single most persistent cause of instability and suffering in the region – the FDLR.
This disclosure was followed by news that is more welcome. CNDP, which was fighting the Kinshasa regime, had also agreed to lay down arms and integrate its forces into the regular DRC army. Various other marauding militia quickly followed suit. Surely now, the prospect of peace in the Great Lakes region have never been brighter than today.
Keen observers will agree, however, that this positive turn of events was not been a magical or spontaneous occurrence. It is a culmination of boundless patience and self-restraint particularly on the Rwanda side in the face of past-unfulfilled promises to deal with the FDLR problem.
All along, it was clear which side was dragging their feet and lacking in enthusiasm for real action against the genocidal force. However, this is no time to apportion blame; conversely, it is time to laud both governments for the boldness that saw them arrive at this understanding.
This move gives practical meaning to the idea of “African bred solutions for Africa’s problems.”
Following these commendable developments and taking into account the insecurity and immense suffering inflicted on innocent civilians by the brutality of the FDLR, one would imagine nothing but applause from all circles for this joint military undertaking; as was the case in Addis-Ababa by the Heads of state and Government of the International Conference on the Great Lakes region.
But alas how wrong! Certain sections of the mighty “international rights watch dogs” were at it again; criticizing the best shot for peace in the region. They rushed to claim that a humanitarian crisis was looming in Eastern DRC because of the joint operations.
How sarcastic! Is there worse calamity for those innocent lives than having to suffer day by day at the hands of an atrocious FDLR force?
In fact, if the FDLR problem is successfully resolved, the Eastern DRC populace will have opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity that they have been longing for over the years. The entire Great Lakes region will shift from being a theatre of conflict to a magnet of economic activity and prosperity.
If media reports are anything to go by, indications are that the joint military endeavour is already bearing fruit. The UN peacekeeping force - MONUC is reporting that the number of FDLR combatants voluntarily surrendering for repatriation along with their hostages is much greater than before.
Bearing in mind the volatility that characterized this part of the region, is there a better way for both countries and Eastern DRC in particular to begin a New Year?
The decision arrived at by the two countries to carry out joint action is already a key highlight of the year and marks a major breakthrough for sustainable peace in the region.