“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” – Matthew 5:9It takes courage to go to war, but even more courage to make peace with former enemies; the recent cordial meeting between the Heads of States of Rwanda and D.R. Congo should have received more global attention than it did.
The casual stroll and meeting was momentous, in that it finally closed a dark chapter in our recent events.
While commending the courage of our President, I would also like to highly commend Joseph Kabila for being pragmatic and going against the instincts of his public, for the greater good of his nation.
More than a decade of conflict has meant that the two nations viewed each other with suspicion, but it took the joint courage of the leadership to show citizens of both nations the higher moral ground.
Joseph Kabila has dumbfounded most of his critics; firstly, few believed he would survive being assassinated like his father, even fewer people thought he would master the devious arts of politics required in the Kinshasa lions’ den.
And yet he has survived, and to his credit – thrived.
He was badly advised when he thought FDLR could be used as a proxy against Rwanda, but he realised the atrocities being committed against his people by the FDLR and changed his view.
Congo has a deeply binding sense of nationalism and the strength of tiny Rwanda on the other side of the country made the public hateful and suspicious of “Le Rwandais”; even to the extent that the speaker of parliament in Kinshasa resigned in protest when the rapprochement was announced. Kabila is usually very in line with public opinion, but stood firm in the face of criticism, as he saw the benefits of regional stability above the costs of pride.
Congo is the real tragic story of African decolonisation; a nation blessed with all the minerals on this Earth, and yet “curse of wealth” struck again, to cause poverty instead of wealth.
The nation fragmented along regional and ethnic lines in the post-Mobutu era but has been slowly regaining unity; the conflict in Kivu was the one remaining obstacle to this national unity and required delicate surgery from both leaders.
Laurent Nkunda was coming to be seen as a deranged demagogue with a Messianic complex, but he was always a symptom of a crisis of governance and not the cause.
He was surgically removed from the situation and suddenly the chances of peace were enhanced.
Good neighbourliness is essential in life; it was not enough for Rwanda and Congo to merely cease hostilities, the two nations had to cooperate. It is like when two brothers’ fight and the parents force them to hug each other to remind them of their bond.
There is still a lot of work to do in Eastern Congo, and this is just the beginning of the struggle. FDLR will be defeated in time as they have no cover now; but the issue of the Mai-Mai militia and poor state of the national army are also pressing.
A generation of both Congolese and Rwandan refugees have been scarred; rebuilding that generation is going to take as much courage as it did to make peace.