SADC, AU need to do more to find lasting peace in DRC

It was prominent proponent of black nationalism, Marcus Garvey who said, “We must give up the silly idea of folding our hands and waiting on God to do everything for us. If God had intended for that, then he would not have given us a mind. Whatever you want in life, you must make up your mind to do it for yourself.”

We are remind of this famous quote by Garvey by events that are happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially the eastern parts of the vast African country that seems not to know peace. In fact, the DRC has hardly known lasting peace since the end of colonialism and conflicts in that country have prevented the country from realising its full potential. Yet the DRC is one of Africa’s richest countries and is endowed with vast mineral resources, timber forests, good soils and climate conducive for agricultural production and is home to some of the continent’s scenic tourist attractions.

The DRC has vast mineral resources which can spearhead economic development across the entire continent. Yet sadly, these have not benefited the country and its people, but opportunists who take advantage of conflicts to exploit its mineral wealth. Is it not instructive that, as we reported in our edition last week, former United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold died while trying to find lasting peace in the Congo? A strong advocate of decolonisation, Hammarskjold, the second UN secretary-general, had adversaries who felt threatened by his diplomacy.

He died while on a visit to help end a secessionist war in newly independent Congo, a former Belgian colony rich with strategically vital minerals, including uranium, coveted by the world’s big powers. No wonder his mission was regarded with suspicion by powerful mining interests in Belgium and the then apartheid South Africa, as well as permanent members of the UN Security Council, including the United States and Britain. Years later, in 1998, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe were to sent troops, under the auspices of SADC, to shore up the government of President Laurent Kabila after the country had been invaded from the east by Rwanda and Uganda.

The country’s resources appear to be a curse as foreign powers seem interested in benefitting from the turmoil as it allows them to plunder and pillage. A UN report which detailed the exploitation of the DRC’s resources during the 1998-2003 war named Rwanda and Uganda as some of the countries that plundered the country’s minerals and timber. As we report elsewhere in this issue, refugees fleeing the latest conflict in the eastern part of the DRC are now flocking to neighbouring countries, including Angola and Zambia, exerting more pressure on those neighbouring countries.

Certainly the DRC needs assistance to bring lasting peace and order in the conflict ridden region and we urge not only SADC, of which the country is a member, but the African Union as well, to take a more proactive role to end the conflicts. At its 37th Summit in Pretoria, South Africa, in August, SADC noted a number of challenges and we believe the sooner these are addressed, the better for the DRC. Among the challenges SADC noted was that it would be unrealistic for the DRC to hold elections in December 2017 as originally planned and it urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to publicise the revised electoral calendar in consultation with the government and the National Council for Monitoring the Implementation of the Agreement (CNSA) signed 31 December last year.

The SADC Summit also called upon the international community and all stakeholders to continue supporting the implementation of the 31 December 2016 Agreement and respecting the wishes of the Congolese people with a view to ensuring the sustainable peace, security and stability of the DRC. It further urged all stakeholders to refrain from actions that would undermine the political and security stability with regard to developments which led to the escalation of violence and insecurity in the Kasai Provinces. While we believe there is a need to hold elections in the DRC, we do not believe these elections would be meaningful in an environment of conflict and armed rebellion. We believe SADC must follow through the summit recommendations and more so, speed up the appointment of the special envoy who would spearhead the drive towards lasting peace in that country. But given the size of the DRC, we do not think the solution for peace should be left to SADC alone, but we call upon the continental body, the AU, to also be actively involved in the country. Lasting peace in the DRC would not only benefit that country alone. The SADC region as well as the entire continent would be stronger with a peaceful, prosperous DRC. We believe it is time African leaders find a lasting solution to the recurrent conflicts in the DRC. Garvey, were he alive today, would probably have said Africa must give up the silly idea of folding its hands and waiting on God to solve the problems of the DRC.

October 2017
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