As I’ve done before, I have a guest writer on my blog, Rama Isibo. His views are not necessarily my own.
Congolese refugees displaced within their own homeland by militias and armies, fighting with foreign weapons for foreign purposes, face extremely rough conditions in makeshift Camp de Kahe in Kitchanga in the Masisi district of Congo’s North Kivu Province, near the Rwandan border. – Photo: S. Schulman, UNHCR
The recent crisis precipitated by the M23 rebellion is the latest in a long saga dating back to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Since the Genocide, we have seen an escalation of the conflict to the extent that there are now 23 armed groups fighting to fill the vacuum left by the state. The governance model of DRC going back to the days of Mobutu was to have a weak central government, weak army, a corrupt civil service which was hardly ever paid on time, and hope for the best. Instead of disarming or fighting these groups, the government has accommodated, used one to fight the other, and therefore not helped the situation. We all know the history, but history will not solve the crisis, Rwanda has been blamed but didn’t understand this blame was a cry for help. The blame was a call for Rwanda to solve the crisis, the fact that we are going to suffer as a nation means that we are compelled to drive home a solution. We cannot afford to go through the five stages of grief over aid cuts; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We must sort this out before it derails our development and makes it Vision2025.
The birth of a nation
The New York Times ran an article called “To save Congo, we have to let it fall apart.” The piece called for what the Congolese fear the most “Balkanisation” or fragmentation, but this in itself is not viable in the short-term. There is little support for the Republic of Kivu among most Kivutians, yes they are fed up with the Kinshasa government but know that all areas of Congo are let down by Kinshasa, just that they suffer the most. They are patchwork-quilt of tribes that have rarely gotten along, but to ask for statehood in an era where states are coming together under Superstates is hard. Even the recent example of Southern Sudan needed a referendum even though it was obvious that nearly all Southerners wanted to secede. To start a state is one day of happiness, then years of work, a Kivu state would need billions of dollars of aid to start. Even with billions of dollars under its soil in the form of minerals, Kivu would start at the bottom, with the highest infant mortality, highest number of rape victims, 90% of the people exhibiting trauma, and every other negative. The dynamics are pulling Kivu away from Congo but not just yet, the solution is better governance.
The Katumbi effect
There is an accepted myth that Congolese are inherently stupid and ungovernable, it is shared by people in the
Moïse Katumbi Katebe Chapwe, a multimillionaire, is the powerful governor of the Province of Katanga. He is also a member of President Joseph Kabila’s ruling party PPRD.
Kinshasa government, NGO’s, the international community and even many Congolese themselves. This they say, is a result of two men whose shadows loom over Congo; King Leopold and Mobutu Sese Seko, it is true that with a broken down society the Congolese revert to their most disagreeable nature but exceptions exist. Moise Katumbi, the Governor of Katanga is undoubtedly a future president of Congo, he rules Katanga, the richest province with a vision that is rarely seen in Africa. Born to a Jewish father and Congolese mother, he changed his name from Moise Soriano to Katumbi Chapwe, this gave him authenticity among Congolese. It was his works that have earned him respect all over Congo, he hardly asks the Kinshasa government for anything, he builds roads, schools, hospitals, public works with royalties taxed direct to mining companies and sends taxes to Kinshasa. It also helps that he has the most popular football team in Congo, TP Mazembe. If he chose to run then Kabila wouldn’t stand a chance as Katumbi would take his powerbase among the Luba in Lumumbashi with him. Governance can start with one man, under Katumbi all the uniquely Congolese traits have been calmed, Kivu needs a Katumbi, a man who governs for the best interests of his people like they are a separate state.
A uniquely Rwandan solution
Rwanda is going through a spin at the moment, several months of political pressure from donors and western media have left it reeling. We have vehemently denied, got angry, tried to bargain but to no effect. It was amazing to see ministers saying “we don’t need aid” as if it is a fait accompli, the aid is not off the table it is merely suspended, we can and will get it back if we can find a permanent solution to this Congo crisis. In that way we can kill two birds with one stone, but first we need honesty on both sides. Rwanda has been in a covert proxy war with DRC and Zaire since 1994, we should openly admit that, just as Congo has been supporting FDLR against Rwanda. There has to be a peace and security treaty between the two nations with a genuine cause for mutual security. There is no solution without Rwanda, Rwanda has a genuine security threat but some individuals in Rwanda have benefited from the chaos in Congo. The FDLR has to be disarmed, as well as other groups, the Wild, Wild West that is Kivu must be tamed, the UN must leave and Africans must solve this problem. We as Rwanda must move past the GoE report, and present viable solutions to end this crisis as we are suffering from its effects, we need to be honest about our involvement citing our genuine security concerns and draw a line under it.
Hope for Kivu
Kivu can have peace, the people are exhausted by war, exhausted by running for refuge, it is not an interminable problem, there are drivers to this crisis. The breakdown of the Congo state; foreign rebel armies, the greed for minerals, the inactive UN, and lack of investment and infrastructure must all be solved. One critic, Gerald Prunier said “M23 is a pimple, but there is a deeper cancer in Congo” and this is true indeed. Kabila might fear a strong army in Kinshasa but he needs a strong army in Kivu, not strong in numbers but as ideological motivated and disciplined as the M23. Not all Banyamulenge have supported M23, others have stayed loyal like Patrick Masunzu, if he could appoint a loyal local general who is acceptable to all sides, as a governor of North Kivu, then M23 would not have a reason to exist. The current Governor Julien Paluku is a joke to say the least, spat upon in the streets for his comical blunders, he was hounded by mobs out of Kisangani. If he had a Patrick Masunzu or a similar figure, who can start to disarm these groups, rule the area like a sovereign state but still remain loyal to Kinshasa, to follow the Katumbi model. The West will also have to pump some clean money into Kivu because most of the money there is derived from illegal means, they need clean money in Kivu. They also need investment in roads, just like the railroad pacified the Wild Wild West, a highway would open up Kivu.
Rwanda cannot afford to look back and continue the denial game, it is what the West wants, someone to blame and buy time while the war continues. That is what the GoE UN report was, a litany of blame, blame the wrong guy and force him to fix it. I saw this personally in UK, when the police would arrest a wrong guy for murder just so people could name the real murderer and exonerate him. This is the situation Rwanda is in, they have prior involvement in Congo so they must be the ones, other than deny, deny, deny, we should come up with an equitable solution that keeps Congo together, brings peace to Kivu, guarantees our security, and helps develop the region. We can take hope from a previously “interminable” conflict in Northern Ireland, though they are not the same the dynamics are similar. A divided community, a part wants to be part of one country, a part wants to be part of another, and they are living street by street. We also had UK and Ireland fighting proxy wars, funding militia and terrorists, international crime meets ideological warriors. Devolution saw all sides reaching an equitable solution, it needed Britain and Ireland first to agree to solve the situation, then it was a complex negotiation between various groups for power-sharing. We all know the solution for Kivu but no one has the guts to utter the solution. We must just accept the West’s ignorance as just that, but help fix it not because the West told us, fix it because you cannot live next door to a burning house without the burning embers reaching yours. While we argue about who started the fire, the fire is just burning out of control. Rwanda needs to be talked off the ledge, it is not all over, this can be resolved, and the sooner the better.