Redefining peacekeeping as we knew it

February 21st 2014

As it used to be (and still is, in places?), peacekeeping could not impress anybody in Rwanda, in my opinion. With it, Rwandans saw the meaning of shame and will never be identified with it.

When UN peacekeepers had their stint in Rwanda in the early 1990s, except a wee few courageous individuals who saved lives – some of who lost their own, God bless their souls – they did not give Rwandans any reason for fond memories.

If anything, they left memories of distress, derision, rage and rancour. In instances where their intervention was most critically needed, where death of innocents was looming, their reaction was at best comical, at worst embarrassingly heartless.

Take the case in a technical school, in Kigali. Thousands of cowed Rwandans were holed up there in 1994, having run to peacekeepers camped there for protection. All around the fence, a militia of uncountable maniacal murderers hungrily waited, their crude killing implements dripping blood from killings elsewhere.

Then, inexplicably, an order came for the peacekeepers to evacuate and they left their charges high and dry. As they set off, they watched as the killers burst over the fence and set upon their victims with clubs, machetes, axes, stones, any killer tool at hand. Even as screams rang in their ears, the peacekeepers headed for the airport: not a shot to scare the killers away; not an odd gun left behind for the hapless victims.

To this day, the (sole?) survivor who tearfully recounts this incident is nursing the stump of a lost arm and a nail-studded-knobkerrie-machete battered body. Listening to this disgrace – leave alone reliving it – is heart-rending. Similar examples in areas all over the country are legion, none any less agonizing.

Rwandan soldiers, wherever they can, and for as long as they can, will never allow such infamy to be visited on any innocent individual/group of individuals.
Whoever attempts to comment on peacekeeping as practiced by Rwanda Defences Forces (RDF) should never forget this hell they came from.

Rwanda today is a product of the disgrace of her history and so is RDF. Wherever RDF volunteer to keep the peace, their own peace is secondary. First and foremost, the victim in the conflict must be protected.

That’s why it should not surprise anybody that Rwandan peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) appear to be acting the daredevil.

Last Sunday, 16th February, as RDF’s Rwanda Mechanised Infantry Battalion forces (RwaMechBatt1) were on the 700-km road to the Cameroon border, escorting a humanitarian convoy through a marauding mixture of fighters, when they came under attack. But where other peacekeepers try to keep out of harm’s way, RDF plunged into the thick of it.

The Anti-Balaka marauding murderers must have regretted their adventurous folly after suffering seven losses, even if they killed two innocent civilians. At the end of the encounter, more than 2000 Muslims were rescued – a reason RDF is being called “Seleka”!

Wherever they are, RDF soldiers are with any defenceless person, anybody vulnerable, to the hilt. The person may be Muslim, Christian, black, white, whatever.

In Rwanda, we know this. Whether they are joining the monthly umuganda; building houses for vulnerable families; providing community health services; constructing classrooms; handling emergencies; saving a life in any way, RDF are in their element. We remember helicopter evacuations of accident victims inside Rwanda, in Uganda, in Tanzania; the market fire in Burundi. The soldiers are imbedded in the populace: in CAR, Darfur, South Sudan or Haiti – and wherever next.

And so when the CAR capital and surrounding areas were faced with hunger last January, they answered the call and opened up the humanitarian and commercial corridor that connects Bangui to the Cameroonian seaport of Duala. In Bangui, it’s their duty to put a stop to looting; lynching; any case of lawlessness.

Some non-Africans may have milked cheap popularity out of the corridor incident, as reports have it, but to think that RDF is in this life-and-death business for the money and fame is to insult Rwandans in the extreme. It ignores the painful reality of our brothers and sisters, daughters and sons that we receive home, legs first.

As a young compatriot observes, nobody should engage in some academic merry-go-round about “prestigious achievement”, “celebrity status” or “war tales” going to RDF’s head. But the compatriot should also disabuse himself of these beliefs of anyone standing “a slim chance of taking the reigns ” [sic] because of the place the army holds in this country. In Rwanda, the army is the people. And the people, the army.

All in all, methinks to RDF, peacekeeping is about giving the victimised peace, and keeping it – for eventual transfer. The forces have no time for amusement parks.

Their overriding calling is to restore people’s dignity and self-worth. For having suffered the disgrace they did, Rwandans could not but redefine peacekeeping as we knew it.

They are welcome, who followed suit (Remember FIB – THE fib?)

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The dynamic pack on a relentless journey

It’s interesting to stand on the side, fly-on-the-wall-like, and watch an interaction of the clear-headed, confident and articulate-to-a-fault young bureaucrats of Rwanda. And, sure, a sprinkling of their elder greying ‘Gaguls’ (as we used to call oldies), as they all together bandy ideas about.

The seriousness with which they set about their work sometimes makes you wonder if these young souls ever remember to ‘live’. But not so much the Gaguls, who’ll have had their fair share of ‘living’, anyway!

Last Saturday, employees in this Government department, call it “The Office”, were trading ideas in a day-long retreat. As usual, they boiled up their heads in a contest of ideas that saw their past performance shredded and minutely examined, then sewn back together into a bundle of improvement proposals for this year. These retreats have become the byword for the transformation of this country. All departments seek optimal performance to advance the smooth and value-filled running of the departments for better delivery to the country’s department heads.

The retreats are capped by the ‘mother’ of all retreats that brings together President Kagame, cabinet ministers, civil society heads, heads of public departments and the private sector federation. Here all ideas from bottom up are crystallised into proposals of improvement on policies to advance the fortunes of the smallest villager, the departure point on the journey of transformation of the economy and Rwandans.

So, the Office set ‘their soul on fire’ to come up with better ways of ensuring: enhanced service. More efficient delivery. Empowering colleagues and earning trust. Better time management. Open auto criticism with fairness. Kindness of character marked by humility, courage and sharing after constant self re-examination. These and more are winners in team building: Team Office; Team Departments; Team Rwanda.

When finally the re-energised Office came up for air, they entered the ‘laughing hyena’ competition. First ‘laugher’: “Ha!”, second: “Haha!”, third: “Hahaha!”, on. After laughing themselves ‘out-of-breath’, they formed what the Congolese know much better: ‘des orchestres’, with different names. But, for easier recollection, maybe the orchestres should’ve been one, where it’d have been called “Orchestre Alfa-Bet et OTP Jazz” (remember Lwanzo Makiadi/Franco?)…….

Indeed, it’s a long way from the freezing Office of yore! Time when two self-declared ‘scholars’ almost pushed the Office under, in their effort to each conceal their dark past and turn themselves into overnight millionaires. But for their boss who’d seen through their petty wickedness, they’d have succeeded in emptying the Office of everybody with an inkling of their undignified past and made off with moneybags of Government kitty.

One, a Dr always gnashing his teeth as if in unending stomach pains, still refuses to ply his trade and prefers to freeze in political demonstrations in wintry North. The other, a late-bloomer PHD skinhead who may’ve managed to escape with some of his loot, still manages to scavenge on a money mogul down south. The disillusioned mogul himself seems to have confused ill-gotten gains – evading taxes – with Rwanda’s sophisticated politics and pictured himself at the helm.

But for the constancy of the overall boss, the Office would’ve become an uncanny symbol of the past. It wouldn’t have involved blood, but it’d have been pushed to a point of no return.

And thus, the celebrations of the ‘orchestres’ just after the intensive retreat, a prelude to true celebrations that evening, with laughter and dance, food and drinks, medals and all.

Those medals! Best employee. Best dressed. Most loving of ‘pecks’. Biggest envy displayer. Even more, being inseparable pairs! Although, maybe, it might be a form of protective shield for the pair of Gaguls, against this implosion of youth. The pair has been here so long they could as well be counted as part of the furniture and so, that fear!…….

All of which showed that these workaholics, ‘twitterholics’, what have-you, have a life after all.

So they made merry. But before cockcrow the following day, they demonstrated that they are grounded in their context. Some fanned out to every village. Others pounded out computer sheets. Some yet again knocked heads together to sound out and share this or that strategy. Others prepared or hosted this or that event. And on.

The whole train of activity crunches ahead to inform what has come to be termed as the spectacular turnaround: this country.

Meanwhile, President Kagame is in the North today, educating the world on the essence of Rwanda, drawing on the departments’ work and on personal experiences and observations.

Tomorrow it’s the village, inspiring Rwandans to adopt best practices, working for the future. With youth the following day, stirring them to build their future, and so on. The train that’s Rwanda pounds its ‘piste’ into the future.

The war on corruption, ignorance, capacity deficit and everything prickly notwithstanding, it’s exciting to be a fly on the wall, as witness to the dynamic action-pack that’s this land.

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Twenty years after 1994, Rwanda is in a good place

Friday 7th February, 2014

Twenty years after 1994, Rwanda is in a good place.

In my hibernation, at first I thought I’d go visiting foreign climes, compare their places and peoples with ours and see a doctor or two. But then before I went, I visited Nyabogogo market and my idea was dealt a death blow.

I realised I no longer knew neither my people nor country. So, why talk about comparisons?

Kigali residents know the short, narrow street adjoining the market that connects the Kigali-Gitarama with ‘Poids Lourds’ roads. On that street, when I saw that a motorist had blocked vehicles going up, I walked to him and politely asked him to reverse his car and park on the side while others passed and decongested the street, so he could proceed.

But, to my consternation, leaning out of his car window, the man ‘sneered’ (as I took it): “Have you ever seen a Muhutu reverse?”

Now, “gusubira inyuma” is Kinyarwanda for “reverse”, “move back” but also, enigmatically, “retreat”. So, I opted for the latter meaning and shot back: “Many times! For example, from Kagitumba and not only back to Kigali but right out of Rwanda and into the DR Congo jungles!”

“Very true!” he immediately conceded, knocking me completely off my guard. Then he continued: “And a Mututsi retreated even further south and north: South Africa, North America, Europe!” I got the insinuation and started warming up to the man. So I found myself joining in and together we chorused: “And a Mutwa retreated from the forests, the only positive!”

The man immediately got out of his car and seized me in a bear hug that almost knocked us both down! Around us, a rupture of applause broke out, followed by the chant of “Ndi Umunyarwanda!” Even the impatient honking from motorists ceased and they joined in, fist-punching the air. The whole valley echoed with: “Ndi Umunyarwanda! Agaciro!”.

What was happening? Such spontaneity of “Ndi Umunyarwanda” on a street was alien to me: everybody seems to have understood the danger of fixed ethnocentricity.

I know this scene is hard to believe. Every time I tell it, people take it for a figment of my imagination. To be frank, the man’s first gibe of a question had also led me to take him for a daring FDLR agent. It turned out he was pulling my leg, with his opening ‘sneer’!

But I have his contact and he and all who were around can attest to the veracity of it all.

For information, “Ndi Umunyarwanda” is this exercise of soul-searching that Rwandans are currently involved in. Its aim is to thoroughly, openly and frankly examine what led them into the ethnic cleavages that almost deleted them from this earth.

Just after 1994, a case like this was unimaginable; so torn was the Rwandan fabric. Now, a mere 20 years hence, the levels of reconciliation in this country are unfathomable.

Remember, for many, ethnic labels were their very DNA! DNA in defence of which they were ready to obliterate their kindred. Now, people can poke fun at these labels. Today, what consumes the Rwandan society is a burning desire to cultivate a national identity.

The sage who coined the phrase “Wonders will never end!” hadn’t seen a thing!

But if Nyabugogo opened my eyes, enemies of Rwanda have been having theirs open for none-too-short a time. And so we are witness to people running in circles like headless chickens; to musical chairs, revolving doors – anything that can halt this relentless unity-march.

The other day a Ugandan online paper, Chimp Reports, reported a Mr Twagiramungu, from wintry climes, arriving at an ‘Ikiulu’ in the region for a VIP hosting. Hot on Twagiramungu’s heels, it confided, were a ragtag collection of toothless terrorists and equally faded characters: a “Col” Hamadi, a “Lt Col” Irategeka of FDLR, et al, all hell-bent tasking Rwanda back to 1994.

When papers here mentioned it, searing diplomatic denials ensued from our ‘jilani’ to the east. But where there is a dignified, self-respecting person anywhere, there Rwanda has ears and eyes. No one – black, white, yellow, any – can identify with sell-outs, leave alone keep their secrets.

So, an FDLR “General” Nzeyimana had been showered with equally lavish reception and left with lofty promises. How on his way back to his jungles he is said to have vanished is a tale for the birds!

Senior citizens will remember Communist China’s red glossy magazines that used to talk of “imperialists and their running dogs”. Well, in Rwanda, we don’t talk about dogs in reference to humans but you know how these pets cling to their masters, however treacherous, caring only about handouts. It makes one wonder: what offer of trinkets can make a “Mheshimiwa” throw an empowering project to his region and people, like the EAC, under the bus, preferring the pursuit of unattainable sabotage to a neighbour, on behalf of a master?

Again, to quote the sage of yesteryears: “Wonders………!”

In the kitchen of the UN, at the Peace-Keeping Operations (PKO) where French chef Hervé Ladsous is busy preparing his recipes as ordered by his government, they know better than to meddle with Rwanda directly. Rather, the chef’s advice is for a proxy. If he has forgotten Opération Turquoise, he hasn’t, Goma.

Recall how, when MONUSCO, FIB and FARDC were tussling it out with M23, three bombs were lobbied onto the Rwandan territory? And meanwhile, false accusations of Rwanda’s complicity in the DRC problem were flying in all directions, killing the sound of Rwanda’s protestations?

Rwanda summoned Commander Martin Kobler, head of MONUSCO, and sat him down. Then our officials put one request to him: “Cmdr Kobler, you are in charge of the situation in eastern DRC. Please, can you make sure no other bomb from DRC kills a Rwandan citizen again?”

Cmdr Kobler: “I can’t. You see, our mandates don’t include policing the border. Moreover, it has been reported that the bombs are from M23.”

Curtly, the officials: “That’s it, then. Cmdr Kobler, good bye and thank you very much!”

A few kilometres past Nyabogogo, Cmdr Kobler stopped in his tracks when he saw the tail-end of a long line of tanks, armed to the teeth, headed for the border. His burning ear didn’t leave the phone until the UN SG assured him the coast was clear, as promised by Rwanda. No bomb dropped on any Rwandan soil again. Head of PKO Hervé Ladsous had taken notes.

A united Rwanda is unassailable as she is unfathomable. And this, no doubt, is a good place.

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To own, or not to own, a roof over our head…..

Friday 9th December 2013

The debate in these pages sometime ago on whether to own a roof or not should interest everyone with earnings of any sort.

Seeing how the costs of building or buying a house are so prohibitive, should we leave the venture to the wo/men of means? Should we humble mortals of modest means be resigned to forever being leashed to dependence on hired abodes, with their accompanying vagaries of rent hikes and contract terminations?

As we learnt with anguish in Kenya as refugees, in that classical S.M. Otieno court case that could be said to have been of epic proportions, owning a place should be the do-or-die ambition of everyone. If you are lacking in the good fortunes of owning a home, at least you should strive to own a house. It’s not exactly a walk in the park, true, but we’d better fail trying than resignedly throw any such hopes to the wind.

The anguish we suffered in Kenya was seeing that while we called our Kenyan work mates our colleagues, we actually were not equal. Aside from owning an ancestral home, or a family estate, a colleague could build or buy a house. This we could not, being stateless and therefore incapable of laying claim to any land.

That’s how we enriched Kenyans, without wilful philanthropic or investment aspirations. Which is what will befall any Rwandan, especially our youth, if they are forced into being enslaved by a lifetime of hired houses. Of course, it’s honourable to enrich a compatriot. However, when it’s done at the risk of sinking into perpetual paucity, it becomes a fool’s paradise.

But with meagre means, how can anyone hope to own a ‘residence’?

Take a young person beginning to “fall into things” – get earnings. Say every month they are getting an amount equal to 500,000 francs. Most probably, they’ll want to live in a decent house and area, which means slashing that earning and flinging 200,000 fr into renting a house.

In a year, our young thing will have made their “landlord/lady” – that accursed, pestering “lord/lady” – 2.4m fr richer. Count that amount in 34 years – the time I’ve been labouring – and tell me what it amounts to. If I can trust my ability to use a calculator, that’s a whooping 81.6m fr! By all accounts, a middling ‘executive residence’.

Now consider another one who rented a cheap house in one of our slums, which are not precisely slums if you’ve seen where they depend on “flying toilets”, only for the first month. Say in that month they were able to save some money and buy a plot of land around Rugende, some cheaper twenty or so km from Kigali city centre.
Suppose on those first earnings they were able to make some structure of some kind that served as a residential shack. Then from there they built a foundation and started to put up their executive residence, a few blocks a month by a few blocks.

In 10 years, that young thing will have metamorphosed into a veritable lord/lady, with a few houses to their name, if they keep at it. Late Rubangura would’ve assured you this is possible, even with earnings from selling bits and pieces on the street. Because from there, he rose to own streets and sky scrapers (as, luckily for him, our sky was low).

You may think I am talking from the clouds but no. Even with the cost of land rising by the day and building materials costing an arm and a leg, it can be attempted.
I remember saying I couldn’t afford two pieces of land at 118,000 fr in 1995. And where was the land? Bellow parliament and the road to Kigali Airport! Truth was, I felt it was too far from the city centre. Otherwise, I could’ve borrowed the money from my work place.

Today, those plots are prime land hosting lavish palaces. An owner of a plot there will laugh derisively in your face if you flash around anything less than 200m fr!
When later I began to ‘smell the savannahs’, I ‘sacrificed’ 260,000 fr to expropriate a land owner and build in the more distant Nyarutarama bush. Today, the house is paying the loan. It sits in a part called “Where-are-the-loos?” and is fetching little in rent, for now. But when the whole of what’s today a posh estate finally finds its “loos”, I bet my offspring won’t be complaining.

Everyone with means, however meagre, should try by all means (fair, not foul!) to own a roof. Government, the private sector, anyone who can; they should do everything possible to assist.

Owning a roof over our head should be one of the fundamental human rights of our society.

Meanwhile, on another note: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination…..if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Rulihlahla, ‘rabble rouser’ who taught humanity to mankind, especially that of the West. Oh, that they should continue to desecrate your cherished ideal! Adieu, merciful Madiba!

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Can Africans be allowed to dream?

It’s saddening to see the impassioned loathing with which our DR Congo brothers and sisters react to any Rwandan who expresses an opinion on their country. It seems there are some who think that Rwandans can actually harbour any hatred for them.

The way I know this country, nothing can be further from the truth. Anyone who has an idea of how strongly integration-drive is close to the Rwandan heart will agree that her sights are set at a much loftier level. She cannot stoop to the level of conducting herself as grasshoppers.

Now, grasshoppers. When you seize them and stuff them in a bag to later grace your dinner table, they do not try to escape. They set upon one another in a mortal combat to see who kills who first. These are not Rwandan ways, however closely others may admire them.

For instance, Pierrot Muhindo is a Congolese national, resident in Rwanda. He lectures Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics in a technical school in Gisenyi, near Goma, DRC. He says: “Every morning my wife crosses the border to come and sell dishes, shoes and drapery. In the evening she crosses back with vegetables, fruits and meat, which my two daughters sell the following morning. We are the envy of our neighbours.”

Jean-Népomcène, 24, son to his friend and compatriot in Kigali, has a different story. After learning English in Rwanda, his businessman father is able to make business trips to Nigeria, Thailand and Dubai and his business is booming. Jean-Népo (short) is studying English here, with a view to pursuing his university studies in Australia or South Africa.

There are thousands upon thousands of such Congolese nationals scattered in different towns of Rwanda: students, manual workers, intellectuals, traders and businessmen/women – and, of course, musicians. All call Rwanda their El Dorado.

This is an interesting contrast when you remember that a Rwandan who dares step onto the DRC soil is lynched and murdered on the spot.

What some people seem not to see is that, as neighbours, we can enrich one another in unlimited ways. Congolese in Rwanda bring value to Rwandans’ life that would otherwise call for assistance from developed countries. Similarly, DRC can gain a lot from Rwanda.

Generally, then, all neighbouring nationals are a good shot in the arm for governments that are seeking meaningful growth. If we can all unfurl the methods we can use to get on that road to growth, why should anything hold us?

Our neighbours should know that there is more to gain in reciprocation than in outright rejection. And these are the benefits that drive Rwanda’s passion for integration. Well planned and carefully implemented, it can haul Africa from the mire of its squalor.

Unfortunately, some African leaders prefer to lock themselves in cocoons in the illusion that they have powerful friends in developed countries that will lift them out of their poverty. It would seem that they have not drawn any lesson from a century of Western aid.

That’s how Rwanda is out to work with others, even if it means joining up with only a few who are willing. Commentators may have plastered the term “Coalition of the Willing” on the three East African countries, cynically no doubt, bearing in mind that it’s borrowed from the Gulf, but that should not faze the three. If in the end they manage to bend their Tanzanian and Burundian counterparts to their cause, they can be sure that they will not be the only ones celebrating at the time of reaping dividends.

Imagine the railway line linking the five countries and opening out to the two main ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam is up and running. Oil from among their own powering their economies. Barriers that in any way may hinder the free movement of people and goods totally done away with. And then all the protocols sealed and East Africa as one vibrantly functional economy.

A population of 149 million plus, each group specialising in their areas of strength. What will be the resultant wealth?

But if you think that’s the level that Rwanda is training her sights on, stuff your thoughts.

Because, the way I see Rwanda, her dreams are grander. She is imagining a “coalition of the willing” having in her ‘bear hug’ the East African Community, DRC and the Central African Republic (CAR), to start with. Then, later, more countries can latch on to form what’d be known as the Central African sub-continent.

Now imagine the Central African sub-continent on one hand, the South African sub-continent on the other and, finally, the North African sub-continent. How strong will their voice be at the African Union?

Alas, because of the selfish greed of some African leaders, their pea-sized brains and their vision that seems not to extend beyond their noses, these hopes have been dashed.

France has DRC in the bag; it has just bagged CAR and it maintains claws in Tanzania and South Africa. Meanwhile, considering its widening poor-rich chasm, South Africa seems to be looking over its shoulder at Zimbabwe longingly.

And backing France, who else but the whole weight of USA and Western Europe?

Africa is not cursed; some of our leaders are.

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Can the Great Lakes Region dare hope for peace?

8th November 2013

Mr. Martin Kobler, head of the UN peace-keeping force in DR Congo, is reported to have sworn to turn his attention on other rebel groups, starting with the greatest remaining menace, FDLR, now that the Congolese army has control over the whole Congolese territory.

This is a fresh voice and it’s what the DRC has always needed. A forceful voice that’s clear about what to do to deal with the mess of many years that this sorry country has always found itself in. The prospect of the Congolese people finally breathing a sigh of relief alone is already being celebrated by all their well wishers.

However, can we trust Kobler to have the capacity to deliver on his promise? We know that he has been on his job for a mere five months. In this short time, has he gathered the requisite knowledge of what is at play to grasp the full range of the implication of his pledge?

When he talks of “now that the Congolese army has control over the whole Congolese territory”, does he know that it conjures up scary images of Minova?

Minova, to those who may not be keen on following what happens in DRC, is a small town to which the Congolese army (FARDC) retreated when it chose not to confront M23 in Goma. It’s said the soldiers went on rampage, looting the small town bare and raping its every woman. Yet in Minova no one had ever been said to be related to the mutineers that FARDC was fighting. If anything, these were people who welcomed them and consoled them after their hasty retreat.

Granted, it has been reported that the FARDC is disciplined now that it receives a regular salary and there have been punishments. However, it’s hard to believe that a salary and punishment here and there can change an uncontrollable army into a disciplined one overnight. This is an army that for all its life has lived with indiscipline and accusations of all forms of atrocities: stealing, plunder, maiming, raping, murder, say it.

While he turns his guns on the other rebel groups, therefore, “starting with the greatest remaining menace”, our Kobler must not forget to keep his sights on the “menace” that’s FARDC. Now that it’s in the grip of this euphoria of its success, the temptation to plunder, rape and even murder in celebration may be too hard to resist. This, especially in an area of relatives of a conceived enemy, where there is reason for revenge. Keeping such comrades-in-arms in control, without forgetting his own MONUSCO, will be a challenge of no mean magnitude for Kobler.

Let’s hope, however, that he will surmount it. Now, the next challenge: how will he take it on?

Besides that “greatest remaining problem”, FDLR, being entrenched in parts of eastern DRC, it’s entrenched in the FARDC. Moreover, knowing the terrain better than the rest of its ‘Siamese-twin’ component, MONUSCO-FIB-FARDC, it’s the one that’s been showing the whole hybrid team the way around. Now, among gentlemen/women, one good turn deserves another, as we know. Or are we the only ones who know it?

Beyond the good turn, there is that problem of bonding. Kobler has been overseeing FARDC-FDLR-MONUSCO-FIB (FIB for Force Intervention Brigade) while it brought force to bear on M23. He therefore knows that tearing it off will not be a walk-over, especially as it’s hard to tell FARDC soldiers from FDLR rebels. In fact, since the rebels speak both Kiswahili and Lingala unlike most of FARDC soldiers, they may be more welcome in this area than the soldiers!

FDLR will prove harder to rout than M23 in my other ways. Among them, the fact that they are not only entrenched in northern but also in southern Kivu. Once dislodged in northern Kivu, nothing will stop them from melting away and resurfacing in southern Kivu, where they’ll continue to be a security threat to Rwanda and to the Tutsi population there. This will be sure to trigger off an M23 of another form and shape.

However, the biggest challenge in regard to ousting FDLR is that it’s not in DRC by accident. It’s there by design and whoever designed its being there will not allow his handiwork to turn into a hatchet job. In fact, Kobler’s effort in routing “the greatest remaining menace” may boomerang on him as his boss may not necessarily applaud his effort.

The boss I refer to is none other than Hervé Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Ladsous may be an employee of the UN but he is a French man who, even in the UN, works for French interests. Whoever knows the history of today’s Rwanda knows that there is no love lost between this government and the French government. That love vanished exactly because, aside from other reasons, it’s the French government that sought sanctuary in DRC for FDLR.

Still, all the above notwithstanding, all who care for peace in this region should laud Kobler as a noble man with noble intentions and wish him success.

Will Mr. Martin Kobler’s efforts be allowed to succeed? And somebody mentioned France. Well, that’s hoping against hope!

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Cry, the beloved DR Congo

1st November 2013

Yesterday a number of psychologists were said to have found that people tend to tell lies more in the afternoon than in the morning. It’d be interesting if they also carried out their experiment on the international community.

On one hand, can anyone define the form and content of this body? On another, is anyone safe from its snooping and its penchant for spoiling even for what we thought were its member parts, despite its denials, going by what’s happening in Europe? It’s as if spinning yarns is its full-time occupation.

First this amorphous body announced to all that Rwanda was suspected of being behind the formation of M23. Next, Rwanda was reportedly supporting M23. Then she was reportedly recruiting for the rebels. Soon the group was confirmed as Rwanda-backed M23 for which she was recruiting child-soldiers.

But, as we were waiting to be amazed by what else Rwanda was capable of, M23 suddenly became “ants’ feathers”!

That formidable fighting extension of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) dissolved in the face of the Congolese army (FARDC). The same rebels that FARDC in combination with MONUSCO could not dare face in Goma the other day, became simple hot air. Yet the world knew that FARDC, MONUSCO and the new Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) all together would not be caught for a second facing off with Rwanda.

So, why is no one celebrating? Excepting President Joseph Kabila, no one seems to have felt any triumph over M23’s seemingly definite defeat. Kabila, too, gave a feeble expression of achievement, attributing his country’s victory to the Congolese citizenry. But knowing, as we do, that the victory belongs to MONUSCO-FIB, more than it does to FARDC, have the peace-keepers/interveners become part of his citizenry?

If it’s that, considering how long the international community, dispatchers of those peace-keepers, have been claiming citizens’ rights (mineral and all), President Jacob Zuma seems to have come rather late in the day. Still, of course, the South African president landed his prize. However, by the time the presidents of Tanzania and Malawi come to claim their pound of flesh, one wonders if DRC will still have flesh around ‘its mines-skeleton’!

So, taking all the above into account, it’d seem that M23 was a creature of an international community conspiracy. Or else, why scare FARDC that it was pitted against the fearsome Rwandan army?

Maybe if it’d dared challenge M23 instead of taking to its heels at the slightest sound of gunfire, the rebels’d have disappeared as they just did.

Imagine the pain the citizens of eastern DRC have had to suffer. The resources that have been spent on dousing these phantom fires would’ve gone into uplifting the lives of the Congolese citizenry – hopefully not into lining their leaders’ pockets.

Rwanda, too, would’ve been spared the anguish of having to shoulder heaps of lies – and whatever followed those lies.

While the international community is at it, however, it should not forget that DRC is still infested with real, killer rebels. A knowledgeable Congolese has put the count of these rebel groups at 56, with an additional M18 and Mai-Mai Cheka springing up the other day. Now that M23 is no more, MONUCO-FIB-FARDC should put all their effort in eradicating all rebels. Hopefully that Mai-Mai Cheka (‘cheka’, Kiswahili for ‘laugh’) has no intention of having the last laugh!

And, whatever citizens’ rights they claim, the peace enforcers should not forget the task that brought them to DRC in the first place. It was to neutralise Forces Démocartiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), a task they’ve decided to shelve, as they watch it fight in the ranks of FARDC. Apart from FDLR being a threat to neighbouring Rwanda, these terrorists are also the reason that creature, M23, took up arms.

As far as anyone knows, if it exists, M23 put up resistance only in Kibumba, at the beginning of this latest flare-up. Having lost a minimal number of its fighters, it is still intact with its arms. This means that what may happen in the coming days is anyone’s guess.

Is it capable of regrouping; is it a spent force? And, most crucially, can M23 fighters bear to sit in hiding as their parents languish in despicable refugee camp conditions in Rwanda and Uganda?

It is good that, unlike Kabila and his lieutenants, the international community insists on the resumption and conclusion of the Kampala peace talks. However, there is no doubt that convincing a victorious DRC to sit around a table with a vanquished rival will prove tenuous. Unless Kabila knows what’s good for his country, this victory may be his undoing.

There is no doubt about it. A durable solution is only possible with the active participation of Kabila’s Great Lakes Region neighbours in the search for a negotiated peace settlement.

Only neighbours can exorcise the spell cast on DRC by the West.

Will Kabila find it in himself to divorce the West as determiners of his country’s destiny? Or will he be the first Congolese leader to embrace his neighbours for the sake of his tortured country? DRC is at a crossroads.

Whether Kabila will take the right turn, your guess is as good as mine.

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