When you talk about elephants in the room, that is pressing subjects that everybody would rather not talk about, the African elephants are the biggest. Discussion of African affairs has developed a code of hypocrisy and willful blindness even to the boldest of writings on the wall. To me, nothing illustrates this problem as much as the ever shifting drama of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the global game of interests and agenda-pushing masquerading as news or expert analysis, peace has allegedly come to the DRC now that the M23 rebels have been defeated (or have retreated to fight another day under another acronym) by the FARDC.
We are reading many articles that are reminiscent of the huge “Mission Accomplished” banner, which was draped on the deck of the US Abraham Lincoln above President George W. Bush when, in 2003, he thought the war in Iraq was over.
Through these articles we have become even more familiar with the great alphabet and, lately, numerical soup that euphemises the deadly goings on in the Eastern DRC. Apparently all is well, now that the FARDC has defeated the M23 with the assistance of MONUSCO, which has been made more muscular by the introduction of the FIB following a resolution of the UNSC that saw the introduction of troops from SADC countries.
If you are still with me, then you will know that having sorted out the M23, which used to be the CNDP, the FARDC is now turning to engage other negative elements such as the FDLR, the ADF, NALU and M18.
I hope we are still together, because it is important for you to understand that the government of the DRC and the M23 may be signing a peace deal brokered under the umbrella of the ICGLR, and it is hoped that the fall out of the whole process will not lead any people being referred to the ICC or to a breakup of the EAC!
Under this veritable carpet of acronyms lies the huge African elephant called complete state failure. When are we going to call out this huge stinking beast by its true name?
The DRC is a failure and cannot do anything about defending, servicing and holding together its territory as a state without massive foreign intervention. We know that the foreign interventions may buy the various local and foreign actors in the DRC game time and help them magic “mission accomplished” banners out of their hats from time-to-time, but let’s be real, they are not sustainable.
Now some people may have issues with the local and regional actors, whose personal and regime fortunes may rise or fall depending on how a particular alphabetically tagged militia performs against another. But that is a distraction because the leaders that they are talking about will come and will go.
My concern here is that by the nearly universal wilful refusal to address the real issue, people – that is ordinary people – are doomed to live in cycles of extreme violence with nobody really caring about their fate except when that fate fits into some other non-Conglose agenda.
In trying to escape from the truth of the situation, a lot of store is placed on the fact that there are lots of valuable minerals in the DRC and regional actors are accused of arming militias as a means of controlling the looting of these minerals.
Even if this was true, one has to ask why the DRC’s own government has never been able to defend these minerals from regional looters. Let us remember that the 1966 Crisis in Uganda was partially triggered by a proposed inquiry into the looting of natural resources from the Eastern DRC, which threatened to implicate high ranking Ugandan politicians and military men at the time.
So, even if you buy into the simple looting scenario, the loot will always be there and only the names and acronyms of the agents of the looters will change unless and until something is done to address the fact that the DRC is, fundamentally and irreparably, a failure.
It is also important to note that none of the countries that are alleged to be involved in looting of natural resources of the DRC have mineral or other natural resource processing plants and none of them manufacture the kinds of weapons that we see being deployed by the various forces against each other and the ordinary population.
All the actors on the ground, seem to be pawns in a bigger supply-chain or natural resources turf war. We must follow the money and the arms to lead us to the real kingpins who make the real profit out of this deplorable state of affairs.
So instead of cheering the receding of a particular symptom and pretending that there will be no others, let us look at the real problem that ails the DRC and call it by its true name. The local, regional and international hypocrisy is costing lives.