Congo-Kinshasa: The African Union Initiative On DRC Ignored By the UN and the International Media

While I’m trying to see what the outcome will be of the high-level discussions on the crisis in the DRC, held on the margins of the UN General Assembly, some trends have become increasingly annoying for most African observers, including me.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. (Edmund Burke)

After all the progress made by the African Union (AU) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the so-called International Community, through its press corps and politicians, simply chose to act as if it never happened and instead proposed another one of those ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions they always seem to have in store for Africa. The idea that a solution could originate from the region simply seems unacceptable in some circles. Case in point: the Chicago Tribune’s latest exclusive report on how US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton “pressed the two feuding countries to end the crisis”. The report only highlights Secretary Clinton’s initiative (a welcomed move) but failed to mention anything about the important strides made by African Heads of State and Government’s contributions and Secretary Clinton’s apparent lack of awareness on the progress made at the ICGLR.

This naturally takes me back to President Paul Kagame’s observation at the UN General Assembly, when he, once again, denounced the international community’s parachuted solutions and their failure to provide lasting solutions in everlasting conflicts. The following passage clearly illustrates the President’s assessment of the Congo situation:

• One, we must appreciate that many conflicts are caused when people are, or feel excluded from full participation in the affairs of their country, particularly around issues that affect their everyday lives.

• Secondly, deep analysis of specific political and cultural contexts of any given conflict is key to lasting solutions. Too often, the inclination is to parachute into a situation with ready-made answers based on superficial examination of the conflict’s dynamics, doing considerably more harm than good, despite the intentions. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy; these issues are complex and should be approached as such for the best possible outcome.

• And finally, it is increasingly obvious that local or regional initiatives aimed at resolving conflicts yield more positive results because those involved have a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. Their proximity to the conflict makes them more invested in a comprehensive resolution, and enables the necessary support for whatever process is agreed upon. We need to see these initiatives strengthened. We should be highlighting root causes as we address conflicts.”

Neither Secretary Clinton nor any Chief Editor, West of the Eastern seaboard, seem to connect with this truly African perspective on how to go about solving any given conflict… which brings us back to square one and the US and UN perspectives.

The problem with those is the absolute disregard of the interests of frontline actors such as the countries in the region and the people involved in the conflict. The root causes are being ignored by blackmailing the rebels and reducing the problem to being of Rwanda’s doing. Every member of the international community has declared that there was no room to negotiate with the M23 insurrection; how quickly they forget that these so-called rebels are the very same ones who, under the leadership of Laurent Nkunda, repeatedly defeated government troops without any outside help.

Nothing has changed under the Congolese sun since March 23, 2009 (date from which the mutineers derived the ‘M23’ acronym); President Joseph Kabila never implemented the provisions of the peace agreement and unilaterally decided to maintain the status quo.

How do you find a lasting solution while excluding half of the equation, fully-fledged Congolese nationals with legitimate concerns and the determination to fight for them? Or is the international community shying away from its own responsibilities by throwing Rwanda under the bus, hoping to have President Kagame clean up the mess of their own making? And this, while Rwanda has just received all the praises for achieving several Millennium Development Goals before the ultimate deadline of 2015, as defined by the UN. In addition, Rwanda is the sixth top contributor to the UN peacekeeping missions on the planet.

Aren’t all these threats to freeze or cut future aid not contradicting the UN’s own vision of conflict resolution and development?

Everyone seems to want to move out of this embarrassing situation but no one wants to recognize a regional process that has already achieved more than any international initiatives, and has more credibility that the notoriously onerous international alternatives to the regional process, with definitely way more advantages and credibility than the International initiatives which have undoubtedly been way too costly colossal failures.

Meanwhile, the mechanisms proposed by the AU are being implemented and deserve everyone’s support. It is interesting to point out that the process initiated by the ICGLR and the AU includes the kind of recommendations expressed by the Rwandan President at the UN.

The US or the UN will have to take into consideration African initiatives. The African Union and ICGLR’s efforts usher in a new era of African solutions to African problems… or should I be so bold as to call this the ‘audacity of hope’?

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