It is sad when a government in power cannot exercise control over its territory. Sad still when that same government has little or no control over its national army.
That the DRC is a country in crisis is no secret. A cursory google search will give you so much info as to the mess this country finds itself in than you probably can get inside Congo. This is a country, whose people, having lived through years and years of successive incompetent governments, are not sure what to expect anymore.
Last year, the Congolese tried changing the state of affairs by turning up in huge numbers to end their long suffering. Their attempts proved futile when the country’s electoral commission announced – to the surprise of many – that President Joseph Kabila had been re-elected. I have never met President Kabila but while some of his countrymen portray him as an out of ideas head of state, somehow, he has hang onto the DRC presidency for a good number of years. And that says much. Either, the Congolese voices are not being heard or democracy as we know is dead.
But this is not about Kabila. This post is much about the army he presides over – FARDC – than his failings as the man on top. When reports came through that the M23 were advancing towards Goma, the news was that rather than defend their positions, FARDC ran off. While this was expected perhaps given the superiority in artillery of M23 rebels over FARDC, reports that the Congolese army was pillaging and looting from the very civilian population it was meant to protect shocked the world.
Some have said FARDCs behaviour was expected given that these are soldiers who so often go for months without pay. No matter the difficulties, a national army, particularly in a country where private armies and rebels continue to roam with so much ease, should have the discipline and morality to know that unlike rebel armies, national armies do not steal from citizens.
No wonder M23 was able to get so much support after they took over Goma. Which national army behaves in the way FARDC have and expects citizens to have any faith in it? M23 may be a bunch of ragtag mutineers intent on destabilising eastern DRC but as long as an FARDC is stealing, harassing and mistreating those it is meant to protect, they (M23) shall continue to get the leverage and sometimes quite rightly, reasons for intervention.
A South African journalist filming in DRC today reported having his Kenyan cameraman almost lynched by a group of FARDC soldiers for apparently looking Tutsi. It may have been an isolated case of bigotry. It is possible too that this could be related to reports that M23 is supported, armed and commanded by Rwandan and Ugandan generals. Whatever the case, it will play well into the argument that DRC’s issues are deeper than just M23. President Kabila as head of state working with his government ministers must ensure that his government takes a grip – a grip not only around Kinshasha but the whole of DRC lest as one twitterer joked today, the end of M23 might be the beginning of N24.