FYI – This is my take on Pan Butamire’s opinion piece in todays New Times. You may want to read that before or after reading this post. Otherwise enjoy…
Why does it feel as if M23 was formed long before its precursor, CNDP? It’s hard to believe that it came into existence only last April. And it’s even harder to believe that it managed to grab the attention of the world so forcefully. In D.R. Congo that’s filled to its brim with decades-old rebel groups, its few hundreds of mutineers so easily rocked the world. What is it that stamped it on our conscience with such poignancy and permanence?
Against all expectations, it has aroused such strong ire in the UN and super powers around the world are denouncing it with unprecedented rapidity. These shakers and shapers of the world who for 8 months appeared oblivious of foreign support to M23 have woken up only to realise, they ought to have done better earlier.
Look at how the UN quickly churned out a succession of reports on Rwanda that put her on the cross as the villain that mothered this howling monster. Donors shouting cut aid! And western media belting out messages of the real power behind M23 with bravado! Uganda, for its ‘milder’ support, was spared the cuts but given the lip. To Western countries and to the UN, the leading role the countries have played in searching for a solution counted for nil – because you can’t have your cake and eat it.
Then M23 captured Goma. We waited for the looting, child recruitment, raping, arbitrary killings and all the other atrocities that defined the howling monster as we had been made to believe. But, gladly, we were spared the anguish of a confirmation. When it became clear they would have to withdrawal from Goma, like FARDC, M23, who had hitherto been masquerading as a good lot, started looting at will. Their target – Goma’s central bank.
Perhaps before we begin questioning the reason behind this cacophony of aid-cut threats by these powers that we claim have ganged up together in a way never seen before, we should prompt ourselves with such questions as why the hell did we end up in this mess? We can’t say there was no warning. In today’s world, it is impossible to hide anything leave alone claim ignorance of such things as what one is doing in their neighbour’s backyard. If not Congolese themselves, members of the mainstream media, whose byword is unwavering objectivity, were bound to wake up to these things.
World powers may be admitting that the roadmap presented by regional leaders through the ICGLR represents by far the closest workable solution to the mess we find ourselves in. But while MONUSCO and DRC embark on doing their bit, the big question should be did it have to come this far? How is it possible that we did not see this coming? Besides, if we have got nothing to do with M23, why should we feel the need to defend its actions or even care what attention its troop movements is attracting in mainstream media and in capitals around the world? A toad does not flop in broad day light for nothing. Discussions on the ills which have dogged the DRC for a long time must not shirk the role of foreign actors in Congo – or we will be losing the point. Congo has been labelled “the rape capital of the world” not just because the government is weak and incapable of protecting its people but because other actors internal and external stand to gain from its instability.
Are rebels part of the powers at play in this region? Of course. Are foreign powers part of the powers at play in this region? Certainly. I think that over the past months, there has been enough evidence not to doubt this.
What of the recent rumour that the recently suspended DRC army chief, Gabriel Amisi, has actually been in a gunrunning racket to arm all the rebels in the country, except M23? What of the evidence or rumour that Rwanda’s defence minister, James Kabarebe has actually been commandeering M23?
Clearly, the judging by the force and bravado with which M23 made a march on Goma, the truth is that someone well capable was in command. It could be the accused or it could be that in Bishop Runiga and the wanted criminal Ntaganda, the rebels have some capable commanders. M23’s propensity to kick beyond reach is in fact beyond their own prowess! Surely there is a god-father or some godfathers. This, in some warped logic, would explain why Vianney Kazarama found it fitting to go on the rooftops of Goma and shout out that M23 were not going to withdraw from Goma until their demands were granted – even as the ICGLR summit and UNSCR 2076 called demanded immediate withdrawal. It may also explain why Kabila’s government, weak as it is, refuses to listen to and have a dialogue with M23. In such situations, it is always wise to play spectator – especially if you are as hopeless and hapless as Joseph Kabila.
Politicking aside, there is another element. How could MONUSCO allow M23 to cruise into Goma so easily? Given what happened, surely talk now in UN circles should be that of revising MONUSCO’s mandate to ensure that it has the capacity to not only pretend to be protecting civilians but also the power to engage should civilians and their property be at risk. The same media frenzy which has followed M23 and its backers could do much for the advancement of a call to revise MONUSCO’s mandate.
And you thought peacekeeping did not mean standing between belligerents? Wish these world shakers and movers would remain on the Congolese people’s side.