An enduring characteristic of a leopard, the national emblem of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is its intangibility. As the final bureaucratic steps to join the East African Community (EAC) are completed, conflict threatens the blessings that membership promises. In order to understand the security situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is sufficient to look at its turbulent past.
The recent history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo lacks simple explanations. Five premises have been expanded. First, the notion that the DRC is vast and geographically isolated, with few motorable roads, deprives the capital of adequate government control. This inevitably leads to anarchy as the state is absent.
Second, the claim that a neighbor’s high population density is encroaching across its border into the DRC in search of means of food security adequate shelter.
Then there are the teeming natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, largely unprotected by a weak state that foreign armies have found irresistible and offer no incentive to leave.
Fourth, for a little-patrolled country with nine neighbors, its dense vegetation cover provides an excellent hiding place and base for operations by foreign armed groups to launch attacks on their homelands. Additionally, the 200+ ethnic groups are a recipe for claims and counterclaims to land and other resources, especially when tribal lines are largely artificial.
By and large, it’s doable argue that three intricate strands of state-building define the DRC and require an irreversible solution to give peace and stability a chance. These are the monopoly of state power, the definition of ways to distribute power over vast territory, and a resilient political consensus at the heart of the state. What about the pervasive conflicts?
Floating conflicts continue, with over 140 rebel groups tormenting each other, albeit with indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The main actors are the Congolese National Army, the Congolese Self-Defense Groups (May-May), Rwandan Hutu rebels (FDLR) on one side fighting each other, against the National Congress for the Defense of the People. Then the Allied Democratic Forces take on the Uganda People’s Defense Forces in North Kivu. The Red Tabara and Forebu, Burundian insurgents based in Uvira, South Kivu, participated in attacks with the Burundian government.
Resolution of the conflicts between Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, the Congolese Tutsi, the Rwandan Hutu rebels and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are critical. Stability is unattainable without peace. Regrettably, the country’s enormous potential continues to be squandered in the face of deep-rooted instability.
The prospects for nearly 100 million people make the pursuit of peace at least urgent, for two broad reasons. First, the ailing global peace and security architecture: as Ukraine attracts the attention of the western world, there is little political interest among members of the United Nations Security Council to allocate significant resources to strengthen Monusco and better carry out its mandate. It is therefore incumbent on the East African Community to find a different path to break the deadlock, as the region will lose the most.
For Kenya, as reflected in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s foreign policy priorities Announce For Peace and Security in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the focus is unique: the paradigm is Afrocentrism and the African solution takes precedence. The alternative is the status quo and the violence in particular will continue to simmer and entangle the Kivus and the entire region.
Kenya’s visible investments such as the presence of Equity Bank on the vast territory of the Die Democratic Republic of the Congo serves the need to improve financial inclusion. The goal of attracting and retaining investment to create opportunities to increase people’s economic well-being is likely to be disrupted by the less visible but equally important supply of essential commodities such as petroleum.
Can the promise of DRC be unlocked in the EAC?
The possibilities offered by DRC are huge, albeit daunting Risks.
Luckily in this patch of land lurks the promise of importing best practices from the rest of the EAC to unlock their latent prospects in production and consumption. For example, revitalizing trade in services will give new impetus to growth, while improving cooperation in the public sector will pave the way for the implementation of urgent reforms to strengthen the state and create an ethos that will unleash the leopard to be exploit potential. Chances are that pacifying the eastern DRC will be a crucial first step on this deadlocked path.
Moni Manyange is Chargé d’Affaires at the Kenyan Consulate in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo