May 29, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

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EDITORIAL: Peace in eastern DRC possible but requires sacrifice

Despite a series of adversities that prevented an in-person meeting, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and representatives of the rebel groups nonetheless managed to get the Nairobi-hosted talks going in a last breath in search of peace bring the country’s troubled east.

A tense few hours after the M23 delegation failed to show up at the venue, the opening talks finally took place via video link.

It’s early but it gives reason for hope.

The talks are taking place in the context of DR Congo’s formal admission to the East African Community. Far from being a harbinger of doom, the M23’s surprise reincarnation, nearly a decade after a combined force of Tanzanian and South African troops flushed it from its strongholds in North Kivu province, should be viewed more positively.

< p>Their attacks on Congolese armed forces positions were clearly timed to draw attention to a cause that was in danger of being lost as regional leaders gave the bubbly to EAC’s westward expansion.

The final round of engagement occurs as all parties recognize the benefits and importance of DR Congo’s inclusion in the East African Community.

In this sense, the protagonists are likely to be at war for peace to win. It is also no coincidence that President Tshisekedi promptly pleaded for peace.

Unlike his predecessor Joseph Kabila, he can compromise without being seen as a sellout to Kampala and Kigali, the real force behind the rebels who ousted Mobutu Seseseko from power in 1997.

President Tshisekedi therefore has a limited opportunity to pull down the curtain on an ugly chapter in DRC history. Rebels becoming allies would be an asset in fighting the myriad armed gangs wreaking havoc in the east of the country.

As the M23 insurgency demonstrated, East Africa cannot live in peace or that Realizing Africa’s Full Potential Regional integration when governments in the region engage in actions that result in statelessness.

Fortunately, there are precedents. Tanzania eased the crisis faced by its Burundian settlers by naturalizing those willing to accept citizenship.

While the East African Community’s efforts to pacify eastern Congo are commendable, they can only go so far , if guided by it, a spirit of give and take and constructive engagement.

The rebel groups must adopt a long-term perspective that considers the broader social and economic benefits of a peaceful Congo.

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They should oblige the government to return citizenship and their rights as Congolese as a minimum condition for an agreement. The government, meanwhile, should oblige the rebels to lay down their arms and sign a program for rehabilitation and social reconstruction.