By Morris DC Komakech
trueThe reading of an article by Mr. Obed Katureebe in the Sunday Monitor of Nov 17, 2013 entitled: “Kabila should sign Congo peace deal to give Congolese best Christmas gift”, smacked of typical arrogant attitude towards DRC.
Mr. Katureebe claimed that by not signing the poorly worded, and perhaps an accord written with sinister intentions, President Kabila had goofed! Never mind that President Museveni had described Kabila as interested in advancing Eurocentric agenda in this conflict.
While Katureebe pointed out correctly that DRC has many internal political problems that transcends the defeat of the M23, he fails to recognize the invalidity associated with this peace deal. I think Kabila and his government deserve credit for not rushing to sign a suspicious document which gives unnecessary concession to banditry.
The circumstances are so contrite in that the mighty M23 have been scattered, disbanded, dissolved and for now, its remnants are taking refuge in Uganda. Uganda confirms that the M23 combatants, numbering to about 1500 men and women are under the UPDF custody. The Uganda government also refuses to hand them over to DRC authority. Uganda is also protecting elements within M23 that Kinshasa accuses of crimes against humanity.
This Congo debacle is an interesting one. But the question to ask is, if indeed Uganda has no vested interest in the M23, M18 or any of the numerous proliferating rogue insurgents in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), why doesn’t Uganda let Congo solve its own internal political problems?
Understandably, Uganda’s role in this conflict is not free of bias. First, it appears as if it is Uganda that is setting terms for the peace deals. In conducting itself this way, not only does Uganda play the guardian role for the M23, but also as a spokesperson. This is not unusual considering the militaristic traditions in Uganda. However, credit ought to be given where it is due. This article apportions credit to the Kabila administration for delaying to sign the so-called peace deal with a group that no longer threatens peace in DRC.
The world woke up on November 5th, 2013 to the news that the M23 had been subdued by combined UN and Congolese forces. Subsequently, the M23 announced that they would disband immediately. By declaring an end to armed opposition to the Kinshasa government, the M23 surrendered. This means they are not party to any Treaty/ Accord, Armistice or Truce. They should sign a Declaration of permanent dissolution.
In fact, the M23 elements in its entirety should have become refugees in Uganda deserving amnesty from Kabila’s government. Therefore, the 1500 rebels under UPDF custody should have been assigned to UNHCR or confined and compelled to apply for asylum in Uganda. None of these happened. This, perhaps, is the genesis of the misgivings that DR Congo accorded the entire “peace” plan!
Unmistakably, the defeat of the M23 implies an end to armed opposition from one group and should signal a beginning of a protracted search for political solutions to the contestations in DRC. In this circumstance, neither Uganda, nor the international community should have placed expectations on DRC to sign a peace accord.
Kabila’s government has to rethink its internal political issues in concert with its opposition groups. This sober recollection is entirely internal and could be mediated anywhere, if required. Investment in a peace deal would mean diverting the needed attention for a comprehensive political redress to problems that create instability. The interference by Uganda and its rather belligerent behaviour therefore fall short of impartiality and good neighborliness on all these fronts.
Uganda has a genuine security interest in the Congo, especially with the Allied Democratic Front hiding in the Congo jungles. Precisely, the absence of government in the Ituri, Oriental and the vast expanse of the Congo border with Uganda, doesn't help us, either. However, a bipartite agreement between Uganda and DRC for joint military and security activities would be secured.
This article would be incomplete without mentioning the fact that Uganda’s interest in Congo appears to be stretching beyond the ADF. Many commentators have alluded to the grand plan of creating a Tutsi dominion in the Great Lakes region, spanning Uganda, Rwanda and Eastern Congo; that, the M23 is intended to fragment Congo into several small governable states with Eastern Congo curving out for a Tutsi dominated state.
However, what is also true is that Rwanda may have an authentic security interest in the area given its history of genocide. But the sheer disrespect for Dr Congo’s territorial integrity and attempts to forcefully usurp the will of its people are highly condemnable.
The likes of Mr. Katureebe should know that Congo is not an annex of Uganda and that the Congolese political dynamic is shaped uniquely, Congo having emerged from years of docility under Mobutu. The Congolese people may appear docile, illiterate, marginalized, impoverished, and disenfranchised by their own government. However, DRC, like any other independent nation, deserves to be respected as an autonomous entity capable of self governance.
The writer is a Ugandan political analyst based in Canada. Can contact via email@example.com
Give Kabila credit for delaying the agreement