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Why democracy wars in the Great Lakes Region can only be fought by African Union and won by the UN

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Added 28th January 2016 08:44 AM

That “African Presidents are obsessed with power” is one of the many diversionary statements without which I believe practical reasons would get loud enough to grant all citizens unanimity against the major compromises our governments keep making in this journey of democracy.

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Jackie Batamuliza is a programmes associate at Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies

That “African Presidents are obsessed with power” is one of the many diversionary statements without which I believe practical reasons would get loud enough to grant all citizens unanimity against the major compromises our governments keep making in this journey of democracy.


By Jackie Batamuliza

In 2005, the Ugandan parliament made a choice to lift term limits. In 2015, Rwanda made a similar decision. DRC has made an attempt to revise the constitution and now the entire Great Lakes Region is marred in the chaos in Burundi which sprung from the president’s decision to seek a third term in office.

That “African Presidents are obsessed with power” is one of the many diversionary statements without which I believe practical reasons would get loud enough to grant all citizens unanimity against the major compromises our governments keep making in this journey of democracy.

It should be odd for all of us to be convinced that change of our constitutions in favour of personalities is something that is simply identical with African presidents. Prudence should get us to ask why is it identical with Africa? Why is Africa the place synonymous with presidents who don’t retire? While I wish to make a case for the nations in this situation, I will restrict myself to the great lakes region.

What the history of politics should have taught us is that where you find a pattern, there too you find an epicenter. An epicenter is to a pattern what a queen is to a colony of ants. As long as the queen still exists, no matter how many ants one kills, progress will not be halted.  Uganda has been at war since the inception of this government and the end is not close.

Even the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) that had seemed to be part of History re awoke towards the end of 2015. We, however,  know that these rebel groups, like our own governments cannot stand without foreign assistance.

Rwanda which is at war with Forces for Democratic Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR-a militia primarily composed of former Interahamwe), has persistently said that the group is such a minor force to cause military difficulties  to Rwanda, but it is a representation of nations far beyond this region and Africa herself. But these are lamentations the citizenry will not share in, but will ask why term limits were lifted.

President Bill Clinton once said “Being president is like running a cemetery: you’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody is listening”. Perhaps we have focused so much on the presidents’ departure agendas and have given them no hope in the faith that we understand the dynamics and the frontlines that they always are at. So it becomes their interest not to disclose the pains involved in African presidency because after all, the carrots we eat are the sticks that beat us.

As it is, because of FDLR, Rwanda is currently tempted to get involved in Burundi a situation about which Kagame said “It is sad that the African continent has a disease, to an extent that I will be blamed for meddling in another country, that I should be diplomatic about it or I deal with it politically. But that can’t be, I am being frank and open”. The reason for her involvement is that the FDLR is finding a safe haven in Burundi which is predominantly a Hutu country with a Hutu president. The strategic implication is that Rwanda risks being sand witched from the North and the South, the FDLR is expanding and tightening its power base, Rwanda will have to defend herself by all means which implies foreign interference (tan amounting to the violation of the UN charter) and the refreshment of the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic question. Our history makes it evident that such developments are synonymous with severe abuse of human rights.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has remained the largest exporter of Coltan with 55% on the world market.  Coltan, which has repeatedly been referred to as the mineral primarily responsible for the endless conflicts in Eastern DRC, remains valuable to the West and the far east because of the ever growing technology world.

It is clear that the Rebel groups in the East of DRC are primarily sustained for purposes of extraction of minerals. The objectives of the African Union will be to promote peace, security and stability on the continent under Article 3 Section (f) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

African Union remains the only hope to answer these major questions. That she will beat about the bush because doing otherwise is biting the hand that feeds her is a gesture of fear of freedom itself. If the nations that are the hands that feed Africa indeed need democratic procedures, then there are patterns that have to be revised. Until the challenges of administration of DRC’s resources are dealt with, the epicenter of this mayhem will be sustained.

The African Union can enforce approaches like adoption of International regulatory committees constituted of Congolese, the United Nations and African Union to assist DRC in building sectoral governance capacity. They could constitute a neutral body of technical experts for purposes of insight, management and consultative work.

African Union, in the spirit of regional and DRC’s stability could make use of similar bodies to facilitate the establishment of International Consortium of Industrialisation and attract international partnerships. It may not be the end of the problem, but the beginning of the fall of this pattern of conflicts that are centered around resources which keeps threatening the democratic procedures in the region.

The writer is a programmes associate at Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies

 

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