Voices from the South

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    Peace accord or Declaration: Are we heading for M 1111 in the DRC?

    Human rights activists and democracy fighters witnessed another missed opportunity on the 11th November 2013 when the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M 23 armed group fighting mainly in eastern DRC failed to sign a 'peace accord' or a 'declaration'. The spokesperson of the DRC government insisted that a declaration would best fit the occasion because the government cannot and will not sign a peace accord with a negative rebel force which has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. He went on to mention that the declaration will have to clearly stipulate that there is on one hand a legitimate government and a defeated rebel group on the other.  Do we negotiate a peace deal with a victorious armed group? It simply seizes power!

    Past experience shows that sitting governments have always refused to dialogue or strike peace deals with armed groups because doing so would mean de facto recognition that the armed group exercises control over part of the national territory and hence acquires a legal status with all implications arising from the interpretation of the common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

    Incumbents have put forward the defense of territorial integrity  and national sovereignty to advance military defeat of the armed group over political negotiation and long term peace agreement and security. Sitting governments have instead invoked the inability of the national courts to hold accountable the rebel group leaders  for the crimes committed and have referred the cases to the International Criminal Court. President Yoweri Museveni has done so with LRA leader Joseph Kony, Burundi National Liberation Forces were labelled a terrorist organisation after the Gutumba Massacre of 160 Tutsi Banyamulenge in Gatumba in 2004. Late Rwandese President Juvenal Habyarimana party hardliners refused the peace negotiation with the Rwandese Patriotic Front in Arusha in 1993 and engineered a holocaust of 800,000 tutsi and liberal hutus in 1994.

    Does the Banyamulenge question hold its ground? Is there a place for identity politics in the DRC? Or are we just falling in the common rhetoric that greed for the Congo gold is overriding political grievances of successive armed groups?

    From the RCD Goma to M23 through the CNDP, those who take up arms against the government in the DRC invoke the question of national identity of the Tutsi Congolese social group and the full recognition of their citizenship with all human rights granted to other nationals of the DRC. The government of the DRC has always advanced that the armed groups are a creation of neighboring countries who provide them with political backing, rear base and military support. At occasions there have been accusations that there have been military incursions inside the DRC from its neighbours.

    Those who remember the 1st and 2nd Congo wars between 1997 and 2003, the ethnic configuration and affiliations were drawn by those who nurture the Tutsi-Hutu diachotomy in the history of the Great Lakes region. There are those who said that the war pitched Tutsi from the Hima Empire of Burundi-Rwanda and Uganda against the Hutuland of Zaire-Zimbabwe-Angola. The same goes for those who advanced the thesis that the rebellion in the eastern Congo is an offspring of governments in the neighboring countries. Ethnic hatred was aired over national radios in Burundi,  Rwanda, and Zaire in 1993,1994,1997. Innocent civilians paid a blood price that is likely to make history repetition over the years to come.

    Human rights perspectives should remind us that there should be no double standards in terms of justice and democracy. The international community endorses the fact that there is backing of neighbouring countries in the activism of rebel groups in the eastern Congo. For disguised reasons, human rights abusive governments in Africa  are given international recognition and backing at the expense of citizens who wallow in abject poverty and suffer untold violence and suffering from state security organs.  A sitting President in east Africa strongly urged Rwandese government to negotiate with the FDLR known as genocide entrepreneur of 1994. Yet the same President selflessly fought to send a fighting force in the eastern Congo to fight the M23. And it seems that what MONUSCO did not achieve in years the AU fighting force achieved it in months.

    Can military defeat win over political dialogue in Africa in terms of long term peace and stability? The recent history proves us wrong on this account. RPF was rebel group yesterday and now rules over Rwanda since 1994. CNDD-FDD in Burundi left the bush in 2003 and now former rebel leader sits in the State House since 2005. NRM in Uganda fought dictatorship up until 1986 and now rules over Uganda ever since. Late Laurent Kabira father and now Joseph Kabira son emerged victorious in harsh war that rocked Zaire and ousted Mobutu.  But the sad face of this history is that millions of innocent civilians paid with blood the cost of political short-sightedness.

    Do we want a repeat of history in this continuous bloodshed and another M 1111 in the DRC or in the Great Lakes region  in a near future? They do this in the name of democracy, territorial integrity and national sovereignty. From a human rights perspective, real democracy is founded on political equality and popular representation as well as a state built on rule of law. What is emerging from successive elections in some parts of Africa is pseudo-democracy that highjacks the will of the people to entrench warmongers and rent-seeking governors.



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