Time to act on unfolding situations in DR Congo and Burundi

22Apr 2016
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Time to act on unfolding situations in DR Congo and Burundi

A timely warning has been given on the Great Lakes region that it could relapse into mass violence and economic crisis caused by the unfolding political situations in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Sounding the caution on Wednesday, the US special envoy for the region, Thomas Perriello said as the mood of public unrest remains serious in Burundi, a similar situation of political turmoil and conflict might also arise in the DRC.

On one hand, hard-line opposition stances against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s extended rule were getting stronger and stronger within Burundi, amid efforts by former Tanzania president Benjamin Mkapa to find a peaceful solution to the simmering crisis.

As for the DR Congo situation, he said, Africa’s second largest land mass is scheduled to hold its election in December this year where one of two things are going to happen.

Either a democratic election conducted along the country’s constitution would be held or the present leadership might choose to stay on as it was the case in Burundi by changing the constitution.

Should the latter be given space, chances are that the subsequent effects would be disastrous and the situation might relapse to what it was in the 1990s.

Nobody would want to see what happened in eastern and central Africa in the 1960s and 1990s is rewritten in the history of this region. We are quite aware of the bloody wars for independence in the Congo, the genocide of Rwanda in the 1990s and the still boiling situation in north western Uganda.

It should be understood that in Africa today, after the liberation of the southern part of the continent, among the black spots where intermittent conflicts and violence have remained for too long are the central African part bordering Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Southern Sudan, and Somalia.

Correctly, as Perriello observed, Tanzania has a potentially influential role to play given the fact that the current DR Congo President Joseph Kabila spent most of his growing-up years in the country, and also given the fact that the former country is the current chair of the East African Community (EAC).

But we believe that Tanzania’s intervention, and probably that of South Africa alone, cannot be enough to achieve peace.
Perhaps it is necessary that there should be more role models—the likes of Tanzania and South Africa - like what used to be the case in the 1990s.

Then, Nigeria, Egypt and Ghana were role models in the making of peace on the continent. Given that Algeria has also stabilised relatively, it could also assist in finding peace in the Maghreb.

In Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida it is stated that there was a tendency to listen to Cassandra only when Troy was in fire. Our humble wisdom is that we should not wait until when Troy is under siege, but should act now.It is better to act, and in the Machiavellian language, it is better to act fast before it is too late.