Dar symposium paves way for African peace and prosperity as experts unveil transformative plan

By Guardian Correspondent , The Guardian
Published at 11:03 AM May 28 2024
Transformative dialogue on safeguarding the region's future.
Photo: File
Transformative dialogue on safeguarding the region's future.

IN a groundbreaking symposium in Dar es Salaam on May 24, 2024, Africa's foremost experts gathered to dissect the vital components of peace and security on the continent. Led by luminaries like Professor Eginald Mihanjo from the National Defense College (NDC) and Prof Adebayo Ulukoshi, a leading International Relations lecturer, the event promised transformative insights into safeguarding Africa's future.

The discussions illuminated the intricate tapestry of peace-building efforts in Africa, setting the stage for a transformative dialogue on safeguarding the region's future. Professor Mihanjo emphasized the intrinsic link between economic empowerment and peace, stating, "The foundation of economic stability lies in the employment opportunities available to citizens, particularly the youth post-graduation." He articulated this perspective during his presentation, underscoring the pivotal role of economic prosperity in fostering stability.

Echoing similar sentiments, Prof Ulukoshi stressed the imperative of investing in economic empowerment as a means to bolster peace and security. "Peace cannot be achieved solely through the proliferation of military forces or weaponry. It requires a holistic approach that addresses underlying socio-economic disparities," he asserted.

The symposium also delved into the recent coup attempt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), orchestrated by Congolese rebel Christian Malanga, a naturalized US citizen. The audacious move on May 19, 2024, targeting the President's residence, has elicited widespread concern within the country and across the continent.

Renowned diplomat and former Tanzanian Ambassador to the US, Liberatha Mulamula, raised insightful inquiries regarding the enduring conflicts in the DRC, despite sustained efforts to pacify the region. In response, Professor Mihanjo highlighted the role of effective leadership in sustaining peace, stating, "The dearth of effective leadership exacerbates the challenges to peace in Africa. It is undeniable that a leadership vacuum contributes significantly to the perpetuation of conflict."

Prof Ulukoshi underscored the importance of fostering good governance as a cornerstone of peace and security. "Effective governance structures ensure accountability and transparency, thereby mitigating the risk of political instability and conflict," he asserted.

The dialogue also addressed the pressing issue of unemployment among African youth, particularly university graduates. Prof Adebayo Ulukoshi emphasized the urgent need to address this demographic challenge, stating, "The burgeoning number of unemployed graduates poses a significant threat to peace and security in Africa. Without viable employment opportunities, disillusioned youth may resort to illicit activities, fueling instability."

The discussions highlighted the interconnectedness of peace, economic prosperity, and effective governance in fostering stability. However, the recent coup attempt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), masterminded by Congolese rebel Christian Malanga, who holds US citizenship, has reignited concerns about peace and stability in Africa.

In a daring pre-dawn raid on Sunday 19th May 2024, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) military foiled a coup against President Felix Tshisekedi's government, resulting in at least three deaths in Kinshasa. The attackers, armed and wearing military fatigues, targeted the residence of ally Vital Kamerhe and breached the Palais de la Nation, although Tshisekedi was absent. Among the attackers was Christian Malanga, a former Congolese army captain and US resident, who led the failed assault.

“At about 4 am local time (03:00 GMT) dozens of men wearing military fatigues and armed with submachine guns and rifles attacked the residence of Vital Kamerhe, a federal legislator who is an ally of Tshisekedi and a favorite to become the speaker of the National Assembly,” reported La Prospérité.

The incident unfolded swiftly, with gunfire erupting in the streets of Kinshasa as security forces engaged the attackers. At least three people were killed in the shootouts that ensued, including two Congolese security officials, and the leader of the attackers, Christian Malanga. Some 50 people have been arrested, the Congolese military said, including three United States citizens.

The failed coup attempt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reverberated across Africa, prompting renewed scrutiny of political stability in regions grappling with similar challenges. 

In Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Mali, and the broader Sahel region, the specter of political unrest loomed large, with recent events underlining the fragile nature of democratic governance and the persistent threat of military intervention.

In Burkina Faso, a country plagued by recurring bouts of instability, concerns mounted over the government's ability to maintain control amid escalating violence and mounting discontent. The Sahel region, encompassing Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania, has become a hotspot for jihadist activity and inter-communal violence, exacerbating existing governance challenges and fueling social unrest.

The Gambia, a nation still grappling with the legacy of former President Yahya Jammeh's authoritarian rule, faced renewed uncertainty following a failed coup attempt in January 2022. The incident highlighted lingering tensions within the security forces and raised questions about the country's transition to democracy following Jammeh's ouster in 2017.

Mali, a focal point of regional instability, witnessed a military coup in August 2020, leading to the ouster of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Despite subsequent efforts to restore civilian rule, including the appointment of a transitional government and the scheduling of elections, Mali remained mired in political uncertainty and insecurity. The country's vast northern territories remained vulnerable to jihadist groups and ethnic militias, complicating efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability.

The broader Sahel region continued to grapple with a complex array of challenges, including poverty, food insecurity, and environmental degradation, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and fostering conditions conducive to violent extremism and armed conflict. 

The presence of jihadist groups such as Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) further destabilized the region, posing a threat to regional security and undermining efforts to promote sustainable development and economic growth.

The African Union and international partners expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel, calling for enhanced cooperation and support to address the root causes of instability and build resilience against external threats. Efforts to strengthen regional security mechanisms, including the G5 Sahel Joint Force and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), remained critical in countering terrorist threats and promoting peace and stability in the region.

Regional integrations such as the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) played a pivotal role in retaining peace and stability in Africa amid the fallout from the failed coup attempt in the DRC and other regional challenges.

The AU, Africa's premier intergovernmental organization, leads efforts to promote peace, security, and development. Through its Peace and Security Council and African Standby Force, it facilitates conflict prevention and peacekeeping operations, bolstering regional stability. The AU's commitment to democratic governance and human rights underscores its role as a custodian of African values.

ECOWAS, comprising 15 West African nations, is pivotal in maintaining regional peace. Swiftly condemning the DRC coup attempt, ECOWAS upholds democratic principles and governance. Similarly, SADC fosters peace in Southern Africa through dialogue and mediation, enhancing economic development. African leaders prioritize collective action and inclusive governance to make the continent move towards a brighter future.

The failed coup attempt in the DRC served as a stark reminder of the fragility of peace and democracy in Africa. However, it also underscored the resilience of African leaders and regional organizations in confronting such challenges with determination and resolve.

All and sundry, by embracing the principles of collective action, inclusive governance, and regional integration, Africa could overcome its current trials and emerge stronger, more united, and better equipped to tackle the complex issues of the 21st century. The continent embarked on this journey, the promise of a brighter future beckoned, driven by the shared vision of peace, prosperity, and progress for all Africans.