Monday, November 18, 2013


At the beginning of last week the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) refused to put pen to paper on a peace deal with the M23 rebels.

"While not communicating officially about their sudden change of heart on a deal that has taken 10 months to painstakingly put together, privately the Kinshasa delegation said the facts had changed on the ground and the deal cannot be the same.....

They argued that the M23 had been vanquished and renounced rebellion so the new deal should read to reflect this new reality.

In a way they have a point. 

The rebel M23, which was kicked off by mutinying soldiers of the national army, reached their peak last year when they overrun the strategic eastern Congolese town of Goma. This forced the DRC government to the negotiating table.

However, it also kick started an international diplomatic process that apart from the peace talks sponsored by the International Conference of the Great Lakes region (ICGLR) and mediated by Uganda, included bringing to intense diplomatic pressure on Rwanda, which some accused of backing the mutineers and strengthening of the UN peace keeping forces mandate in the Congo.

Whereas all accounts are pointedly saying the UN only offered support to a rejuvenated Congolese army, observers remained unconvinced that the previously indisciplined and unmotivated national army could turn around so fast and orchestrate their first victory over an organised fighting force since 1996.

The new intervention force has troops from Tanzania and South Africa and is commanded by a Brazilian.

With the rout it is safe to say the M23 lost all bargaining power though issues of their forces integration into the national army and how to handle human rights abuses in the region remain in abeyance.

That being said it would be in Kinshasa’s and the region’s best interest to show magnanimity especially since M23 is not the only anti-government force in the region and because the underlying  reasons of poverty and neglect of the region by Kinshasa remain.

"By not being too intransigent on the conditions for M23 to officially denounce their rebellion and lay themselves at the mercy of Kinshasa, could mean the difference between having to continue fighting these no-hope militias or reaching a quick and mutually beneficial settlement....

There are no formulas in resolving a conflict that has been going on for more than a decade in a part of the world where the conditions for rebellion are ripe and always there to be exploited.

History shows that bearing down too hard on the vanquished may only serve to  trigger another war. Part of the reason for World War II was the harsh reparations imposed on a defeated Germany. The compensations demanded by the victorious allies were even more painful to handle because the German economy was struggling.  Adolf Hitler took advantage of the situation to take over power, whip up German nationalism and send his panzer divisions rolling across Europe threatening the viability of the free world.

In the light of Kinshasa’s inability to exercise control over a region, rich in minerals and a population living in sub human conditions it is not inconceivable that vanquisihing M23 will not be the last we hear of rebellion in the region.

"The people of eastern Congo are war weary and have been exposed to suffering, stretched beyond what is humanly possible. It goes without saying that an end to all rebellion in the area would be a welcome Christmas gift, which a newly energised Kinshasa has within its means to deliver...

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