Members of East Africa’s legislative assembly have expressed concern over the impending deployment of a United Nations-sponsored intervention force in the volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Approved by the UN Security Council last month, the intervention brigade that will be made up of Special Forces soldiers from South Africa, Malawi, and Tanzania, has already arrived in the Northern Bukavu province’s capital Goma in preparation for an assault on fighting groups that have continued to wage war against the government of DRC President Joseph Kabila.
In a report by the Rwandan-based New Nation newspaper, members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) expressed fear that the brigade would most likely wreak havoc than bring peace, and that, in the first place, it is not intended to bring peace. The paper quotes Fred Mukasa Mbidde a member of EALA’s Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution from Uganda, as having said he fears that only M23, which he says are “not criminals” compared to the FDLR–remnants of the masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi–will be singled out. Mbidde’s other worry is that Tanzania, an EAC partner state, is moving away from a unanimous accord to support the ongoing dialogue between the M23 and Kinshasa, as the only viable way for sustainable peace.
Mbidde says there is a misconception on matters to do with eastern DR Congo. This is partly because the protagonists–the UN, “the pen holders France” and others, are outside actors. “The misconception is either intended or unintended, but there is a lack of awareness by the actors in terms of what is happening on the ground in eastern DRC and it has resulted in many wrong decisions,” Mbidde said, adding, “If they are aware, then it is a concerted effort to annihilate the people of eastern DR Congo, which is not acceptable. “We have a humanitarian question that must be addressed,” the lawmaker adds, pointing to the FDLR, who he says “continued with a genocide campaign against the Tutsi communities in DR Congo. “There is currently no difference between the FDLR and the army of DR Congo. Their operations are intended, one, to annihilate the Tutsi there who are indigenous DRC citizens and secondly, the FDLR still has a plan to return to Rwanda and complete their genocidal agenda.”
The New Nation continues to quote Mr Mbidde as warning that in effect, what the UN Brigade will become would be “a raw material” for the FDLR which wishes “to orchestrate genocide” because the group’s aspirations had started to diminish but they lately got a new lifeline. “Congo does not have a substantive army. The brigade will either be reinforcing FDLR or creating a safe haven for FDLR, and in fact, thereby establishing a highway for the FDLR to Rwanda,” it quoted Mbidde as saying.
A December 2012 resolution of EALA on the security situation in eastern DR Congo and EAC neighbours, proposed by Mbidde and MP Christophe Bazivamo (Rwanda), welcomed initiatives and resolutions of the Heads of State and Governments of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) on the security situation in eastern DRC, at their three summits in Kampala. The resolution also reiterated the importance of regional dialogues to find lasting solutions to the crisis and urged EAC partner states, the DRC and the international community to deepen their analysis of the root causes of the volatile situation in DR Congo for sustainable solutions to peace and security in the EAC region.
Tanzanian MP Charles Makongoro Nyerere shares Mbidde’s sentiments on the latest developments. Nyerere said when the Dodoma government mooted the idea, Parliament thought it was about peacekeeping, not offensive operations. “If this happens that way, these UN Force will be seen by the people as an occupation Force–and these guys [M23] are going to have a sympathy with the people who have been affected by criminals and it is going to be a disaster! It is going to be a disaster because these rebels will be given food and assistance.”