By Henry D Gombya
On her first visit to the region since her appointment as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region by UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, Mrs Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland has warned that a military solution is not the only way to end decades of conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Addressing a press conference in Goma Tuesday, Mrs Robinson said while it was important to deal with armed groups in the DRC, it was quite important too that this was not turned into a focus on a military solution. She added that it was equally important that the UN implemented the political steps it has already committed itself to. The envoy must have been having in mind forces that are already gathering in eastern DRC’s capital to make up a UN-imposed Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) that has been given the purpose of dismantling all fighting groups in the DRC, especially the M23 Movement based not far from Goma.
Her comments were not far from what M23’s political leader Bertrand Bisimwa has consistently said, that war was not an answer to his country’s problems. M Bisimwa referred to UN Security Council Resolution 2098 that authorised the setting up of FIB as a ‘major setback in the history of the United Nations’. Ms Robinson’s work of supporting the implementation of a peace framework signed by 11 heads of state in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa earlier this year seems to be falling to pieces as South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi continue to ferry troops in to the DRC in preparation of an attack in eastern DRC.
Surprisingly, the very people who are employing her seem not to want her words of warning read on their website. In a 462-word article on the UN News Centre website, there was no mention of Mr Robinson’s warning about the use of force in the eastern DRC. But it was not surprising that Mrs Robinson was not allowed to visit areas under the control of the M23 where she would have had the chance to judge for herself claims by the M23 Movement that people within areas under their control are free and living happily but worried of the impending attack that will surely leave many dead and thousands once again displaced.