The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

East African Countries Unite for Peace in Congo

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on May 13, 2022 14:43

0 user

The Mountains of the Moon were described by Greek explorer Diogenes and have since then been a mythical land of legends and mystery. In recent times rebels, bandits, proxy forces, and murderers made it home. But maybe, just maybe, the countries of East Africa can bring peace there.

Stanley voyaged past the cloud-shrouded Rwenzori mountains and never saw them. So did I. Yet they are there, the spine of Africa. Hiding place for refugees, for tribes fleeing slave raiders and colonial officials, the Mountains of the Moon and the forests of Kivu and Ituri has long been an area on the fringes of Africa. Batwa people, remnants of Africa's first nations, still live in these forests, Tutsi cattle herders lord it over Hutu garden farmers.

Mountain living. Photo Dylan Walters, Wikipedia. CC BY 2.0

Rebels against colonial forces sought to negotiate with Amin and Mobuto's post-colonial forces but were brushed aside. And then came the predators. The wealth of this region is vast. A geologist reported that if the area is properly exploited the global price of gold could fall below $200 per ounce. A trader spilled a matchbox of what he swore were rough diamonds on my desk, the product of his canned beef sale into the forests. Tin is present in nearly pure deposits, coltan, essential for cell phones, is carried out of the forests in sacks worth a hundred dollars each.

Rwenzori mountains. Photo Agripio, Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

It is not surprising that such wealth in the hands of a people with little education, less political clout, and an easy-going lifestyle would soon attract vultures. During the First Congo War neighboring Uganda and Rwanda, both with armies deep in Eastern DRC, exported much more gold than their own mines ever could produce. Peace Agreements under United Nations supervision ended formal hostilities, but proxy armies exploited ethnic and social conflicts. Congolese military could only impose law and order through violence, further strengthening rebel formations. 

Only when the Rwanda-backed M23 rebels took the provincial capital of Goma in 2012, well-armed after having smuggled massive amounts of gold, produced by slave labor, did the countries of the region agree on the imposition of peace by a Brigade under UN command. 

The peace held for a while, but political weakness, military, and police excesses, and growing popular resentment fuelled renewed rebel activity. International mining companies, attempting to operate legal, ethical mining, called for governmental help. The incoming President in Kinshasa, Félix Tshisekedi on May 1, 2021, announced an “état de siège,” effectively martial law. This did not live up to expectations, with military corruption rampant, the shadow mining economy still strong, and smugglers well-entrenched in governmental systems. 

Now the Congo has incongruously been admitted to the East African Community, and almost immediately a peace conference including some 23 rebel groups was held in Kenya. Foreign groups were warned to leave and not return.

An initiative seeking to address the grass-roots causes of the ongoing instability in the region, restoring traditional leadership, and using taxes from mineral and oil exports for the development of the region deserves support and may yet bring peace to the Mountains of the Moon. 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on May 13, 2022 14:43

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: Phys.org

In a paper published in Advances in Food Security and Sustainability, researchers found that farmers in East Africa (Burundi,...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest