The government of Democratic Republic of Congo has finally signed a troop deployment deal with the East African community (EAC). This is an important development at a time where Africans search for a sensible existence without seeking interventions from overseas to solve internal conflicts. It is crucial to underscore once again that the logic of seeking interventions from overseas was always misguided, and here is why.
Right from the beginning as African countries started getting independence, ill-intentioned “interventions” from overseas created mayhem on the continent. For instance, Washington and Brussels decided that they did not like the way Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba professed to manage the newly independent Congo and decided to depose him, kill him and replace him with their choice, Mobutu Sese Seko, who soon turned governance into a despicable circus. Understandably, the rest of Africa, which was not yet independent anyway, couldn’t do much about it.
Foreign meddling into the affairs of newly independent African states continued as soon as each got independence as they were expected to subscribe either to Western capitalism or Eastern socialism, even though the conditions that had caused the rising of the two ideologies did not exist in Africa. Later, after the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1990s, western powers arrogated themselves the role of deciding which government in Africa, and around the world, was on course with pursuing democracy and would not hesitate to sponsor “interventions” to keep the countries “on course”. Indeed, most coups against real and perceived dictators in Africa were engineered from beyond the continent and even the seemingly nobler interventions were not homegrown.
In fact, these interventions from overseas have largely been disastrous, as was the case in Somalia. The interventions did not spare even those countries that got independence much later like Angola and Mozambique. Usually, they took the form of sponsoring local dissidents to undermine the new governments, keeping them unstable and constantly engaged in civil war.
On contrary, almost all joint interventions by African states in African conflicts have proved successful. So, why do we expect the spreaders of the disease to cure it? Perhaps the answer to this question lies in our inability to preserve memory and learn from the past. Some hazardous aspects of our history have been told and retold, yet we keep ignoring the lessons they carry and we are still reluctant to conclude that we are the saviors we have been waiting for. We may thus fail to take necessary measures as Africans not only to prevent disruptive foreign interference but more importantly to cure and immunize our countries from perpetuation of senseless destruction and the wastage of resources and lives.
It is of common knowledge now that, by the end of the colonial era, enough dangerous seeds had been sown in African territories to make citizens of each country turn onto one another in senseless killings to the extent of making people wish for the return of the colonial masters. Cheap but effective tricks employed by the colonialists included the reduction of indigenous communities to derogatory classification of ‘tribes’ and persuading each that they were fundamentally enemies of others. The foreign religions were also used to further divide –and of course weaken- the Africans.
Not surprisingly, many African countries descended into civil wars after independence. And even the older, uncolonised Ethiopia copied the bad ways. Today, brothers and sisters are slaughtering one another in the bloodletting that started soon after Prime Minister Abiy was decorated with the Nobel Peace Prize. These endless conflicts are a stain on our conscience, but somehow we have resigned ourselves to a bystander role, waiting for some miracle to happen or others to put out the fires. Yet, the dangers of this attitude and the level of destruction it has caused are there for all to see.
It is a repetitive pain to keep citing the sad example of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But DRC is such a huge elephant in a small room that is impossible to ignore. DRC presents the limitability of effectiveness of foreign intervention from outside the continent. For the United Nations ‘peace’ intervention in DRC is about the biggest and most expensive and ineffective in the world. It would be interesting to read the UN’s report assessing the effectiveness of the billions of dollars in has spent in pacifying DRC.
Individual countries have tried to enter DRC for their own security, but these interventions only affect a tiny territory of the humongous country; so, neither completely removed the intervening state’s security hazards, nor restore stability to DR Congo itself. With the signing of a troop deployment deal, the DRC government must have started to realise that it will take joint deployment by all the neighbouring stakeholders to mount an effective intervention. The realization was long overdue. If the Congolese accepted, actually sought the intervention of the affected neighbours to remove the Mobutu phenomenon, then how could they refuse the affected neighbours’ intervention suggestions? And, perhaps in time, if this intervention is successful, DRC will contribute troops to the East African Stanbdy Force to stabilize South Sudan, whose citizens are becoming permanent refugees in neighbouring countries.
That being said, prevention is better than cure. It would be prudent that the experts of the regional standby forces do not stop at organizing joint ‘picnics’ for troops, but should also send joint analysts teams into all member countries to gather relevant information in order to assess the conflict hazards, and recommend means of defusing them before they explode. If indeed the leaders are serious in their calls for political federations, do they expect these to happen in a security vacuum? Or do they intend to keep separate militaries in the bigger state they intend to create? If we are to come together as one bigger and viable state, it will be important to minimize the potential for conflicts by maximizing the capacity to prevent them or cool them should they occur. And it starts with information.
Africans also have to keep in mind that external forces from outside Africa not only want to access Africa’s resources cheaply but also, even in deserts where there is ‘nothing’ to mine, grow or see, they want to access territory for, among other things, dumping their hazardous wastes at minimal cost with no regulator checking on the standards of disposal. It is for this reason that the Bamako Convention came into force in 1998 even as it took nearly a decade to negotiate and is to date only ratified by about half of the African states. Africa’s Institute for Security Studies (ISS) reported earlier this year that criminal dumping of toxic and even radioactive waste from Europe into Africa is getting out of hand and is packaged as ‘recycling’ deals when there is no recycling capacity in the recipient countries.
Can anyone in their right mind expect people/systems that set out to knowingly mass poison Africans to make positive security or political intervention on the continent? It would be akin to appointing a hyena as supervisor in a butchery.