As the region and the world scratch their heads in effort to find solutions for the vicious cycle conflict in Congo, they must not stray off track once again, if the objective is to find a permanent solution. The world saw the deployment of MONUSCO (which started off as MONUC) and regarded the decision as a game changer for the conflict of Congo, but its disappointment and frustration as 20 years later, the conflicts in Congo have escalated instead.
The world again thought that someone had done their homework well and had found the right remedy for the conflict, when the Force Intervention Brigade was mandated to assist MONUSCO and the Congolese army-FARDC to rout M23. However, it turned out that that approach too was from a narrow objective, mostly conceived by a few individuals, to settle political scores.
It doesn’t call for rigorous assessment and analysis of the current levels of the conflict to know that previous approaches were not only faulty in conception, but also in implementation. For instance, in 2013, the UN-backed Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) made of South African, Tanzanian, Zimbabwean and Malawian armies had the mission to defeat “all the negative forces” in eastern DRC. However, once the FIB bombarded the M23 after they agreed to release Goma and retreat to Rutshuru after being given some political assurances, the FIB was never heard of again, although they maintained their presence in Congo. Like everyone else, they settled down and started dealing in illegal mining instead of disbanding the FDLR.
As the East African Standby Force prepares to get into the mix, they should avoid committing the mistakes of their predecessors otherwise they will just add to the pile of ineffective intervention forces in Eastern Congo. The cardinal mistake committed by MONUSCO and the FIB was to accept to be misdirected by their host, the FARDC, who have all along been part and parcel of the problem. Understanding this outstanding fact holds the basis for a successful intervention mission. It is no secret that FARDC works very closely with FDLR, who even dress in FARDC uniform, and fight alongside MONUSCO in all battles against M23 since 2010.
A successful mission lies in the resolve to fight all armed groups without discrimination, the main focus being FDLR, who are inarguably the engine of the more than three decades Congolese conflict. It should be remembered that although conflicts in most parts of Congo were there before 1994, the advent of the fleeing genocide perpetrators (who have since morphed into FDLR) gave the conflict a catastrophic dimension. The genocidaires sowed anti-Tutsi hatred ideology and with the support of then Zairean strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, the “genocidaires” started targeting the Kinayrwanda speakers in Zaire.
FDLR has been at the centre of atrocities and conflict in Congo ever since, which has triggered the birth of other armed groups as a response to them in one way or the other.
The impending deployment of EASF should primarily tame the security threats posed by FDLR and other armed terror outfits operating in the DR Congo jungles.