Friday, December 27, 2013

DR Congo: " Hey you, you've survived. Now you've arrived "

Voice of America reports

DRC to Send Peacekeeping Troops to CAR

Internally displaced children, who are escaping the violence, pose at Bangui's Saint Paul's Church December 17, 2013. Some European countries will send troops to support a French-African mission to restore order in Central African Republic, French Foreign

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) information minister says 850 peacekeeping troops from the national army, the FARDC, will be sent next week to neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) to help with efforts to stabilize the security situation there.

The DR Congo is listed second in the Failed States Index 2013 by comparison the Central African Republic ( CAR ) comes in at number nine. So there is a certain irony in this, that said this is an excellent development and is quite probably a result of the professionalisation of FARDC , that is an achievement Kinshasa can be justifiably proud of. 

Lambert Mende says the government in Kinshasa is providing assistance to about 50,000 CAR citizens who have so far crossed the border into the DRC to flee the unrest that has displaced tens of thousands.

Another irony given the problems caused in the Eastern DR Congo this week by the Ugandan rebel group ADF that has forced Congolese citizens to seek safety in Uganda. Again though this can be seen as a positive development. That the Congolese government has developed the capacity and authority to be able to provide humanitarian assistance is an indicator of just how far the administration in Kinshasa has come. I hope Kinshasa is receiving international assistance funding this effort. 

The DR Congo I suspect will not be listed as the second most failed state in the world in 2014. 

He says the administration has told its citizens the decision to send the troops to the CAR is based on a request by the Southern African Development Community, (SADC) to contribute troops to help with peace keeping efforts in CAR, which he says will also benefit the DRC.

It will definitely benefit the DR Congo. It will provide invaluable experience for the FARDC personnel involved and skills that will be transferable to conflict zones domestically. There is also intangible national benefits, nation building being one that springs to mind.

" Nation-building refers to the process of constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state.This process aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run."

“We have been requested to send troops for peacekeeping mission in Central Africa and we did so by sending a battalion of 850 troops,” said Mende. “So we have to work for peace in the Central African Republic. Working for peace in Bangui is working for peace and security in Congo.”

Again that is undeniable. The DR Congo borders the CAR and regional stability will provide regional benefits that far outweigh the current chaos that is endemic to the region. A lesson that both Uganda and Rwanda might want to take on board with regard to their manipulations in the eastern DR Congo.   
Some civil society groups are objecting to the deployment saying the DRC faces security threats from several armed groups inside the country, who often attack civilians. But Mende says the DRC has received help from its own neighbors to deal with insurgencies inside its own borders. 

Insofar as South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi are neighbours, one should remember that the insurgencies Mende's refers to are a direct result of other Congolese neighbours that have been no help at all.

“Our friends [from] SADC in terms of assistance sent troops to defeat the M23. So people are wise and they know that we not only receive, but we have also to give when Africa is in need. Since we received we must also give and the people understand this,” said Mende.

This is DRC’s first international peacekeeping effort since the country gained independence, according to Mende.

That is a milestone that is not to be sniffed at.

Some observers have said the gesture is a publicity stunt, saying the administration should concentrate on the DRC’s own security needs since its troops are needed to augment United Nations Mission (MONUSCO) peacekeepers in the DRC.

I guess those observers must be saying it in Swahili or French because I have been unable to find an English language report of it. To describe a nation standing up an shouldering a share of responsibility as an international citizen as a " publicity stunt " is in my opinion little more than a publicity stunt itself.

Mende says his government needs to take preemptive measures to ensure the security situation in neighboring CAR does not spill over into the DRC.

“This fire in the Central African Republic, if we don’t [take] care to have it finished it will absolutely land in our Equator Province and our Oriental Province,” said Mende. “So doing this we are taking care of our own security as the DRC. So people must before arguing, read a map of Congo.”

Given the issue in the Kivus that is undeniable. 50,000 refugees would suggest that to some degree it already has landed in the northern provinces. Dealing with problems at their source doesn't seem a half bad idea to me.

Mende says that it is in the interest of both the DRC and the entire region to ensure peace and stability in the CAR.


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