It was prominent proponent of black nationalism, Marcus Garvey, who said, “We must give up the silly idea of folding our hands and waiting on God to do everything for us. If God had intended for that, then he would not have given us a mind. Whatever you want in life, you must make up your mind to do it for yourself.”
We are remind of this famous quote by Garvey by events that are happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially the eastern parts of the vast African country that seems not to know peace.
As we report elsewhere in this issue, there is alarm over the worsening situation for
over 100 000 people newly displaced by violence following armed groups that perpetrated in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Terror by the rebels, largely the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), has uprooted the civilians from Beni since December. The launch of a government-led military operation agitated the militants.
An estimated 252 civilians are reported to have been killed. Some survivors are reportedly haunted by killings, sexual violence and abductions they witnessed at home and during escape.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported thousands more were living in dire conditions across dozens of informal settlements, sleeping in huts made of branches. More than 5 million people remain displaced in the conflict-prone country, representing Africa’s largest internal displacement situation.
UNHCR needs US$150 million (R2,2 billion) to respond to refugee needs in DRC this year but has only received 4 percent total to date.
Now that is very worrying. More worrying is the fact that the DRC has hardly known lasting peace since the end of colonialism and conflicts in that country have prevented the country from realising its full potential.
Yet the DRC is one of Africa’s richest countries and is endowed with vast mineral resources, timber forests, good soils and climate conducive for agricultural production and is home to some of the continent’s scenic tourist attractions.
The DRC has vast mineral resources which can spearhead economic development across the entire continent. Yet sadly, these have not benefited the country and its people, but opportunists who take advantage of conflicts to exploit its mineral wealth.
Is it not instructive that former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold died while trying to find lasting peace in the Congo? A strong advocate of decolonisation, Hammarskjold, the second UN Secretary-General, had adversaries who felt threatened by his diplomacy.
He died while on a visit to help end a secessionist war in newly independent Congo, a former Belgian colony rich with strategically vital minerals, including uranium, coveted by the world’s big powers. No wonder his mission was regarded with suspicion by powerful mining interests in Belgium and the then apartheid South Africa, as well as permanent members of the UN Security Council, including the United States and Britain.
Years later, in 1998, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe were to send troops, under the auspices of SADC Allied Forces, to shore up the government of President Laurent Kabila after the country had been invaded from the east by Rwanda and Uganda.
The country’s resources appear to be a curse as foreign powers seem interested in benefitting from the turmoil as it allows them to plunder and pillage. A UN report which detailed the exploitation of the DRC’s resources during the 1998-2003 war named Rwanda and Uganda as some of the countries that plundered the country’s minerals and timber.
Certainly the DRC needs assistance to bring lasting peace and order in the conflict ridden region and we urge not only SADC, of which the country is a member, but the African Union as well, to take a more proactive role to end the conflicts.
The new democratic government elected in 2018 led by Felix Tshisekedi certainly needs all the help it can get from SADC, the AU and UN to ensure that there is lasting peace in the country.
Lasting peace in the DRC would not only benefit that country alone. The SADC region as well as the entire continent would be stronger with a peaceful, prosperous DRC.
We believe it is time African leaders find a lasting solution to the recurrent conflicts in the DRC. Garvey, were he alive today, would probably have said Africa must give up the silly idea of folding its hands and waiting on God to solve the problems of the DRC.