Tuesday, March 30, 2010



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
April 1 2010

Joseph Kony’s LRA rogue rebels are at it again. If they are not maiming and butchering helpless civilians in Chad, they are ravaging the Congo basin massacring helpless civilians for no apparent reason except perhaps to justify their relevance to their evil minded supporters.

I say evil minded supporters because there is no way an unrecognized rebel group like the Lord’s Resistance Army can survive for over two decades and in possession of sophisticated weapons, military uniforms and other facilities without any clandestine support. Someone somewhere must be benefitting from this rebellion that has outlived its usefulness.

Like I have said before, the continued existence of the LRA in a region ruled by former bush fighters like Joseph Kabila, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame is as perplexing as it is embarrassing. How can such a small army of bandits be allowed to cause havoc from the borders of Sudan through Chad to the vast DRC territories without being flashed out? Aren’t these terrains the same ones that the rebels that overthrew civilian governments in this region used to flash out regimes that terrorized the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda in yesteryears? What has changed so significantly that the combined military operations of four or even five nations cannot pursue Kony's rebels and eliminate them? Where are the sophisticated satellite detectors that can locate human movements in these forests to locate precisely where these criminals are?

The massacres in the DRC tell us one thing; that as Africans, we are on our own. When it comes to conflicts and cases of genocide taking place in this continent, the UN and Western powers will never lose a night’s sleep. However, when Saddam Hussein kills a few Kurds in Iraq, it is international news worthy of a half a million soldiers to just get one man out of power and hang him. Yet, every day thousands of lives must be lost in the DRC, Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, Darfur, Chad and even Rwanda before the world wakes from its slumber. A million Rwandans had to die in the 1994 genocide before the West realized that there was a problem.

Just like the Rwanda massacres of 1994, when the UN Peace keepers proved in effective and even packed up and left while the genocide was in progress, the number of UN soldiers in the DRC now is insulting if not laughable compared to the vast territory they are supposed to oversee. Why would the United States and its allies keep nearly 500,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan merely to deal with insurgents with all the sophisticated modern day weaponry and fighter jets yet keep less than 4000 soldiers in a country bigger than Europe?

It is true President Joseph Kabila has asked the UN forces to be removed from the Congo territory. In retrospect, nobody can blame him for that decision because their presence there has been more of a hindrance in dealing with rebels than deterrence.
If the UN forces , with all the luxury they are accorded can spend 80% of their time protecting themselves and engaging in illicit mineral trade as has been reported in the past, then it is as well they should leave so that Kabila’s army can know how to deal with insurgents.

The DRC crisis is as intriguing as it is perplexing. It is perplexing the way the African Union seems to have washed its hands off. At the AU summits, there are hardly any meaningful and tangible discussions on Congo that do get out to the media. No one raises the issue with regard to the UN Peace keepers’ performance. It is like Congolese have been told to fend for themselves against all manner of rebels including Joseph Kony’s LRA.

Looked at another way, if a country like the DRC that is so vast and seriously undeveloped becomes ungovernable as it is today, why can’t the AU recommend that the country be divided into smaller states that can easily be policed and governed? Why cling to a territory over which the government in Kinshasa has no jurisdiction? Smaller units, even in the form of federal states would make more sense in the DRC than the current unitary government whose power is hardly felt in the jungles of that vast country.

Which brings me to my last point regarding the DRC; were the founding fathers of the present DRC such as Kasavubu and Moise Tsombe right in demanding their own states such Katanga and Kivu right at independence? Had they foreseen the possibility that once the Belgians left, the largely undeveloped vast territory would pose a challenge to the new regimes? Or were they simply driven by selfish secessionist interests? Looking at what has gone on in the DRC for the last 50 years; perhaps these secessionists were right to demand their territories right from the beginning.