Friday, September 30, 2011

The Heart Of Central African Regional Instability

Finding a satisfying metaphore applicable to the role Victoire Ingabire plays in great lakes diplomatic chess is not easy. Rwandankunda compared her to Wangari Maathai. She has been compared to Aung San Suu Kyi , to Nelson Mandela , to the bee buzzing around Kagame's head. Sofar the bee-analogy was my favorite. But today it occurred to me there is another powerfull metaphore.

Shanda Tonme, a respected writer on international relations, stated in his memoires that diplomacy is:
"an independent method of protection and advocacy fluctuating according to time, partners, goals and influences"
Off course, give credit where credit is due, who says African diplomacy says Julius Nyerere, the iconic President of Tanzania and respected diplomat:
"schoolmaster by choice and politician by accident". 
Vital "magic formula" Kamerhe would probably consider Nyerere his "teacher" and certainly one of Africa's great "magicians.

Howard Wolpe's 2011 report "Making Peace After Genocide, anatomy of the Burundi process" gives us a glimpse of the behind the scenes diplomacy in the great lakes region:
"the conflict between Tutsi and Hutu in Burundi, as in Rwanda, is at the heart of Central African regional instability, producing massive refugee flows, insurgencies, and cross-border violence." 
For whatever reason (let's hope there is a strategy behind this), several high profile observers or "specialists" fail to integrate this important ingredient in their "Congo failed state" soup. Jendayi Frazer, someone who should know better, recently claimed:
"The problems in eastern Congo today are not Rwandan, they’re Congolese.”
In a recent article by former Dubya speechwriter Michael Gerson another example:
"In America, we are engaged in a debate about the size and role of government. But eastern Congo demonstrates the consequences of government's absence. A state of nature -- even an Eden of bougainvillea and natural wealth -- is ruled by the most ruthless. Resources become a curse, propping up corrupt elites. Houses are surrounded by barbed wire, potholes consume the streets, the electricity flickers and helplessness becomes a habit."
I suspect Gerson was thinking more about Ron Paul's campaign for the Repubican nomination then about the solution to instability in the great lakes region when he wrote that down.

Howard Wolpe's most interesting report gives us a lot of information on Nyerere's role in the peace process in Burundi between 1996 and 1999. For example:
"In explaning his approach to Buyoya, Nyerere used the analogy of a minister of finance who knows that tough decisions have to be made evne though others within the government may resist what is required and recruits the IMF to play the role of the bad cop, to make it clear that there is no alternative, no way out unless certain cnoditions are met. In Nyerere's view, sanctions were inteded not to box Buyoya into a corner, but to provide the "necessary shock therapy" to hard-liners around Buyoya."
Giving Buyoya the benefit of the doubt as to his professed commitment to negotiations, Nyerere argued that the burundiain president would need this external pressure so that the Tutsis around him would realize that they had to do something. Again, he compared the Burundi situation to that of South Africa: the sanctions against the South African regime were directed not so much at the reputed reformer De Klerk as they were at his core Afrikaner constituency whose resistance to change had to be overcome."
When reading about Julius Nyerere's role in Burundi's peace process, it suddenly occurred to me Victoire Ingabire is actually playing a similar role today. Her campaign was not so much about winning an election (allthough Gbago would say: "you don't intend to participate in an election to lose it"). Her's was a campaign to challenge those,  in Rwanda and abroad, that collectively closed and close their eyes to the crimes committed by the RPF. Or as Christophe Munzihirwa, Archbishop in Bukavu until his assassination by Paul Kagame's thugs in 1996, said at the time:
"The world is stopping its ears because a larger ideology has been put into circulation, compared to which everything else is relative. Genocide become ‘ideological’ then works like a blank check that the current US administration has issued to Rwanda and Uganda to do anything they want to all the communities around in total impunity."
Appointing Peter Erlinder as her lawyer confirms this reading.

Ingabire consistently denounces armed rebellion as a means to solve political problems. This criticism is directed at the RPF, but also at the many rebel movements in the region. March 21st she wrote in a letter to Paul Kagame:
"My political organisation, UDF-INKINGI has decided to take part in these elections in order to prove to all political contenders that political change in Rwanda is possible without resorting to violence as it has been the case up to now."
As the South African Daily Maverick observed quite well september 7th:
"Victoire Ingabire campaigned succesfully around the great unresolved issue from the Rwandan genocide: the atrocities committed by Tutsi forces on Hutu civilians, for which no one has been brought to justice." 
When she arrived in Kigali a sympathetic observer wrote that her campaign didn't have a prayer. She proved him wrong! Since she left the Netherlands january 16th her message has snowballed across the globe. After the Rwandan elections August 2010 several observers claimed a powerstruggle within the RPF or critical bloggers were the real threat to Paul Kagame's power and Victoire Ingabire was just some sideshow. In retrospect I think this is incorrect. Nyerere's strategy in the Burundian peace process created tensions between then President Buyoya and his own friends. Victoire Ingabire's return and message had a similar effect on the ruling RPF in Kigali (creating tension).

Off course Donor spokesperson and Dutch ambassador to Rwanda, Frans Makken, and Roger Meece, head of the Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, play their (important) roles, but who decided Victoire Ingabire became "the thirteenth floor" of great lakes diplomacy?

As Vital Kamerhe pointed out in this interview with Elie Smith, often in Africa we search for solutions elsewhere when actually we have magicians right under our noses. People like Julius Nyerere from Tanzania, Quett Masire from Botswana, Moustaphe Niasse from Senegal, Vital Kamerhe from the DRC and Victoire Ingabire from Rwanda.


Alex Engwete said...

Cool selection of formats, but can't beat the old style. Hey, don't take my word for it, it's a personal opinion.

Anonymous said...

I might switch back and forth, saved the old format. I liked the colors of the old format, but some other aspects annoie me.