It’s time for a new approach to peace in the Great Lakes Region

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By Rena Ali

As speculation abounds as to a new joint operation between the RDF and FARDC in the Kivu provinces of DR Congo, it is time to consider a different strategy toward bringing peace to this troubled region.

After 16 years of military campaigns, along with the presence of the UN’s largest peacekeeping contingent, the people of Eastern Congo are no closer to peace and stability. And with only a few substantial military successes, the cost to civilians in the region has been too high.

Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy once stated, “The basic problems facing the world today are not susceptible to a military solution.”  This observation is true for the Great Lakes Region as well.  Will killing or disarming a few more militia members bring the peace and security that is desperately needed?  Recent history has shown us that the answer to this question is no.  The recent Umoja Wetu and Amani Leo operations have led to no significant improvement in the lives of Congo’s people.  If anything, these operations have made things worse, as desperate militia members take out their aggression on the vulnerable women and children.   Reports of mass rapes are becoming so frequent, there is a danger they will cease to be shocking and horrifying, and will instead be considered commonplace. And what is the psychological cost to a whole generation of children who have grown up knowing nothing other than war, hardship, and displacement?

Military action has been tried many times, and failed.  The United Nations spends 1.36 billion dollars per year on its largely ineffective mission.  It’s time to pursue a different solution.  The path to peace begins with regional leaders setting aside greedy and selfish motives, and considering what is in the best interest of the citizens.  These leaders must also bring an end to impunity based on financial resources or social status.  It is vital that negative outside influence is quenched.  International corporations and governments will never have the best interests of Africans in mind, and indeed often exploit differences, and pit different groups against each other, in order to satisfy their own economic interests.

It is time for the leaders of the Great Lakes Region to come together, speak for the people, and come against outside influences that seek to weaken and divide them.

Rena Ali is an independent commentator based in the United States.

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