Africa fights to free itself of malcontents

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IOL AU GCIS President Jacob Zuma joins other heads of states at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

With the nostalgic, congratulatory and self-congratulatory speeches and the song and dance over, the grim business of warfare is gripping the attention of the AU summit in Addis Ababa.

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, the AU’s predecessor, was on Saturday. On Sunday, the AU began an ordinary summit which gave much of its attention to conflict on the continent.

This included discussions about Africa’s readiness to bolster West African peacekeeping force Afisma so it is capable of replacing the French force, which is holding the line against jihadists and Tuareg separatists in northern Mali.

The AU’s peacekeeping force in Amisom was widely praised as symbol of the AU’s determination to bring peace and order to Africa. It has driven the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab Islamist extremists from Mogadishu and other cities.

The Intervention Brigade, poised to go into eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to neutralise “negative forces – rebel groups, particularly the M23 – terrorising the local population is also a major issue at the summit.

It was discussed in at least three key meetings – among AU leaders, in SADC talks on the sidelines of the main summit and in a meeting of leaders of the UN, AU, SADC and the Great Lakes region.

The last mentioned meeting discussed commitments made in February to restore stability in eastern DRC promises by the DRC government to extend governance and security into the east; undertakings by neighbouring powers – by implication Rwanda, particularly, but also Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni – not to interfere in DRC and commitments by the international community to give support.

Officials said Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, chairman of SADC’s security organ, was blunt at the meeting. He said if DRC President Joseph Kabila could negotiate with the M23 rebels, why could Museveni not negotiate with the ADF-Nalu rebels and Rwandan President Paul Kagame with the FDLR rebels, fighting him from eastern DRC?

Museveni responded that he was ready to negotiate but Kagame was ominously silent. Kagame is widely accused of arming and otherwise backing his ethnic-Tutsi kindred spirits in M23 and everyone is anxious to know how he is reacting to the deployment of the SADC intervention against M23. The journal Jeune Afrique recently quoted him as saying the intervention brigade was a bad idea.

Is he already training M23 and rearming them to try to rout SADC as the rebels have threatened to do? And what impact would that have on Rwanda’s relations with the countries contributing troops to the intervention brigade?

That includes South Africa, which is contributing a battalion, almost certainly to be redeployed from its existing contingent in the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, Monusco.

President Jacob Zuma’s pre-occupation with peace and security goes beyond the eastern DRC to a general view that rebel destabilisation is the primary problem bedevilling the advancement of Africa.

At the AU summit yesterday, he repeated his sentiments of the January summit that these rebels must be stopped.

He has shown himself ready to contribute South African troops to a central African regional peacekeeping force preparing to intervene in the Central African Republic to end the anarchy that has gripped the country since Seleka rebels toppled President François Bozizé on March 24 – killing 13 SANDF parabats on the way.

Africa, having celebrated the struggle to liberate itself from colonialism and apartheid, is now clearly on the march to liberate itself from its own malcontents.

Independent Foreign Service



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