America thinks strategically, Rwanda and Uganda waffle, people in Congo die

Saturday July 14 2012

A Congolese soldier sits on a personnel carrier next to a UN peacekeeper on the road between Goma and Rutshuru in Congo’s restive North Kivu province on July 11. FARDC has deployed around Goma to repel any advance by M23 rebels on the provincial capital Goma. AFP Photo/Phil Moore

A Congolese soldier sits on a personnel carrier next to a UN peacekeeper on the road between Goma and Rutshuru in Congo’s restive North Kivu province on July 11. FARDC has deployed around Goma to repel any advance by M23 rebels on the provincial capital Goma. AFP Photo/Phil Moore 

By Kalundi Serumaga

It is an African reality that our states are not designed to have citizens as such, but mere residents whose security and wellbeing remain at the mercy of whoever can physically control the territory in which they live.

The fighting in the DRC follows the now tragically familiar story of rural dislocation and the besieging of provincial towns. The equally familiar results — mass forced migration, lost harvests and missing children — would be almost banal if they were not so devastating for the communities of farmers and small traders.

The past few months have seen the DRC government battling a mutiny by members of eastern ethnic minority militias dissatisfied with the implementation of the agreement under which their forces were to have been integrated into the DRC army.

As things stand, the DRC army units in the border areas near Uganda and Rwanda have been routed with nearly a battalion — followed by hordes of refugees — seeking refuge in Uganda while Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, remains menaced by the mutineers.

There has even been a rebel threat of a full-scale march on Kinshasa to remove President Joseph Kabila.

All of this can be understood in a number of ways: We could be witnessing yet another bout of administrative instability as the DRC struggles to create post-Mobutu coherence. Alternatively, it could be looked at as a further development of the externalisation of the Rwanda genocide conflict that saw the losing side fleeing and regrouping in eastern DRC.

Finally, it could also be seen as a new attempt to organise the de facto breaking up of the mineral-rich country into smaller, more easil