It is Yuletide, for lasting peace let’s reason this season
Saturday December 25 2021
The overarching teaching in the gospel of Jesus Christ, whose birth the world is celebrating, is that man should not be held hostage by his failings of the past. According to Jesus, redemption is there for those who acknowledge their mistakes and earnestly ask for the opportunity to turn a new leaf.
That is a poignant message under the current configuration, where a large part of Africa is in turmoil. If men could pause for only a moment to reflect on the futility of conflict and open their minds to a new possibility, this can be a much better festive season for the millions of people displaced by conflicts in which they are mere pawns.
From the Horn to the Sahel, Africa is engulfed in unnecessary wars. Save for a handful, many of these conflicts are not new and their outcome is fairly predictable. Far from confronting each other, the preferred target of most protagonists is a vulnerable community of children and the elderly. That has been the cycle for decades with no apparent gains from such actions apart from a dubious reputation for ruthlessness.
It is not surprising, therefore, that for the citizens and watchers of East African affairs, the most significant development this Christmas season has probably been the decision by the EAC heads of state this week to admit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a member of the East African Community.
Coupled with the ongoing joint military operations by the Congolese and Ugandan forces against armed groups in the east of the country, this will likely also be the first Christmas in a long time that the people of the DRC’s Ituri region can celebrate without the threat of imminent death hanging over their heads.
Coming after a tumultuous year, these are welcome developments that show where Africa should be putting its money. Vastly endowed with natural resources, the DRC has been hostage to international powerplay and illicit mining cartels. The resulting power vacuum has exacted a heavy toll on innocent, helpless people caught in the crossfire.
The DRC’s admission to the EAC caps a long overdue meeting of cultures whose encounter can only be mutually beneficial. With their interests spread across a trading bloc that is home to nearly a quarter of Africa’s population, DRC’s stability will be important to many people for different reasons. DRC will likely grow to be the glue and peacemaker that holds together the shaky East African economic integration.
Yet all that should not be taken for granted. Traditionally Francophone, President Felix Tshisekedi has assumed great political risk is taking a territory previously under the exclusive influence of Brussels and Paris into the Anglophone embrace. Unless admission to the EAC demonstrates quick wins for ordinary people, there are risks ahead.
The businesses rushing into the DRC can moderate that risk through engaging in equitable investment that not only addresses the supply side deficit but also builds the country’s manufacturing base, creates jobs and opportunities for Congolese youth.
Without that, the same questions biting at EAC trade are bound to crop up. For viability and enduring peace, everyone needs to turn a new leaf.