The United States Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola from 29/04-05/05/2014 as announced by a press release from the State Department. His visit lies within USA efforts to stabilize mostly the great lakes region; reason why the region has recently gained much attention from the international community as well as the US.
It is in this regards that a US Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region has been appointed by the State Department and Obama’s Administration. The reader recalls that since his nomination, the special envoy has travelled to the region approximately 7 times. In addition, his efforts concentrate on political leaders as well as getting in touch with local organizations such as civil societies and provincial leaders. It may fairly be agreed that his efforts are bearing fruits as the defeat of M23 is partly attributable to him. The leverage of the US in the region seems to become practical than theoretical. Moreover, the visit of State’s Secretary is a continuation made through efforts of the special envoy.
The Secretary of State John Kerry is being accompanied by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo Russell Feingold, Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth, and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issue Catherine Russell. The US department composition of the delegation and the choice of countries to be visited as well as aspects to be discussed during the trip as contained in the press release express how important is the current visit considering the political context in Eastern-Europe and Middle East.
The visit of John Kerry in DRC is probably the 7th official visits from US State Department since 70s and the last visit was made Hillary Clinton in August 2009. As a key ally during the cold war, Zaire relations to US were seemingly focused on the head of the state than inter-states ones before 90s. US were likely interested in Mobutu’s alliance to obstruct communism while disregarding other internal aspects of the key partner in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, since 90s, the US policy toward Zaire-DRC looks focusing also on internal problems, though differently interpreted. Therefore, the nomination of the Special Envoy Russ Feingold and US stance with regards armed groups in Congo; especially M23 has marked an impetus. State Secretary John Kerry’s visit is being viewed largely into that mood, though currently concerned with the situation in Ukraine and the later relations with Russia.
This article tries to vulnerably voicing on challenging aspects that could specifically bring stability in DRC; hence the great lakes region in general. USA’s socio-cultural diversities and largeness of the country are quite similar to those of DRC. As a response to its diversities, US initiated an administrative and political system that helped in managing easily them. That is the federal system. Consequently, John Kerry would be advised, for the long term stability of DRC, to stress and sharing that experience. The federal system needs to fully be implemented than being constitutionally shadowed by what is called “Régionalisme-Décentralisation”. The blogger still believe that federalism, in its real sense, would ease and cease power struggle, political confrontations in Kinshasa and the absence of the state within ordinary citizens’ life. We all recall that this is the 6th month as a country of 2,345,410 km2 is being run by a ‘suspended’ government as a consequence of power struggle, demand-supply reasons in Kinshasa.
There wouldn’t be stability as long as impunity reigns. There is a need to establish competent and impartial justice foundations. Crimes, human rights abuses, killings, massacres and violence have been undergoing since 60s without justice. These abuses have constituted channels for struggling and accessing power. This background has to stop by trying impartially in courts these crimes and human right abuses. In addition, victims of these crimes have to be rehabilitated and restored. Nevertheless, justice mechanisms have to be looked into a reconciliatory approach for the better of future generations. John Kerry message to Congolese officials and the president would also cover toughly corruption, embezzlement, unequal access to resources as well as public officials and leaders’ illicit accumulation of wealth.
It is urgent and important to neutralize armed groups by using guns and support from international and regional partners. In the same vein, we have witnessed electoral processes dubbed democratic and transparent ending into contestation, confrontations and violence. These previous aspects can be achieved under international community pressures and guns though they may however narrowly guarantee long term stability. Subsequently, it would be argued to the State Secretary to consider broadly the stability and socio-cultural diversities characterizing DRC. Advancements made are worthy of interest and attention to avoid backsliding, especially for Eastern-DRC stabilization. Additionally, relying on DRC’s political leaders’ promises and willingness may not be a reliable guarantee based on past experience.
I guess John Kerry will strongly and openly express his disagreement on any point of recent developments in DRC and Kinshasa political manoeuvers. His predecessor promised a support when discussing with university students as she expressed that “you are the ones who have to speak out”. Hillary Clinton reminded students from universities to “Speak out to end the corruption, the violence, the conflict that for too long have eroded the opportunities across this country. Together, you can write a new chapter in Congolese history.” Her reminder can be interpreted as recognition of the first role leading to change as belonging to Congolese people, especially the youth. I hope the ongoing visit will again morally empower Congolese in that sense as we remain the engine for change. If they can’t afford Kerry’s message, I am expecting a tough message telling them to step aside as misery has become unbearable for ordinary citizens.
Would you like to add any aspect that John Kerry can emphasize on during his discussion with DRC’s officials and the president, drop a comment.
Ntanyoma R. Delphin
Twitter account @delphino12