The Roman emperor Nero, apocryphally fiddled while Rome literally burned. That, were it true, would be as nothing, compared to Democratic Republic of Congo President, Felix Tshisekedi, who albeit figuratively, sets fires to vast areas of his nation, and then climbs into a luxurious aircraft, to circumnavigate the world, trying to convince anyone who will listen, that his neighbour, rather than he, is the arsonist.
A little over three weeks ago, on the 3rd of this month, the heads of state of the East African Community (EAC) nations, met in Burundi’s capital of Bujumbura, at the invitation of Burundi’s President, Evariste Ndayishimiye, the current chair of the revolving EAC chairmanship.
According to the EAC secretariat, the meeting, titled as an extraordinary summit, was to look at the “security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the way forward.”
All the EAC heads of state, bar South Sudan’s Salva Kiir Mayardit, were in attendance. The South Sudanese President, having stayed home to welcome Pope Francis I, who would be in South Sudan, following his visit to the DRC.
Until he eventually arrived, the host must have been wondering whether President Felix Tshisekedi would make an appearance. The DRC President had earlier asked Qatar to host a similar meeting, to which Doha readily agreed, as did all the other parties to the negotiations, only for him to pull out at the last minute.
The would-be host was left without explanation, and wasted effort and expense of a meeting without the participants. It was also left to the Qataris to inform all the other participants at the eleventh hour, not to bother flying in after all.
As would most likely have been with the aborted Doha meeting, the Burundi summit itself, had little that was substantively new. The resulting communique called for the implementation of what was stipulated in the earlier Luanda summit.
Whatever symbolic value there may have been, however, would be turned to ashes by Tshisekedi, long before everyone had completed their farewell handshakes, to fly back to their respective countries.
As though their head of state had not been in the room, when the statement was agreed upon, various officials, including government spokesperson, Patrick Muyaya, came out to declare that the DRC did not agree with the communique.
Not that should have come as any surprise. Congolese politicians solemnly putting their signatures to agreements, only to suddenly act as though they were never at the signing, is why we are where we are now, with the resurgence of the M23 rebel movement.
One thing can be said for Felix Tshisekedi, however, and that is that he cannot be accused of subtlety. At least his predecessors had some notion of dissimulation, channelled through the proper diplomatic protocols. Their lies were as deadly, but unlike Tshisekedi, they demonstrated some awareness of the need to at least pretend an adherence to the actual facts. Tshisekedi’s conduct is so jaw droppingly crude, he behaves more like a leader of a criminal street gang, than a head of state.
After the meeting in the Burundi capital of Bujumbura, as other heads of state chatted, before bidding each other farewell, Tshisekedi, collared Kenya’s William Ruto, taking him by the elbow, and making a beeline for the Commander of the Kenyan contingent of the East African force, General Jeff Nyagah.
What followed was unalloyed street thuggery. “You did not come here to help M23, you came to help us” he harangued the General, “be careful not to cause yourself problems, it would be a pity, if the local population were to turn against you, you should work with the local population…”
This to a commander of a regional force, charged with being even handed, in the way it enforced peace. And just in case the General might have been in any doubt, the next day, the “local population”, Which in reality, are machete wielding party youths, which Tshisekedi warned might turn against the Kenyan contingent of the regional force, were out to show what they were capable of doing.
They rampaged through Goma, demanding the withdrawal of the Kenyan force, just as they had against the United Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), when it too failed to carry out Tshisekedi’s bidding, by parroting accusations against Rwanda.
The UN would buckle, by carefully leaking a particular section of its Group of Experts report, in which it too accused Rwanda, of supporting M23. The government in Kinshasa was elated, and suddenly, the “local population” no longer wished MONUSCO to vacate the country. We are yet to know how the Kenyan force will respond to the vulgar pressure.
Such egregious solecism in diplomacy, would have been a public scandal, in any other forum, but Africa has a high tolerance of such breaches of accepted norms. Like most delinquents however, Tshisekedi is encouraged by the apparent lack of any consequences for actions.
At the African Union (AU), meeting of the Peace and Security Council (PSC), Tshisekedi outdid even his own alarmingly low to non-existent standards. An entire aeroplane was chartered, to fly what the Congolese termed civil society, to go to Addis Ababa, to demonstrate against Rwanda.
The PSC itself is little more than a talking shop, which will have pleased Tshisekedi. In their communique, they said little to nothing about the genocidal murders that are now a daily occurrence in the DRC, or the persecution of Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese, the very thing the M23 rebel group give as reason for their rebellion.
The Congolese President and his supporters have little or no interest in the peace and stability of their country. Afterall given the vastness of the DRC, the politicians could sit in Kinshasa, and ignore what goes on in the Eastern part of their country. Their objective is to do whatever it takes to engineer a second term for Tshisekedi. That necessitates a convenient enemy, and for that there is always Rwanda.
And if the Eastern part of the country must be sacrificed for Tshisekedi to keep his bottom on the presidential throne, so be it. As long as the mines keep producing the minerals, neither the politicians, nor their families are affected by the suffering of the people in the Eastern part of the country, suffering for which Kinshasa has never shown any concern.
The question for the African Union, as for the regional organisations, is how long will they continue to enable the thuggery in Kinshasa.