The scramble for Africa is being repeated in DRC

Just as Ethiopia participated in the scramble for and colonization of Africa with European nations, Rwanda is participating in the scramble for and re-colonization of DRC with Western nations. During the scramble for Africa European nations were particularly interested in raw materials. Ethiopia which was originally a small territory (Abyssinia) wanted in particular to expand its territory. Western nations are interested in DRC for its raw materials. Rwanda which is a small country is interested in DRC in particular to expand its territory like Ethiopia did during the first scramble of the 19th century.

Western arguments for breaking up DRC and steps being taken

During a mission to DRC in January/February 2010, meetings were held with representatives of some European embassies, United Nations and International NGO organizations and Congolese from all walks of life. All foreigners contacted complained that DRC is ungovernable because it is too big. If one goes by that criterion alone, then the order of breaking up large African states should start with Sudan, the largest (2,505, 813 sq. km) followed by Algeria, the second largest (2,381,741 sq. km) and then DRC the third (2,344,885 sq. km). Right now there are some voices in favor of keeping Sudan together. I have not heard talk about breaking up Algeria.

The distribution of DRC’s population is concentrated in two areas – east and north east, and south and south west – making it easier to govern than if the population was scattered thinly with wide corridors of empty spaces in between. Second, some 80 percent of DRC is forest which has been designated a protected reserve beyond human colonization and exploitation. Third, if DRC uses its resources properly, the government would have enough revenue to protect the country’s borders. Illegal exploitation of DRC’s resources has denied government the possibility to collect taxes. Therefore instead of splitting up the country, western corporations and their African surrogates should begin normal trading relations so that government collects adequate revenue.

Steps towards disintegration

The first disguised step towards disintegration of DRC according to some commentators is decentralization. During the mission referred to above, all Congolese were in favor of keeping DRC together. According to Richard Dowden (2009) “Despite the politics of theft, violence and patronage, Congo [DRC] still inspires great patriotism among its long-suffering citizens. They may have little loyalty to institutions or a ruler, but Congolese believe desperately in the Congolese nation”. In fact invasions from neighboring countries have strengthened their resolve to keep their country together. When asked why Congolese included decentralization in the constitution which may lead to disintegration of the country if not carefully implemented, there was one answer: it was externally imposed.

At the practical level, the scramble has quietly begun. The major bilateral development partners have decided to invest in specific provinces of their choosing without consulting or obtaining government concurrence. They reasoned that the government does not have the capacity to manage international assistance. On the other hand, the government, at central and some provincial levels consulted, complained that it does not know what donors are doing. For example, it has no idea how much money or experts are in the country.

If this situation is not corrected quickly it could end up strengthening provincial governments’ desire for secession. That is what happened with Katanga and Shaba provinces soon after independence in 1960 that had strong backing of Belgian companies and possibly discreet Belgian government support as well. The UN troops had to intervene in Katanga (now Shaba) province to end the impasse. This, together with other complications, cost the life of the first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. He was executed in Katanga.

Some commentators and authors have argued that the Anglo-French cooperation to save DRC should be taken with caution. “There are now unmistakable signs from both Britain and France that they are embarking upon a new phase of scramble, the neo-imperialism of the twenty-first century (Guy Arnold 2005).

Rwanda’s interest in DRC

Rwanda’s interest can be analyzed at two levels. First, Rwanda would want to choose the leaders of DRC and through them get what it wants through manipulation. That is what happened when Rwanda and Uganda invaded Zaire in 1996. Laurent Desire Kabila who had nothing to do with planning the overthrow of Mobutu was picked as a cover so that the invasion is not seen as externally driven. Unfortunately Kagame and Museveni underestimated the patriotism and pride of Congolese. The Congolese believe that a tiny country like Rwanda ‘that cannot even be found on the world map’ would never control DRC. They could be wrong. Consequently, Congolese rejected the presence of so many Tutsi in Kabila’s government. The Tutsi also overplayed their hand. Kabila dismissed all Tutsi from his government and that upset his sponsors.

In 1998 Tutsi tried to take over DRC by occupying Kinshasa and getting rid of Kabila first. They flew troops from Goma in the east in high jacked planes to Kitona in the west hoping that the troops would then march straight into Kinshasa without resistance from DRC troops. Presumably because they were confident, they assumed absolute neutrality of neighboring countries. This was another big and embarrassing mistake. For various reasons Angola switched sides and deserted Kagame and Museveni, Zimbabwe troops rolled in, Namibia was ready for it was not sure what would happen next after DRC is captured, Chad and Zambia sent in troops as well. The combined fire power was too much for Tutsi troops reminiscent of Amin’s invasion of Tanzania. In 1979 the firepower of Tanzania and Uganda rebel troops was too much for Amin’s and Libya’s troops. The outcome is well known.

Berlin conference II

Uganda and Rwanda failed to take DRC (may be they will try again). Rwanda had other plans – a second Berlin Conference – this time to divide up DRC. The president of Rwanda asked for a second Berlin conference (Gerard Prunier 2009) to adjust its boundary with DRC and recover territory Rwanda lost during Berlin I. Rwanda’s desire to partition DRC is confirmed by Dena Montague who observes that “Rwanda has not ceased discussions of an enduring armed [or political] partition of DRC” (Peter Phillips 2002). That is why Rwanda has maintained a presence inside DRC directly or indirectly through surrogates waiting for an appropriate moment to strike decisively this time possibly with foreign backing.

When you add on the plan to create a Tutsi Empire in the Great Lakes Region and the East African Federation which is now on a political fast track you begin to realize the tremendous challenges ahead and the destabilization that may follow. These are serious developments that cannot be taken lightly. Some Congolese have vowed, and will likely be joined by many others in the region, that should that happen, you can be sure the Great Lakes Region will turn into another Somalia.

Ipso facto, peace loving people of the world, organizations and states like African Union, European Union, United States of America, United Nations Security Council and United Nations General Assembly and others should take these warnings seriously. The outcomes of the failure by the international community to take action in Rwanda in 1994 should serve as a lesson.