Bertrand Russell wrote thus: “ War does not determine who is right — only who is left.” This was just as true decades ago as it is valid today. And in the context of East Africa, it is time politicians and warlords stuffed this timeless advice in their respective pipes and smoked it in.
We find it necessary to revisit the issue of regional peace and co-existence since the Horn of Africa and entire states around the Lake Victoria Basin have, arguably, the greatest potential in human resource terms, trade, natural and mineral resource wealth and mustard seed of democratic governance.
The countries stand to teach the rest of the word a thing or two and become world beaters in so many fields, but find their citizens locked in an unending cycle of poverty, whole communities and interest groups steeped in a morass of corruption, impunity and civil war. According to the World Bank, the region is the third fastest growing economic blocks in Africa.
This past week has seen Rwanda celebrate her 50th anniversary since self-determination, and there were a lot of nice things coming out of the Kigali Congregation.
Virtually all speakers were full of praise for the miracle that is Rwanda today, a mere 16 years since the end of a harrowing civil war that became a must-see, must-learn-from-type lesson in humanity and the dark forces that rule the hearts and minds of men and women the world over.
There were lessons to be learnt about the power of forgiveness and the resolve of a people to transcend personal and ethnic domination as all hands join the plough of national development.
Just West of Rwanda is Democratic Republic of Congo, a country so endowed with mineral wealth and Africa’s only Tropical jungle, but has for decades been embroiled in self-immolation and war pitting several local groups and even neighbouring states. Every gunman is gaining at the expense of the Congolese. How sad!
And now, there is talk of a looming war between the DR Congo and Rwanda. We all know how that will end (if it does). Every great edifice, every sacrifice, or developmental infrastructure and human lives stand to be the “body count” of yet another armed (mis)adventure in the region.
A little farther North, few Sudanese are having a quiet night’s sleep. ever since they agreed to agree to separate into two distinct units, Khartoum and Juba appear not to have had a decent word to say to each other. Reason? Oilfield ownership, oil revenue sharing and disputes regarding the January 1st 1956 boundary that led them to war in the first place, but also, ironically was the accepted demarcation in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Even without pounding each other into oblivion, South Sudan is literally uncharted and undeveloped wasteland badly in need of a Rwanda-like resolve to build it up from scratch. Literally. And now, without a market or outlet for her newfound oil wealth, poverty and hopelessness appear to be the next outpost.
Sudan is faring no better and is witnessing a welling of public resentment for officially sanctioned austerity measures, probably partly resulting from the oil debacle with their newest neighbours in Juba.