Why Uhuru-led peace process must succeed

Former President Uhuru Kenaytta. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

Despite its vast economic potential, Africa may soon be on the throes of doom as self-rule slowly turns into self-ruin.

Bad decisions by overbearing leaders have cast pale shadows, with needless conflicts in parts of the continent endangering stability, growth and human development.

In our side of the continent, the bloody war in Ethiopia and the Rwanda-Democratic Republic of Congo conflict have shrunk harmony levels and led to serious discord.

In the latter case, activities of M23 and more than 100 armed groups in Eastern Congo have caused untold havoc and Kigali stands accused of backing the rebels. After recent negations, President Paul Kagame offered to influence a ceasefire by the insurgents. 

In Ethiopia’s case, a bold peace process is taking shape. Early this month, commanders of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front met in Nairobi and crafted important truce timelines. Further talks are lined up.

With good mediation signs showing in the two situations, it is imperative that governments, business leaders and all non-state actors seek insistent ways of re-energising the peace processes. At any rate, conflicts and their backers can be unpredictable. It is too early to celebrate. Negotiators must burn the midnight oil to ensure nothing reverses the gains.     

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community mediator, warns that no country can grow through the barrel of the gun. Conflicts should not be viewed in isolation. This is why countries, individually and under the African Union, shouldn’t be bystanders in efforts to ensure capable governments, respect for human rights and sound relations with neighbours.

Truth is, the continent has a long way to go. The delicate situation in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso found themselves got the world worried, with fears that distending conflicts and the delayed return to civilian rule disenfranchised the people.

Rejection of constitutional order may well mean that juntas rule for an infinite time. Military regimes have proved brutal. Their outlining upshot is jihadist insurgency, widespread poverty and looting. The result is increased sanctions against countries.

African nations, if not the world, must sustain pressure on heads of government and opposition leaders to engage. Autocratic tendencies that take away people’s right to speak and be led through the ballot should have no place in Africa. We must not put the continent on the edge. It could easily tip over.

For the record, peace isn’t just absence of war. It must be accompanied by justice. Those who misuse power must be brought to book. Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye is right when he says we must rise up against bad leadership and the tendency to prefer peace while turning a deaf ear to the quest for justice.

Let those who have caused mayhem in DRC and Ethiopia be subjected to the full force of the law. According to Human Rights Watch, there have been serious violations of the laws of war and human rights, including extra-judicial killings, rape and sexual violence, unlawful shelling and airstrikes, and pillage. The victims deserve unconditional justice.

As a keen observer, my view is that Africans must spare no effort in seeking unity of purpose. We can’t take the easier route of blaming the west. The African Union should act beyond press statements. After the August 2020 and May 2021 Mali crises, followed by Guinea disorder in September 2021 and the Burkina Faso one in January 2022, what antidote has UA offered?

Let’s nip armed conflicts in Ethiopia and Rwanda in the bud to stem diplomatic rifts sweeping through the landscape. Going the war way will be costly for all. That’s not how great countries and continents conduct policy and international relations.

-The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter: @markoloo