It’s not about DRC leftover; it’s about Tanzania foreign policy gem

February 24, 2015 11:01 am1 comment by:

President Kikwete  and Kabila

By Emmanuel Tayari

The idea that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a free dining table for resources hungry individuals and countries has enabled violence and instability to thrive in DRC. Continuing with this wrong and failed way of thinking about DRC future, Mail & Guardian  columnist, Christine Mungai, ,On 03 Feb 2015, – published an op-ed, ” DR Congo and Rwanda’s FDLR rebels: Why Tanzania could end up eating leftovers”, a column which also displays her ignorance of the nature of Tanzanian foreign policy.

Since 1996, the Congolese people have been cast as the historic losers to the spoils of conflict in their country.  In a nation which been ruined by foreign opportunistic self-interest, mainly driven by financial gain, rather than bringing lasting peace, it should come as no surprise that Tanzania has emerged as a kingmaker in a battle which will undoubtedly shape the face of the Great Lakes region for years to come.

Tanzania foreign policy is a gem which is unknown to many, which is why for the past six years; I have been researching and documenting Tanzania foreign policy covering 54 years since independence. What is fascinating is the fact that, during that time, Tanzania’s peace and justice missions are purely out of a right motive and do not involve resource exploitation.  Its missions are restricted to peace and stability. Even today, Tanzania continues with peace building efforts in the region. Uniquely, it does so purely out of national consciousness – ‘peace’ and ‘security’ – and not for material interests. Therefore, from the Tanzanian foreign policy perspective, eating leftovers as depicted by Christine simply does not exist. It’s worth stressing that, I find it insulting for 77 million Congolese people to think of them as leftovers .Moreover, Tanzania does not need to eat leftovers in DRC because the country itself is resource rich. However, Tanzania does see opportunities for its new Bagamoyo port that are strengthened by a stable DRC.

On the other hand, Pressure and propaganda from Rwanda to change the Tanzania-DRC security direction is not unique. We have seen it all before, and assessing past reports against Rwanda’s involvement in DRC, a pretty compelling picture emerges when you connect the dots. In 2013, Tanzania refused to back down from sending troops to the DRC as part of a United Nations (UN) intervention brigade, despite, Rwanda attempting to block the intervention in favour of M23 rebels. Therefore, its vivid that a campaign linking Tanzania with the Front for the Democratic Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels is not driven by anything else other than financial motivations by Rwanda in its wishful military intervention in DRC, which could potentially give Kigali back control over resources that are out of reach due to the Tanzanian presence in DRC.

Though some might argue that this time Rwanda has the best case against Tanzania, the reality lies elsewhere. A military solution against FDLR is of course not a new idea. What struck me most is that, a pro-Kigali columnist and propagandist is promoting the false narrative about Tanzania’s unwillingness to fight FDLR, However, what they cannot tell us is why Rwanda did not defeat FDLR when they had all of the DRC security apparatus’ in their hands. If General James Kabarebe would have represented his country’s interests well, while he was at helm of DRC security forces, the FDLR threat to Rwanda would not have been an issue with Tanzania.

As we know today, that was not the case, as it seems that deploying Rwandan troops in the DRC was to search for natural resources, not to pursue FDLR rebels. Therefore, Rwanda and its propagandist have no moral authority to preach to Tanzania and how it should run its tactical and military operation in DRC.

Tactical and Long-term View

It is not difficult to fathom the feeling of frustration that permeates nearly every Congolese, who believes that their destiny should not hinge on others, but remain in their own hands.

Given these undeniable realities  and overwhelming long-term strategic and economic desirability of engaging DRC more closely as a partner, the aim of Tanzania  is to see DRC forces reach a maturity level in which they are able to control 100 percent of the population and borders. This is why, for the first time, DRC cadets have undergone military training in Tanzania as part of broader strategic interest of empowering the DRC army to do just that. On 18 Oct 2014, a first batch of a total of 414 Officer Cadets from the DRC graduated from the Tanzania Military Academy (TMA) in Mondul, Arusha. They were commissioned by President Jakaya Kikwete. Tanzania is confident that the newly trained DRC army cadets will be capable of prevailing on the battlefield against all militant groups in DRC including FDLR.

Military Strategy

Congolese Officer with Kabila in MonduliOne of Tanzania’s long held strategic mantras has been the need to ensure that whatever they get involved in in regards to military operations, they build the capacity of the local army to defend themselves, and we have already seen how this strategy has played out in Comoros and Uganda. For Tanzania this strategic calculus is pretty straightforward to sustainable solutions.

Lastly, for Tanzania which is – a great regional power that flexes its military muscle and asserts its influence – DRC’s peace and security is fundamentally in the national interest of Tanzania. Therefore, we need to step outside the box for a moment, and remind ourselves that, in any military engagement, intelligence can prove to be the difference between success and failure. A coherent military strategy requires a long-term focus with well thought out objectives. Such strategic patience cannot be disrupted by Rwandan social media campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, spreading disinformation about Tanzania.

Last month, in his speech to diplomats, President Kikwete felt compelled to tell the world again that any misrepresentation of Tanzania’s position is done by people who pretend to read Tanzania’s mind and make their thinking the truth, which indeed is with undeniable malicious intention.

Tanzania’s interests in DRC to stabilize the country and make it militarily independent must proceed despite the outlandish claims of a pro-Rwandan propagandist. This strategy is better for the DRC and the Great Lakes Region as a whole.

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1 Comment

  • The irony in Ms Mungai’s analysis is the lack of balance and depth. How can one at the same time applaud Tanzania’s traditional foreign policy approach based on principle and at the same time accuse her of an effort to cleanse the FDLR without a calculation of what it may stand to gain in the long run?

    The absence of depth is illustrated by the failure to recognize the differences between Tanzania and Reanda’s perspectives. Tanzania has often stated that not all FDLR’s supporters are genociders. You have people born in the DRC who did not participate in the genocide. You have youngsters who ran into the DRC with parents, who may have committed genocide in Rwanda. But you need to separate the genociders from those who are not. It is a question of justice and fairness. You cannot condemn an entire people as Rwanda would have it! This is what makes for principle. If this signifies eating crumps, my vote goes for the Tanzanians.

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