Settling armed conflicts: An African perspective
In this post, I want to take a closer look at some examples of how some conflicts in Africa were settled to avoid the recurrence of the conflict. That in the Cameroons should not be an exception. We should learn from history and by extension others. No one in his right senses will reject effort to dialogue but we should do so with the aim of reaching a solution. Dialogue is good but if care is not taken, the process maybe thwarted, mistakes made and at the end of the day the cycle will turn back to its starting point. A closer look at some crisis in Africa and the world will lead us to a good starting point.
The Congolese crisis. This was the crisis that swept away dictator Mumbotu from power in 1997. The old dictator had minimized Laurent Kabila and relied on his well trained military at the time. At the head of the army was Gen Mayele who kept on promising him all was find and there was no need for dialogue even when the international community advised him to hold one. At last, he had to sue for dialogue and wanted things to happen according to his whims and caprices. Political and religious leaders, opinion groups, students and women movements were all invited in his so called dialogue in Kinshasa where he delivered a speech claiming that his enemies had waited until he was sick to stab him on the back. Notice that Kabila did not attend the charade. At the end of the “dialogue ” the wrong people were sitting on a table to end a war they had no control over. Just a week after the Kinshasa charade, Kabila seized Kinsangani and Goma. That is when Mumbutu knew he was talking to the wrong people.
He had to seek the services of experts to bring in Kabila for talks. Kabila gave conditions for a neutral country to host any pre talks and dialogue. Mandela stepped in and Congo Brazzaville accepted to use it naval base for a meeting between Kabila, Mumbutu and Mandela in a South African war ship.
Note what we learn here today
– Wrong people were invited by the dictator so that he could prove to the world that he is a man of peace. People he could bully and talk some nonsense Republican message on them. People who had no groups or guns in the field and therefore no influence to stop the war.
– A neutral ground was sorted. The reasons in most conflict holding talks on neutral grounds is first of all the fear of arrest by a participating opponent. In this case, the host country signs documents promising that no one shall be arrested on their soils. In the Congolese case, Congo Brazzaville stepped in first.
– A trusted figure in the international community comes on board. Mandela was not any type of leader. His presence gave hope to the rebels that the matter was serious. That is why Kabila could make the trip.
– Calling for dialogue and at the same time trying to be the overall boss of the dialogue. Mr Biya cannot call for dialogue and at the same time instructing that his PM will chair the the dialogue.
– Bringing in people who said at the onset that there was no Anglophone problem. You cannot solve a problem when you don’t accept it existence
Like I said, the Cameroon case is making some errors like Mumbutu of Zaire did. Inviting the wrong people and making noise all over the place in the name of a dialogue. I see political parties in Cameroon gesticulating about dialogue as if they control any arm group in ground zero. People like Anicet Ekane of Manidem, Ekindi, Akere Muna, Joshua Osih etc, have no bearings on the boys holding the guns on the ground. If you cannot bring those who give orders for ghost towns and lock downs to hold and it is respected to the latter, then you are wasting your time.
To be continued with the Sudanese case.
By Atanga Achiri