Frédéric Boyenga-Bofala
The End Of The Great Lakes Crisis

The Great Lakes Crisis
and How to Get Out of It

Since the genocide in Rwanda and the horror, atrocities and massacres that took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is a sad fact that the black man has nothing to teach anyone about the horrors that human beings can suffer. My sincere belief is that there is no such thing as a guilty race. My sincere belief is that there is not even any such thing as a guilty people. My sincere belief is that "there are only lost men and contemptible men" as P.H. SPAAK put it.

Following the genocide in Rwanda, the men and women of the eastern Congo have endured and continue to endure the maximum of what any human being can endure. We are reaching the ultimate in hatred, ignorance and human evil; and for that reason, it is imperative that we all agree to enter into a formal agreement putting an end to the crisis in the Great Lakes.

Each moment in History has its own specific mission, which other moments in history cannot carry out for it. For this purpose, we must place ourselves in harmony with deep universal truths, rather than just our habitual prejudices; which obscure the true meaning of things. This is the appalling situation that prevails in eastern Congo, seventeen years after the outbreak of the crisis in the Great Lakes, which brought into being the movement about with this book is written: the latter is, in the truest sense of the term, a piece of writing, which was dictated to me by the need, both political and personal, to play a small part in providing some reflection on the ways and means to put an end to the cruel crisis affecting my own country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and its neighbours, Rwanda and Uganda.

Sometimes, in the life of a people, moments occur that injure both the memory and the idea that we have of the human condition. At such times, it is difficult to discuss these things, because we do not always know how to find the right words to recall the horror experienced by the men and women who have lived through the tragedy concerned. It is also difficult to mention them, because these dark moments permanently defile our common history and insult both our past and our secular traditions.

  In its fierce will to survive, my people, I am sure, will use its genius to create the intelligence and the courage needed to change, both for it and for all the other peoples of the Great Lakes region, pain into joy and anguish into hope. I think that those who make war on each other in the Great Lakes region have the right to also make peace with each other and to come together to try to provide an answer to their differences. No barrier is so high that it cannot be broken down. "The interests we share (...)   because we are bound by geographical, cultural and linguistic proximity   are much more powerful than the forces that divide us" President Barack OBAMA.3 Also, in the context of a tight peace between our nations, the language of fear must give way to the language of hope, the language of threats to the language of commitment, the language of confrontation to the language of mutual association.

We all share a responsibility to restore and maintain peace in our sub-region. I'm convinced that the time has come for a frank renunciation of the crisis in the Great Lakes, as a matter of national policy of the nation states involved; so that the peaceful and friendly relations that once existed between our peoples can rise again from the ashes. Nor would I want to forget a particular concern of mine regarding the various impediments preventing the signing of an audacious yet realistic agreement that would put an end to this crisis. The dystopia caused by terror, which we are living through in eastern Congo, cannot go on. Too much blood has been shed and I think that entering into final, informed negotiations designed to definitively halt the Great Lakes crisis can no longer be avoided. And that's a good thing.

The greatest wisdom is to have dreams so big that you never lose sight of them while you're chasing after them. I could just stop right there and invite my readers simply to appreciate how consistently and how long I have been concerned with the Great Lakes crisis; this being so that they can easily and reliably gauge for themselves my determination to work for peace in our sub-region.

Those who know do not speak, those who speak do not know. And only those who build their mistakes up into a political doctrine are wrong.

The fundamental concern of a politician is, first and foremost, to maintain the peace. This is a problem that must be addressed with vigilance and coolness, and without yielding to political movements inflamed by passion. I have been thinking about the antagonism between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and have come to the conclusion that we were all blind-sided by a crisis that, originally, did not have any rational cause, still less a legitimate one. Its root cause remains a matter of some debate. We accept the loss of life. Although we accepted that this crisis was caused in a bad way, the actions were took bore no relation to this realisation. We all love our homelands. This fact must be taken into account. But we could have avoided the trap of war if we had preferred dialogue, if we had preferred life to death, if we had been able to master our passions and understood that the common good means ensuring the peace and development of our Great Lakes region.

I have said in the past that I never considered that the Rwandans and Ugandans were our eternal, mortal enemies. Simply put, conflict was inevitable because such were the systems, plans, societal arrangements, ideologies and distortions of the mind in place.

Personally, I belong to a generation that has several years' experience in the political arena, that was not involved in anything and only wants to put out the fires of war. My approach today can only be understood as the expression of a desire for reconciliation between the three peoples that have been tearing each other to bits for the past seventeen years in what has been incorrectly named 'the Congolese crisis'. I know that an ideal is always better than the reality. One must always try to push reality closer to the ideal, even though this effort may often fail. So, on its own, an ideal is not enough. In other words, political will alone, as essential as it might be, will not get you very far without commitment and without concrete and effective action on the ground. In the absence of any visible action, the willpower needed to achieve these things may bend; although up to now, mine has not.

As regards the Congolese crisis, or rather, the Great Lakes crisis, in my writings on the subject I have warned the public many times about the cycle of violence. I have reminded everyone that every crisis, whether local or regional, that lasts for any length of time will always attract negative forces and one day will become larger than its immediate protagonists, and in so doing, will benefit stronger, outside powers. I insist and I have always insisted on the irreducible right of every person, every people, every tribe and every ethnicity to live in social and national cohesion; and for months now, I have been trying to make both reason and law prevail in the resolution of this crisis.

In fact, I have always advocated a final and comprehensive settlement: I do this while still retaining a certain degree of indeterminacy, which preserves enough distance to enable me to make choices. My political life is organized based on my choices, because there is no higher morality or greater political ideology. Even if you subscribe to an ideology that is nationalist rather than patriotic, you don't have to depend on it completely. It would seem clear that this freedom soon caused me to be perceived by the Congolese political class as a madman and an iconoclast; whereas in reality I defend and continue to defend to the maximum a mature, deliberate stance designed to finally put an end to this crisis. I am against so-called "actionism", which is action for action's sake and, as such, quite different from pure theorizing and strategic assessment. I am against those deadly nationalisms that have plunged the Great Lakes region into an abyss of destruction. I believe that radicalism presents a serious danger: i.e. rejection of the other, denial of the other and a desire to annihilate him, all of which reduce the other to his most simple manifestation. We have no interest in unbalanced agreements as a way of shortening the long agony of the Great Lakes crisis. They are ineffective.

In fact, despite the debacle imposed on the M23 by FARDC4, supported by MONUSCO5 and its special brigade, the most terrible conflict in terms of both duration and sheer violence between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, still awaits a final outcome seventeen years after it started. Even so, for some time now, the right conditions have seemed to be in place: public opinion tired of the war and its consequences and ready to make the sacrifices needed for a reasonable compromise, respective political classes that largely believe that the status quo has gone on long enough, complete international consensus on the extreme danger of a conflict that must be stopped... But nothing ever seems to happen: all we have are hopes that are constantly being dashed and sudden outbursts of violence, which seem to be the penalty being paid over and over ad finitum for such disappointed hopes. But if diplomacy carried on under the auspices of the United Nations is moving in an auspicious direction in terms of peace, the situation on the ground is also moving   only not in the right direction: this is demonstrated by the upsurge in violence that has occurred since October, which has now fortunately ended with the defeat of the M23 but which still hasn't put an end to the crisis. Under these conditions, the Congolese, Rwandans, Ugandans and Burundians may all drown together in the middle of the Great Lakes, instead of being able to save themselves together. Obviously, they need a lifeline, a credible rescue plan in the middle of the Great Lakes.

This lifeline is the plan I now offer to the international community, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

An essential part of the ideas I advocate in this Plan was expounded in my book "On behalf of Congo Zaire."6 Hence, they are less a reaction to an emergency situation than a long held, solidly supported conviction.7 In fact, in a chapter entitled "The demilitarization and complete disarmament of Ituri and Kivu: a new mission for MONUSCO for the total pacification of Congo Zaire and the stabilization of the Great Lakes region", I submitted for the high attention of the Security Council a proposal for the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution for the reorientation of the mandate of MONUSCO. This would involve specific missions, the dispatch of a brigade in the form of an international task force to assist MONUSCO, demilitarization and disarmament in Ituri and Kivu as well as the establishment of a demilitarized zone between Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan. I am pleased that, for their part, the Security Council and the African Union have taken up a good part of these proposals. I recall these facts, not to derive any glory therefrom or to seek any kind of gratitude. I simply would like to remind readers that these proposals have had a profound influence on the course of events after a long period of stagnation; however, I do not take any pride in this, because I believe it is our responsibility to shape the future and to refuse to become merely the plaything of fate. It seems to me that what some of these proposals have lost in terms of originality, they have gained in terms of relevance and, above all, actuality.

If I continue this fight, it is because my will to do so has not wavered; because I am aware of the ongoing nature of the efforts in this area and of the need to constantly renew those efforts; because I know that I am a small link in a complex chain that is exciting, dangerous and yet also essential to the development and progress of the peoples and the individuals in our Great Lakes region.

If I ever became aware of something that might be useful to me and that was harmful to the Congo, I would try to forget it and put it out of my mind. If I ever became aware of something that was useful to the Congo and that was harmful to the Great Lakes region, or else might be useful to the Great Lakes region but harmful to mankind, I would regard it as a crime.

The states of the Great Lakes region will only ever succeed in resolving this crisis if they become fully aware of their common history and common destiny. In order for them to build this destiny together, it is still necessary for science to enlighten individual consciences and for an enlightened debate to take place on the destiny of our sub-region. But unfortunately, in some camps, on both sides, some people say that preparations must be made for a victorious counter-offensive that would be necessary before new negotiations can be initiated that would bear fruit. Other people say that, at the present time, every individual person's effort must be directed towards victory. There should only be one thought in mind: victory. Difficult problems should not be mentioned, which would only give rise, now and in the future, to a large number of disputes and would thereby risk weakening the unity necessary for final victory. Without wishing to ignore the fact that such ways of looking at things may sometimes be appropriate, my own feeling is different. Victory and defeat? Victory for whom? Defeat for whom? All these questions arise. Without wanting to set myself up in judgement in any way, I think that it is easy for us to stay stuck at the point where we currently are. It is easy to think that we can solve all our problems by force, by violence and by the law of the jungle. And it is precisely becoming aware of this problem that will change the course of history. We must try to imagine what peace would look like, because peace is the aim of the war, and so the war only has any meaning and justification if peace is imagined.

Indeed, appalled as I am by the failure of the negotiations and the brutal, idiotic turn of events in the Great Lakes crisis, I am more convinced than ever that there is no military solution to this conflict, and that peace is the only reasonable outcome. I am convinced that trying to take a shortcut by force of arms, only to relieve some bad conscience, is not the ideal solution in a complex crisis. Resorting to force for force's sake, is to make a leap into the unknown. I do not think we can decide on a military strategy without first having a political vision for the future of the Great Lakes region.   This is why I I am putting forward this plan for a comprehensive peace in our sub-region. We have a legitimate, strategic interest in ensuring stability in the sub-region and in promoting peace between our nations, justice and reconciliation in the Great Lakes countries.

The new plan I am proposing is an improved and enhanced version of my book, and has been adapted to the requirements of this crisis. I developed my strategy as a method for responsibly ending the crisis in the Great Lakes.

The future of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is inextricably linked to that of its neighbours, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi and vice versa. To reach the goal of putting an end to this crisis, we must confront head-on all the relevant problems   real or imagined   and then finally settle them.   To achieve this, we need a new strategy for the DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi that is more robust and smarter, instead of one that is limited to the single dimension of MONUSCO: after all, the Congolese crisis is not the only one requiring attention. There is the crisis in the Great Lakes between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, whereby eastern Congo is only the epicentre.

  The new strategy that I propose is the result of an investigation that was conducted with care by our Centre for Analysis, as well as consultations carried out with a number of informed observers of the Great Lakes crisis. We must move beyond the MONUSCO dimension and put in place a United Nations Mission designed to bring about a final, comprehensive settlement of the crisis in the Great Lakes. It follows that, in a complex crisis, we cannot succeed unless we have both a credible strategic plan and rigorous timing. I invite the international community, via the Security Council, to include the end of the crisis in the Great Lakes as an imperative, clear and precise objective of the Mission of the United Nations in the agenda of the latter; and to adopt an action plan aimed at responsibly putting an end to the crisis (1) and beginning the process of rebuilding the Great Lakes region (2).


3 Speech in Cairo on 4 June 2009, addressed to the Muslim world.
4 Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
5 The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
6 Frédéric Boyenga Bofala, Au nom du Congo Zaà;¯re, Paris, Publisud, 2011, pp. 133-164.
7 However, the repetition of certain fundamental ideas has   quite intentionally   not been avoided. I thought it best not to leave them out, in order to stress the priority that they have for me and the extent to which I insist on them, quite tirelessly, in the different milieux in which I am able to voice my opinions.