Baha'i News -- DRC accord OPINION

DRC accord

This newspaper, in an editorial comment last week, welcomed the "glimmer of hope for peace" in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This glimmer has now been extended in the shape of a formal peace accord signed in Pretoria by the respective presidents of Rwanda and the DRC, Paul Kagame and Joseph Kabila. Deputy President Jacob Zuma has played a key role in facilitating this accord, supported by President Thabo Mbeki. Monthly follow-up meetings for evaluation of progress have been built into the process, suggesting a note of realism that augurs well for the African Union in its determination to be more proactive than its predecessor, the OAU, about making interventions in situations of conflict and even of despotic governance on the continent.

There are some weighty difficulties in seeking to implement this major step towards peace in the Great Lakes region. The first will be how to persuade Hutus from Rwanda, who took part in the 1994 genocide and are at present in self-imposed exile in the DRC, to give themselves up and be repatriated. The rounding up of these rebels by the Kinshasa government is the condition for Rwanda to withdraw its troops from the eastern part of the DRC. Is it realistic for the Rwandan government to expect them to be put on trial for their crimes? The second difficulty relates to the other vested interests in the DRC, especially those of Zimbabwe, Angola and Uganda, all of which still have troops in the country in support of one or other side in the war.

South Africa has offered to increase its peacemaking presence from 100 to 1 500 troops in order to strengthen the UN's monitoring role. We still have 700 soldiers doing a similar job in Burundi. With the recent reports on operational problems and the decimation by Aids in the SANDF, will we have the capacity for this new undertaking alongside existing commitments? Let us hope that the difficulties will be overcome and that a just and lasting peace will emerge in the DRC, thereby helping to stabilise the whole of the Central African region. Such an achievement would stand out as a significant first-fruits of the establishment of the African Union.

Flat denial

There is something particularly offensive about the manner in which Justice Minister Penuell Maduna has refused to accept any blame if it is proved that pardoned killer Dumisani Ncamazana did murder East London delicatessen owner Martin Whittaker. In a country besieged by violence, South Africans could reasonably expect greater understanding, rather than a flat denial, from one of the very people entrusted with ensuring the public's safety.

While the years leading up to democratic elections in 1994 were certainly abnormal, and many essentially law-abiding people did find themselves caught up in the mayhem that characterised that period, there is always the chance that criminals will seek refuge behind a smokescreen of politics. That Ncamazana had been jailed for 16 years for his part in various Apla attacks, including the killing of three Baha'i Faith Mission members, does not necessarily make him a common criminal but it does indicate that he is fully prepared to kill people.

Given this, it could reasonably be expected that the state would be very circumspect about releasing someone like him. And if, as in the case of the murder of Martin Whittaker, the authorities are found to have made a mistake, the minister concerned should at least accept some culpability.

In 1998, Maduna had to apologise to Auditor-General Henri Kluever after accusing him of covering up huge losses in the Stragetic Fuel Fund. Given that humiliating step-down, one would have thought that he would have chosen his words more carefully in this tragic instance.

Publish Date: 2 August 2002

©Copyright 2002, The Natal Witness (South Africa)

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