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The East African : December 30th 2013
22 The EastAfrican OPINION DECEMBER 28, 2013 - JANUARY 3, 2014 I was inspi≥ed by Mandela, but mou≥n the passing of Hen≥y Mutinda Kyatha objects. Lessing understood this well Part of what makes a life inspiring is its mystery and the fact that it touches people in different ways.” Jason Lakin I thought when I heard the news that the author Doris Lessing had passed on. L Many of you will know what I did not: That although Lessing lived in Southern Africa and wrote extensively about it, she was neither born in Africa (she actually spent her first days in Iran) nor was she a Rhodesian national (she was in fact British). I tell this story not to provide fur- ther evidence of my vast ignorance, but rather to make a different point, one which was clear enough after Mandela’s passing: The meaning of a person’s life is rooted in our personal experience and interpretation of them, not the objective facts of their lives. This is not only true of people, it is also true of events, concepts and ess than a month before Mandela died, another great Southern African Nobel laureate died. At least, that is what enough when she affirmed, in an introduction to The Golden Notebook, that it was “not only childish of a writer to want readers to see what he sees, to understand the shape and aim of a novel as he sees it — his wanting this means that he has not understood a most fundamental point. Which is that the book is alive and potent and fructifying and able to promote thought and discussion only when its plan and shape and intention are not understood, because that moment of seeing the shape and plan and intention is also the moment when there isn’t anything more to be got out of it.” Put another way, part of what makes a life inspiring is its mystery and the fact that it touches people in different ways. If we knew exactly why Mandela made the choices he did, or why Lessing wrote as she did, we would see them as mechanical — the inevitable outcome of certain historical forces. They inspire us because we don’t understand how one can live a life like ours, and yet achieve so much. For the same reason, our understanding of them is driven as much by our serendipitous connections to them, as anything they may have actually done. Mandela was a man who did great things (I prefer this formulation to the one that says “Mandela was a great man”). But my own (limited) personal experience of Mandela was singular: I read Long Walk to F≥eedom in a village in Kenya’s Western Province some years ago when I was a volunteer secondary school teacher. I had brought Tolstoy’s Wa≥ and Peace with me; it was ill suited to village life. The school library had only a few other books, and one was Mandela’s. I devoured the book and Mandela’s story lightened what were, by any comparison, the minute burdens I faced as a stranger in a foreign land, struggling to teach Form I and II students without books, or electricity. Mandela’s life for me is inextrica- bly linked to the succour I got from his memoirs. If we understand leaders in terms of our personal connections, we also understand the relative import of different lives by virtue of the directness of their connection to ours. While I recognise Mandela’s “world historical significance,” his passing was less significant for me personally than the recent passing of a man virtually none of you know: Henry Mutinda Kyatha. He was not a famous man. But he was, like Paul Bunyan, the legendary logger of American folklore, larger than life. I did not know Henry particularly well, but he represented something that I admired: A man who was both incredibly strong, and yet often stood behind an exceptionally strong woman. Henry’s wife Ruth is the driving force behind Hope Development Centre, an orphanage in Mbooni, Kenya, that supports more than 100 children. Hope sits in the middle of the family compound. There is no real separation between Henry and Ruth’s home and the orphanage. Henry farmed the land on the compound, provided all manner of logistical support and was a father figure to the children at Hope. He was quiet but exceptionally sturdy; he radiated a deep peace. I always felt that, as long as he was around, things would be fine. That was my very personal experience of Henry — a set of impressions, more than facts, that inspired me. I am sure that there are hundreds if not thousands of unsung heroes like Henry in Kenya and around the world. Men who did great things, but who are only known by those they As we close 2013 and remember Mandela and Lessing, let us also reflect upon the lives of those ordinary men and women who, in their own way, did great things too touched directly. As we close 2013 and remember Mandela and Lessing, let us also reflect upon the lives of those ordinary men and women who, in their own way, did great things. In this way, we keep them alive and ourselves, too. D≥ Jason Lakin is a senio≥ p≥og≥amme o∞ce≥ and ≥esea≥ch fellow at the Inte≥national Budget Pa≥tne≥ship Congo at the c≥oss≥oads: Time to capitalise on ≥ecent gains C ongo’s President Joseph Kabila is fresh off a regional victory tour that culminated on the December 12 with the signing of the Nairobi Declara- tion between Congo, the M23 rebel group, and representatives of the ICGLR and SADC. However, uncertainty hangs over the ability of the signatories to monitor and implement the agreement. Critical questions remain about the fate of senior M23 leaders, the disarmament and demobilisation of rank and file M23 troops, and the connections the rebel group has to the Rwandan and Ugandan government. One thing is for certain — despite any temporary or rhetorical victory, peace is far from secured in Congo. Leaders from the ICGLR and SADC will need to continue to work closely with the governments of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, and representatives from the M23 to oversee progress on a vital set of issues negotiated through the Kampala peace process, which resulted in the Nairobi Declarations. The same parties must then facilitate broader regional talks through the nascent UN Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework for Congo and the region, or UN PSCF, to address the core drivers of conflict in the region. Leaders will need to grapple with such thorny issues as agreements on the elimination of armed groups and respect for national sovereignty, refugee repatriation, land rights and natural resource management, civilian protection, and security sector reform within Congo. Nonetheless, recent gains in eastern Congo The fall of M23 and conclusion of the Kampala process have created a new momentum.” Aa≥on Hall have brought renewed hope for peace and economic development: • The fall of the M23 and conclusion of the Kampala process have created a new momentum, and local and international leaders are demonstrating a degree of political will for reform in the region not seen in more than a decade. • tary surge led by troops from the Force Intervention Brigade. • Rwandan support for proxy groups in eastern Congo seems to have waned, perhaps due to diplomatic advances by the UN, US, EU, AU and the World Bank. • The World Bank has pledged to re- lease a $1 billion package to stimulate development and revitalise economic growth in the Great Lakes region. The package targets projects in energy, roads, agriculture, crossborder trade, health, and job creation to spur peace through economic development among regional actors that have eyed each other with suspicion. • The government of Congo is begin- ning to gradually increase rule of law and security sector reform in the east while reclaiming territory previously held by rebel groups. • Major mining areas in the Great A strong team of special envoys from the UN, US, EU, and AU are driving diplomatic processes towards peace in the Great Lakes in ways that were not possible a year ago. Many armed groups in eastern Congo are interested in demobilising after the mili- Regional leaders must move beyond the dysfunction of the Kampala process to agreements on core issues involving broader regional peace, political stability, and economic growth Lakes region are beginning to increase production and are moving towards certifying mines and material as conflict-free under the ICGLR Regional Certification Mechanism, attracting renewed international investment and access to global markets. • The UN peacekeeping mission to Congo, Monusco, is deploying unarmed surveillance drones to monitor contentious border areas between Congo and Rwanda and the movements of various armed groups. Despite these gains however, major obsta- cles could easily derail the tenuous progress towards peace, stability, and economic growth. Nowhere were obstacles more apparent than in the dysfunction of the Kampala peace process between the Congolese government and M23. Despite nearly a year of negotiations led the Ugandans on behalf of the ICGLR, no peace agreement was signed between the two parties. Rather, each party signed a declaration of statement to the ICGLR and SADC that ultimately legitimized the M23 mutiny through conceding amnesty and reintegration into the Congolese army for M23 rank-and-file, and space for political representation for the group’s leaders within the Congolese government. Further, Rwanda, a country that is inextricably linked to the conflict in eastern Congo — and will ultimately benefit from the concessions — was never overtly present at the talks in Kampala despite its clear stake in the outcome of any agreement. The result is that, regardless of the recent declarations from Congo and M23, the fate of M23’s top leadership is uncertain. Questions surrounding M23 amnesty, disarmament and vetted reintegration into the Congolese armed forces have not been fully resolved. And, thousands of refugees in Congo and Rwanda continue to live in precarious conditions. In the wake of the Nairobi Declaration, regional leaders must capitalise on the recent gains, move beyond the dysfunction of the Kampala process and begin to negotiate agreements on core issues involving broader regional peace, political stability, and economic growth. Aa≥on Hall is a field consultant with Enough P≥oject on the conflict in easte≥n Congo.
December 23rd 2013
January 6th 2014