For the first time, Angola and DR Congo have leaders produced from the ballot box, not by coup d’états sponsored by former colonial masters or influenced by the church.
The tense political question of succession in Angola and DRC is over and it is time for the new leaders to get working and deliver on their promises to the people they are leading.
On Friday Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of DR Congo and João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço of Angola held each other hand-in-hand and declared a new found love, marking the beginning of a new chapter between the three nations and an arguably intriguing partnership in the great lakes region.
The three presidents were meeting for the first time under one roof in Kinshasa where they had gone to attend the burial of late opposition politician Etienne Tshisekedi also father of Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo.
Until recently, the governments of DR Congo and Angola had placed Rwanda in an enemy docket.
For example, at one point Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda fought against the armies of DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Chad, Angola and Namibia.
It can be remembered that in July 2008, President Joseph Kabila requested for help from Angola to fight rebels led by Gen. Laurent Nkunda who was allegedly tagged on Rwanda.
Rwandan troops have always remained on high alert across the water tight security borderline with DR Congo, which hosts hundreds of rebels largely remnants of the genocidal forces that were defeated in 1994 after committing the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
DR Congo has been very reluctant and weak in solving this security threat to Rwanda.
The FDLR still walks freely, trades on the Congolese territory and this has kept Rwanda conducting thorough border protection, which once in a while results in skirmishes while repulsing FDLR rebels.
With the new found love between the three Paul, Felix and Manuel the times of military aggression are over – it is now expected to become an affair of more Peace, Trading and Technology.
Who is bringing what on table?
Rwanda definitely is highly interested in hitting the last nail in the FDLR coffin and ending almost 25 years of worrying about threats from a group of ideologically bankrupt people who planned and executed genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda that left over a million dead.
An end to FDLR is an end to suffering of innocent Congolese citizens who have for 25 years endured looting, maiming, pillage and rape at the hands of FDLR and Interahamwe militia.
Several efforts including the deployment of UN Stabilisation mission MONUSCO have failed to eliminate the FDLR.
But a strategic coalition between Kinshasa, Kigali and Luanda (call it KKL) has more chances of fixing this decades-long problem.
Angola is the second largest producers of oil in Sub-Saharan Africa, with output of approximately 1.55 million barrels of oil per day- all this output needs direct market with neighbours to cut export costs especially, DR Congo with a population of 81.34 million.
Kinshasa capital alone hosts 11.8 million residents, a virgin market to tap into.
Currently Angola’s economy is struggling to emerge out of recession with projected GDP growth of 1.2% in 2019 and 3.2% in 2020.
President João Laurenco is an out-of-the-box person who wants to court new markets and increase exports.
For DR Congo, which has a very fragile style of governance, President Tshisekedi will need to learn from Kagame the art of devolution, implementing an effective local government system that extends executive authority to the grassroots and also making people get involved in governing themselves.
Tshisekedi may want to move away from a style that concentrates power in Kinshasa and decentralize it to make his government efficient.
Rwanda has one of the most efficient local government systems.
With zero tolerance to corruption in Rwanda and excessive tendencies of demanding for accountability, the new found alliance, Rwanda serves DR Congo a good case study to learn a few things in turning the pages of governance. Angola too can pick one or two good things from Rwanda.
Angola, for example, has long suffered from nepotism, bribery and poor procurement policies under the petroleum agency.
Profoundly, however, Kagame, a military general, Manuel Gonçalves also a specialized artillery gunner at a rank of Major General in the Angolan Army and Tshisekedi a marketing expert make a formidable alliance that is expected to tilt power tables in the region.
Both Kagame and Gonçalves have been Defence Ministers and would thus use their skills and expertise in a military management plan, keeping security intact in the alliance, while enabling defence and intelligence sharing including joint training exercises.
President Kagame’s business acumen, connections to the capitalistic Western Powers and global multinationals is a key ingredient in the survival of this alliance.
Considering the economies of these three new friends, Angola’s GDP $124.2 billion, Rwanda’s $9.137 billion and DR Congo’s $37.24 billion, all have a total population of almost 122 million people – makes it a huge market that needs to be exploited.
The three have a combined population of 122 million bigger than EAC total population of 120 million, moreover composed of six countries which makes decision making difficult to sail through.
Angola and DR Congo economies require the skills and speed Kagame has adopted to make Rwanda one of the most preferred places to do business.
Angola and DR Congo need to make reforms in their economies to attract investors and grow. For one to register a business in DR Congo, he needs more than 10 procedures, in different institutions, more than $5,000 in cost of logistics and fees, and a lot more hardships.
In Rwanda, one just needs access to internet and a business certificate is issued in six hours.
Obviously security is paramount, a subject so critical in all matters to be considered.
Rwanda and Angola are stable and secure. DR Congo needs to fix its security, and will largely rely on Angola and Rwanda to secure most of its Eastern Province territory that is hijacked by war lords, foreign mercenaries engaged in illegal mining, pillaging and plunder.
Securing all these mining sites and natural resources would significantly expand the DR Congo’s economy. The only way to unlock this potential is through this new found alliance, considering that Rwanda has been pointed a finger for alleged insecurity and plunder of resources in DR Congo.
The English say you set a thief to catch a thief. If indeed Rwanda is a thief, it will be easy to catch the other thieves.
Note that, as the three seek to expand tentacles for market accessibility of goods, DR Congo and Angola have direct access to the South Atlantic Ocean, which could thus be jointly exploited.
For oil and minerals politics, the Western Powers, who have always wanted to have a proper share in these countries through long-term formal investments will look up to Kagame for a new direction and way of doing things away from the past servant-master symbiosis.
Only that Kagame is seen as a bad teacher on the block, teaching “bad behaviours, of demanding for calling out the west to let Africans handle their matters.
President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço of the Marxist ideological orientation will therefore be willing to copy some things from the capitalist Kagame, to make changes in the Angolan economy if it has to make a comeback onto the global stage.
To excel in global diplomacy under the current world order, leaders have to position themselves strategically and carefully manipulate through interests of the powerful nations alongside local interests.
President Kagame has this strength to his sleeve, and the alliance would need to use it.
DR Congo and Angola have almost lost international appeal and have a shattered image that exudes with war, terror, corruption and bad politics, making it hard for them to even host any international event or even engage in global initiatives.
Kagame’s experience of working together with other East African leaders to revive the community’s bloc is an important asset for this alliance to quickly consolidate their grand idea and execute it into a viable alliance informed by the continental free trade area.
This alliance, with a massive population of 122 million will have an enormous bargaining power at the global level, for example the bloc uses; French, English and Portuguese, unlike EAC that is English centered.
With the previous experience of working as AU Chairperson, and actually still heading the reforms of the continental bloc, Kagame is a more popular figure in Angola and DR Congo.
This card would give the alliance more credibility and support from both Tshisekedi and João Lourenço, who still have a big home work to scale the diplomatic ladder and setting s stable local development trajectory.
President Tshisekedi at 55 years now, has been living in Belgium where he studied marketing and communication.
He is described as diplomatic, conciliatory and attentive. He will be an important asset for Kagame in a delicate move to restore deep diplomatic ties with Belgium and France, countries that have blood on their hands due to the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
A more French leaning messenger is an added value to both Angola and Rwanda.
Angola’s João Lourenço will handle the SADAC.
It is such a good setting. A beautiful trilogy.