How Uhuru’s new peace role boosts Kenya and Africa
Since his retirement as president two months ago, Uhuru Kenyatta has played a highly active role in regional conflicts and his work is now shaping Kenya as a force to reckon with in geopolitics.
Having played an active role in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ethiopia peace talks, Uhuru appears to have positioned Kenya as a bastion of democracy in the East Africa Community, even as his truce engagements package him as an African statesman.
The retired president is the East African Community’s mediator, having been appointed by President William Ruto as his peace envoy for the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa. He has been flying in and out of Nairobi in his new role to preside over peace talks on behalf of the Kenya government, which is keen to foster peace to boost regional trade.
‘People Daily’ has learned that Uhuru has also been engaged in behind-the-scenes efforts to reconcile warring factions in South Sudan, Mozambique, the Central African Republic and Somalia.
His efforts are already bearing fruit, having successfully worked with former Nigeria President Olesegun Obasanjo to convince Ethiopian warring groups to give dialogue a chance for the next two years.
Today, Uhuru flies back from Kinshasa after two-day marathon meetings to search for peace following fighting between a mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 rebels, and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in Goma.
The conflict has also sucked in the leadership of Rwanda and Uganda, and Kenya has had to deploy its troops to help restore peace. Parliament approved the mission only last week after President William Ruto officiated at the deployment of the troops.
During his stay in Kinsasha, according to media reports, Uhuru met representatives of the communities of the provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu as well as heads of various institutions.
EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki was among those in Uhuru’s entourage.
They met representatives of civil society, DRC Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, the presidents of the National Assembly and Senate and members of the diplomatic community.
EAC leaders’ meeting
“Kenyatta sought to understand their perspective on the situation and recommendations on resolving the situation,” a statement from his Nairobi office said.
This will be followed by a meeting to be attended by the seven EAC Heads of State in Nairobi on Monday. The talks are likely to be a turning point in the DRC conflict after Uhuru invited the M23 rebels.
Should they turn up, this will be the first time the insurgents’ leaders will meet DRC President Felix Thisekedi. The latter is also likely to share a table with his nemesis, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame in Nairobi.
M23 has staged a major comeback in eastern Congo this year since they were chased into neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda in 2013. The fresh fighting has caused a diplomatic rift between Congo and Rwanda, which Congo accuses of backing the Tutsi-led group.
Rwanda denies any involvement.
Dr Patrick Maluki, the Chairman of Department of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi, said Uhuru’s involvement in the peace talks places Kenya at an admired position, and his success will be celebrated at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), East Africa and the African Union (AU), all of which continue to call for a ceasefire.
“Kenya gains big from a conflict-free Ethiopia because of business opportunities. Already we have Safaricom in Addis Ababa,” the don said. “The DRC is the next business frontier, considering it recently joined EAC. And if Uhuru succeeds in the talks, it will be a major score not just to the war-torn nations, but a reputation boost for Kenya in EAC and Africa.”
Boost to President Ruto
According to the don, President Ruto, who picked Uhuru as a peace envoy, is being put in the regional and global limelight as a peace negotiator.
Uhuru is pursuing a ‘dialogue’ method to end the violence in eastern DRC. The conflict there has been blamed for scores of deaths, displaced of over 140,000 people and precipitated a major humanitarian crisis. On Monday, the former Kenyan President called for all armed groups to “silence the guns”.
“All groups that currently bear arms should lay those arms down and choose the path of peace through dialogue,” he said in Kinsasha on Monday, warning that nothing good can be achieved through the barrel of a gun. “Silence the guns and join in a political process”.
As he called for a ceasefire, the fighting had moved close to the key eastern city of Goma, causing a fresh wave of displacements amid diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict.
Dr Maluki said that if Uhuru wins in the talks, he will carve a niche as a peace mediator, who in case of conflicts will get invitations to chair peace interventions further afield.
“For Uhuru, his engagement and success is a continuation of what he was doing while still in office,” the scholar said.
“His administration pursued regional and international policies. He has been a man cut for peace and diplomacy and what he is doing is what many expected him to do, given his experience”.
Another expert, Prof Noah Midamba, the Vice-Chancellor of the Kenya College of Accounts and a senior associate at the Global Centre for Policy and Strategy think tank, said Uhuru’s efforts have placed Kenya on a pedestal. They have enabled the country to fulfil its international responsibility.
“There’s no development without peace and security in the region ... you cannot run away from international responsibility as a country. For a long time, Kenya had shied away from asserting itself as a regional powerhouse, but Uhuru’s entry on the stage is a game changer,” Midamba said.
Through Uhuru, Kenya is asserting itself as a regional powerhouse, the same way South Africa has done in southern African; and Egypt has done in northern Africa or Nigeria in West Africa.
To be continued tomorrow...