Titled ‘Time for Great Lakes to embark on economic transformation,’ the interviewee was Ambassador LIBERATA MULAMULA, responding to the paper’s ICHIKAELI MARO. Mulamula is a Tanzanian civil servant who,clearly, has done proud not only her compatriots, but also the peoples of eleven-nation members of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
The lady’s credited with founding ICGLR — and becoming the first Executive Secretary of its Secretariat based in Bujumbura, Burundi.[By the by, ‘ICGLR’ here’s an entity of the AFRICAN Great Lakes Region, encompassing Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika, Albert, Nyasa,Rudolf, Kariba, etc… Not to be confused with the North American Great Lakes region involving Lakes Huron, Michigan, Superior, Ontario…].
Currently, ICGLR members are (in alphabetical order) Angola; Burundi; Central African Republic; Congo Republic (Brazzaville); Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa); Kenya; Rwanda; Sudan; Tanzania; Uganda and Zambia. [Seems Malawi of Lake Nyasa/Nyasaland ‘fame’ isn’t on-board…!]
The organization came into being following the formal signing by the consenting Heads of State (in Dar in November 2004) of the‘Declaration on Peace, Security & Development in the (African) Great Lakes Region. The underlying and overriding objective of the Declaration was/is to effectively and timely address the root causes of conflicts, as well as constraints to meaningful socio-economic development, in the region.
Adopting what Mulamula describes as an “innovative approach to solutions,” ICGLR has as its guiding principles and agenda “peace and security; democracy and good governance; economic development and regional integration…”Noting that the region’s awash in “natural resources of all kinds: minerals, oil, gas, water,” Mulamula laments that it’s also “hardest-hit by poverty; its people are among the poorest in the world!”
As if that incongruity of abject ‘poverty’ vis-à-vis ‘potential wealth’ weren’t causing enough misery all-round, what’s an already bad situation is compounded by internecine strife, both internal and intrastate. Admittedly, a combination of efforts by ICGLR and its partners-in-development has achieved wonders in the otherwise strife-torn states.
But, the poverty factor remains strong even in countries which have been relatively free of conflict. Perhaps most notable among these is “Tanzania, whose political landscape’s worth emulating,” Mulamula pontificates, adding that “the international community has lots of respect for Tanzania, for its efforts at resolving conflicts in several African countries…”
“The root causes of all these (conflicts) is bad governance; bad politics; politics of exclusion and discrimination based on tribes, ethnic groups or classes in a particular tribe,’ Mulamula reasons most aptly.As ICGLR’s inaugural Executive Secretary for its four-year statutory term — and compelled to serve another year as the national leaders sought a suitable successor — Mulamula is best-placed to appraise stakeholders of what ICGLR’s all about… Its progress and achievements so far; the challenges past, present and future; its prospects; the way forward…
One only has to go through the transcript of the interview in earnest to see what I mean… In the relatively short period of its existence — working with others at the local, regional and international levels, including national Govts, the African Union and the UN System — ICGLR has managed to restore more than a modicum of internal/regional peace and security in hitherto strife-torn countries like Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, the Central African Republic, Angola, Kenya, Uganda…We’re all aware of the murder and mayhem that tormented Rwanda and
Burundi in 1994, leading to the massacre of more than a million otherwise innocent people in both countries for reasons that are no more despicable than raw ethnicity and ‘vaulting (political) ambitions...’ [Shakespeare ‘Macbeth’ pardon!] That’s to say nothing of the massive displacement of humanity which saw a million refugees moving into Tanzania where they lived in relative safety for years!
We all know of the murder and mayhem that gripped Kenya following the controversial Dec. 27, 2007 election results, with the loss of more than 1,300 otherwise innocent lives, and displacement of 600,000!We know of the murder and mayhem that went on in oil-rich Angola before the two major rival political parties UNITA and MPLA finally patched things up somewhat… DRC… Uganda… the Sudan…
Where/how would all these be today without ICGLR and the ‘Mulamulas’of this world? I hope she writes a book on that soonest — hopefully explaining (or trying to explain) why largely strife-free Tanzania remains abjectly poor despite its phenomenal potential in natural resources and comparative advantages.
There’s still room for such a book in my collection… Cheers!