Editor's Comment

Zambia obliged to help DRC

FILE: PRESIDENT Lungu (right) with Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila at State House. Picture: Patriotic Front - PF

YEARS of instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have adversely affected not only civilians in that country but also neighbouring countries and the entire region.
Internal conflict arising from great power contests over access to the immense mineral resources in the DRC has resulted in loss of innocent lives, displacement of civilians and derailed economic development within the country and in some neighbouring countries.
To a large extent, peace is a rare commodity in the DRC because of the battle for its abundant deposits of copper, gold, diamonds, cobalt, uranium, coltan and oil, which make it one of the world’s richest countries, potentially.
This does not have to be so. The potential must be tapped for the good of all the citizens and for the collective benefit of other countries in the region and beyond.
For some reason, the DRC has not known the desired peace for lengthy periods, often because of external factors. Whatever the reason, though, the DRC deserves the respect of its sovereignty to enhance its social, economic and political status.
Neighbouring countries and others beyond, however, have an obligation to help the DRC overcome its challenges. Collective efforts would certainly speed-up the process.
The obligation to help the DRC get out of its challenges is for the good of everyone, and the path to take is that of dialogue.
No one should ever tire from using this platform because the route of physical confrontation, as evidenced several times, is never a good one. Conflict breeds conflict and any peace that may result is often, if not always, an uneasy one.
For instance, the refugee crisis triggered by the conflict has adversely affected the social and economic balances of the neighbouring countries, including Zambia. So the happenings in the DRC are a concern that directly affects other countries too.
Taking care of refugees is a huge economic cost for the host countries as well as other supporting donors just as the influx of refugees has social costs such as a rise in crime and conflicts with the local communities on sharing limited resources which may lead to xenophobic attacks.
Despite the internal strife, the gross domestic product (GDP) in the DRC was worth US$37.24 billion in 2017.
The GDP value of the country represents 0.06 percent of the world economy.
Its GDP averaged US$12.08 billion from 1960 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of US$37.92 billion in 2015 and a record low of US$2.88 billion in 1964.
Looking at the economic potential of the DRC, it has potential to contribute to the well-being of the continent at large.
That is why a return to peace will ensure that social and economic costs associated with instability are reduced.
Zambia and other countries in the Great Lakes region stand to benefit more in trade from a stable DRC which has an estimated population of 85 million and is still a massive white space market yet to be fully exploited.
Industries in agriculture and other manufacturing industries stand to benefit greatly.
Peace will foster economic development as the country will begin to exploit its abundant natural resources for the benefit of its citizens and others in the region and beyond.
It is good that Zambia and the DRC have enjoyed strong bilateral relations for a long time. In some instances the bonds are in the blood. Many citizens of the two countries have relatives across the international boundary.
The two countries do not just share one of the longest boundaries (1,930kms) but also natural resources such as copper between the Katanga Province and Zambia’s Copperbelt Province.
In Luapula, the two countries are separated by the Luapula River, which they share for its transportation and fishing.
Some Zambian tribes share not only a common language but traditional rulers across the borders and hold similar traditional ceremonies.
That is why a few days ago, an attempt by a Congolese who snatched a baby for a ransom in Zambia was thwarted by his country’s security services. Such is evidence of good ties between the two countries.
Such cooperation and enhancement of political, social and economic ties can be enhanced if the DRC overcomes its internal challenges.
As a brotherly country, Zambia is, like always, on hand to help.

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