Is the Great Lakes region falling apart under our watch? Tension is rife in South Sudan as trust wanes and suspicion rises. The government is out to disarm the bodyguards of detained former army chief Paul Malong on fears he might launch a rebellion. The conflict in South Sudan has pitched parts of the country into severe hunger, paralysed public services and forced a quarter of the population to flee their homes. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is facing its deepest crisis since the end of the 1998-2003 war. Prospects for a peaceful transfer of power appear remote as President Joseph Kabila evades elections. Over 400,000 civilians from Burundi have fled and an estimated 1000 have lost their lives as political and ethnic polarisation continue to tear the country. In Tanzania, political space continues to be constricted as the government executes major infringements on the freedom of expression and the opposition party’s ability to communicate with its supporters. In Uganda, the government continues to curtail civil rights and liberties through use of unlawful orders and disproportionate use of force over the term limits debate. Rwanda’s history of political repression and attacks on opposition figures stifles political debate. In Kenya, the government stares at civil disobedience as the two main political parties take hardline stands and the results of the repeat presidential elections are challenged in the Supreme Court.
The prevailing situations threaten the economic and political stability of the region hence the urgent need to address these undercurrents in their own merit. Leaders in the region ought to use effective conflict resolution mechanisms and probe the precipitating internal and external triggers. The African Union should intervene and chart a way forward to avoid an impending implosion that will have far reaching catastrophic effects. Building a strong socio-economic and political environment will catalyse investments, productivity, cohesion and prosperity.