Representatives from the Southern African Development Community, or SADC, are present in force here in Kinshasa, apparently to monitor elections scheduled for this Sunday, October 29. All the high end hotels (all two of them) are overbooked with election monitors and military from the European Union Force or EUFOR, a supplementary military force here to ensure calm during and shortly after the elections.
All are used to foreign militaries parading around this country, some were belligerents in the war, others here ostensibly to keep the peace. None of them spoke a single word of French or any local language, yet both groups managed to abuse and exploit local women and girls. Foreign armies, such as Uganda, Rwanda, Angola and Zimbabwe, remain above the law--surprise. But UN Peacekeepers have experienced a serious crackdown on their interaction with locals, particularly regarding sexual contact.
A minimum of communication skills ares obviously essential to ensuring positive relations with the local population that foreigners are here, for the time being, to protect and serve. And, not least, to get one's job done. But the wave of SADC officials and election monitors preparing to be dispatched across the country, none of whom speak any French or local language, sets the stage for an epic theatre of the absurd. Imagine the emphatic gesticulations and deaf mute grunts that will ensue as ballot boxes are analyzed and voting procedures contested between SADC drones and the Congolese. I hope someone films the interactions as evidence of the colossal waste of the SADC intervention.
Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's president and a major force behind SADC, has always advocated for 'African solutions to African problems'. Surely a common language should be a key competency before intervening in another's sovereign affairs.