Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cool Background Video on DRC

Dates from April 08, I just came upon it. Great music.

Know Hope

A girl smiles as she plays around near temporary shelters at a camp for Internally Displaced People in Kibati, just north of the North Kivu provincial capital city of Goma on November 20, 2008. This particular camp houses some 60,000 refugees. By Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty. Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ebola Toll Lowered; Massacre Toll Raised

Good news, bad news:

The World Health Organization says that only two of a suspected 35 cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Kasai, contradicting earlier accounts of 11 deaths and 92 other suspected cases. Neither of the two cases was fatal.

The aid group Caritas says that the LRA killed 400 people in northeastern Congo over Christmas. This is up from earlier reports of 187 killed.

Links for China-Congo Developments?

What effect is the downturn in commodity prices having on the DRC-China contracts? Has the downturn caused China to slow its investments in mining or to renege on its commitments to build up Congolese infrastructure? Recall that China promised in September 2007 to build $9 billion worth of major infrastructure projects in the DRC to be paid for with Congo's cobalt and copper reserves. According to David Shinn, Chinese companies committed to build high-voltage power lines and power plants, expand the water system, rebuild the health system, construct four large universities, build numerous housing projects, renovate the railway system and build 250 kilometers of roads.
A balanced critique of the deals, including many more details regarding the financing and operation of the mines and infrastructure, is available here. Another analysis is available here.

But I'm not finding anything on what has happened to those deals in the past few months, since the collapse of the commodity prices. Anybody out there have any leads?

Wild Rumor Reported as Fact

Digital Congo features a story alleging that Western powers are conspiring to replace President Kabila with Léon Kengo Wa Dondo. Why would the West want to do that? Because of Kabila's efforts to diversify his contacts with other nations, particularly China--which, says Digital Congo, threatens the West's ability to exploit the DRC as it has since the Berlin Conference of 1885.

OK--it's true that the West did help bring down the Congo's first democratically elected leader. And it's true that Kengo was a darling of the late Bush/early Clinton Africa administration, and that said administration played a fairly nefarious role in preventing Tshisekedi from becoming prime minister during the SNC in 1990-91. Still, the West just doesn't care enough about Congo to attempt a coup d'etat, for any reason. The sooner Congolese realize how little the Congo matters to the West--and to the US, in particular--the more they will realize that their destiny lies largely in their own hands. And the better off they will be.

Congolese, Rwandan Ministers to Meet

The Kinshasa newspaper Le Phare reports that Congolese and Rwandan defense ministers are to meet today (12/30) in Goma to discuss the conflict in the Kivus.

Representing the Congolese side are Charles MWANDO Nsimba, Lieutenant Général Didier ETUMBA, chief-of-staff for Congolese army, and Général Amissi, head of the "Force terrestre." Representing the Rwandan side is James KABAREHE, minister of defense and chief of the armed forces. The goal of the meeting is to see whether a grand bargain can be struck, permitting mixed Congolese and Rwandan forces to hunt down the remnants of the genocidaires who have taken refuge in eastern Congo, in return for Rwandan cooperation in disarming and disbanding Laurent Nkunda's rebel CNDP.

This is a follow-up to the meeting earlier this month between the two foreign ministers, Congolese Alexis Thambwe Mwamba and Rwandan Rosemary Museminali. As I wrote in my post about the earlier meeting, what is encouraging about this development is that it appears to be a serious effort undertaken in good faith by both parties, rather than one of those elaborate charades the international community puts on in an attempt to cajole unwilling parties toward an agreement they have no intention of fulfilling.

Bemba's Preliminary Hearing Set

The International Criminal Court announced yesterday that a "confirmation of charges" hearing will be held January 12-15 for Jean Pierre Bemba, former DRC vice president and head of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC).

The confirmation of charges hearing is a public hearing held in the presence of the prosecutor, the defendant and his counsel, and legal representatives of the victims. It is the rough functional equivalent of a grand jury hearing in the US, in which the prosecutor must establish substantial grounds to believe that the defendant committed the alleged crimes.

Bemba is charged with five counts of war crimes: rape, torture, committing outrages upon personal dignity--in particular humiliating and degrading treatment--pillaging a town or place, and murder. And he is charged with three counts of crimes against humanity: rape, torture, and murder.

These charges are for crimes he allegedly committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-03, after the former president of the Central African Republic, Ange-Felix Patassé, invited him and his CLM militia to the CAR to help suppress a coup attempt. The human rights abuses he allegedly committed during the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are not currently under investigation by the ICC. His troops are widely believed to have committed acts of cannibalism, including against pygmies, during the course of that war.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Kristof's Double Standards

So last week Nicholas Kristof of the NYT wrote an op-ed on military options for the new administration regarding Darfur. Numerous advocacy groups have emerged since Colin Powell first declared in 2004 that the Sudanese regime was committing genocide in Darfur. Most of these organizations have been as vague in their recommendations as they have urgent in their tone. But Kristof, cribbing off recommendations from a source in the State Department, is uncharacteristically clear about the options:
The United States could jam all communications in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. This would include all telephone calls, all cellular service, all Internet access...
The United States could apply progressive pressure to Port Sudan, from which Sudan exports oil and thus earns revenue. The first step would be to send naval vessels near the port. The next step would be to search or turn back some ships, and the final step would be to impose a quarantine and halt Sudan’s oil exports...
The United States could target Sudanese military aircraft that defy a United Nations ban on offensive military flights in Darfur. The first step would be to destroy a helicopter gunship on the ground at night.

What Kristof doesn't address is the concern that Sudan has become too complicated--both morally and politically--for a categorical, hardline approach to work. According to the Washington Post, while the government-sponsored Janjaweed caused most of the displacement and suffering during the first two years of the conflict in 2004-2005, the conflict is more fluid now, "with fighting among various Arab tribes and rebel factions displacing more people this year than government bombings."

More irritating to me is Kristof's double standards when it comes to Rwanda, about which he never fails to gush: "Increasingly [in Africa] there are new leaders like Paul Kagame here in Rwanda who are honest, intelligent and capable. President Kagame reads Harvard Business Review and is an African version of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore. Both are authoritarian, repressive and quirky (Mr. Kagame banned plastic bags to curb litter). Both did wonders for their countries' living standards."

Forget that the Rwandan government uses security concerns to close down and punish civil and political opposition. Forget that the government’s true power base is shrinking even as its outer circle (such as its much-lauded women parliamentarians) is growing. Forget that it is seen within Rwanda as representative only of the repatries--the Tutsi refugees from Uganda who made up the rebel army that put Kagame in power, and that this is a government determined at all costs to stay in power. Forget its own widespread human rights violations--which, although not on the scale of a genocide, include massacres and political assassinations.

Consider only that it has launched a war in the Congo that has so far cost 5 million lives. Consider that there is by now more than enough evidence that Rwanda's putative security concerns are a fig-leaf: that it has been documented in report after report after report to have been interested in only one thing: Congo's minerals--even to the extent of cooperating with the genocidaires in extracting them. Why are we not only not condemning Rwanda, but actively supporting it? When will Kristof lend his voice to the call to stop subsidizing Rwanda's murderous behavior in the Congo--as the Economist and Independent have done?

That Rwanda is well-run is no excuse. Kagame is not the first leader to have made the trains run on time.

Talison Closes Wodgina; Coltan Prices to Rise

Another article here explores the consequences for DR Congo of Talison Minerals' decision to close its Wodgina mine. Background on Talison and tantalum is available here. Wodgina mine is the world’s largest tantalum operation, and supplied over 30 percent of the world’s tantalum demand in 2008. As a result of the closure, prices for the mineral will probably go up, leading to greater violence in Congo as militias compete for control of the coltan mines.

This news again underlines the importance of natural resources to the DRC's conflicts. Unfortunately, the international community isn't acting decisively on that issue. A UN ban on trading in "blood coltan" in itself provides little protection against the trade: According to Talison, some customers from countries such as China buy tantalum at discount prices from the DRC.

Moreover, the UN's new mandate for MONUC is weak when it comes to natural resources. It calls on the government of the DRC "to conduct... a mapping exercise of the main sites of illegal exploitation." And it calls on MONUC to use its "monitoring and inspection capacities" to curtail the illicit trade.

Neither of these proposals is likely to accomplish much. Ask peacekeepers to take notes, and you are all-but guaranteeing that they'll have a lot to take notes about. And telling the DRC government to make a map and check it twice--well, I'm not sure how many illegal coltan or tin traders are quaking in their boots as a result.

It's clear that there is sentiment for stronger action. Speaking after the adoption of the resolution, Karel de Gucht, Belgium's foreign minister, said the mandate authorized MONUC to act independently against all armed groups and reinforced MONUC actions to combat the illegal exploitation of mineral resources. And France's UN rep said that the mandate sends a signal "to the armed groups that the international community intended to fight against the illegal exploitation of natural resources."

Unfortunately, the strength and clarity of those words aren't really supported in the resolution itself. What's needed is real action, such as authorizing MONUC to take control of the mines, or going after the individuals and companies named in the recent UN experts report with all the seriousness with which we now go after terrorists and their financiers. Because that, after all, is what they are.

Life Goes on

A youth ping pong championship was recently held at the Zoo Tennis Club in Kinshasa.
Miss Congo competed last week in the Miss World competition held this year in Johannesburg. This is the lovely Miss Congo, Christel Mbila, to the right.
And now comes news that Congolese gym rats have their own federation, called Fédération Congolaise d'Haltérophilie & Culture Physique (FECOHAC). Who knew?

Massacres, Sexual Abuse, and Ebola

OCHA, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reports that the LRA has massacred 189 people in northeast Congo over the past three days: 40 in Faradje district, 89 around Doruma and 60 in the Gurba area. The LRA is fleeing a Uganda-led offensive aimed at eliminating Joseph Kony, the LRA's enigmatic leader. (It is not clear if these numbers include the 45 reportedly hacked to death in a church in Doruma.) This means that the LRA are spread over an extensive region in northeast Congo, as this google earth screen grab shows. OCHA's report is here. Details: The LRA are said to currently occupy seven villages near Doruma. During their assault on Faradje, the LRA kidnapped approximately 20 children and burned 120 homes. They then fled toward Nagoro and Aba. The entire population of Faradje, some 30,000 people, is said to have fled to Tadu and Kpodo. MONUC condemned the massacre, and transported a company of Congolese soldiers to the town.

Meanwhile, MSF reports that 11 people have died in a recent outbreak of Ebola in Mweka, in Kasai Occidental and said another 24 are feared infected. It is the first Ebola outbreak in Africa since February and the fourth in DR Congo since 1976. Update: This report says 92 are feared infected.

And MONUC says it is investigating allegations of sexual abuse of minors by its peacekeeping troops posted in the Kivus.

Other than that, how was your Christmas?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Strong Words, but Will Action Follow?

The UN resolution mandating the continuation of MONUC's mission thru 2009 is robust, forceful, and clear. It directs MONUC to focus on the Kivus, and demands that the force not only protect civilians in imminent harm but undertake "all necessary operations" to prevent future attacks on civilians, including by using cordon and search tactics.

In other words, they won't simply be reactive; they won't simply respond to events, but actually shape them. No more fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

The rest of the resolution is equally forceful. It calls on Monuc to disarm and demobilize any armed group, foreign or domestic; curtail the illicit trade in natural resources; train FARDC as part of broader international mission to reform the security sector; help prepare for the local elections scheduled for 2009; and strengthen its efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

Now the question is whether MONUC will receive the troops and equipment necessary to do the job.

Investors Flee Katanga

Radio Okapi reports that investors are fleeing Katanga, taking their equipment with them. And a confidential source tells me that private Chinese investors are leaving Katanga, in the dead of night. This spells bad news for the DRC government. Gold remains the only mineral to retain (and even augment) its value since the global recession began last fall, and most of the gold is found in eastern Congo, where the government's hold is weakest.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On Mining Renegotiations, Confusion Reigns

Two days after Victor Kasongo announced that mining contract revisions had been completed for all but six major companies operating in the DRC, some of the companies said by the government to be uncooperative deny that they were even contacted!

Here is the article from Mineweb:
Congo DRC comments on mining contract negotiations denied by cited companies

So far three of the six companies accused by DRC Deputy Mines Minister Victor Kasongo as having ‘walked away' from contract renegotiation talks have denied the accusations.
Author: Lawrence Williams
Posted: Sunday , 21 Dec 2008


So far three of the six companies accused by DRC Deputy Mines Minister Victor Kasongo of having walked away from mining contract negotiations with regard to the DRC Government's Mining Contracts Review have refuted the allegations. The companies reported by Reuters as having arbitrarily withdrawn from the contract negotiations were Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold, Gold Fields, AngloGold Ashanti, First Quantum, Mwana Africa and Banro (see DRC says Freeport, Gold Fields, Anglo, FQM have walked away from contract renegotiations.)

AngloGold Ashanti's DRC subsidiary claims that the company did not withdraw from the discussions when negotiations were suspended in October. The company claims it was asked to wait by the government and that they would be contacted for resumption, but so far no call has come. The company re-affirmed that it is available for negotiations at any time.

Likewise, Mwana Africa gave a similar account saying the company was waiting to be contacted again by the government to be invited to resume talks.

Strangest of all, perhaps, is the case of Banro, the gold developer, which has told Mineweb that the company does not have a contractual relationship with a state-owned mining company in the DRC and was not even among the 61 companies that were part of the mining contract review process. The Company has a Mining Convention with the government of the DRC.

"The only issue we have been contacted about" said Martin Jones, the company's spokesman, " is an issue regarding surface taxes related to our Mining Convention, an issue that is clearly spelled out in Banro's favour in our Mining Convention. These talks were progressing in good faith and at no time did the Company quit the talks or indicate that it would do so."

The DRC mining review has been going on now since April 2007 and covers some 61 mining contract awards with the results having been delayed several times now. It was originally supposed to have been completed in six months. According to Kasongo's reported statement to Reuters the review is now in effect complete, but final negotiations still need to be concluded with the companies noted which amount to "a huge chunk of our resources. We want them to sit at the table and finish this thing. It's not the intention of the government to cancel them."

The problem for the miners waiting for the final results of the Contract Review to be made public is the longer the deliberations continue without a conclusion, the more uncertainty reigns - and with the current credit crunch and global financial crisis where raising money for mining projects is, to say the least, proving to be extremely difficult, those affected by any degree of uncertainty at all are finding the process truly impossible. As a result the DRC's redeveloping mining sector, which promised so much only a year or so ago, seems to be collapsing apart from projects like Freeport's huge Tenke Fungurume copper/cobalt mine where over $1 billion has already been spent to build one of the world's largest base metals mining operations.

One hopes that the latest statement from the DRC Government just indicates some communications confusion between the companies concerned and the Mines Ministry rather than anything more sinister.

For DRC, a Dubious Distinction

Medecins sans frontieres, the French humanitarian NGO, issued its annual list of the top ten neglected humanitarian tragedies of the year, and for the tenth straight year, listed the war and upheaval in the Democratic Republic of Congo among them. No other disaster anywhere else in the world has appeared so consistently on the list.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kony Said to have Escaped

Kony apparently left his base of operations at Camp KiSwahili to go hunting shortly before the multinational airborne attack bombarded his camp last Sunday morning. This is the latest intelligence out of Uganda. He is said to be on his way to the CAR.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

UN Report Leads to more Fallout against Rwanda

Pressure is building on Britain to follow the lead of the Dutch and Swedish governments and end direct budget support to Rwanda. Richard Dowden, the director of the Royal African Society, today joined The Economist in arguing that Rwanda's support of Nkunda, as revealed in the UN's just-published report by the Group of Experts on the DRC, is too serious a violation to countenance. Writing in The Independent, he says that "Kagame denies he [Nkunda] is a Rwanda proxy but the UN report shows he uses Rwandan banks and has had direct support from the army. It also shows how Nkunda's forces operate out of Rwandan territory and recruit soldiers from its army." Whatever claim Kagame makes to be protecting Congo's Tutsi minority, says Dowden, is "undermined by Nkunda's grab for the region's wealth."

The Dutch and Swedes have already announced they will no longer provide direct budget support to Rwanda. Kagame responded to their action by upping the ante: Surviving on handouts is too unreliable, he announced; it was time for Rwandans to prepare themselves for a life after aid. Rwanda's English-language daily The New Times mocked the two EU states for reducing aid even as the EU as a whole was increasing its support for Rwanda: "Now, here is the hilarious bit, both the Dutch and the Swedes, are major contributors to the overall EU budget." We'll see if the New Times' editors still think it's hilarious if Britain cuts its support.

Thousands Protest in Kinshasa against Rape as War Weapon

Thousands demonstrated in Kinshasa on Tuesday against rape as a weapon of war in eastern Congo. Eastern Congo, where brutal rape (the adjective is unfortunately not redundant) has become common, is said to be the worst place in the world to be born a woman. Monuc's story on the demonstration is here. The KongoTimes story is here.

The National March of Congolese Women departed from Central Station on the 30th June Boulevard and walked to the Palais de Justice, where they read a manifesto titled "A Declaration by Congolese Women against Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War." The manifesto is available here.

Rape in eastern Congo is on the cusp of becoming an international cause celebre. The issue has been widely discussed in the United States, in popular TV programs such as 60 Minutes and Oprah, and in reports, documentaries and magazines aimed at a broad public. The work of Eve Ensler and Mia Farrow has been critical in raising public awareness. Among many other groups, Human Rights Watch just published its umpteenth letter pleading for an end to the sexual violence.

Sadly, an Agence France Presse article says that the incidence of rape is rising in Kinshasa:
Kinshasa has become a hotbed of rape by men posing as policemen. As armed militiamen rape and kill hundreds of women in the war-ravaged east of the country, the capital has witnessed a similarly disturbing rise in this trend.

Ban: EU's Refusal Could Lead to a Humanitarian Disaster

A letter from Ban Ki-moon to the EU foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana pleads for a "bridging force" of EU peacekeepers to be sent to the Congo and warns that the EU's failure to send troops could lead to a humanitarian disaster. The letter was written before last Thursday's meeting of EU foreign policy ministers, at which it was decided not to send troops.

The EU leaders had previously denied they had been explicitly asked for a 'bridging force' and insisted UN reinforcements could arrive within two months.

The letter, which was leaked to the Observer, an English newspaper, reiterates much that is already known: that it would take months for the UN to establish a viable peacekeeping force of its own in the area, and that some 250,000 people currently displaced by the fighting could be at risk.

But it also reveals that the UN shares in the widespread assessment that Congo's armed forces are of little help to the population and 'near total disintegration.'

At the meeting on Thursday, Britain argued that any action in eastern Congo should be left to the UN and indicated it would not be sending troops. Germany also opposed sending troops, and French president Sarkozy said two days later that he didn't see why Angola couldn't send troops under UN auspices, contradicting earlier apparent French support for the EU intervention.

This story in Le Monde speculates that France's reversal on the EU mission--its schizophrenia, as HRW calls it--could be due to French nervousness over its relationship with Rwanda. France is widely acknowledged to have supported the Hutu regime prior to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and the extent of that support--and whether it continued through the genocide itself--are extremely delicate matters. Given these tensions, France just doesn't want to be in a situation in which its soldiers are confronting Tutsi forces.

Breaking News: Mining Review Completed, but Majors Walk

Reuters is reporting that Victor Kasongo, the "deputy" minister of mines, says that the government has completed its drawn-out review of mining contracts but that six companies have walked away from renegotiation talks. Those six are: Freeport-McMoRan, First Quantum, Banro, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, and Mwana Africa.
The mineral-rich central African nation began the review process early last year, aiming to overhaul 61 deals most of which were agreed during the chaos of a 1998-2003 war.
The review was initially due to be completed within six months, but contract renegotiations between state miners and their private partners have dragged on for months.
Last month, Congo's central bank governor cited the lagging process, along with weakening global demand for metals and a worsening armed conflict in the eastern borderlands, as responsible for an acute mining sector slowdown.
Kasongo said the process will now be extended an additional 45 days to allow the six companies to return to the negotiating table for direct talks with government ministers.
"We are now worried about the remaining six contracts. It's a huge chunk of our resources," Kasongo said.
"We want them to sit at the table and finish this thing. It's not the intention of the government to cancel them."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Economist "Gets It"

The Economist, in an article titled "Paying for Murder," shows that it understands the implications of the latest UN Expert Group report:
Rwanda has often intervened in Congo, arguing that it has done so to protect Congolese Tutsis and to hunt down those Hutus responsible for the genocide. This has evoked the sympathy of foreigners, particularly in the United States and Britain, who have chosen not to examine Rwanda’s actions in Congo too closely.

The UN report makes it impossible for them to look away. Rwanda’s support for the CNDP is fuelling much of the violence. General Nkunda deserves to be in the dock at The Hague for war crimes. The report also shows that both General Nkunda’s lot and the main Congolese-backed Hutu militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, have links with mining companies. Both extort large sums of money from mines they control. They also do illegal mining, from which Rwanda profits as well. The booty helps pay the militias to fight, giving them good reason to carry on the conflict.
Rwanda’s government, in particular, depends heavily on Western aid; in the past five years it has received more than $1.6 billion. That should stop until Mr Kagame starts to restrain General Nkunda and his militia. The Dutch and Swedes have given a lead, cancelling their aid to Rwanda in protest against its government’s backing of the murderous general. Other governments, notably Britain’s, which is Rwanda’s single biggest backer, should do likewise until Mr Kagame changes his ways.

The benefit of having The Economist on board is enormous. The recommendations of human rights groups can be marginalized, no matter how accurately they document the abuses. (And I can testify that calls to tighten the screws on Kagame have been treated as a non-starter for most of the past decade--at least in the US.) But once the Economist endorses an idea, it automatically achieves a certain level of respectability. It stops being a non-starter and enters the realm of the possible.

Not Exactly

So over at Prospect magazine, Tim Butcher and Ben Simon debate the underlying causes of the war. Butcher blames the Chinese: the billion dollar contracts they signed with the Kabila government have "stirred up the disenfranchised masses in Congo’s regions who won’t see a penny from Kinshasa as things stand."

To the contrary, says Simon, Nkunda's men are fighting for an end to the tribalism that still dominates the region. That's "their signature issue." And there's no way the lure of Chinese riches could have conjured up these tribal tensions (that is, the ones Nkunda's men are supposedly fighting against).

Simon is AFP's Uganda correspondent. Butcher just wrote a travel book on the Congo. So why do both of them seem woefully underinformed?

Butcher's belief that the militias in the region are fighting over Chinese lucre is off-base. These militias are fighting for control over local, artisanal mines, mostly coltan, gold, and tin, none of which are of interest to the Chinese. (The Chinese are interested in the big, industrial copper and cobalt mines of Katanga.) The UN's Expert report, just published, makes it very clear who's profiting from the Kivu's mines. But Simon's claim that the rank and file CNDP are fighting for an end to tribalism is just astonishing. Hard to imagine how the CNDP square that goal with their well-documented tendency to massacre folks.

To be fair, there is, at the root of this debate, a real confusion. We don't yet know how to disaggregate the motivations that are at the root of these ethnic/resource wars: Do they really hate each other, or are they just fighting over the money? If, as Paul Collier insists, most conflicts in fourth world countries arise out of greed rather than grievance, they still take place along ethnic fault lines. So it's the Hema versus the Lendu, the autochtones (mostly Nande) versus the BanyaRwanda, the Luba-Katanga versus the Lunda. False consciousness or siren song, ethnicity is still the organizing principle around which most of these conflicts are fought.

Foreign Direct Investment in DR Congo Plunges

The IMF has slashed its projection for direct foreign investment in Congo for 2009 from $2.5bn to $800m.

It also cut its 2009 growth forecast by more than half to 4.4 percent due to weak demand for the DRC's commodity exports.

I have to say that to my non-expert eye, a growth rate of 4.4 percent is perhaps not as bad as it could be--given that we are widely said to be in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

A Long Time Coming [Updated]

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has found former army colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the man widely recognized as the leader and organizer of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Along with Bagosora, former military commanders Anatole Nsegiyumva and Alloys Ntabakuze were also found guilty of genocide and given life sentences. The joint trial opened on April 2, 2002, and ended on June 1, 2007. Here is the original indictment.

Update: And here is the oral summary.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Banro's Costs Skyrocket

BANRO now says its Twangiza gold project in South Kivu will cost $580 million to develop, some $200 million more than it originally estimated last year.

It also says that the opencast Twangiza project has resources of 3.74 million ounces and is forecast to produce an average 236,144 oz of gold a year in the first seven years. Which works out to a pretty sweet profit. Minus whatever it cost to provide the local hospital with these nice new beds.

Reassuring News

So it was uranium, after all. Good thing we're not living in a world where terrorists might, I don't know, set off a bomb to scatter radioactive debris.

Backstory: Kenyan police arrested two men last week who were caught trying to sell what they claimed was uranium smuggled out of the DRC. I originally assumed they were scam artists. But the Kenyan newspaper The Nation says it's for real. The material is uranium hexflouride, and was packed in a 20 cm metal cylinder that weighed about nine kilos. Markings suggest it was packed in 1993. Could this be some of the material stolen from Kinshasa's nuclear reactor?

A Bad Idea

Writing in the Guardian, Giles Foden says that he sees no option but the creation of a buffer state on the western shores of Lakes Kivu and Tanganyika.

Oy. Well-meaning observers episodically propose carving Africa into its constituent parts as a solution to inter-regional conflict. The problem is that most of these "parts" have their own sub-parts, each with their own internecine rivalries. If Africans were ever to decide to tear up the Berlin Act, the resulting upheaval would make the current anarchy look like a day in the park.

On the other hand, putting the eastern Congo--North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri--under a de facto UN protectorate for a while makes a lot of sense. The goal would be to govern the region, demilitarize it, expel foreign combatants, and put in place processes for the peaceful resolution of outstanding local conflicts, all with the goal of eventually reincorporating the region into a Congo capable of administering it. Obviously, this would require a level of political commitment currently lacking.

I should add that the rest of Foden's analysis is quite good.

Stars to the Rescue

Ben Affleck has launched an emergency appeal for humanitarian relief in eastern DRC under the auspices of the UNHCR. Called Gimme Shelter, the appeal features an MTV-like video of refugees in North Kivu accompanied by Gimme Shelter, the Mick Jagger song. The campaign hopes to raise money for emergency assistance kits that contain sleeping bags, thermal blankets, mosquito nets, and so on.

It is not clear to me that UNHCR lacks the funds to pay for basic humanitarian supplies in eastern Congo. But the larger objection, as so often in these cases, is that focusing on the humanitarian side of the problem is a case of treating the symptom, rather than the disease. It's a palliative rather than a cure.

Mia Farrow also visited the Congo recently, in an effort to draw attention to the violence there, especially the raping of women. Here is an excerpt of her interview on BBC Radio.

It's a shame that neither Farrow nor Affleck are using their star power to call for an EU force to intervene in the DRC. Celebrities seem reluctant to call for political solutions as opposed to humanitarian ones. At the moment, however, an EU force seems to me to be the one possibility that could have an immediate impact on the ground. (Surely Carla Bruni would take a call from Mick Jagger . . .)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Was MONUC Involved?

Uganda's Daily Monitor says that support for operation Lightining Thunder came from all sides--including MONUC: "Monuc forces pledged medical, food and other logistics for the foot soldiers of the United Front against Kony and his commanders."

Another excellent article by a Ugandan newspaper, by the way.

Is It Game Over for Kony? (Updated)

Ugandan New Vision reports that Ugandan, SPLA and Congolese troops are combing through the Garamba jungle for Joseph Kony, the elusive cult-like leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, one of the Africa's most violent rebel movements.

The joint attack force launched a surprise aerial bombardment on five of his camps on Sunday morning, sending rebel commanders and fighters into disarray.

Spokesperson for Operation Lightning Thunder Capt. Chris Magezi said yesterday the end of the LRA is around the corner.

“We are on the ground,” he said. “We are following him and his forces. We are advancing on his positions. Kony can run but he will soon run out of hiding places.”

Read the entire report. New Vision is to be commended for being ahead of the rest of the world in this fast-breaking story.

Update: More details available from the Daily Monitor. No mention of US involvement, although it does note that Jendayi Frazer earlier this year said Washington would not sit by and watch while Kony re-arm in Garamba.

Lightning Strike on Kony

Ugandan New Vision reports that Sunday's joint attack by the DRC, SPLA, and Ugandan governments on Joseph Kony's rebels hiding in Garamaba forest has the backing of the American government and other Western powers. The operation is code named Lightning Thunder.

I suspect it's more than just "backing." I'd bet good money we provided the training, the logistics, the coordination, the equipment, the intelligence, and the transport. But good for us. There's nothing problematic in using US special forces on missions like these.

Ex-US Official: Congo Can Trade Its Way out of War

Herman Cohen, a former assistant secretary of state for Africa under George Bush (41), proposes in today's New York Times that incoming president Obama appoint a special negotiator to develop an economic common market encompassing Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The agreement would allow the free movement of people and trade, and give Rwandan businesses continued access to Congolese minerals and forests, in return for payment of royalties and taxes to the Congolese government. Cohen says that for most Rwandan businesses, those payments would be offset by increased revenues.

People familiar with the history of American ex-officials selling their influence in the region are right to be wary of Cohen, who has worked as a lobbyist on behalf of such charming fellows as Laurent Kabila, Omar Bongo, Robert Mugabe, and even Charles Taylor. But the idea isn't entirely meretricious. Essentially, it offers the various combatants the opportunity to engage in a formal, regulated economy in return for putting down their arms. The immediate problem, of course, is that at the moment there's no power in place capable of pacifying opposing forces and regulating the economy. No one's going to give up their guns without a guarantee that the other sides have too. The other problem is that you don't necessarily want to reward the guys who have taken up arms by entrenching their economic gains.

I have for some years now urged that an amplified Monuc take on direct responsibility for the mining operations in eastern Congo. There are a limited number of highly productive mines and a limited number of airfields and roads in the region. Control these, and you eliminate the militias' source of income. You also eliminate the main reason everyone's at each other's throat. But I've never had the means and the expertise to fully develop this idea, and whenever I've suggested it to Monuc representatives they've always been unresponsive.

MONUC: We're Doing All We Can

With European leaders like Nicholas Sarkozy suggesting that Monuc's forces, properly supplemented, are enough to bring peace to eastern Congo, Monuc yesterday published a press release saying that more than 90 percent of its troops are deployed in the east.
Of the 17,421 peacekeepers constituting its total strength, 6,139 are stationed in insecurity-plagued North Kivu province, or 8 out of a total of 17 battalions. Between 800 and 1,000 troops are deployed in Goma, the provincial capital.

3,513 peacekeepers are deployed in South Kivu, while another 3,769 are operational in Ituri, one of the most volatile regions. The remainder of the Force is scattered across the western part of the DRC, including the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.
MONUC Force Commander, General Babacar Gaye, said that the peacekeepers provide "anchoring points" where people in difficulty can gather to ask for assitance. But he acknowledged that the size of the terrain can make the force seem inadequate to the challenge of protecting everybody.

DR Congo's Economy in Free Fall

The Central Bank announced on Friday that the DR Congo's economy shrunk by 2.7 percent from July thru October this year, and revised the anticipated annual growth rate downward from 11 percent to 5.9 percent.

The decline is largely due to the slump in international commodity prices. Copper has fallen by 75 percent from its high , diamonds have fallen by 40 percent, and cobalt is now worth only a fifth of what it was worth earlier this year.

Victor Kasongo, the DRC's deputy minister of mines, says that he expects a 30 to 40 percent decline in the production of copper in 2009, to 365,000 tons. Cobalt production will be cut in half, to 32,000 tons.

The impacts of this decline are visible everywhere. Forty-five of 75 copper and cobalt facilities in Katanga have shut down this year. Big firms like Katanga mining and Anvil Mining have shuttered their operations.

Katanga's minister of mines Barthélemy Mumba Gama says that the closure has set about a chain reaction, with restaurants, stores, and even the airport almost completely empty. "People are starting to sell their household goods, develop small, subsistence gardens, and the number of beggars has shot up," said Gama.

The same is true in Kasai Orientale, where MIBA, the giant state-run diamond company, has also closed down, having simply run out of cash. The firm has been mismanaged for ages. It's been used as a cash cow to pay for the war in the east, its infrastructure has never been maintained and is now obsolete and inefficient, payments on its loans are overdue, and bankers were simply unwilling to front it any more cash.

The downturn has MONUC worried. It reports that 52 of the 56 companies operating in Katanga have slowed down their operations, with the prospect of shuttering them entirely. MONUC is organizing "an in depth evaluation of the situation, its impact on the security of the population and on the peaceful coexistence of the communities in the province."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Kinshasa, Ville d'Avenir

Here's an interesting post from a French volunteer working in Kinshasa. Seems for months he'd been passing a derelict, strange-looking gallows on Kasavubu Boulevard in Bandal. He thought maybe it once served as a street post for hanging ads or signal lights. He didn't worry about it too much, though, until he happened on an old Flemish guidebook for Leopoldville from 1958. In it, he found a picture of a bus--apparently hanging by three wires from the post.

It seems the contraption used to be a charging device for a revolutionary type of bus that ran on electricity. These were "gyrobuses," capable of running 2 kilometers between charges. With each charge taking only 30 seconds to 2 minutes, the buses could carry up to 90 people at speeds of 80 kph.

Apparently a dozen or so of the buses were in use in Kinshasa in the 1950s, running along four lines. The company only equipped three cities in the world with the devices before going out of business: in its hometown in Switzerland, in Ganz, and in Kinshasa.

The experiment was abandoned after four or five years. The humidity wrecked havoc on the engines, and drivers kept taking detours and getting stuck off-roads without a charge.

Still, it's not hard to imagine that someday, as we move away from carbon-emitting cars, clusters of plug-in devices will flower along our roads and highways, as strange and unlikely looking as these -- rusted mementos of an age when Kinshasa still seemed like it might be a city of the future.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"The Pain Is Going Straight into my Heart"

New video on rape in eastern DRC posted on Youtube, from Journeyman TV. Click here.

Quote of the Day

The 1972 genocide in Burundi received little attention while it was taking place and has received even less since. It gets cursory treatment in Samantha Power's history of US responses to genocide, for example, although she notes that the State Department's response was typically underwhelming. But one notable figure did respond with outrage. After receiving a bland, non-committal memo on the killings from Henry Kissinger, who observed that since neither the Soviets nor the Chinese were involved, the issue posed no threat to US interests, Nixon exploded:
This is one of the most cynical, callous reactions of a great government to a terrible human tragedy I have seen. When the Paks try to put down a rebellion in East Pakistan, the world screams. When Indians kill a few thousand Paks, no one cares. Biafra stirs us because of the Catholics. the Israeli [Munich?] Olympics because of the Jews; the North Vietnam bombings because of Communist leanings in our government. But when 100,000 are murdered, we say and do nothing, because we must not make blacks look bad... I do not buy this double standard. Tell the weak sisters in the African bureau of State to give a recommendation as to how we can at least show moral outrage. And let's begin by calling our Ambassador immediately for consultation. Under no circumstances will I appoint a new ambassador to present credentials to these butchers.
Who'd of thunk it? The master of realpolitik turns out to have been the only US president ever to have had a recognizably human reaction to genocide.

Supposed Uranium Smugglers Arrested in Kenya

Kenya's Nation newspaper is reporting that two men were arrested for smuggling uranium into the country from DR Congo. One of the two men had an ID indicating he was a Ugandan soldier. The article takes pains to say that it has not been established yet that the material the men were trying to sell is in fact uranium.

On the one hand, it's probably a scam. On the other, Shinkolobwe, the uranium mine in Katanga, is apparently an unguarded open pit, surrounded by peasant farms. Supposedly any accessible uranium is useless for production of an atomic weapon, but as part of a "dirty bomb" the material could be effectively frightening.

Various stories have circulated over the years regarding Congo's uranium. At one point, it was said that the Italian mafia had attempted to buy radioactive material stolen from Kinshasa's nuclear research reactor. That Kinshasa has a nuclear research reactor is astonishing in itself.

See here for a report on conditions at the reactor. See here and here for details on the mafia's smuggling ring.

Will Coltan Prices Spike?

Perth-based Talison Minerals is threatening to cease mining tantalum altogether in early December – at least for the foreseeable future - which could cause the price of coltan to almost double by January 2009.

That could be bad news for Congo peace efforts. See this excellent story in Resource Investor.

Charlie Rose on the Congo

From December 4, features Anthony Gambino, Suliman Baldo, and Severine Autesserre. For non-U.S. readers: Charlie Rose is the "high-brow" evening news and culture show on PBS, our non-profit TV network.

The participants on what needs to happen:

Autesserre: Can't wait three months. Many of the problems are over land and local power. Need a European or multinational force going in.

Gambino: End the lawlessness. Need to get DRC army back in their barracks, ceasefires among other groups, and effective military action against one group in particular: the FDLR. A force is needed because the armed groups operate in bad faith. The US needs to work with other actors, help put together the necessary coalitions.

Congratulations to VOA's African Music Treasures

Which celebrated its one-year anniversary on December 10. The blog is a labor of love by two lovers of African music, Leo Sarkisian and Matthew Lavoie. Sarkisian launched the radio show Music Time in Africa in 1965 (!) a weekly program that features traditional and contemporary music from all of Africa. Almost forty-three years later the program (now the longest running VOA program) is still on the air every weekend, and continues to reach millions of listeners throughout Africa.

Matthew LaVoie has been writing the blog Africa Music Treasures, which features genres, artists, and recordings from throughout Africa that don't get much attention in the music press, on blogs, or by record companies. He draws these from the Music Time archive, a room in the basement of the Cohen building in downtown Washington DC that is overflowing with audio reels (over 10,000), 45 rpm singles, 33 rpm lps, and cassettes from every country in Africa.

Lavoie says that "as I have spent more time going through the reels, vinyl, and cassettes in our archive I have stumbled (literally) on lots of wonderful recordings I had not heard; 45s from Algeria, the Central African Republic, and Mauritius, reels of Burundian Taarab groups from the 1980s, Tunisian Maalouf from the 1960s, or radio recordings from the Comoros, cassettes from Togo, Madagascar, Djibouti, and Chad."

Have a listen to one of the recordings he discovered on a trip to Kinshasa from L'Orchestre Yamba Yamba Beto Ba. The group was founded in Kinshasa by Makengo Makape, and has been together for several decades:

L'Orchestre Yamba Yamba Beto Ba

For your Netflix Queue

Cuba’s support to liberation struggles in Africa are brought to life in the new documentary film Cuba, An African Odyssey. From the description:
Directed by Lebanese-born film maker Jihan El-Tahri, the film describes internationalist missions in which hundreds of thousands of Cuban volunteers—combatants and military trainers, as well as doctors, nurses, teachers, and construction workers—gave decisive aid to struggles in Africa against colonialism, neocolonialism, and apartheid.
Che Guevara's most successful student was, of course, the unpromising cue-ball Laurent Kabila.

Sarkozy and Kouchner to Visit Congo Next Month

A confusing article from Afrique en Ligne says that Sarkozy and Kouchner plan to visit Congo next month. It says that Sarkozy expressed surprise that the UN had asked the EU for help with a bridging force to bring peace to eastern DRC, and that he prefers dispatching Angolan troops instead of European ones.

But it also says that the EU has agreed to send an expeditionary force made up of "ad hoc" volunteers that do not include French, British, or German troops. Options for this force include a) sending of a tactical group of 1,500 men, which would be operational in two weeks, or b) the deployment of a force on EUFOR format of 3,000 men who could not be deployed before February 2009.

The article also says that Nkunda is asking to be brought in as prime minister of the DRC government, with responsibility for reorganizing the national army, and that his plan is to bring about a violent insurrection in Kinshasa that would put him in power. Very strange.

Friday, December 12, 2008

UN Special Adviser on Genocide Finds Massive Violations

Francis Deng, the UN's special adviser on genocide, says that massive violations of international human rights and humanitarian law are being committed on the basis of ethnicity and national origin in the DRC. Deng visited the great lakes region from 23 November to 4 December 2008.

The key finding:
The Special Adviser met with some of the leaders of the major armed groups and community leaders in the eastern part of DRC. They all claimed that their groups have been victims of recurrent genocides in the history of the country... All these allegations and counter-allegations were made with conviction and emotive fervor, that can incite followers into genocidal violence. The Special Adviser was also informed that messages fomenting ethnic hatred were being broadcast by some local radios and used by leaders of political parties.

Deng urged all parties to the conflict to end all atrocities and work urgently towards a political solution that will bring comprehensive and sustainable peace to the DRC by addressing the root causes, in particular their legitimate concerns respect to sharing political power and the benefits of national development and resource allocation. Deng also urged all leaders, in the DRC and beyond, to work towards ethnic reconciliation and end activities that result in the stigmatization of ethnic groups and may encourage genocide.
Note that this statement is entirely distinct from the other UN report issued today.

How Dysfunctional is the Congolese Government?

For months, a coalition of Congolese NGOs has been begging the Kabila government to name a representative to go pick up a check for 8.3 million Swiss francs seized by the Swiss government from bank accounts held by the late, unlamented marechal Mobutu. The Swiss, apparently, are desperate to give the money back. But with three days to go before the deadline, the government can't seem to get its act in gear. If a government representative doesn't show by Monday, December 15, the funds revert to the Mobutu family. The Coalition Fonds Mobutu gelés en Suisse, or Coalition for Mobutu Funds Frozen in Switzerland, has been petitioning the government for months and held a sit-in yesterday to demand the government repatriate the funds. So far without effect.

UN: Rwanda and Congo Linked to Militias

The UN report leaked to the BBC that I reported on earlier this week has been released. The New York Times story is here. Reuters here. BBC here.

My comments to come.

The Continuing Education of Bernard Kouchner

At age 69, Bernard Kouchner, French foreign minister, founder of medecins sans frontieres, and untiring self-mythologist, has just discovered that there is "a permanent contradiction between human rights and foreign affairs." It was a mistake, he now believes, to have created the post of secretary of state for human rights, currently occupied by Sengalese-born Rama Yade. Yade has provoked anger within the government for her outspoken views. Or perhaps Kouchner is simply jealous now that he's been outflanked on the left by someone even more glamorous than him.

Conflicting Reports on Metorex

From Reuters: Metorex starts Ruashi cobalt plant commissioning
South African miner Metorex said on Friday it has began the commissioning of its Ruashi cobalt plant, with the first sales of cobalt carbonate expected in February 2009.

Ruashi is one of Metorex' projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"The plant will lock up approximately 200 tonnes of cobalt in the circuit between the start of commissioning and commencement of sales," it said in a statement.

"Cobalt production is expected to reach approximately 70 percent of design capacity by June 2009 and full design capacity by December 2009."

From Bloomberg: Metorex Chairman Quits, Panel Set Up to Review Mine
Metorex Ltd., the copper producer that’s been struggling to fund rising costs at a mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Chairman Simon Malone quit and the company formed a panel to “monitor and review” the project.

CIA Station Chief Larry Devlin Dies at 86

For old Congo hands, this bit of news from the New York Times:
Lawrence R. Devlin, who as the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief in Congo in 1960 [later claimed to have] avoided carrying out an order to assassinate the ousted prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, died Dec. 6 at his home in Locust Grove, Va. He was 86.

The cause was emphysema, said his daughter, Maureen Devlin Reimuller.

Mr. Devlin particularly treasured the memories of his service in Léopoldville, Congo, despite at times being jailed, beaten and threatened with execution. He was the boss of a small C.I.A. operation during a brutal postcolonial struggle for power, a story he recounted in a 2007 memoir, “Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone” (Public Affairs).

In an episode that came to symbolize American excesses in the third world, Mr. Devlin, then 38, received word that he would be getting a visit from “Joe from Paris” with an important message. The messenger turned out to be Sidney Gottlieb, the agency’s top poison expert, who passed on orders he said had been approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to kill Lumumba, who the United States feared might ally the mineral-rich Congo with the Soviet Union.

“Morally I thought it was the wrong thing to do,” Mr. Devlin said in an interview with The New York Times this year. “And I thought it was a very dangerous thing to do,” risking retaliatory violence and damage to the United States’ standing, he said.

By his account, Mr. Devlin chose not to openly defy the order, believing he would be replaced by a more willing assassin. Instead, he said, he stalled. After Lumumba was slain by Congolese political opponents, Mr. Devlin said, he took from his safe the poison toothpaste Mr. Gottlieb had delivered to him and threw it in the Congo River.

The assassination plot was investigated in the 1970s by a Senate committee headed by Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho. The panel raised some doubts about Mr. Devlin’s version of events, saying agency cables portrayed him as taking an “affirmative, aggressive attitude” toward the assassination assignment. Mr. Devlin said he pretended to go along but never planned to carry the plot out.

For many years after his government career, Mr. Devlin worked in Africa and Washington for Maurice Tempelsman, the diamond merchant best known as the companion of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

“I knew all the ministers of mines,” Mr. Devlin said in the interview. “In short, I was in a better position to negotiate than people who knew a lot about diamonds.” When he came across valuable information, he said, he passed it to old friends in the C.I.A.

This review of his book from the Economist is a less than flattering portrayal:

IF ONE man personified the cold war in Africa—that ruinous contest between the greatest powers in the world’s weakest states—it was Larry Devlin...

Mr Devlin and his masters have been blamed for much of Congo’s awful history, which culminated, between 1996 and 2002, in two wars that claimed several million lives. And there is good reason to blame them; to keep the Russians out of Africa, they did dreadful deeds...

During two stints as Congo station chief, Mr Devlin did much to help create this nightmare, conniving with Mobutu and his allies, confounding their enemies. In 1974, after quitting the agency, he returned to Congo to work for Maurice Tempelsman, an enigmatic diamond dealer and companion, in her final years, to Jacqueline Onassis...

It is wrong to demonise the old warrior. But cold-war politics helped create the calamity that is Congo, and much of Africa, today. It will fall to less partial historians than Mr Devlin to decide whether the risk of Africa falling to communism justified the terrible cost the continent has paid.

Quote of the Day

"The crisis that is happening in Congo is treated with with unimaginable hypocrisy. Everyone knows. More than 5 million dead, and everybody knows. Reports say 50,000 to 60,000 women raped every year."
--Dennis Mukwege

Are you listening Gordon Brown?

EU Force Decision Put off as UK Balks

The on-again, off-again decision to send EU troops to the Congo appears to be off, for now. According to EuropeanVoice.Com, the Dutch and Swedish foreign ministers have said the EU is very unlikely to commit a peacekeeping force this year.

Speaking before a definitive conclusion had been adopted at a two-day EU summit in Brussels, Sweden's Carl Bildt and the Netherland's Maxime Verhagen said it was already clear that there was insufficient backing for a Belgian proposal that the EU should swiftly despatch a peacekeeping force to the country.

“It is unlikely that it will be an EU mission before the New Year,” Bildt said. “I would never rule out anything but it would be unlikely.”

Instead, the two ministers suggested that any effort by EU states would be undertaken within the framework of the UN's force in the country, Monuc. This is said to be the preference of the UK and Germany.

The decision enraged human rights activists in the UK, where Gordon Brown was accused of hypocrisy. Human rights activists pointed to the gap between his rhetoric about the plight of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his leading opposition to the deployment of a European force to protect civilians in the country.

From The Guardian:
Britain maintained its stance in Brussels yesterday [against sending an EU force] less than 24 hours after the prime minister delivered a speech to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN's universal declaration of human rights. Brown had called for urgent international action to help the people of eastern Congo, and other civilian victims of crises.

"Freedom, if it means anything, means the supremacy of human rights everywhere and we must not waver in our support for those across the world whose human rights are threatened or denied," Brown said in his speech.

Addressing the oppressed, including the "women and girls of Kivu", the prime minister said: "The world will not abandon you. We must not, and will not, turn our backs and walk away."

Astonishing. I can understand the reluctance to take action, but then why the high rhetoric? It's a species of cruelty, really, to tell the most victimized people on earth that you won't turn your back on them--and then to do so the very next day. It beggars the imagination.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Peacekeeping Works:

The red points are countries with peacekeeping, the black points are countries without, and the y-axis represents how long the countries have gone so far without a return of the conflict. Hat tip: Andrew Gelman.

We Need Better Trained UN Forces

Max Boot, a well-known American neo-conservative specialist in military affairs, draws the right lessons from Lydia Polgreen's story in today's NYT about the UN's failures in the Congo. He says that we need to fix the UN, not abolish it:
It is all too easy, reading accounts like this, to snort in derision and write off the UN as a hopeless failure. Easy, but not productive. After all, if the UN isn't trying to keep the peace in Congo, who will do the job? However undermanned and underequipped and inadequate in every way, UN forces are often the only instruments available to stop horrific bloodshed.

The nub of the problem, it seems to me, is the lack of capacity among UN peacekeepers who are typically contributed by poor nations for no better reason than a cash stipend. This is a deficiency that would not be hard to fix. Imagine if the UN had a standing military force that trained together, made up of veterans of Western militaries and equipped with top-of-the-line hardware. Such ideas were in fact offered forth in the early 1990s after the end of the Cold War, but they died amid the UN’s debacles in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda. It may be time to revive them.

With a new administration coming to power, this is an opportunity for U.S. activists to push for a standing UN peacekeeping force, with better-equipped, better-trained troops.

Veteran Mining Expert: "Katanga Is a Disaster Area"

Barry Sergeant at Mineweb fleshes out the story of Katanga's mining woes. Some 200,000 jobs in artisanal mining in Katanga have already evaporated. Anvil has suspended operations at its Dikulushi mine. Katanga Mining has suspended operations at its Tilwezembe open pit and ore processing at the Kolwezi Concentrator. Camec has "temporarily halted copper and cobalt mining operations" at its Luita plant and mines, including Mukondo. Metorex appears to be plodding on through the morass, while Freeport-McMoRan at Tenke Fungurume, and First Quantum at its Kolwezi tailings site, are still on schedule to be producing in less than six months. Overall, stocks of copper and cobalt mining companies operating in the DRC are off an average of 90 percent from their highs.

UN Honoree Assails World's Indifference

From Reuters:

Denis Mukwege, the Congolese doctor who runs Panzi hospital for abused women and children in eastern Congo, says the youngest rape victim he has treated was just three years old.

After being honored with a U.N. human rights prize in New York Wednesday, Mukwege said the world should do more to end the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo that has killed and displaced millions of people over a decade.

"The crisis that is happening in Congo is treated with with unimaginable hypocrisy," Mukwege told Reuters in an interview in French after the awards ceremony.

"Everyone knows. More than 5 million dead, and everybody knows. Reports say 50,000 to 60,000 women raped every year."

Mukwege said rape was used both as a weapon of war by individual soldiers and a "strategy of war" by groups determined to destroy communities and drive people from their land. "It is done with an element of spectacle, in public, in front of everyone -- with humiliation," Mukwege said.

Mukwege said the international community should address the root cause of the conflict, a struggle for natural resources.

"If the international community put pressure on the actors of the war in the Great Lakes region, it could stop immediately," Mukwege said. "It's not a civil war, it's not an ideological war, it's more an economic war."

Downturn Could Cost DRC 300,000 Jobs

From Bloomberg:
Barthelemy Mumba Gama, minister of mines for Katanga, says that as many as 300,000 people will lose their jobs this year in the mineral-rich province as the global economic slump depresses metal prices. Forty-five of 75 companies with metal-treatment facilities in the region have stopped operating since metal prices collapsed earlier this year.

Another Copper Mine Bites the Dust

The Australian-based company Anvil Mining, one of the leading copper miners in the DRC, has announced that its 90 percent-owned Dikulushi mine will be closed effective immediately because of diminishing global demand. It joins a host of other mining operations that have closed down in the Congo's mineral-rich province of Katanga.

World copper prices have dropped by more than 60 percent since they reached a record in July of about US$ 3,200 a tonne.

HRW: Killings in Kiwanja

The report by Human Rights Watch is available here. Its subtitle: "The UN's Inability to Protect Civilians."

An Eloquent Plea for Action

Anthony Gambino published an eloquent plea for action on behalf of the Congo in today's Huffington Post. The New York Times story on the Kiwanja massacre--and even more powerfully, the video that accompanies it--teaches three lessons, Gambino says:
#1: The massacre was committed in cold blood by Laurent Nkunda's CNDP troops, led by an indicted war criminal, Bosco Ntaganda, who is Mr. Nkunda's chief of staff. #2: The UN peacekeeping force, MONUC, was only a mile away, but was under-equipped, understaffed, and simply incapable of responding either to prevent or disrupt this disaster. #3: The Congolese Army, which had held the village of Kiwanja before Nkunda's forces arrived, ran away when attacked by Nkunda's forces.
Only the international community can prevent the reoccurrence of such massacres, Gambino says, and only the EU has the capacity to act Right Now.

Watch the video, read the editorial, and act.

Details of Kiwanja Massacre Come to Light

The New York Times says that Laurent Nkunda's CNDP is to blame for the massacre of at least 150 people, most of them young men, in the eastern Congolese town of Kiwanja early last month.

Based on the investigations of Anneke Van Woundeberg of Human Rights Watch, the article alleges that Jean Bosco Ntaganda, aka the Terminator, Mr. Nkunda’s chief of staff, commanded the troops that carried out the killings.

But the article is also very disparaging of the UN peacekeepers:
As the killings took place, a contingent of about 100 United Nations peacekeepers was less than a mile away, struggling to understand what was happening outside the gates of its base. The peacekeepers were short of equipment and men, United Nations officials said, and they were focusing on evacuating frightened aid workers and searching for a foreign journalist who had been kidnapped. Already overwhelmed, officials said, they had no intelligence capabilities or even an interpreter who could speak the necessary languages.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Explosive New Report from UN

The BBC reports that an explosive new report from the UN will allege that both Rwanda and the DRC government have directly helped rebels fighting in eastern DR Congo. A draft of the report, circulating in the Security Council, says that Rwanda has given Laurent Nkunda's CNDP military equipment, financial assistance, and access to staging grounds within Rwanda to launch attacks against the DRC army. But its most explosive allegation is that Rwanda forcibly recruited child soldiers on Nkunda's behalf. The Kabila government is accused of arming the FDLR and cooperating with them in working the region's casiterite and coltan mines. The report is also said to name the foreign companies that traded with the FDLR.

The Congo, Coming Soon to Broadway

So there's a play in Chicago about women caught up in the violence in eastern Congo:
Set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the year 2000, Ruined follows a young woman's nightmarish path to Mama Nadi, a savvy businesswoman who—in the midst of a complex civil war—both protects and profits from the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds. At once heartbreaking and captivating, Ruined pays homage to the courageous and resilient women who must piece themselves together after the ruin.
The play is to begin its run in Manhattan starting January 21.

Update Available

Eurac features an excellent new update of recent events in the Great Lakes region, with many links to French sources.

Belgium Expects EU to Send Troops

This Reuters report says that Belgium expects the EU to send troops, after all:
Belgium said on Wednesday it expected the European Union would agree to send a military force to Congo to assist U.N. peacekeepers, and Belgium itself could provide up to 500 troops.

"I think that at a certain point Europe will send a mission," Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht told a parliamentary committee, Belgian news agency Belga reported.
Le Soir reports that Karel de Gucht is confident that the EU will come through, and that a decision will be taken on Thursday night, at a dinner for all 27 of the EU foreign ministers.

With France on record as strongly in favor, the only major power that really needs to get on board in Great Britain. This is a time for British NGOs and human rights groups to lobby like hell. "Don't surrender, don't withdraw, don't give up"--Romeo Dallaire.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More Thoughts on the Genocide Prevention Report

In my initial response to the Genocide Prevention Report, I made some hay out of the refusal by Albright and Cohen, the co-chairs of the commission, to acknowledge what happened to the Armenians by its rightful name. That wasn't just churlishness on my part. The fact that the Commission's co-chairs felt so constrained reflects the underlying challenge facing anyone who wants the U.S. to take a more active role against mass atrocities: political logic almost always militates against intervention. Their refusal was, to borrow a word, symptomatic. Calling what happened to the Armenians a "genocide" costs more than not calling it one does--or so it seems to the officials tasked with making these decisions. The same was true, in their time, for bombing the Nazi rail lines, condemning the Cambodian killers, supporting beleaguered peacekeepers in Rwanda, or muscling in on Bashir. These go against our national interests, conceived in economic or security terms, and they offer political leaders far more downside potential than up. In the end, the only good reason to act against genocide is because it's the right thing to do.

Activists like to argue that this isn't so, that the costs of not acting invariably redound, with interest: in mounting regional insecurity, in the cost of sheltering and feeding refugees. Hence their frequent appeals to our enlightened self-interest. The Commission's report often seems to buy into that logic. Summarize. But even if this were true in strict dollar terms, those costs are minor to policymakers. No one ever lost an election because they sent grain to refugee camps. But every politician can imagine losing an election if soldiers start coming home in body bags. This can hardly be a surprise: it would be a strange world if doing the right thing always happened to be in our best interests.

The Commission's problem is that it cannot admit that political calculation and morality sometimes lead to different conclusions. And so our consistent failure to respond to episodes of mass murder becomes a mystery, best not probed too closely:
The world agrees that genocide is unacceptable and yet genocide and mass killings continue. Our challenge is to match words to deeds and stop allowing the unacceptable. That task, simple on the surface, is in fact one of the most persistent puzzles of our times.
If it must be done but it's not getting done, if it's a puzzle rather than an affront, then the problem must be technical--a matter of establishing the right committees, processes, reviews, and guidelines. And that, in fact, is what the Commission spends most of its time proposing.

summarize them. (this is a work in progress.)

all fine ideas, I suppose, many proposed variations before. I don't have the expertise to evaluate them on their merits; but I do know that the U.S. could have had every one of these institutions in place yet done nothing differently. In Rwanda, for example.

In truth, the problem has never been a lack of foreknowledge or institutional capacity. The problem is that moral considerations are not only given little weight, but actively anathematized by institutions like the state and defense departments. As Samantha Power argued in Problem from Hell, her masterly account of U.S. responses to genocide, the culture at these institutions views moral appeals as weak, soft, emotional, and irrelevant. A hard realism pervades U.S. foreign policy, legitimizing that contempt. If, in recent years, the only issue that could provoke all eight living previous secretaries of state to speak as one was Congress's proposal to recognize the Armenian genocide, that is because it alone threatened the worldview on which these policymakers had staked their careers. An insignificant, purely symbolic act, unlikely to have serious consequences despite Turkey's grumblings, the proposal struck at their vision of statecraft in a way that, to take just one example, U.S. policy sanctioning torture did not.

Until that changes, until a new, more enlightened vision of statecraft prevails, one prepared to grapple with the conflicting claims of morality and self-interest, we will do, next time, what we have always done: watch until the bodies stop piling up, and then promise that that we will not, ever again, stand idly by. And we will really, really mean it.

Dramatic Increase Seen in Number of Hungry Congolese

Forty million more people worldwide routinely go hungry this year compared to last, and well over half of them are from the DRC.

According to this new report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, rising food prices and growing insecurity account for the increase. And yet more are likely to be tipped into hunger and poverty as a consequence of the financial crisis, the report says.

About the Congo, the report says:
In sub-Saharan Africa, one in three people -- or 236 million (2007) -- are chronically hungry, the highest proportion of undernourished people in a region, the report says. Most of the increase in the number of the hungry came in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where persistent conflicts contributed to taking the proportion of undernourished people from 29 percent to 76 percent.
With its population of 60 million or so, that means that over 25 million --or nearly 60 percent -- of the world's newly hungry come from the DRC.

NO EU Force, after all

Bernard Kouchner's admission that France could not send troops to Goma in eastern Congo because of its proximity to Rwanda seems to have terminated the possibility of the EU dispatching forces to the region. The FT reports that the EU responded to Ban Ki-moon's letter requesting troops with a statement today that a formal response to the letter would be forthcoming "in due course." Kouchner did not explain why Rwanda's proximity to eastern Congo makes it "out of the question" for France to intervene, but the two countries are obviously not on the best of terms.

The Hidden Toll of War

One of the reasons why the war in the Congo gets so little media attention is that most of the suffering and dying occurs off-camera, among the civilians displaced by the war, rather than in the battles themselves. That toll is phenomenal, as the IRC has regularly reminded us, but it is also hard to cover for journalists looking for a dramatic story.

That's why this piece by Reuters writer Joe Bavier deserves special commendation. He's found a way of talking about the story, of giving names and places and dates, to a story that otherwise seems anonymous and remote.

Picture of the Day

Demonstrators stage a mock ministerial meeting outside the European Union Council building in Brussels, Monday, Dec. 8, 2008. Demonstrators, who were asking for more troops to be sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo, simulated a meeting of foreign ministers with an artificially bloodied victim of the conflict. EU nations are divided over whether to send an EU peacekeeping force to eastern Congo after U.N. officials appealed for more troops. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

It's hard to imagine a similar protest occurring in the U.S. Our activists are far too polite: Meeting officials discretely at their offices; presenting petitions; writing reports based on recent country visits. These are all worthy activities, but they don't bump the decision process along very far.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

If Europe, this political and moral adventure born out of warfare, does not respond to this situation, so cruelly felt by TV viewers and millions of Congolese, then what, after all, is Europe?
--Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister.

In French:
Si l’Europe, (…) cette aventure politique et morale née de la guerre, ne répond pas à une situation aussi cruellement ressentie par les téléspectateurs et les millions de Congolais, alors qu’est-ce que l’Europe ? »

Europe Still Divided on Sending Troops

Le Soir reports that the EU remains divided on the question of whether to send troops to the DR Congo, with France and Belgium both pushing for action. Britain is said to favor sending troops under UN auspices only, and Germany favors a "political resolution" to the conflict. Finland, Sweden, Ireland and the Czech Republic are also pushing for EU action, though they have not made any troop commitments.

Ex-Officials Propose Ending Genocide: "This time we really, really mean it"*

*Certain restrictions apply. See administration for details.

The sixtieth anniversary of the UN covenant against genocide (adopted by the UN on December 9, 1948) produced this two-hour documentary by CNN's Christiane Amanpour, and this report by ex-Clinton officials Madeleine Albright and William Cohen. The documentary is a paint-by-the-numbers history of genocide in the 20th century, with pit stops at the usual places: the Armenians, the Holocaust, Raphael Lemkin, Cambodia, Rwanda, Serbia, and now Darfur. It humanizes each incident by profiling--not a victim--but a witness whose urgent cries for action were met with shrugs of indifference from Western governments. The witnesses are an odd bunch: They include Francois Ponchaud, a French priest who was among the first to document Pol Pot's atrocities, and Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general whose depleted UN force was insufficient to protect the Rwandan Tutsi in 1994. Both men were shattered by their experiences. But they also include diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the Washington insider whose counsel for stronger action on Bosnia never came close to "screaming bloody murder"--as the documentary's title would have it.

The report, one of those thumbsuckers by out-of-work officials whose chief function is to polish reputations tarnished by the sail trimming that made their careers possible, is the sort of thing that gives thinking people aneurysms. The red-haired stepchild of three Washington think tanks, the grandly titled Commission to Prevent Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers got off to a rocky start at its inaugural session last November when Armenian reporters asked the two commission chairs why they supported blocking congressional efforts to recognize the Armenian genocide. "This is basically about the future," said Albright, who had spoken minutes earlier about the need to learn from the past. "There are no absolutes in this," chimed in Cohen, whose consulting firm enjoys a profitable alliance with a group hired by Turkey to deny certain facts about the Armenian genocide--that it occurred, for example. In any case, they too "were concerned about the human suffering that took place between 1915 and 1923." It was embarrassing to watch these two grandees circumlocuting around the term genocide, which no doubt explains why the video of that session was eventually yanked from the sponsoring organization's web site. "After all, who now remembers the Armenians?" as someone somewhere once said.

Still, let's stipulate that asking power to speak truth to power will often lead to awkward moments; as Dr. Johnson said in another context, the wonder is not that it does it well, but that it does it at all. Then the question is whether anything useful has come out of the exercise. I will address that question in a later post.