Friday, February 6, 2009

Memo to ICG and Enough

For much of the past decade, the International Crisis Group and (later on) Enough have said that the key to peace in the Congo lies in neutering the FDLR.* And for just as long, I've insisted that just because Kagame tells you that his troops are in Congo to chase down the FDLR (or that they are not, but that if they were--wink wink--it would be because of the FDLR), doesn't mean it's true.

Let me suggest that current events allow us to turn this into a testable hypothesis. If the FDLR is really the crux of the issue, as ICG and Enough have consistently maintained over the years, then we can expect to see Rwanda take advantage of its invitation into the Congo to engage in a systematic, concentrated effort to extirpate the FDLR and then return home. Kabila has said the Rwandan soldiers will be done and gone by the end of February, but to be fair, let's give them an extra month or two. If that happens, I'll be glad to eat crow. But if the Rwandans overstay their welcome in Congo, don't appear to engage in an energetic effort to hunt down the FDLR, and leave behind--if and when they do leave--a covert commercial network that continues to siphon off Congolese resources, then can we stop taking Kagame at his word? And can we then focus on the resources--a topic those two organizations have until recently treated as a secondary consideration?
*Here are four examples from each group:

12/11/08, Enough: "Dismantling the FDLR would force the CNDP, the Congolese government, and the Rwandan government to negotiate solutions to the other major tensions driving the conflict."

6/3/08, Enough: In 1994, at Rwanda’s moment of greatest need, the world turned its back. The Rwandan genocide and the subsequent flight of the genocidaires into the Democratic Republic of the Congo spawned eastern Congo’s complex crisis—one that has led to the deaths of 5.4 million Congolese and threatens the future of millions more. The world has had 14 years to take action against the perpetrators of the genocide and those who now terrorize eastern Congo in their name, but the international response remains sorely inadequate. Absent an international action plan to finally remove this scourge, eastern Congo will continue to suffer.

3/19/08, Enough: As ENOUGH has argued in a previous strategy paper international efforts to end the crisis must concurrently negotiate an end to the conflict in North Kivu province between the Congolese government and dissident Congolese General Laurent Nkunda, and remove the predatory Rwandan Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, from eastern Congo.

9/10/07, Enough: The international community must immediately develop a "carrots and sticks" approach to avoid the resumption of full-scale war and deal with the intertwined challenges of Nkunda and the FDLR.

1/29/09, International Crisis Group: Kigali and Kinshasa should immediately suspend their joint military operations until they define clearer military and political objectives for their new cooperation, work with the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) and humanitarian agencies to minimise the risk to civilians of any combat and develop a comprehensive strategy to foster disarmament of the Rwandan Hutu insurgents (FDLR).

5/12/05, ICG: The continued existence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of 8,000 to 10,000 Hutu rebels with links to the 1994 genocide in their home country, Rwanda, is a key source of regional instability. Though too weak to imperil Rwanda's government, and though many of its members are not themselves genocidaires, the FDLR (Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda) gives Kigali justification for continued interference in the Congo and threats to invade.

12/17/04, ICG: A key bargain that remains unfulfilled is definitive Rwandan withdrawal in exchange for disarming of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the insurgent force with strong links to the génocidaires of 1994. It is time to end the cycle of impunity: donors should link progress on these agreements directly to their aid and those who undermine the agreements need to be held personally responsible for their actions.

1/24/03, ICG: Rwanda’s four-year occupation of the Kivus did not deal successfully with the Hutu rebels who have been supported and re-supplied by the Congolese government. Since the Rwandan army’s withdrawal, all Rwandan Hutu units previously based on Kinshasa-held territory have now joined forces with their comrades in the East. They have regrouped under the name of Forces démocratiques de liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), an organisation created three years before in Kinshasa, and constitute a military force of 15,000 to 20,000 in the Kivus that remains, despite the recent reduction of external support from Kinshasa, a genuine security concern for Rwanda.

Now in fairness, it must be said that most of the reports these two organizations publish are informative and useful. A few even seem to recognize that the FDLR is not the primary source of the region's problem. For example, this ICG report from October 2007 seems to me to give the FDLR the right degree of emphasis. But too often, these two organizations--the second one is a partial offshoot of the first--have spoken as if the FDLR were the central, key, and abiding problem in the region. And that just isn't so.

By contrast, the reports from HRW, AI, the UN's Special Experts, and others have been more balanced. They acknowledge--no one would deny--that getting rid of the ex-genocidaires in eastern Congo would be a good thing. The FDLR have been killing and raping a lot of Congolese, and they provide Kagame with a perfect pretext for continuing Rwanda's overt or covert presence in Congo. But they recognize, in a way that these two NGOs have not, that the FDLR is a problem but not the problem, a symptom rather than the underlying disease. It's a degree of emphasis, but it makes all the difference.

Their reports, in fact, strike me as the converse of a lot of the stuff that comes out of the World Bank. It doesn't matter how chaotic, corrupt, and mismanaged a country is. The World Bank will robotically issue reports declaring that prospects are good for development, if only the country does X and Y and Z. In fact, the more disastrously run a country is, the better the World Bank finds its prospects for development to be. (Like a realtor promising a prospective buyer that the dump they're being shown has "real potential.") It does that by disaggregating the economy from the government, so that the economy becomes some autonomous piece of machinery that can be fixed through the straightforward application of a set of "instrumentalities." The resulting policy prescriptions are invariably sophisticated and daunting--but totally divorced from reality. Because of course the people in government use their power to access the country's wealth. In fact, for many African leaders and bureaucrats, that's the point of being in government.

Just as the World Bank ignores the political side of the equation, ICG and Enough have tended to ignore the economic side. Too often, they've written as though the resources were a secondary issue, and the political dimensions of the conflict were primary. Whereas, as I've argued for years, what's needed is more analysis of the political economy of the conflict. This is what Paul Collier and his colleagues have been doing at a theoretical level, and what Global Witness, for example, has been doing at nitty-gritty, local and regional levels.

1 comment:

  1. Hey there, thanks for your comments. I'd suggest that your first quote from the Enough Project reflects our position that the FDLR is only one component of the many challenges facing eastern Congo. And if you think we have neglected the natural resource issue, stay tuned. Welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you offline.

    David Sullivan
    Enough Project