Thursday, July 16, 2009

Enough's Action Plan: Not as Tough as it Needs to Be

The Enough Project just published a report based on extensive trip it took to the Kivus with a crew from 60 Minutes. The good news is that Enough recognizes that what the international community is doing right now is utterly insufficient.

It recognizes
"that the conventional image of Congo as a failed state is at variance with a dark and little-acknowledged reality: that the Congolese government often promotes insecurity and lawlessness to allow its top officials to enrich themselves in the illegal smuggling of Congo’s natural resources. Nor do policymakers fully acknowledge the continuing role that neighboring governments—particularly Rwanda and Uganda—play in fuelling violence and profiteering from Congo’s state weakness and chronic conflict."

Enough also finds that Operation Umoja Wetu reshuffled the deck and gave FARDC, CNDP, and Rwanda increase access to looting and illegal commerce to provide for their families. The CNDP and Rwanda have expanded their role in mineral smuggling in the Kivus, an area the size of Oregon that is isolated due to extremely poor roads. The integration process left the command and control of many CNDP units intact. Even though they are wearing Congolese army uniforms they continue to pursue their own agenda.

It notes that the military impact of Umoja Wetu was slight: It displaced the FDLR from some of the mines that it had controlled in North Kivu and put Nkunda’s former forces in control of those areas, but left the FDLR’s chain of command and international network intact. But it applauded the political impact, for providing a unique opportunity to improve relations between Kinshasa and Kigali.

And it recognizes that Kimia II has been a catastrophic failure and should be ended forthwith: The already disjointed efforts to reform the Congolese army have been complicated, and even compromised, by the disorganized nature of this integration, as internal divisions and indiscipline within the army intensify. Several war criminals have been knowingly integrated in the government army command structure, which itself has numerous commanders with horrific human rights records. Bosco Ntagana, the new de facto military leader of the CNDP and an indicted International Criminal Court, or ICC, war criminal, is just the tree that hides the forest of major human rights abusers who are now in command positions. No vetting whatsoever has occurred in the process of integration. “How can you stop impunity when you have these kinds of people in command positions within the Congolese army?” asked one official from an international [ngo].

To all of which, I say Precisely! and Welcome on board! This seems to me to be an enormous advance over their earlier analyses, which so often placed the red herring of the fdlr at the very center of the problem.

When it comes to recommendations, I have a number of disagreements with them, most of which stem from their insistence that the international community work through the congolese government to set these problems right. I tend to believe the Congolese government is a big part of the problem, and would prefer a more direct interventionist force from Monuc, coupled with much more direct assistance to congolese ngos. I've indicated their recommendations in italics, with my responses below.

"Donors and governments with military expertise should work with the Congolese government to forge a major multilateral, diplomatically supported, highly human rights conditioned, decade-long commitment to help reform the Congolese army so that it becomes a source of security to the civilian population rather than one of predation.
But in the immediate term, these donor militaries should work directly with Monuc forces. It will take at least a decade to reform the Congo's armed forces--and it is an open question just how far they can be reformed in the context of the Congolese state, which at the moment is essentially a predatory regime.

Recent lessons learned from army reform endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan should be applied to the Congo. MONUC should further embed personnel in government army units directly.

Applied by whom and to whom? I would hope to Monuc forces by Western governments such as England, Canada, and the U.S. I see no reason to embed monuc in Congolese government army units; if anthing, the reverse should be done.

"Ultimately, if civilian protection is going to be the centerpiece of the mandate for MONUC, there has to be a reset on how the mission is deployed, a major increase in the resources it is given to do its job, and a unified interpretation of the mandate and rules of engagement throughout the chain of command."
Yes, but more than that: Monuc needs to dramatically strengthened, and then it basically needs to take over the chief functions of a state, at least in the Kivus and possibly in Ituri and Orientale.

The international community should pursue a more effective counter-insurgency campaign against the FDLR, by publicly identifying the true war criminals and genocidaires and attempt to induce the rest to turn themselves in. It should sever the FDLR's ties to FDLR leaders living abroad, and it should help the Congolese government secure former FDLR mining sites. [This is a summary, not a direct quote.]
Yes, yes, yes, and no. The yes-es are self-explanatory. But on the last one: why is it incumbent on the international community to secure productive mines, and then simply hand them over to an organization known for using mining profits to rape, pillage, and murder its own civilians? Why replace one gang of thugs with another, just because the latter happen to have a flag and a seat at the UN? The mines should be placed under international mandate until the Congolese government proves itself able to manage its resources and protect its citizens.
Let me put this differently: The price the Congo pays now for its systemic governance failures is, in effect, a loss of sovereignty: because it can't use the enormous resources available to it to establish an army capable of imposing order, it has lost control of the eastern third of its country. For the international community to invest money and blood to establish control of that region, and then restore it unconditionally to the government, would be an abdication of the responsibility it incurred by taking control of the region. It is one thing to demand, as activists sometimes do, that the international community step in to protect people who are either unprotected or under assault from their own government; it is another to demand that the international community relinquish control of a region it has taken control of to a state that it knows will fail to protect its own people.

Enough then proposes that the trade in minerals from eastern Congo be made transparent, by tracing, auditing, and certifying them.

There are three problems with this idea: The first is that the FDLR trade mostly in gold, which is virtually untraceable. So Enough's approach is inapplicable to the main source of income for the nastiest group in the area. The second problem is that there are no good guys in the area to begin with. Just about everybody producing tin, tantalum or tungsten has blood on their hands, including the Congolese government. On a practical level, who gets to say which minerals, mined from exactly which mine, transported by exactly which company, taxed by exactly which authority, are clean enough or not--and on what basis would they make that decision? Third, the transaction costs of imposing a tracing, auditing, and certification scheme on the minerals coming out of eastern Congo are far too high. Remember: they are only worth $180 million; a pittance in the global scheme. It would be much easier for companies to simply stop sourcing their minerals from eastern Congo and buy them from safe harbor countries like Canada, Brazil, or Australia. (As in fact the Belgian trader Traxys has already decided to do.)

In fact, the only way to make the minerals work for the benefit of the people of eastern Congo--the only way to insure that they aren't used to exploit the people--is if the mines and transport routes are administered by the international community. If those mines could be used for the people's benefit, the results would be so extraordinary they would have a major demonstration effect: Look at all these schools, all these clinics and roads and electric grids, now available to us. The people of Congo would very quickly realize how big an investment they have in seeing to it that their mineral wealth is properly managed.

The Congolese government should suspend Kimia II and the international community should work with Kinshasa and with MONUC to plan for more effective military pressure on the FDLR command and control structure. Ideally, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom should plan and mount this operation.
Yes, but Monuc too needs to be pressured to end Kimia II, which is as much its baby as FARDC's. And yes--the world's major militaries need to be involved not just in eradicating the FDLR but in securing the Kivus against the array of militia operating in the region.

The international community should promote regional peace and economic cooperation.
No quarrel here. But the problem is not that still-fragile relationships need to be nourished. Rwanda and Congo proved capable of dropping their decade-long enmity the second it became clear that they had more to gain than lose by cooperating, specifically on the proposed methane gas plant straddling Lake Kivu between the two countries. Ditto, I suspect, with the natural gas extraction plant proposed for Lake Albert between Uganda and Congo. What's needed in these cases is less psychotherapy than hard-headed negotiators trained in handling these kinds of cross-border resource deals. Dispatching these sort of guys as advisors to the two sides would be a useful contribution, and help both pairs of countries get past whatever humps stand in the way of reaching mutually beneficial arrangements.

The paper ends with some nice talk about ending accountability and focusing on sexual violence: "Donors should increase investment in the long-term reform of the Congolese justice system so that it prosecutes the warlords..." it says. Also, the "U.S. and European Union should make ending violence against women and girls a central part of their diplomatic engagement and aid conditionality with the governments in Congo and Rwanda."
Again, these are good ideas, but I don't know why Enough insists on working through them in partnership with the Congolese government. The Congolese government is a part of the problem; by definition, it cannot be part of the solution. By contrast, there are a plethora of local, indigenous self-empowerment organizations that we can and should be supporting until such time as the government proves itself a reliable ally.

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