Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tshisekedi Is Winning the Post-Election

The big news today is Vital Kamerhe rescinding his earlier call for the election to be annulled. Why did he do it? Speculation is swirling, but no one believes it's simply because he's had a further chance to review the evidence. Politicians aren't scientists, after all. With Tshisekedi's supporters predicting (or sometimes proclaiming) imminent victory, the thinking is that TshiTshi has offered Kamerhe a senior post in the new government in return for Kamerhe's support during what is sure to be a nasty post-election fight for control of the government.

I'm not sure I buy this idea. It would be a canny move on Tshisekedi's part--uncharacteristically canny, if you ask me. (For one thing, it might allay international concern about Tshisekedi's temperament and governing ability.) Tshisekedi's not the type to be giving away the store so early. He's shown very little interest in sharing power before, and I can't imagine him starting now, when he must believe he's on the cusp of capturing the prize he's spent half his life pursuing.

But the fact that we're having this discussion shows how effectively Tshisekedi has won the post-election debate. Early returns have (apparently--do we have any confirmation on this?) propelled him into the lead, and he has his supporters convinced he's going to win. From Kabila, by contrast, there has been nothing but silence. This may be the more statesman-like course, but in this context it plays like an acknowledgment of defeat.

Kamerhe has been the most visible candidate since Monday, posting several videos on his web site and youtube. This is not uncharacteristic of Kamerhe, who ran the most Western-style campaign. But we're still awaiting word for why he changed his mind. Until then, we're left wondering: What does he know that we don't?

Missing Links, Day Two

The New York Times intimates dark times ahead: "Congo’s political temperature seems to be rising by the day."

The Observatoire des Medias Congolais has just issued a report highly critical of the Congolese media's coverage of the election.

None of the three main contenders for the presidency has updated his web page since yesterday, when Kabila and Kamerhe both published photos of themselves voting. (From the looks of it, Tshisekedi hasn't updated his page since 1992 [1].) Monusco hasn't put anything up today either.

The Catholics are calling for calm, but seem generally upbeat: "The Catholic national justice and peace commission, which had deployed 30,000 Congolese observers throughout the country, said that, by early Nov. 29, it had received reports from only 25 percent of the observers, most of whom did not have rapid means of communication. However, according to these initial reports, voter turnout was high, and people were voting with great enthusiasm, despite certain logistical and security problems."

Radio Okapi has a good overview of how the results will be tabulated. The results will be counted and posted at each polling site, before being transmitted to CENI, so the election won't be so easy to steal.

CENI--the Congolese electoral commission--says that it won't annul the election.

Tshisekedi has announced that he will accept the election results, regardless of the outcome.

France 24 apologizes to Tshisekedi for falsely accusing his supporters of raping women in eastern DRC.

The Observatoire, La Prosperite, and Le Potentiel all have editorials calling on the population to remain calm and peaceful while the vote is counted.

[1] In response to the comment below, what I mean is that it has the look and feel of a web page made in 1992, not that it hasn't been updated since then. On the other hand, the most recent update I saw was an announcement of Tshisekedi's visit to the US earlier this year, so it's clearly not the communication method of choice for the old Sphinx.

Quote of the Day

Reuters quotes Kamerhe's letter to Kabila:
"There can be no doubt as to the scale of the fraud, deliberately planned by those in power with the connivance of the national election commission," Kamerhe wrote in a letter to Kabila, the election commission and international bodies.
"Police chased witnesses from polling stations before counting could start," he said, citing reports by international observers and others that security forces took control of voting stations in Kinshasa.
"These elections must quite simply be annulled."

Carter Center to Make Announcement Tomorrow

So far, on the matter of the election's legitimacy, we've got one yea, one nay, and one vote of present.

Dizolele says Carter Center will announce tomorrow at 10 am at the Grand Hotel. Any guesses on what they'll say?

Will it matter?

There Will Be Blood

My impression is that in the lead-up to the election the international community and particularly the United States were operating on the following assumptions: that the elections would be legitimate, if minimally so; that Kabila would win; and that post-electoral violence would be limited, if only because of Congolese apathy and political cynicism.

I'm not sure anyone in a position of power would admit they were operating on those assumptions--especially now. But when I asked relevant people whether they were doing any contingency planning, they answered with a classic non-response: they remained confident, they told me, that the election would work out for the best.[1]

Well, we're about to find out what happens if it doesn't.

Kamerhe and the minor candidates have already called for the election to be annulled. Tshisekedi hasn't, but only because early returns have convinced him he's going to win. Try explaining representative sampling to his followers if the tide turns.

But I also can't imagine Kabila giving up without a struggle. He'll sooner pull a Marcos and try to steal the election than admit defeat. Even if he were willing to step down, his people won't let him.

And this reveals the short-sightedness of the incom's decision not to take a major role in this election. Had the incom invested in elections on a scale comparable to 2006 to insure its legitimacy, Tshisekedi or Kabila and their followers might have been persuaded to accept defeat; I can't imagine either group will now.

How does this play out?

I don't know, but let me take note of a few things that might affect the outcome. First, I think the USG is invested in Kabila. The country is more or less stable, excepting pockets in the east--and even there violence is declining. People (read: Western mining companies) are starting to make money.  And the State Department has despised Tshisekedi since the Cold War, when his mere existence was a standing rebuke to the diplomats fellating Mobutu. If there's a plausible case to be made that Kabila has won a legitimate election, the incom will make it.

Second, I can't see the incom dispatching peacemakers to stem the violence, if it breaks out, no matter how bad it gets. Western politicians' primary concern is with voters back home, and they won't see any percentage in intervening. Kinshasa can burn to the ground without costing Obama a single vote; but one dead American soldier could tip the election against him. The lessons from Blackhawk Down haven't been forgotten, whatever politicians say when they're visiting Kigali's genocide memorial.

Third, the flash points in this conflict will not be in the east. They'll be where the election is most keenly fought: in Kinshasa and in the regions in the southeast of the country, where the peoples of Kasai and Katanga mix. There is history there, going back through Katanga's secession to the days of Tippu Tip. It won't be pretty.

Finally, we are approaching the point where perceptions become more important than reality. Soon, it won't matter if most of the problems with the election turn out to be separate incidents, and not part of some generalized effort to steal the election. It won't matter if the international community decides that, on balance, the election met some minimal level of acceptability and declares it legitimate. What will count is the perception on the street. And that is getting darker by the hour.

[1] To say that they were operating on these assumptions is not to say that they believed in them. I don't think they failed to make contingency plans because they are incorrigible optimists. I think they failed to make plans because they knew they lacked the resources to respond adequately if things went badly. Welcome to the end of the American Empire.

EurAc & AETA Firmly on the Fence

The Réseau Européen pour l’Afrique Centrale (EurAc) and Agir pour les Elections Transparentes et Apaisées (AETA) have issued a joint statement saying that the election was held on time, that there were a lot of problems with it, and that they'll issue a statement about it later on as the situation develops. In the meantime, they hope everyone behaves. Here it is, in toto:
Journée du scrutin en RDC : premières observations
La mission d’observation conjointe AETA et EurAc constate que malgré tous les rumeurs annonçant le report des élections, elles ont eu lieu comme prévu le 28 novembre 2011. AETA et EurAc constatent que dans certains bureaux de vote visités il y a eu un engagement fort de certains acteurs impliqués.

Ben Affleck Gives the Election a Thumbs Up

In stark contrast to the Open Society Institute, ECI seems to think the election went reasonably well. From the ECI statement:
The Congolese people went to the polls yesterday to elect a new president and a new parliament. Early indications are that the turnout was generally high with polling booths remaining open long after the official closing time of 5 pm. Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) witnessed a high level of participation in the voting and celebrates along with the Congolese electorate as they nobly exercise their mandate to democratically elect their leaders at the local and national levels. We also recognize that in spite of great odds, voting day was largely peaceful in the East of the country.
The elections should be considered an achievement given the vast size of Congo, and the almost insurmountable constraints of terrain and climate. In many of Congo's remotest corners, people were able to vote on time with the necessary resources. The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) has achieved a striking feat, implementing a nationally organized election with limited support from the international community.

Open Society Institute Gives the Election a Thumbs Down

In a critically important development, Pascal Kambale of the Open Society Institute (OSI) in Kinshasa has all-but called yesterday's election in Congo illegitimate.

While not explicitly rejecting the validity of the election, Kambale made it clear that OSI would have grave problems accepting its legitimacy. OSI is the first independent, highly reputable Western NGO to have declared itself so clearly on the issue. Here is the account from the BBC:

The Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa, a non-governmental organisation which deployed 5,000 observers to polling stations, also expressed concerns about irregularities, the AFP news agency reports. "The irregularities are so widespread it will be difficult for anyone to ignore and say they had no impact on the integrity of the vote," its country director, Pascal Kambale, is quoted as saying.

He said millions of of voters had been turned away from polling stations after being told they were at the wrong stations. "A more worrying sign of a probable rigging attempt were a number of already-filled-in ballot papers that were discovered by people across the country," Mr Kambale is quoted as saying.

Business Week is reporting that two of the other major Western election observers haven't yet reached a formal judgment on the election: “Baya Kara, the head of the Atlanta-based Carter Center mission in Congo, which trained more than 6,000 election observers, declined to comment on the vote until Nov. 30. Madnodje Mounoubai the spokesman for the UN mission in Congo wouldn’t comment when reached by phone."

Monusco Gives Us a Thumb

Source: Monusco Photostream at Flickr

Monusco Reports

I reproduce their press release in toto:

Kinshasa, 28 November 2011 - The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Roger Meece, today visited some polling stations in Kinshasa to get a firsthand glimpse of the voting process. Mr. Meece, who is also head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the country (MONUSCO), was accompanied by the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Mr. Fidel Sarassaro who is the Resident Coordinator for the UN system.

Representatives of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) told the Special representative that globally everything in their voting centres had been going on smoothly. They however pointed to the absence of the names of some prospective voters on the voter list even though their registration cards clearly states that that was where they were to vote.

Speaking to journalists outside a polling station, Mr. Meece expressed satisfaction at the orderly and peaceful way that the voting process was being conducted. He was particularly encouraged, he said, by the fact that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) were performing their duties professionally.

He strongly condemned the violence that marred the end of the campaign period which led to the loss of lives and property. “It is regrettable and I am therefore calling on all the political leaders to exercise restraint and to accept the verdict of the polls.”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Missing Links on the Election

A few links I've found useful:

Bloomberg has a good piece on the election's economic implications.

David Lewis and Jonny Hogg at Reuters are updating their reports regularly.

Al Jazeera has some nice pictures.

Laura Seay voices her worries on the Holocaust Museum's website. Money quote: "Some Congo-watchers believe violence will be short-term, sporadic, and limited to urban zones, while others fear violence could spread rapidly."

Ben Shepherd at Chatham House says this election might be just the first of several dangerous moments ahead.

Mvemba Dizolele in Foreign Affairs says the West's failure to seriously engage with the Congo during this electoral cycle leaves the Congo ripe for post-electoral violence.

Most of Congo's popular musicians are in Kabila's pocket. Here's one who's not.

The U.S. State Department, through its spokesperson, said today that it denounced the violence and was concerned about  "anomalies" in the Congo election.

The BBC has the most thorough coverage among the Western press, with reporters deployed in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Kisangani, and Bukavu.

Radio Okapi is doing an excellent job, but the prize for the best Congolese coverage of the election belongs to the AETA, a site I regret I just came across today.

DRC Election Round Up: Too Soon To Tell

Still better than the alternative  
[Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]
Day One, and the election seems to be falling in a gray zone between too mucked up to count and just good enough to scrape by, with an equal proportion of problems stemming from technical failures as from political manipulation. Headlines convey this ambivalence, with editors divided about whether to emphasize the election's success or its problems:

The New York Times: Millions Vote in Congo Despite Fears of Violence

The Associated Press: Violence, late ballots may mar critical Congo vote

MSNBC: 'Too much improvisation': Voting begins in war-torn Congo

CNN: Congolese vote in landmark election following weekend violence

Guardian:  Congo election marred by killings and attacks on polling stations

BBC: DR Congo votes amid delays and violence

Radio Okapi: RDC: la majorité salue le déroulement des élections, l’opposition condamne

Jeune Afrique: Élections en RDC : bilan d'une journée entre violences, fraudes présumées et retour au calme

Le MondeUn scrutin émaillé de violences dans certaines régions de RDC

On-the-ground observers share the ambivalence, but generally seem to feel the day went better than expected:

Photo of the Day

CONGO CHAOS: An opposition supporter displayed what he said were fraudulent copies of election ballots in Kinshasa, Congo, Monday. (Jerome Delay/Associated Press)

Open Sourcing Electoral Irregularities

The Center for Forced Migration Studies at Northwestern University is mapping polling irregularities on a Ushahidi-based open source platform here.

At the site, you can zoom in on an area and read the individual reports as they appear.

The Center for Forced Migration Studies at Northwestern University (CFMS) has coordinated a team of voluntary international and local partners to deploy Ushahidi open crowd-sourced mapping for the November 28th elections in the DR Congo to assist in election monitoring efforts and provide timely information for crisis response. This will be a short-term deployment (approximately November 14-December 31) focusing mainly four main sites: Kinshasa, Equateur province, North and South Kivu. The Ushahidi deployment is independent of the already existing monitoring efforts coordinated through the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) but seeks to strengthen and supplement these efforts.

Quotes of the Day

 From the AP:
"It's like leading an animal to the slaughterhouse. It doesn't realize until it gets there what is in store for it," said Jerome Bonso, coordinator of the Coalition for Peaceful and Transparent Elections. "They led us into this election. The population was not prepared for it. And now there is a real risk of conflict when the results come out."
From FreeFairDRC:
My sense is that many Congolese have begun to seriously question whether their votes will be counted – and whether the result of these elections can be legitimately called free and fair,” Mr. Nzeza said. “My deepest fear is that serious violence will result.’’
From the Telegraph:
"It is a difficult task, but they had time, and what we have seen today has been a very unprofessional, amateur attempt at all levels," said Marc-Andre Lagrange, Congo analyst with the International Crisis Group.
"The people were very happy to be able to vote and express themselves, where they could, but it is clear that many were frustrated that they were not able to do so."
From Reuters:
A leader of the Carter Center election observer mission, John Stremlau, said the organisation had flagged logistical problems ahead of the vote.
"What we are seeing is the cost of that in a lot of voters who are frustrated and not getting to the polls in time and not being given clear instructions as to how the procedure will work," he told Reuters.

Another Unintended Effect of Dodd Frank 1502

Clare Hawkridge reports for Al Jazeera: Without minerals to make a living off of, young men are joining militia groups. Money quote:

These disruptions inevitably have an impact on artisanal miners. In the DRC in particular, alternative livelihood options are limited. Formal employment is extremely scarce in the face of protracted instability. Agriculture - normally an option in fertile areas such as the eastern DRC - requires a level of stability that may not be possible when people have no reason to suppose that the place they plant crops will not be a war zone by the harvest-time. Mining provides a quick return on the investment of labour. When mining becomes unreliable, people seek other ways to survive.

Joining militant groups may be an attractive alternative, particularly for ex-combatants. Of course, military groups will also eventually be affected by a waning mineral trade, but they are likely to be able to keep making money for longer because they have greater access to markets, including through non-legal market channels. They are able to find ways of making money from other sources, such as, to use a recently emerging example, logging.

Quote of the Day

How concerned is the U.S. about the elections in Congo?

Here's what State Department lips Mark Toner had to say at today's presser:

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have a sense of how the elections in Congo today have actually played out? We’ve been reporting that there’s concern about ballot stuffing, some scattered incidents of violence, concern that some candidates may try to steal the election – that sort of thing.

MR. TONER: Now we are concerned. Thanks for bringing it up, Rosalind. We’re concerned about reports of anomalies in today’s voting process and hope they’ll be – they’ll prove to be isolated. The U.S. deplores in the strongest possible terms the recent election-related violence that has taken place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we would just say that there’s no place for violence in these elections and we strongly condemn those responsible, and just reminding the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo of its role in providing a safe environment for voters to go to the polls.

QUESTION: Is there any sense that this election is not credible, and if so, why?

MR. TONER: Again, we’ve – we have – we’re very concerned about the violence that’s taken place. We’ve seen some anomalies. I think we’ll wait and see how it all plays out before we make a final judgment.

And here's what U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said in an exchange with the ever-vigilent Inner City Press:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Close Will the Election Be?

Various polls coming out of Kinshasa have one or another of the three major candidates winning next Monday's election. It's hard to judge their credibility, and most Congo watchers dismiss them: even the best and most well-funded pollsters would have a tough time designing an accurate poll amid Congo's chaos. But it's worth noting that two of the more credible polls have Kabila winning, albeit with widely different results. The Institute Points of Kinshasa has Kabila capturing 32% of the vote, with Kamerhe at 23% and Tshisekedi at 20.5%. The Polls/Bes, on the other hand, has Kabila sweeping the election with 52% of the vote.

An intriguing aside from Pierre Jacquemot, former French ambassador to DRC and now a researcher at French Institute of International Relations (IRIS) in Paris, suggests there might be better information out there somewhere. In an article on the possibility of Bemba tipping the election[1], he notes, “At the moment, according to our own careful research in each province, we estimate Kabila has 35% support and Tshisekedi has 35% support. Just 2-3% could tip the election.” I haven't been able to track down more information about Jacquemot's research, but I've just sent an email to him and I'd be really interested to see how he thinks the provinces break down. 

[1] Jacquemot goes on to say, “The support of Bemba for one candidate or another could be decisive because the results could be very close.” Not to go all self-congratulatory, but I predicted this possibility back in July.

Quote of the Day

Pink Guerillas
"Very soon this topography will be radically altered. The Tutsi will clear the primeval jungle to make way for rolling pastureland, and cows will be herded illegally across the porous Rwandan border. These fields defy any traveler’s expectations, appearing like the bucolic meadows of Northern Europe on equatorial steroids. But don’t be fooled. This spectacular farmland is really the scorched jungle of tribal battlefields masquerading as a Tutsi Elysium, built on the bones of massacres and ethnic cleansing."

                              --Richard Mosse, Through a Glass Brightly: Eastern Congo by Infrared 

Oy. In my ideal world, no one would be allowed to write about or make policy for Congo--or anywhere else in Africa, for that matter--without having spent a couple of years in country, living with and among ordinary Africans, learning the language, and trying to get some modest thing done, like setting up a sustainable library or children's soccer league. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Uh, Oh

Asking a diplomat a question that will produce useful information is like tapping on a wall to find the stud: you listen for what you're not hearing. This is especially true in a public forum, like yesterday's lecture at the African Studies Association by the always courtly Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African Affairs. I asked Carson if he was confident the US had the presence and wherewithal to engage proactively (read: intervene) if things started to go badly in Congo after the election results come in.

Carson gave me a lucid, well-informed account of what the US is doing to promote a peaceful election: Mostly, it seems, dispatching mid-range diplomats like him to encourage the various parties to play fair.

Now I know Carson can't describe in public what the US might do in this or that hypothetical situation. But what I asked him was whether he felt confident the US was prepared for the various situations that might develop. And by choosing to answer a different question, he answered mine about as clearly as he could, given the forum. And that answer: of course not.

This is worrisome for three reasons. 1) The election is in all probability going to be close, and it's definitely going to be a mess. That's a recipe for post-electoral conflict. 2) Tshisekedi is on the war path and Kinshasa is ground zero. Congo won't be Cote d'Ivoire, but it could be Kenya--or worse. 3) Unlike Kenya and Cote d'Ivoire, there's no obvious go-to Western power to take the lead if things go wrong. Belgium still doesn't have a government. Monusco is invertebrate. And the U.S., which in sunnier days might have picked up the tab, is an empire in decline. The Western powers could find themselves dilly dallying for days while Kinshasa burns.

It's easier to put out a campfire than a forest fire. So we should be gaming out the various ways this election could go bad, in coordination with the the other donor governments, and preparing ourselves for various outcomes. I strongly suspect this isn't being done, and I worry that the situation in Congo could go from bad to worse to quite awful without any decisive action from the West. But maybe I've just lost all perspective.

Yay Us! The Private Public Alliance for Conflict Minerals

There's nothing like watching diplomats at work to make me feel like Holden Caulfield. Last week's launch of the Private Public Alliance at the US Institute of Peace is a case in point.

The PPA, for those not in the know, is a modest $3 million effort spearheaded by USAID and the State Department to support the development of "conflict-free" supply chains within the Congo. They're looking to get an additional $2 million from the private sector; so far, multinationals and trade associations have pledged  $800,000 or so. What precisely the PPA is going to do with that money is not entirely clear. Some of the literature suggests it will mostly function as a coordinating mechanism for initiatives already underway. But at today's event I heard everything from developing a scalable pilot program to building roads. (It's not clear how many yards of road they think that amount of cash will buy them.)

The day's launch featured speakers from State, AID, and a doylt of multinationals, and was held at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a half-block down from the State Department. (Full disclosure: I worked in a service capacity at USIP a few years ago, before they moved into their new building. For my thoughts on USIP, see here.)

The meeting's MC--yes, there was an MC--was Stephen D'Esposito, the president of Resolve, a company with a mission statement so obtusely idealistic (or simply obtuse) that it sounds like the Trilateral Commission's idea of what GreenPeace does. He began by urging us--all of us--to give ourselves a hand for the work we'd done in helping bring about the conflict minerals laws. "Yay us," as I wrote in my notebook, for the first of seven times. He then turned the podium over to George Moose, who praised the Institute for its "profound" commitment to the Congo--as exemplified by the fact that it had conducted a survey of Katangese business owners two years ago--and, yadi yadi yada, something about the Institute and the government and shining symbols, and here was Under Secretary Bob Hormats.  Another round of yay us ensued, then "Bob" got serious: "Minerals represent a great moral issue of our time. All of us feel a moral outrage at the illegitimate exploitation of natural resources and we're all powerfully engaged on the issue." (This from a guy who in his Goldman Sachs days handled the IPO of a Chinese oil company based in Khartoum.)  Then it was back to the yays. Yay to USAID. Yay to all the companies that are helping. And yay to the ngos, none of whom he would name because they were the same bastards that went after him when he got nominated to be under secretary he didn't want to leave anyone out.

My Comments at the World Bank

I spoke at a World Bank event last week (November 9) on the various initiatives underway to develop conflict-free mineral sourcing from the DRC. Also speaking at the event were Brad Brooks-Rubin, of the US State Department, Assheton Carter, of Pact; Rick Goss, of the Information Technology Industry Council; Sophia Pickles, of Global Witness; Gotthard Walser, of the World Bank; and Mvemba Dizolele, of the Hoover Institute.

I made four points--or tried to, rather. The speakers were given only five minutes each, and it turns out that five minutes goes by very quickly when you're the one doing the talking. So I'm not sure I got more than one and a half of my points out cogently.

The first point is that we are on the way to fetishizing conflict mineral programs. We are at risk, that is, of forgetting that conflict-free mineral supply chains are not an end in themselves. They are a means: The end is bringing peace to eastern Congo. Now even if you believe, as I do not, that ending the trade in conflict minerals is a major step to ending the violence in the Congo, and even if you believe, as I do not, that such efforts will prove effective and feasible, you have to wonder at the proportionality of all this. Compare how much discussion and analysis we've conducted on conflict minerals to, say, attempts to reduce or eliminate the FDLR's presence. There are easily some 50 to 70 serious papers in the blogosphere about cleaning up the mineral chain. There are none, so far as I know, about what is needed to neutralize the FDLR. Or consider a recent Tulane study that found it will cost nearly $8 billion to implement 1502. Can that really be the most effective use of our limited resources--when all Hilary Clinton was able to dredge up on her visit two years ago to help the victims of sexual abuse was $18 million, less than one-four hundredth that amount? It is time to ask whether our preoccupation with conflict minerals isn't coming at the expense of addressing other, more effective ways to remedy the Congo's problems.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Hear the Voices of Miners": Letter to the SEC from Congolese Mining Cooperative

This is another "letter from the field," from a Congolese civil society leader describing the actual effect of Dodd Frank 1502 on the people. I came upon this letter while looking through recent comments to the SEC regarding DF 1502. 

October 17, 2011

My name is Serge Mulumba and I am President of the CDMC, a mining cooperative that oversees and assists artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I am very pleased to participate in this panel discussion on conflict minerals. This is an opportunity for us to hear the voices of miners (diggers) regarding the Dodd Frank and especially its impact on their daily lives.

1. We believe that Dodd Frank, while being a good law in terms of its humanitarian nature, had a negative impact on the lives of miners (diggers) in our various mines throughout the DRC. Each passing day children die from lack of food and medicines, others do not go to school because parents are unable to pay school fees. The social situation of miners (diggers) has so deteriorated since the advent of Dodd Frank.

2. As you can imagine, the miners (diggers) live from day to day. Artisanal mining in the DRC is a subsistence activity. In digging every day that miners (diggers) are able to afford food for their wives and children, to care for their families in case of illness, to pay their children's education and even a dress them.

3. But in view of the Dodd Frank law, the companies that purchased the minerals formally stopped buying since 1 April 2011, because they do not have the insurance to sale it to smelters.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Zombie Ideas: Dodd-Frank Doesn't Require an Embargo

One still hears from its defenders that Dodd-Frank 1502 doesn't require an embargo--that nothing in the wording of the law forbids companies from importing minerals from eastern Congo. I thought the gals at Wronging Rights had pretty much driven a stake through that claim, but I heard it repeated yesterday at a World Bank meeting. So maybe it is worth revisiting.

Yes, nothing in the wording of the law says, Thou shalt not buy your tantalum from eastern Congo. What the law says is that if you do, you're going to have to disclose that fact in your annual statement to shareholders. When that happens, you'll be in for a symbolic stoning from well-funded Western NGOs--a stoning that could very easily damage your reputation and market share. The fact that the law doesn't explicitly say that is incidental. When it comes to their own bottom line, companies aren't stupid: At this point, Western manufacturers wouldn't accept Congolese minerals if they were offered for free.

So, no, technically speaking, the law doesn't forbid companies from importing minerals from eastern Congo. It just sort of sidles up to them, bat in hand, and says, Nice company you have here. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Is Your Pen Fueling Rape in Eastern Congo?

An interesting independent evaluation of the costs of complying with Dodd Frank 1502 came out last month from Tulane University. This evaluation was carried out at the request of Senator Dick Durbin (D-Il), one of the legislation's key sponsors. Its conclusion: DF-1502 will cost US corporations nearly $8 billion.*

Money quote:
We present a third model focusing on the burden to the affected issuers and their 1st tier suppliers estimating that the actual cost to and of implementing the law is $7.93 billion. Almost half of the total cost – $3.4 billion – would be met with in-house company personnel time, and the rest – $4.5 billion – would comprise outflows to 3rd parties for consulting, IT systems and audits.
Note that they specifically state they're not including the "upstream" part of the mineral chain--the mine to smelter part--in their calculations.

To think of what one-tenth of that amount would do for the people of eastern Congo! Consider that when Hilary Clinton, the world's most powerful feminist, visited eastern Congo two years ago she promised $18 million to help rape victims. That's less than one four-hundredth what DF-1502 may cost.

My favorite factoid in the report doesn't have anything to do with the costs, however: "Conflict minerals are as omnipresent as the ballpoint pen – and that is not just a metaphor. Tungsten, particularly resistant to deforming, is used to manufacture the ball in the ballpoint pen."

I did not know that. Perhaps Enough will soon be organizing a campaign around pens. En garde, Bic!

*The SEC estimated compliance costs at $71.2 million. The National Association of Manufacturers says it will cost $9 to $16 billion--yes, with a B. This isn't a debate I can referee, but I would say the report has the ring of truth--or at least, of being written by an honest broker.