Friday, June 29, 2012

The Impact Dodd Frank Isn't Having

Here are two pieces coincidentally published today on how little impact Dodd-Frank is having on military developments in eastern Congo. The first is by the redoubtable Jonny Hogg of Reuters, who points out that the gold trade has been virtually unaffected by the law:
MONGBWALU, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 29 (Reuters) - G old traders in the eastern Congo district of Ituri have heard of the Dodd-Frank act, or "Obama's law" as it's known here, but don't see why it's got anything to do with them.
"I struggle to understand this Obama's law," says George Lobho, one of hundreds of traders operating out of tiny wooden shacks in the muddy streets of Mongbwalu. "What does it mean?"
Ituri is one of many areas of the country to have experienced bitter ethnic conflict between rival tribes in recent years. Massacres have left tens of thousands dead.
It is this fighting that led U.S. authorities to take the unprecedented step of naming Congo in section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation act, which says U.S.-listed companies that source gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin from Congo or its neighbours must assure the U.S. stock exchange regulator that their business is not helping fund conflict.
Readers of this blog may remember that I've always predicted gold was too valuable and too easy to smuggle to be affected by DF-1502.

The second is by Mark Doyle at the BBC, writing about all the various ways the mutineers have of making money aside from the mineral trade: 

A controversial UN report on the Democratic Republic of Congo has focussed attention on Rwanda's alleged role in the current army mutiny, but the document also reveals intriguing details about how rebels in the area make their money.
It lists bank robberies and extortion rackets taxing charcoal and cows as some of the activities of the insurgents in east of the country.
The recent increase in violence was partly caused by government attempts to end racketeering by parts of the army, including the mining of precious minerals such as tin and gold.
Cynics might say the government army wanted to reassert its own control over these rackets. But in any case it is clear recent events were part of a long-standing struggle by Kinshasa to establish control over the east.
The legal and illegal export of precious minerals from the fabulously rich soils of eastern DR Congo is a multi-million dollar business in itself.
But in the run-up to breaking away from the national army in April, rebels also resorted to blatant criminality and robbed the International Bank for Africa (BIAC) in the main eastern city of Goma - twice.
On the first occasion, the UN study says, soldiers snatched $1m (£640,000), the currency of choice for well-off Congolese.
The second BIAC raid netted only $50,000.
But there were other heists too - at a well-known Goma hotel, the Stella Matutina, a customs office and several money transfer branches.
More mundane extortion also affects ordinary people every day.Trucks carrying charcoal for cooking, for example, are "taxed" $50 at illegal roadblocks and even motorcyclists have to pay a sort of licence fee of $2 a week, the report by the UN group of experts published within the last week says.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Leaked Portions of UN Group of Experts Annex

Colum Lynch has some excerpts of the GoE Annex up at his blog over at Turtle Bay. It's every bit as bad for Rwanda as you might have imagined it could be. It even alleges that the Rwandan army recruited soldiers from among repatriated FDLR troops to go fight for M23. Since Rwanda's pretext/justification for its presence in eastern DRC has always been predicated on their pursuit of the remaining genocidaires, this is a pretty explosive finding. Here are some excerpts from the excerpts:
Since the outset of its current mandate, the Group [of Experts] has gathered evidence of arms embargo and sanctions regime violations committed by the Rwandan Government. These violations consist of the provision of material and financial support to armed groups operation in the eastern DRC, including the recently established M23... [and] include the following: 
*Direct assistance in the creation of M23 through the transport of weapons and soldiers through Rwandan territory;
*Recruitment of Rwandan youth and demobilized ex-combatants as well as Congolese refugees for M23;
*Provision of weapons and ammunition to M23;
*Mobilization and lobbying of Congolese political and financial leaders for the benefit of M23;
*Direct Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23;
*Support to several other armed groups as well as FARDC mutinies in the eastern Congo;
*Violation of the assets freeze and travel ban through supporting sanctioned individuals. 
... Since M23 established itself in strategic positions along the Rwandan border in May 2012, the Group has gathered overwhelming evidence demonstrating that senior RDF officers, in their official capacities, have been backstopping the rebels through providing weapons, military supplies, and new recruits. 
In turn, M23 continues to solidify alliance with many other armed groups and mutineer movements, including those previously benefiting from RDF support. This has created enormous security challenges, extending from Ituri district in the north to Fizi territory in the south, for the already overstretched Congolese Army. ... 
In an attempt to solve the crisis which this Rwandan support to armed groups had exacerbated, the governments of the DRC and Rwanda have held a series of high-level bilateral meetings since early April 2012. During these discussions, Rwandan officials have insisted on impunity for their armed group and mutineer allies, including ex-CNDP General Bosco Ntaganda, and the deployment of additional RDF units to the Kivus to conduct large-scale operations against the FDLR. The latter request has been repeatedly made despite the fact that: a) the RDF halted its unilateral initiatives to weaken the FDLR in late February; b) RDF Special Forces have already been deployed officially in Rutshuru territory for over a year; c) RDF operational units are periodically reinforcing the M23 on the battlefield against the Congolese army; d) M23 is directly and indirectly allied with several FDLR splinter groups; and e) the RDF is remobilizing previously repatriated FDLR to boost the ranks of M23.
I wonder when the last time was people got so excited about the publication of an annex to an interim report on something.

13 Tweets about M23 Commander Sultani Makenga

New Yorker reporter Philip Gourevitch scored a telephone interview with M23 leader Sultani Makenga last week (June 21) and seems to have tweeted his interview in real time or soon thereafter. While we await Gourevitch's latest write-up on the international community's continuing transgressions against Rwanda, I thought it might be worth assembling these tweets to get a sense of how Makenga views the developing situation:
UPDATE: Gourevitch writes to say that "multiple recent fdlr defectors told me m23 fight was reviving fardc ties w/ fdlr" and that his "point was fighting fdlr was not obvious rationale for Rwanda backing M23 since fdlr, which was weakened, could gain from it."

  1. Makenga: #M23 is military movement to enforce accord b/n govt & CNDP & "Bosco's a General who has a personal problem. We are not with him."
  2. Colonel Makenga quote #2: "I’m telling you that we [#M23] are independent. We are not with General Bosco - and we will never be with him."
  3. more Makenga: I think all ex-CNDP & soldiers of all armed groups & govt soldiers too will join [#M23]: "it’s in everyone’s interest" #DRC
  4. No Makenga surprise on alleged #Rwanda support for #M23: "That's false. That's propaganda." You mean Monusco, Western govt.'s, HRW? "False"
  5. Makenga: "We were in FARDC [Congo army] & they gave us our ammunition & arms, & everyday we get more ammunition & arms off FARDC" #M23 #DRC
  6. Would Makenga negotiate? "If one speaks of that at least we have to be secure. Thats why we’re here. We’re not here because we wanted war"
  7. Makenga: "The government that started it. It’s the govt that started killing." & now he said: "FARDC & FDLR are together"- again #M23#DRC
  8. Makenga said he's on a hill 8 km from Rutshuru and controls a lot of territory, but he doesn't want to take Rutshuru or Bunagana - "For now"
  9. Makenga says #M23 fighters are Hutu & Tutsi & from Katanga & Equateur & even Kabila presidential guard: "all who want change & speak truth"
  10. Makenga on Congo military: "It's not an army… an army w/out valor… an army that rapes, an army that steals, an army w/out doctrine."
  11. Is Makenga aiming to take more territory? I said I want to visit but he's so hard to get to. He said "Soon it will be very easy." #m23 #DRC
  12. chump-reporter blunder du jour: costs like 10x more to call Congo than USA from Rwanda so I ran out of airtime mid-Makenga-interview
  13. OK, there really isn't a 13th, but today Gourevitch did tweet in his own voice that "Only the FDLR is profiting from a revived alliance with Congo government." Which is exactly what Makenga said in tweet 7. Perhaps it's true, but I haven't seen this reported elsewhere. I've asked G for his sourcing on the revival of the FDLR-FARDC alliance, and will let you know if I hear anything. [Update: I've sent him several tweets he hasn't responded to.]

13 Ways of Looking at Africa

Stephen Ellis, whose book on Liberia I greatly admired, has a new book out called Season of Rains on Africa's prospects. In a post over at Huffington Post he offers 13 observations on the contradictory state of a continent that "just doesn't fit so many of the categories by which we both organize our world and try to understand it."

Kinshasa's Cite du Fleuve: Not one of Ellis's ideas. But I find 
at work in it a heroic imagination that breaks the heart. There was, after all, 
a time when it was possible to imagine Kinshasa as a city of the future.

  1. More than a billion people live in Africa. This follows several decades of the fastest population growth in the history of the entire world. 
  2. Soon, half of Africans will live in towns or cities. A modest African middle class of some 120 million people, each spending four to 20 dollars per day on average, is comparable to the size of the middle class in Africa [surely he means India?] or China, according to the African Development Bank.
  3. In 2010, Africa's average rate of economic growth was 4.9%.
  4. The rate of return on foreign investment was higher in Africa than in any other developing region in 2010. Africa attracted 4.5% of global foreign direct investment in 2010.
  5. Africa has more than 60% of the world's underused agricultural land.  Most of this is in just three countries.
  6. Nigeria is the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the USA. Angola is the number two supplier of crude oil to China.
  7. There will be over 700 million mobile phone users in Africa by the end of 2012. It is the world's fastest-growing market for phones.
  8. More than a quarter of the cocaine imported into Europe comes via West Africa.
  9. More than a quarter of the world's states are in Africa. Many of these are generally classified as 'fragile' states. Seven of the United Nations' sixteen peacekeeping missions are in Africa.
  10. The combination of economic dynamism, improved communications and political fragility is unprecedented. It does not fit standard models of development. The world needs to understand what is happening.
  11. Africa had few states in a modern sense before the twentieth century.  The great historical polities of old Africa - Ashanti, Ethiopia, medieval Mali and others - coexisted with wide areas with no states and no writing. The British historian John Lonsdale has written that "the most distinctively African contribution to human history could be said to have been precisely the civilized art of living fairly peaceably together not in states."
  12. Africa can be seen as the last great emerging market as easily as it can be seen as a fundamental challenge to the world's political stability.
  13. The title of Season of Rains is taken from a poem by the writer Simon Mpondo, who describes how, when the rains come, farmers scrutinize the behaviour of animals, plants and insects to work out what lies ahead.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Two Cool Photos

Louis Armstrong in Congo, November, 1960
Original caption: Leopoldville, Congo. Satchmo Hits A High Note. A star is borne in Leopoldville, the Congo, where American Jazz great Louis Armstrong rides on the shoulders of jubilant fans after a concert triumph. The famed Satchmo performed in the tense Congo capital as part of his African good-will-tour.  Corbis Images

Playing Pool, Somewhere in Africa
Date, origin, & photographer unknown. Help with attribution appreciated!

Friday, June 22, 2012

How Is this Rwandan Incursion Different from all Previous Incursions?

A little reminder of what we're 
talking about
I don't have time to write a long post today, but I want to make four quick observations and ask three quick questions. First, it seems to me that the latest revelations regarding Rwanda's involvement in Congo constitute something of a turning point. Rwanda has been allowed more or less to get away with its previous incursions. The excuse they gave for their presence in the Kivus--that they were there to fight off the remaining genocidaires--had a shelf-life a decade longer than it ought to have, but seems now to have expired.  At the same time, the Congolese government and military seem far more determined than they ever have been before about expelling Rwandan forces and subduing local Rwanda-phone militia. The US, too, is under pressure as never before to stand up to Kagame, as revelations of an internal fissure between Rice and State make clear. 

The bottom line? My best guess is that this is as good a moment as any for the Congolese government to reassert its authority over its eastern provinces, particularly North Kivu, and that Kabila knows it. If he succeeds, this period will in retrospect most resemble  the period from 1965-67, when Mobutu put paid to the various break-away movements that were plaguing Congo and consolidated his regime. We all know how that ended, of course, but there was a period until about 1974 or so when Mobutu was genuinely popular. Whether Kabila similarly succeeds depends, I think, on how history answers three questions:

1) Will international pressure force Rwanda to stop supporting M23? By naming several of Rwanda's top officials as responsible for Rwanda's involvement in DRC, this latest UN GoE report puts the legitimacy of Kagame's regime under question as never before. It may have been easier for Kagame to stage a strategic retreat from Congo if his top officials weren't put in the crosshairs. How he will respond is anyone's guess, but to judge from his recent, surprisingly intemperate remarks, he is definitely feeling the heat.

2) Can M23 survive without Rwandan support? Make no mistake: M23 is an effective, determined militia, and it is fighting for its life. The units sent to combat it are said to be among the Congolese army's most elite, but that is an unfortunately relative term. M23 could hold out for a very long time, even if they receive little support from a chastened and internationally sanctioned Rwanda.

3) How much support does the M23 enjoy among the BanyaRwanda of North Kivu? If a significant number of them view it as their sole guarantor against reprisal attacks and dispossession, M23 will be hard to defeat. That makes Severine Autesserre's piece in today's New York Times all the more relevant. This is not just a conflict between Rwanda and Congo. It is also about the various peoples or ethnic groups of North Kivu, about land use, property, political control, and citizenship.. If the international community is serious about wanting to put an end to this conflict then we must be prepared, as Autesserre suggests, to assist local groups, including NGOs and local and provincial governments, by providing them with the funding, logistics and technical capacity to resolve their own conflicts. Unfortunately, the question of whether we are serious or not is very much an open-ended one; not because we profit from the war (as many Congolese sometimes think) but because the region simply isn't a high enough priority for us, particularly at this moment of imperial overstretch.

Quote of the Day

Perversely, attempts to regulate the trade of minerals — like Section 1502 of the U.S. 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and a temporary mining ban imposed by the Congolese government from September 2010 to March 2011 — have enabled armed groups to strengthen their control over mines.
                     --Severine Autesserre,  "The Only Way to Help the Congo" in The New York Times

It seems another tea-party member is speaking out against the conflict mineral campaign. Seriously though, you've got to wonder when the cognitive dissonance is finally going to get to these guys.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Twittersphere Lighting Up over Alleged US Suppression of Controversial UN Report

A dramatic clash of accusation and denial has played out in the Twitter-sphere over the past 48 hours, with Reuters, The Guardian, and Foreign Policy all reporting that the US is suppressing or at least delaying publication of the latest interim UN Group of Experts' report, said to contain dramatic evidence of top-level Rwandan support for the M23 rebels/mutineers of North Kivu. Human Rights Watch chief Kenneth Roth is leading the charge, and in this exchange he and Susan Rice spokesman Mark Kornblau have at it: 

US blocks UN report that confirms  finding that military is backing  warlord wanted by .
1) No, false, US is NOT blocking RT  US blocks UN report that confirms  military is backing  warlord wanted by.
US Amb Rice, over opposition of State Dept colleagues, seems to put loyalty to Kagame over concern for  victims.
Mark Kornblau ‏@MarkKornblauNot true. You have it wrong MT : Rice, over oppo of State colleagues, seems to put loyalty to Kagame over concern for victims
 US position evolves as Amb Rice tried to block or delay report annex showing Rwanda military support for Congo warlord.
US  offers summary denials, but will US allow prompt publishing of report annex showing Rwanda complicity?
Now US is just delaying, not blocking, release of UN report annex showing  military support for  warlord.
No excuse for US delay of UN report annex showing  military support for  warlord. He's killing people now.
Note that Kornblau hasn't yet responded to Roth's latest accusation that the US is now stalling the report's publication. Good summaries of the point/counterpoint exchanges can be found on Laura Seay and Colum Lynch, who writes the Turtle Bay blog at Foreign Policy. (Old timers will recognize Lynch as the journalist whose 1997 interview with Kagame established that the "Kabila rebellion" was in fact engineered by Rwanda. UPDATE: My mistake: that was John Pomfret.) At the moment, the bottom line appears to be this: The report and annex will be published in full within a reasonable time frame, but Rwanda, in an exception to standard UN procedure, will be given an opportunity to reply to it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Obama Vastly Expanding US Military Operations in Africa

I normally don't quote at such length, but this piece by Nick Turse on NPR is astonishing:

One locale likely to see an influx of Pentagon spies in the coming years is Africa. Under President Obama, operations on the continent have accelerated far beyond the more limited interventions of the Bush years. Last year's war in Libya; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of airports and bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, including intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, secret prisons, helicopter attacks, and U.S. commando raids; a massive influx of cash for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; tens of millions of dollars in arms for allied mercenaries and African troops; and a special opsexpeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders, operating in Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic (where U.S. Special Forces now have a new base) only begins to scratch the surface of Washington's fast-expanding plans and activities in the region.
Even less well known are other U.S. military efforts designed to train African forces for operations now considered integral to American interests on the continent. These include, for example, a mission by elite Force Recon Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) to train soldiers from the Uganda People's Defense Force, which supplies the majority of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Earlier this year, Marines from SPMAGTF-12 also trained soldiers from the Burundi National Defense Force, the second-largest contingent in Somalia; sent trainers into Djibouti (where the U.S. already maintains a major Horn of Africa base at Camp Lemonier); and traveled to Liberia where they focused on teaching riot-control techniques to Liberia's military as part of an otherwise State Department spearheaded effort to rebuild that force.
The U.S. is also conducting counterterrorism training and equipping militaries in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia. In addition, U.S. Africa Command (Africom) has 14 major joint-training exercises planned for 2012, including operations in Morocco, Cameroon, Gabon, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Senegal, and what may become the Pakistan of Africa, Nigeria.
Even this, however, doesn't encompass the full breadth of U.S. training and advising missions in Africa. To take an example not on Africom's list, this spring the U.S. brought together 11 nations, including Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania, and Sierra Leone to take part in a maritime training exercise code-named Saharan Express 2012.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Obama's Africa Policy: A Whole Lot of Meh

Sandwiched as it was between the Washington Post's two-part expose on Obama's outsourced spy program in Africa and the State Department's red carpet welcome of Teodoro Obiang, the moral grotesque running oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, the White House could hardly have picked a more unintentionally revealing worse time to unfurl its new Africa Strategy paper. ( In an accompanying brief, the White House touts its accomplishments in Africa here.)

Clinton emphasized two aspects of US policy toward Africa as she introduced the paper at this year's annual African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum on Thursday. The first is commercial. The president believes "passionately" in Africa's future, she said, noting that the continent is home to six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies over the past decade. "I want all of my fellow American citizens, particularly our business community, to hear this: Africa offers the highest rate of return on foreign direct investment of any developing region in the world."

The other dimension of US policy toward Africa, she said, is its commitment to democracy promotion. Obama's own lofty, bear-any-burden meet-any-challenge rhetoric is worth quoting here, if only because it reveals how little policy makers have to fear from serious observers of US policy toward the region:
Our message to those who would derail the democratic process is clear and unequivocal: the United States will not stand idly by when actors threaten legitimately elected governments or manipulate the fairness and integrity of democratic processes, and we will stand in steady partnership with those who are committed to the principles of equality, justice, and the rule of law.  

Reactions to the paper were almost universally subdued, with most commentators noting how little new it had to say. Sarah Margon at ThinkProgress was one of the first to publish, noting that the most remarkable feature of the paper was "the absence of many new policies." Coming near the end of Obama's first time, "the main policy agenda closely mirrors the one Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson articulated many times over the last three and a half years." David Shinn agrees that the paper is more of "a solidification of existing policy rather than a statement of new policy." The one promising initiative is a campaign to mobilize the U.S. private sector to invest in Africa. But even that modest initiative may not accomplish much: "There is no indication that new resources are being made available to support the program within Commerce or by the U.S. Export-Import Bank."

Tom Murphy at A view from the Cave provides a helpful cliff notes version of the strategy paper, but ultimately concludes that "the strategy itself says very little. The US wants to support economic development, democracy, trade and peace. They could have saved a lot of paper and time just saying that."

Howard French notes the gap between the policy's stated commitments and the Administration's actual behavior: "In policy briefings for the press... and in Clinton's own statements, the promotion of democracy was given pride of place in a new American agenda for Africa, and this is where the rub comes between rhetoric versus reality." The Post's two-part series on US security  highlights America's continuing reliance on two African leaders, Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda,who have been in power respectively for 25 and 26 years. French is underwhelmed:
Both came to power by force. Both have resisted real democratization in their countries. And both have been prolific and mischievous meddlers in neighboring countries, where their adventures have sown death and havoc, routinely employed child soldiers for themselves or for allies within their regimes, and have involved lucrative arms trafficking as well as the organized pillage of natural resources.
French suggests that if the US is genuinely committed to democracy, it ought to privilege leaders with more democratic credentials than these, as well as lend greater support to democratic institutions at every level. If, on the other hand, "American policy is really about fighting an endless succession of enemies," then "candor should require admitting that building democracy is really important only when it is convenient."

Ironically, even the US spy program comes in for criticism, with Spencer Ackerman at complaining that AFRICOM's decision to outsource many of its routinized spy missions  from non-descript African airfields could lead to embarrassing fallout if anything goes wrong.

Given its obvious deficiencies, its absence of any new or fresh thinking, and the fact that it is coming at the tail end of Obama's term of office, it's difficult to understand what the Administration was thinking in publishing the Strategy Paper now. The whole thing almost makes you nostalgic for an otherwise un-lamented recent president, as this article from the Dallas News reminds us:
LUSAKA, Zambia — On a beautiful Saturday morning, Delfi Nyankombe stood among her bracelets and necklaces at a churchyard bazaar and pondered a question: What do you think of George W. Bush?
“George Bush is a great man,” she answered. “He tried to help poor countries like Zambia when we were really hurting from AIDS. He empowered us, especially women, when the number of people dying was frightening. Now we are able to live.”

Friday, June 15, 2012

Breaking: Will the Francophonie Conference Boycott Kinshasa?

Still to be confirmed:
Agence Ecofin is reporting that the Sommet de la Francophonie--the French equivalent of the Commonwealth Conference--scheduled to be held in Kinshasa this October has been moved to Mauritius.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Skirmishes near Bunagana, as Accusations Fly

Radio Okapi reports that M23 rebels successfully attacked FARDC positions at Rutsiro Ngonkwe Kanombe and Bweza Kisigari early Thursday morning. The two encampments were attacked simultaneously from the hills of Runyonyi southeast of Bunagana on the border with Rwanda and are "currently occupied by rebels."

Congolese newspapers and opposition figures continue to condemn Rwanda's alleged support for the rebels, with Le Potentiel accusing Kagame of "arrogance" and of continuing with his long-held plan to occupy the Kivus. Le Palmarès observes that Kagame is losing friends both within the region and internationally, as the UN, HRW, and even long-standing allies like the US and England make noises opposing Rwanda's support for the M23.

DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende repeated his accusation yesterday that Rwanda is behind the rebel movement, saying:  "Il est indéniable que les événements dans le Kivu ont été préparés à partir du territoire du Rwanda." He added that the two countries were on a collision path: "On se dirige vers une rupture de la paix entre notre pays et le Rwanda."

Afrikarabia interviews Alphonse Maindo, a political science professor at the University of Kisangani, who recently returned from a research trip to Bukavu et Goma. He says the war in North Kivu is likely to last a long time:  "Rwanda is seeking a new strongman in the Kivus," he says, and neither "the Congolese army, nor the UN mission will manage to bring peace."

In yet another indication that events are spiraling downward, Reseau Paix pour le Congo reports that Uganda rebels of ADF-Nalu and Mai Mai militia kidnapped a VIP and five peasants on Saturday in Karuruman, 80 kilometers east of Butembo. (And given the proliferation of rebel attacks all over eastern Congo, can I again register my plea for some Ushahidi-style mapping device of the ongoing conflict? I've been making this plea episodically since 2003.)

Laura Seay poo-poos the notion--now growing like kudzu among Congolese--that there's some sort of Tutsi conspiracy afoot to annex the Kivus. She points out that the Tutsi are far from united, and that Rwanda long ago abandoned its much-bruited expansion plans.

Meanwhile, the usual people are suffering: Relief Web reports that the number of IDPs in DRC passed the 2 million mark in March, for the first time since 2009. The charity MSF provides details.

Despite the rising tide of allegations and counter-allegations between Rwanda and Congo, a Center for Intelligence Sharing has opened in Goma; the VOA report is a little vague, but its mission seems to be to coordinate information about militia groups operating in eastern DRC.

In non-security related news, the DRC is set to introduce larger denominated franc-notes in the coming week, amid widespread fears that such notes will spur inflation. The fight for the position of spokesperson for the opposition appears to be favoring the UDPS candidate Samy Badibanga over UNC-chief Vital Kamerhe, who apparently failed in his bid to gain the endorsement of MLC boss Jean Pierre Bemba, from his cell in the ICC in The Hague. According to CongoNews, at a speech in Lubumbashi, Kabila party head Evariste Boshab called for the constitution to be amended to allow the president to have a third term.

Ms. Congo 2008, Christelle Mbila
Twenty-one young ladies are competing this weekend for the Miss Congo 2012 competition. The winner will represent the DRC at the Miss World competition to be held in inner Mongolia on August 18. The last time the DRC competed in the Miss World competition was back in 2008.

On Saturday, on the outskirts of Kinshasa, an unidentified metallic object fell out of the sky, creating a crater four meters in diameter and about two meters deep. This is apparently the third time such a thing has happened lately.

Quote of the Day

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose
for a photo during a reception at the Metropolitan Museum
in New York with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo,
President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, and his wife,
First Lady Constancia Mangue de Obiang Courtesy:
Our message to those who would derail the democratic process is clear and unequivocal: the United States will not stand idly by when actors threaten legitimately elected governments or manipulate the fairness and integrity of democratic processes, and we will stand in steady partnership with those who are committed to the principles of equality, justice, and the rule of law.  
       --Barack Obama, US Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa 

 Oh, shoot me now.

Look, the US has the same interests in Africa as any major power: access to primary resources, cooperation in fighting terrorism and transnational crime, cooperative votes at the UN, and easy right-of-way to Africa's air- and sea-lanes.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that: States are states, just as corporations are corporations. They exist in a global structure that requires them to behave in certain ways. The rights and well-being of Africans will become a paramount interest of the United States at roughly the same time that McDonalds starts promoting healthful vegan diets. I just wish that policymakers wouldn't make a pretense that it's otherwise.

Update: Kambale Musavuli posts some excellent examples of recent US support for democracy in Central Africa:
2010 Elections: US ally Paul Kagame of Rwanda had a sham election where he declared himself a winner with 93% of the vote.

2011 Uganda elections: US ally Yoweri Museveni was declared a winner of another sham elections, being in power now since 1986. He even as far as buying up votes.

2011 Elections: New US ally Joseph Kabila of Congo was declared the winner of a sham election where in some places he won with more than 100% of the votes

Update 2: In the You-Can't-Make-this-Up department: Guess which African head of state is coming to town next week? Yup, that one.  Vukasin Petrovic of Freedom House discusses why this is such a disgrace.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

If the status of Rwandaphone Congolese and the question of land rights isn't resolved at the grassroots level, we're not going to see a lasting peace in the region.
                                                Laura Seay, Texas in Africa

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Enough Gets It Right on Monusco

Enough makes three realistic recommendations for improving Monusco's ability to protect local populations:
  1. MONUSCO should deploy an early warning human rights monitoring service based in vulnerable communities to report incidents in real time as they happen.
  2. MONUSCO should improve patrols to go out into communities and not just stick to primary roads.
  3. MONUSCO should have rapid reaction Joint Protection Teams deployed at forward bases, to be sent to communities immediately following the report of an incident.
These are spot-on: feasible and actionable--that is to say, within the limits of what we might realistically expect of the international community, given its low level of engagement and interest in Congo. Let me reiterate (for the umpteenth time) that it's just incomprehensible that we don't have an Ushahidi-style real-time reporting mechanism in eastern DRC, after 14 years of near-continuous violence. By now, we should have a first-rate system in place to report on rebel movements, massacres and rapes, food insecurity, and so on. So I'm glad to see Enough endorsing that idea. 

I would also reiterate my call to have an established NGO (the International Crisis Group, for example) hire one or two experienced former US military officers to evaluate Monusco and determine what tools and human resources it would need to do a better job of protecting civilians. I suspect a big part of the reason Monusco's been so inadequate is political inertia, but that it will respond to recommendations to do more by claiming technical deficiencies. (They'll claim, for example, that they can't engage in forward patrols because they lack the right training or communication tools.) Having military experts assess their capacities will enable NGOs to better meet those objections.

Right now, the bulk of Monusco's troops congregate in hermetic, sealed camps that have almost no interaction with the local populations. Persuading them to go out into the field where they might get shot at won't be easy, given that their loyalties are (in actual fact) still primarily to their national army commanders back home rather than Monusco's officers. But their current do-nothing, hang-back-and-take-notes-afterwards approach is (at last!) becoming untenable. The Security Council needs to push for some serious reform before it agrees to re-up Monusco's mandate.

Attacks on Rwandaphones Increasing

Last week I suggested that the most worrisome long-term consequence of the current conflict in North Kivu would be the growth of anti-BanyaRwanda violence. Today, IrinNews reports that ethnic massacres of BanyaRwanda have killed more than 100 since mid-May: 
 More than 100 people have been killed and thousands displaced in ethnically motivated massacres in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since mid-May, according to government officials. 
Bigembe Turikonkinko, the sector chief of Katoyi in North Kivu's Masisi territory, has recorded the details of 120 people, primarily women and children, who were killed in 12 village massacres carried out between 17 and 22 May in Katoyi and its environs. 
The police commissioner in Katoyi, Capt Lofimbo Raheli, says the attacks were carried out by a coalition of two Mai-Mai groups: the Raia Mutomboki, until this year only operational in South Kivu, and the Mai-Mai Kifuafua. According to Raheli, this Mai-Mai alliance is believed to be operating as a collective of smaller groups targeting speakers of Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda. 
 Laura Seay tweets that she is working on a post about the recrudescence of anti-Rwandaphone prejudice in the Kivus.

Update: And Laura's piece is here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

War of Words Progresses; Real War, not so much

Overview of Humanitarian Situation in DRC
A month or so into Bosco Ntaganda's rebellion/mutiny, and tempers all around are fraying. Lambert Mende, the DRC government spokesman, said on Saturday that hundreds of the M23 rebels had been trained in Rwanda and that Kigali was turning a blind eye to a "conspiracy" against Kinshasa. Congo PM Matata Ponyo added that the Congolese armed forces were all set to defeat the enemy when they were "astonished to see that the enemy force was increasing." Speaking to the media in Goma Sunday, Ponyo said that a "neighboring country’s territory" had been used for training and infiltration of the rebels. He said the government would use force to dislodge the rebels of the M23 movement from what he described as their last holdout - a range of hills on the borders of North Kivu, Rwanda and Uganda. He did, however, indicate that he favored a diplomatic response toward Rwanda. « Il faut continuer à combattre les mutins, et en même temps chercher les voies diplomatiques avec le Rwanda ».

Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda's foreign minister, rejected accusations of Rwandan involvement: "Rwanda has no interest in meddling in the internal affairs of the Congo. We understand that the government in the DRC is facing multiple challenges on several fronts and that using Rwanda as a scapegoat is an attempt to distract and deflect attention away from these domestic crises," she said.

It's a nasty dig, considering how the Rwandan government typically treats its own opposition, but not necessarily false. The grumbling in Kinshasa is growing ever louder, with more than a few voices re-circulating old rumors about Kabila's parentage and questioning his loyalties. Also increasing in volume are allegations of US and English support for Rwanda and claims they are planning the Balkanization of Congo.

The government is clearly walking a tightrope; it's trying to satisfy domestic calls for retaliation against Rwanda without alienating the international community.  RFI asked an unnamed government minister if the government was prepared to get tough against Rwanda:  « C’est très difficile », avoue un conseiller ministériel. « Pour cela, il faudrait que nous soyons bien épaulés par la communauté internationale ». « Le régime rwandais bénéficie de beaucoup de soutien, bien plus que nous », ajoute-t-il.

The International Crisis Group has published a blistering critique of Monusco. In an open letter to the Security Council, the ICG writes that Monusco has lost credibility on several fronts and urgently needs to reorient its efforts if it is not to become a $1.5 billion empty shell (echoes of Mushikiwaba!). The letter calls on the Security Council to demand Bosco's arrest, insist on local and provincial elections under a reconstituted CENI, and consider consequences for "parties that do not cease support" for the rebels--all as conditions for re-upping Monusco's mandate. However, the letter doesn't specify what leverage the international community has available to effectuate these demands; that it tip-toes around even naming Rwanda as the party supporting the rebels is indicative of the challenge.

Ironically, considering how contentious their relationship has been in the past, the Congolese government has of late been pleased with the cooperation it's received from Monusco in preserving peace and security in the east. At Sunday's press conference, Matata Ponyo praised Monusco's protection of Bunagana against the mutineers: «Nous sommes satisfaits de la collaboration entre les militaires congolais et les forces de la Monusco » he said.

Theordore Trefon writes that continuing violence in the east is undermining the credibility of the prime minister, a previously respected technocrat appointed by Kabila as a sop to the international community in the aftermath of the elections. He notes a string of recent failures:
Matata lost credibility when a two-day transport strike brought Kinshasa to a standstill last month.
The World Bank suspended budgetary support in response to the poor management of the post-election crisis.
The UK government at the end of 2011 announced it would double its aid to Congo in 2012 but in March backtracked on that plan.
Bits of good news: Radio Netherlands tells how a young entrepreneur in Bas Congo turned  "cemeteries" of unharvested mangoes into a thriving juice business; scientists are making progress on de-toxifying exploding lakes that contain poisonous carbon dioxide and methane gas (of which Lake Kivu is one); and 10,000 people attended the closing act of Kinshasa's first comedy festival on Sunday, entitled "General Elections in the very, very Democratic Republic of Gondwana."

Friday, June 8, 2012

War Backgrounders

Several news outlets today provide backgrounders on military developments in eastern Congo. The excellent Jonny Hogg at Reuters focuses on the Rwandan connection to the rebel movement and emphasizes the possibility of a return to all-out war. He suggests the mutiny began after Kinshasa was prompted to arrest Ntaganda by the US and Britain as quid pro quo for their acquiescence to Kabila's contreversial re-election. Rwanda supports the rebels to keep a buffer between itself and the remaining FDLR, he says, and to maintain a stake in the Congo's mineral wealth. Gary Busch reviews the history of the Congo wars at and argues that the violence is an outcome of the continuing resource plunder by neighboring countries, sponsored by--you guessed it--England and the US. If you're keeping score, this means that the anglophone powers pushed Kabila to launch a war against their own surrogate regimes in central Africa in order to legitimize their support for him.

At, Jessica Hatcher deplores the outbreak of interethnic violence in North and South Kivu; according to an Oxfam policy advisor, the security situation in eastern DRC is "the worst it’s been for several years. Progress made is being lost as previously stable areas are becoming increasingly insecure.” Monusco's military spokesperson says that the "logic of reprisal" is fueling the killings in North Kivu, with the FDLR murdering civilians as revenge for the military's attacks on them.  FranceActualite reports that killings have also increased in South Kivu; it reports that the FDLR slaughtered 32 people in a village near Bunyakiri in mid-May.

PM Matata Mpoyo is reported to have ruled out negotiations with the rebels and is seeking a definitive military solution to the problem, reports Radio Okapi. Defense Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo also promised to combat the rebels. Both men, interestingly, made their declarations in villages where fighting has recently taken place. I can't remember the Congolese government ever having promised to take the fight to the rebels so forcefully before. With the opposition in Kinshasa rallying around the flag, it may be just in time.

Quote of the Day

«Le gouvernement va mettre à la disposition des FARDC tous les moyens militaires nécessaires pour combattre le M23 et mettre militairement fin à la guerre au Nord-Kivu»,
       --Premier ministre congolais Augustin Matata Ponyo, jeudi 7 juin, à Bunagana.

"The government will provide the army with all military means necessary to combat the M23 and put an end to the war in North Kivu."
                --Congolese Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo, June 7, in Bunagana

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Keeping an Eye on Ituri

The military offensive in North Kivu has attracted the lion's share of attention, but developments in Ituri are troubling. Le Potentiel has the story about the emergence of a new militia, the "Coalition des groupes armés de l’Ituri" or Cogai. It claims that Uganda is again stirring up trouble between the Hema and Lendu.

M23 Retain Positions in Virunga

Radio Okapi reports that M23 rebels continue to occupy their stronghold east of Virunga National Park. This is consistent with Stearns' reporting that the Congo military's attacks have thus far been ineffectual.

Non-Rhetorical Question

Why have efforts to bring Ushahidi-like real-time reporting on military and food insecurity in eastern Congo never come to fruition?

Here's one effort to map out the problems in CAR. Surely local reporting and cell phone connectivity isn't better in CAR than it is in the Kivus?

Is Africa's Growth Benefiting its People?

The emerging consensus that Africa's growing economy signals the emergence of a middle-class comes in for criticism from the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

Over to you, Howard French.

Congo News Digest

Dominating headlines in Kinshasa this week was the Human Rights Watch report blaming Rwanda for the insecurity in the Kivus. While the papers condemned Rwanda for its support for the M-23 rebels, they focused most of their ire on the Congolese government, not only for its failure to protect Congolese, but for its refusal to clarify its position vis-a-vis its tiny but powerful neighbor. Le Potentiel called on Kabila to descend from his ivory tower; La Trompette decried the government's torpor. The National Assembly's decision to hold the security debate in camera was also roundly condemned, with Le Phare noting that « la rétention volontaire des informations sur la guerre de l'Est s'est révélée inutile ».

The international community has been surprisingly forceful in its condemnation of Rwanda. The Forum des As reports that the Belgian ambassador to the DRC told Prime Minister Matata Ponyo that Belgium denounces all interference in Congolese affairs:  « La Belgique dénonce toute ingérence en RDC ». The US issued its own statement on Wednesday, saying: "We support the Congolese government’s efforts to discourage further defections and to bring to justice alleged human rights abusers among the mutinous forces, including Bosco Ntaganda. These efforts are an essential step toward developing a disciplined and unified Congolese army and bringing a sustainable peace to the DRC." Even the Enough Project, long criticized for its refusal to condemn Rwanda for its past transgressions, is now calling on the US to reevaluate its relationship with that country.

There are signs this emerging international consensus has thrown Kigali on its back foot. Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo gave an interview to Jeune Afrique yesterday in which she alternately denied reports alleging Rwandan support for M23 as "completely irresponsible" and sought to allay fears that relations between Kigali and Kinshasa were breaking up: "Notre relation est ancienne. Nous avons tout fait pour préserver la stabilité de cette région, et cela ne changera pas. Nous sommes toujours prêts à contribuer à régler le problème si le Congo le demande. Nous continuons d'en discuter."

What's surprising about the intensity of the international reaction is that this may be one instance in which Rwanda can actually claim innocence. The initial reporting on Monusco's leaked memos seems to have exaggerated the extent of Rwanda's official involvement, while the HRW report tip-toes up to but never actually accuses the Rwandan military or government of supporting the rebels, instead blaming "some Rwandan military officials." It does seem as if the support provided to the rebels was pretty amateurish: the troops Rwanda is said to have provided M23 consisted, apparently, of unemployed Hutu youth rounded up on one side of the border and dropped off on the other.

In the meantime, it seems reasonably clear that DRC government is at last getting serious about re-establishing its hegemony in North Kivu. The arrival in Goma today of Prime Minister Matata Ponyo, Defense Minister Alexandre Lubal, and Monusco commander Chander Prakash, coming on the heels of yesterday's visit by eight other senior government ministers, is a pretty clear indication of the priority the government is giving to the initiative. Reports on military progress so far are mixed. The units deployed to the region are earning praise from the locals for being more competent and professional than usual; but their battlefield success has been mixed.

With Rwanda on its back foot and Congo moving aggressively forward, I don't see much danger of the conflict reigniting the Congo-Rwanda war. It seems more likely that Rwanda will chose to lie low, sacrifice Ntaganda, and look to the long term. More worrisome is the danger to the Banyarwanda of continuing  conflict in the region. I can't imagine that the international community will follow up on this (Congo just isn't a high enough prirority), but I do wish we would focus on peacebuilding and reconstructing inter-community relations in North Kivu.  If we don't North Kivu could become a site of inter-communal bloodletting for years to come.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Quote of the Day

The none-too-diplomatic foreign minister
"This billion-dollar-a-year operation makes up one quarter of the UN's entire peacekeeping budget, and yet it has been a failure from Day One. Instead of pursuing its mandate to eradicate the FDLR menace and help stabilize the region, MONUSCO has become a destabilizing influence, primarily concerned with keeping hold of its bloated budget and justifying its ongoing existence."
                   --Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushiwabo

Global Food Surpluses and Deficits, by Region

Intriguing chart, from Cargill, by way of The Economist:

Recent Publications

International Rivers' new report criticizes the World Bank's planned infrastructure program for the Congo: "Will the new infrastructure strategies of the World Bank and the Group of 20 address the needs of the poor, or will they entrench the power of privileged groups?" One guess what they conclude.

ACIDH's report on Floribert Chibeya's assassination concludes that the military-run investigation thus far has failed to identify the true authors of the crime.

Eugene Bakama Hope and Alexander White have published a book regarding the appointment of a special court to try crimes against humanity committed in Congo during the first and second war, as described in the Mapping Report. This first part of the book examines the nuts-and-bolts experiences of Kosovo, East Timor, Bosnia and Cambodia with special courts; the second part focuses on how lessons from these experiences can best be adapted for the Congolese situation.

The Congolese NGO Actions des Chretiens pour la Pomotion de la Paix et du Development, or ACPD, is out with a very detailed report on the security situation in eastern Congo. It pays particular attention to the motives of the various military actors.

The National Democratic Institute recently published a report on the most important economic, social and political concerns of Congolese, based on 12 focus groups conducted shortly before the election. It found that Congolese are primarily concerned about their economic subsistence: "They want jobs, security, and the economic growth that accompanies stability." No surprise there: the belly is primordial.

Daily Links

Press Briefing: A hundred or so Congolese demonstrated in Paris this weekend demanding that Francois Hollande not attend the Francophonie Summit set for Kinshasa later this year. Afrikarabia says the demonstration was marred by the presence of some members of Mobutu's government and notes that the French ambassador to DRC has indicated that France has every intention of participating in the Summit.

Various outlets report on the ambitious first 100-day roadmap of the government announced last month by Prime Minister Matata Ponyo. (For a good analysis see Trefon.) The roadmap outlines six goals to further the government's agenda of promoting redistribution of income with sustainable growth. Most journals are suitably skeptical, but some are hopeful that the goals may inject some needed accountability into the political system. L'Avenir calls the PM's roadmap a "sword of Damocles" hanging over the newly named ministers, "who are now accountable to the whole nation," while La Republique calls it a crazy stunt.

Congo Opinion reports that the CNDP has resigned from the presidential majority coalition in the national assembly.

Le Congolais reports that the opposition, including UDPS-FAC and the UNC, hasn't yet been able to agree on a spokesperson.

The BBC has a nice piece on rural Congolese women who have established local savings and loan associations. They receive training from an international NGO but all the money they assemble and loan out to each other is their own.

Uhaki News reports that food prices are shooting up in Goma, as a result of the region's growing insecurity.

This past weekend was the second anniversary of Floribert Chibeya's assassination, which was observed in Kinshasa with a mass and a convocation. An op-ed in Le Potential notes that his killer remains unknown. The executive director of Vois des Sans Vois, Rostin Manketa, took the occasion to call on the national assembly to pass a bill to protect human rights defenders.

In happier news, for the first time in 14 years, plans are in place to select a Miss Congo on June 23 in Kinshasa, to represent the country in the Ms. World contest in China this October.

Daily Links

HRW says in a new report that the Rwandan military provided weapons, ammunition, and an estimated 200 to 300 recruits to support Ntaganda’s mutiny in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo. The rights group also alleges that Rwanda offered shelter to renegade leader Bosco Ntaganda. Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo has denied these allegations.

Click on map for fuller view (HRW)

It's not clear from the initial reporting whether Rwanda offered Ntaganda military support before or after his defection from the Congolese army; nor is it clear from the reporting whether, if that support is ongoing, it is being channeled to Ntaganda or to the splinter group M23. (There is some skepticism about whether these two groups are as  independent of each other as they claim. Stearns is now reporting that Ntganda is in command of M23, even if he's not by their side.) The HRW report comes on the heel of last week's leaked UN report that indicated that the Rwandan military is providing ongoing support for M23.

However, Georgianne Nienaber is now reporting that the initial stories  (in the BBC and NYT) about that leaked UN report may have exaggerated the extent of Rwanda's involvement in eastern Congo. The latest comment from the UN says the BBC (and presumably the NYT) got it wrong. U.N. spokesman Penangnini Toure told Voice of America (VOA) that the UN report resulted from a "routine interrogation of the 11 men who had presented themselves to the UN and asked to be repatriated to Rwanda. That's all we reported and that's where it stops. The U.N. did not produce a report saying that Rwanda is directly involved in what is happening in eastern Congo," he said.

Radio Okapi is reporting that after a week of calm, the Congolese military launched an offensive yesterday against rebels of the Movement of March 23 (M23) in the hills of Runyoni, near the town of Bunagana in Rutshuru territory (North Kivu). Previous military initiatives have displaced tens of thousands of Congolese from North Kivu's Masisi, Walikale and Rutshuru territories. There is no word yet on how many have been displaced by this most recent initiative.

The impression I get is that the Congolese military has finally gotten serious about taking control of North Kivu and that Rwanda is no longer willing or able to support a counter-offensive using Rwandaphone Congolese as their sword and shield. This is good news for the territorial integrity of Congo, but will pose severe challenges for the long-term rights and protections of the region's BanyaRwanda, who have been treated as a political football since early in Mobutu's career.

Laura Seay pointed out recently that the conflict in the Ituris has been largely suppressed rather than resolved over the past four years. The status of the BanyaRwanda in the aftermath of the Congolese military's reconquest of North Kivu poses another local challenge to regional peace. I would hope that the international community is moving proactively to address these issues, but I suspect it isn't.

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Kambale Musavuli reports that ‎#ANONYMOUS hacked into the email server of TRAXYS, one of the companies implicated numerous times in getting coltan out of the Congo illegally in rebel controlled areas. I hope Anonymous and other black hats will continue to investigate corrupt oil and mineral dealing in Congo and elsewhere in Africa. They can do things bordering on the illegal, which established financial watchdogs, like Global Integrity or the Carter Center, can't do. Finding out more about how Africa's wealth is being sold off at fire-sale rates is too important a task to be left to the scrupulous.

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Radio Okapi has a story about how prisoners in Mbuji Mayi are being suffering from disease and famine because five times as many prisoners are being held than the jail was built for. The radio service is also reporting that the army killed six mai mai in Beni.