Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quote of the Day

Andy, as you mentioned, obviously as we've noted previously, the U.S. Government supports the efforts of the DRC to end the mutiny from its army of a group calling themselves the M23, and to bring justice, the ICC indictee Bosco Ntganda and other alleged human rights abusers among mutineers who were reported to have forcibly recruited child soldiers. The U.S. is deeply concerned about the findings of the UN report that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to M23. We have asked Rwanda to halt and prevent the provision of such support from its territory which threatens to undermine stability in the region. Restraint, dialogue, and respect for each other's sovereignty offer the best opportunity for Rwanda and the DRC, with the support of their partners, to resume the difficult work of bringing peace and stability to the broader region.
And in terms of our contacts, obviously we have been in touch with the Rwandans. I don't have any particular contact to read out for you at this time, but we're clearly engaged with the Rwandan Government.
             --Patrick Ventrell, Excerpts from State Department Briefing

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Problem Lies not with Rwanda, but with the Congolese State

Here's a powerful quote from La Voix des Sans Voix: 
"La VSV ne s’explique pas que ce soit la Monusco et Human Rights Watch qui soient les premières à dénoncer l’appui du Rwanda aux mutins alors que notre pays, la RDC, dispose de nombreux services de sécurité civils et militaires auxquels un budget conséquent est toujours alloué chaque année. Elle pense que le manque, par la RDC, de maîtrise du contrôle des questions de sécurité à ses frontière repose avec acuité la problématique de l’échec depuis plusieurs années de la restauration de l’autorité de l’Etat sur l’ensemble du territoire congolais en général et à l’Est de la RDC en particulier."
My translation:
 The VSV doesn't understand how it is that Monusco and Human Rights Watch were the first to denounce Rwanda's support for the mutiny, given that our country, the DRC, has at its disposal numerous security services, both military and civil, upon which considerable sums are budgeted allocated each year. It thinks that the DRC's inability to control its borders is symptomatic of the government's failure over the past several years to restore the authority of the state over the entirety of the Congolese territory and of the east in particular.

Quote of the Day

Don't forget what you're celebrating today. It's that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn't want to pay their taxes!
                --Michael Cohen ‏@speechboy71

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Quotes of the Day

--Declassified cable from US Ambassador Robert Gribben to the State Department, dated 9/20/2003.

This paper will briefly describe (i) the human cost of the war in the DRC, (ii) the relation of foreign aid to Ugandan and Rwandan defense budgets, and (iii) the economic gains accrued to both countries. It will show that there has been ample documented evidence from 1997 onwards of Rwandan and Ugandan responsibility for gross human rights violations, and that major donors should have been aware of these crimes. This paper will demonstrate that the occupation of the DRC can not only be considered partly as an investment that provided high returns for both countries, but also that the continuation of Western aid implicitly condoned both their occupation of the DRC and the associated human rights violations. Arguments by the donor community about the futility of suspending aid to both countries were disproved when temporary aid suspensions were either threatened or implemented. Even if suspending aid had been ineffective, it seems hard to understand why countries that have the resources to invade their neighbors would need donor support.
--Timothy Reid, "Killing them Softly: Has Foreign Aid to Rwanda and Uganda Contributed to the Humanitarian Tragedy in the DRC?Africa Policy Journal, Spring 2006

Amount the US is providing Rwanda this year in direct bilateral aid, not including military programs: $240 million.

Good News, Bad News

So in the good news department, Congo's economy may grow at 7 percent this year, a point higher than earlier IMF predictions.

The SEC will finally issue regulations on Dodd-Frank 1502 on August 22. The wording of the SEC's notice is a little odd: It says the SEC will vote on "whether to adopt rules regarding disclosure and reporting obligations with respect to the use of conflict minerals." I don't think the SEC actually has the latitude to decide whether to adopt rules or not. This is presumably just some archaic way of announcing that the SEC's rules will be issued and voted on at a public meeting on the 22nd.

Francois Hollande's announced his intention of moving France away from some of its bad habits and toward regaining influence in Africa, according to Le Congolais. He's appointed diplomat Paul Jean-Ortiz and two Africa experts, Hélène Le Gal et Thomas Mélonio, to run his Africa policy. The best thing Hollande has going for him, say some Africans, is that he never participated in the Paris-Africa mafia that for decades dominated France's relationship with its post-colonial states.

That's it for the good news. The bad news:

The ICRC is reporting ongoing violence in remote hillside regions of North Kivu, which is forcing many people to flee. "The trauma connected with a hasty departure – over and above the lack of food and other essentials – should not be underestimated," said Mr Rauchenstein. "The fear of falling victim to violence or, for those who survive, of being attacked again, is very stressful."

Radio Okapi is reporting that North Kivu civil society is concerned about the presence of numerous armed groups of unknown origin in Rutshuru and Lubero.

The Inter Press service reports that some 200 Rwandaphone children may have joined the M23.

Donors upped Rwanda's aid budget by 7 percent this year, to some 300 billion Rwandan francs ($500 million). Rwanda's invasion of its neighbor seems not to have provoked any discussion among the donors about the wisdom of increasing aid.

Belgian Foreign Minister Suggests Joint Rwanda-Congo-Monusco Border Patrols

So what's happening in North Kivu? There have been various, isolated reports of military maneuvers on the ground, whose significance is difficult to perceive--at least from where I'm sitting, 7,500 miles away. But there have been few reports of outright clashes between FARDC and the mutineers. This suggests one of two possibilities: The first is that Kabila is going about things in a deliberate way, seeking some mutually satisfactory political accommodation with Rwanda while building up a preponderance of force in the region should he need to call on the military. If that's what he's doing, it's an impressive strategy: in the face of a provocation that would prompt almost any nation to issue an immediate declaration of war, Kabila instead chose the diplomatic route while carefully husbanding his resources in the eventuality of conflict.

The alternative is that not much appears to be happening because not much is happening. It may be that Kabila's government is simply too lethargic to meet the mutineers' threat, that the government and opposition are so preoccupied with their real job--the acquisition and disposition of the state's resources to their clientele--that they can't muster up much of a reaction to the latest incursion.

At the moment, the second possibility seems the more likely, unfortunately. The government's general indolence, coupled with the very modest attention this part of the world receives, means that the conflict is likely to go on going on, inconclusively, for months if not years ahead. That's disappointing.

I had hoped things were otherwise. I was impressed a few weeks ago by the Congo's initial reaction to the mutiny. They dispatched senior officials to North Kivu, who gave forceful speeches at towns on or near the frontline. And there were early indications were that the forces FARDC had summoned to deal with the situation were qualitatively superior to the normal run: journalists quoted locals impressed that the new troops weren't hitting them up for cash. It seemed for a while that Congo was actually behaving like a state. 

The Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, in Bujumbura to attend Burundi's 50th anniversary celebration, floated the idea of establishing some sort of joint Rwandan-Congolese-Monusco force patrolling the border. "According the the UN and other sources, Rwanda is part of the problem, which it denies. So now it's up to them to be part of the solution!" He promised to try to keep the problems of eastern Congo on the European agenda.  

Well, it's something anyway.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Congolese Migrants Head to Russia, Morocco, and Mexico

Two remarkable charts graphs illustrations, courtesy of Hans Rosling and the folks at

Where do Congolese go?
Out-Migration from the DRC: Remarkably, the Russian Federation is the leading destination, 
followed by Morocco  and Mexico
Where do people who immigrate to Congo come from?
Migration into DRC: Fewer surprises here, with South Africa R of Congo, and Zambia in the lead

Lambert Mende: No anti-Tutsi Sentiment Allowed

Interesting to come upon this in today's press review: The normally outspoken Press Minister Lambert Mende has banned until further notice the publication of Le Journal on grounds of inciting ethnic hatred. He said an article on page two of the paper "stigmatizes an entire community for the faults of certain of its members." He added that the government understands that no ethnic group is responsible for criminal acts, which are instead committed by individuals within the country. "We are acting to protect public order and the rights of all ethnic groups because that is our responsibility. We are, as the government, responsible for the safety and well being of all 404 ethnic groups in this country."

Now if I could only find the story that so provoked the minister.

The original Radio Okapi story about the ban continues below the fold (in French):

The Most Important Post You'll Read on Congo this Week

I know war and rebellion are more enthralling than cassava disease and livestock viruses, but there are worrying indications that these infections are proliferating throughout central Africa. Remember that some 40 percent of children in eastern Congo are already stunted, meaning that they are so malnourished that their body mass index is two full standard deviations below the norm. Child malnutrition is associated with approximately 60 percent of under-five mortality in Sub-Saharan African countries. So when crops fail, when goat herds die off, Congolese (and Ugandan, Rwandan, Burundian, etc) peasants don't just drive to the nearest supermarket to get what they need. They don't just line up at the nearest Red Cross station for provisions. They suffer. They go hungry. They get sick. They die.

Here's a piece in about banana wilt disease in Uganda, and about the government's lack of necessary funds to handle the crisis. What's true of Uganda must, of course, be even more true of DRC:

Kampala — Lack of funding has stalled a campaign to eliminate a deadly bacterial banana wilt disease that has spread to "worrying levels" in Uganda, threatening the food security of up to 14 million consumers of bananas as a staple food, say scientists.
According to a scientist at the country's premier agricultural research institute, the disease - known as the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) - can only be contained if funding of up to US$1 million per year is secured for the fight against its spread.
Jerome Kubiriba, a research officer in charge of banana bacterial wilt disease at Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), said if the disease continues to spread, production of cooking bananas (known locally as 'matooke', a major staple food in much of the country) could be halved over the next 10 years.
Studies show that annual consumption of bananas in Uganda is the highest in the world at about 0.7kg per person per day.
"Funding of at least $1 million annually would effectively save bananas worth over $200 million annually," said Kubiriba.
"The government of Uganda used to support this effort significantly, [but] this support has drastically reduced. Even donor support dwindled since 2008. Until that time, the disease had been kept under control in major banana growing areas but it has since increased to worrying levels."
And here's a piece about the small ruminant disease, from an AP story that appeared in the Washington Post:
 ROME — A U.N. agency has warned that a livestock epidemic in Congo that has killed more than 75,000 goats is the worst in a decade and is now threatening goats and sheep in neighboring countries.
The disease, called peste de petit ruminants, or PPR, is highly lethal, with an 86 percent mortality rate among goats. It is caused by a virus that is similar to measles in humans.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said 1 million goats and 600,000 sheep are at risk of contracting the disease. To protect them, farmers have been moving their herds away from infected villages, but that has only spread the epidemic to healthy flocks of animals.

For my earlier postings on the topic, see here and here.

Kabila's Unenthralling Independence Day Speech

Two months after the mutiny/rebellion began, threatening the territorial integrity of his country and pushing 200,000 people off their homes, Kabila has finally spoken out about it. The occasion: The Congo's 52nd Independence Day. 

To say that his speech is not exactly an exercise in Churchillian rhetoric would be putting it mildly. But what's most remarkable is his refusal to name Rwanda as the aggressor.

NOTE that his speech starts at the 50 second mark. Watch out at the beginning: the sound is awfully loud. (There's a word for this volume control issue among TV control room people, but I forget what it is. Help, anyone?)

Here's the money quote (my own rough translation--want a good one, hire Berlitz):
Our independence day is usually cause for celebration. Not this year. Manipulated by obscure forces, internal and foreign, our country is plunged into violence once again in North Kivu. This violence distracts us from the task of reconstructing our country and is forcing thousands of our citizens into precarious, life-threatening situations. I want to assure our co-citizens thus uprooted of our solidarity and support. On behalf of country, I want to say their  are our prirority and their security has no price. Whatever it takes we will pay. We will defend our country, and plant a tree of peace. We have diplomatic, political, and military actions underway, and they are reinforced with with humanitarian assistance.... I congratulate and salute our military forces for their sacrifice as they work to push our enemies out of our country. They will have the support of all of the institutions and the people of the entire country.
Our troubles in the east will not distract us from the other obstacles that confront us.  We will pursue vigorously pursue 5 chantiers and democratization of our country....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

More on the NYT Story on Women as Human Pack Animals

The New York Times featured an article a few days ago unfortunately entitled Women as Human Pack Horses in the Congo. Here's an excerpt:
Women like Ms. Maninga are a common sight on the streets of Bukavu, striking not for their looks but for the outsize burdens they carry. In French, they are les femmes transporteuses; in Kiswahili, they are called babeba mizigo. Whatever the language, the job is the same: Female carriers are human pack horses.
Several international surveys have rated Congo as the world’s worst place to be a woman. Often, these studies focus on gender violence. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health last year, 48 Congolese women are raped every hour. For years, various militia and rebel groups have used rape as a weapon to destroy communities.
Across eastern Congo during these years of war, women have acquired an added burden, that of bearing heavy loads. Horses, donkeys and trucks are too expensive, residents say*. The roads, if any, are so bad that the few miles between Ms. Maninga’s mountain shack and Bukavu are nearly impassable, except on foot. 

By coincidence, a friend of mine from Bukavu named Mubalama Massu** happened to send me a few photos on the same topic just a few days ago. I've attached them as a Youtube video:

*By the way, what is the deal with (the lack of) horses and donkeys in the Kivus? The NYT explanation that they are too expensive never made sense to me. After all, you see any number of cows throughout the countryside. I've never gotten a good answer to whether TseTse flies are a problem at that altititude. The absence of pack animals is hard to explain otherwise. Surely there would be an enormous economic use for them in the Kivus if they were weren't subject to sleeping sickness. After all, what do donkeys live on but grass and weeds on the side of the road. How much can the upkeep be?

**If you need a good local photographer in Bukavu, get in touch and I'll send you his contact info.

New Mandate for Monusco, Focus is on Training

Received this the other day from Andrew Hudson,  the New York director of Crisis Action, about Monusco's renewed mandate. Hudson says that NGO efforts to focus attention on training and professionalizing the Congo's armed forces are paying off:
The UN Security Council passed a new resolution this morning with a new mandate for MONUSCO. The full text is below – some interesting text on LRA, Bosco, elections, stabilization review and others. But just to analyze the SSR provisions in more detail as they alter MONUSCO’s mandate significantly:
It states that:
· SSR should be the primary focus within the stabilization and peace consolidation mandate of MONUSCO;
· MONUSCO should support effective coordination of all international partners involved in SSR
· The Congolese government should operationalize and implement, with the support of MONUSCO, a national and comprehensive vision for SSR
· The Congolese government should enter into a new partnership with MONUSCO on SSR
· The Secretary-General should report on how these SSR priorities are being implemented in his report in November.

Full text of Monusco's new mandate follows after the jump:

US Suggests Rwanda Stop Murdering Congolese, Wishes It Happy Birthday

If you were hoping that the US was going to buckle under pressure from HRW, Amnesty International, Global Witness, Open Society, and Enough, and actually do something serious about Rwanda's support for the mutineers of North Kivu, don't worry: Your prayers have been answered. The State Department issued this press release Saturday afternoon:

Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
June 30, 2012
The United States welcomes the release of the findings of the Group of Experts of the UN Security Council’s Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Sanctions Committee. We are deeply concerned about the report’s findings that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups, including mutinous elements now operating as the M23 armed group. Any such support threatens to further undermine security and fuel displacement in the region. We are also concerned about the report’s findings that the mutineers have forcibly recruited child soldiers.
Consistent with the UN Security Council’s arms embargo, we have urged all parties to respond constructively to the Group of Experts’ findings and have asked Rwanda to halt and prevent the provision of such support from its territory. We have also urged the DRC and Rwanda to implement the principles of the joint Congolese-Rwandan communiqué issued following the June 19 meeting of the two countries’ foreign ministers in Kinshasa. Restraint and dialogue in the context of respect for each other’s sovereignty offer the best opportunity to resume the difficult work of bringing peace and security to the eastern DRC and the broader region.

So there you have it: The US is "deeply concerned" about the report's findings. It is hard to imagine a more forceful indictment of Rwanda, or a clearer statement of America's passionate commitment to peace and justice in the region.

Of course, a funny thing about that press release. It seems June 30th happens to be Rwanda's independence Day. You might think a press release like that would put a bit of a damper on US-Rwanda relations, might even incline us to be a little sterner with them than normal. 

I'm kidding. No sooner had the US released its statement of concern than it released this  birthday card, celebrating America's close relationship to Rwanda. And this statement, unlike the other one, comes under Secretary Clinton's signature. After all, in the words of Auld Lang Syne, what's a little murder, a little invasion and plunder, a little child soldier recruitment, between us old friends?
 Secretary Clinton on Rwandan National Day
30 June 2012

Rwandan National Day
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Rwanda as you celebrate the 50th anniversary of your independence this July 1.
For years, Rwanda and the United States have worked together as partners and friends. We appreciate your contributions toward the future peace and security of countries such as Libya and Sudan. And we look forward to working with you to promote greater regional stability which is fundamental to Rwanda’s security and prosperity.
As you celebrate your independence, know that the government and people of the United States stand with you. We value this relationship and look forward to a brighter future for both our peoples.