Friday, March 22, 2013

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch . . .

Fears that Rwanda might prevent Bosco Ntaganda's extradition to the ICC are dissipating. Paul Kagame has promised Rwanda's cooperation with the American embassy to ensure his transfer to The Hague. At a press briefing in Paris on Tuesday, the prosecutor of the court, Gambian Fatou Bensouda (or is it The Gambian--what is the demonym for people from The Gambia, The Hague, etc?), said Bosco's transfer should take place within two days--which is today, come to think of it. Neverthess, his transfer does appear to be proceeding apace. [UPDATE: AS OF 11 AM EASTERN TIME 3/22, BOSCO REPORTED TO BE EN ROUTE]

US Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson says Bosco Ntaganda’s removal is "important, essential, but not sufficient."  In a telephone media conference--to which I was not invited, thank you very much, State Department--Carson said, "The core issues must be dealt with, and there must be an ongoing commitment on the part of the leaders in the region, the countries in the region, to help in this cycle of violence and bloodshed that impacts not only the eastern Congo, but undermines the security and stability of neighboring states as well." A transcript of the entire conference is available below the fold.

Bosco's troops are said to be in utter disarray, with some 700 of them having fled the border into Rwanda at tk on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, North Kivu remains insecure and volatile, says Monusco, with the number of displaced rising to 810,000. In particular, a skirmish on March 15 and 16 between the army and Raïa Mutomboki  forces caused displacements in Rutshuru et Walikale.

The Council on Foreign Relations held a meeting yesterday on Congo, featuring Mvembe Dizolele, Tony Gambino, and--for a little variety--Ben Rawlence, author of the recently published Radio Congo.

The quick and dirty: Dizolele points out that the Kivus are less than 10 percent of the Congo, that the Ntaganda story is therefore a bit of a sideshow, and that the fundamental problem for the country as a whole remains one of bad and illegitimate governance. If you focus only on the narrative drawn from the problems in the east, he says, "You will never see the Congolese as capable, as people who have a sense of what they want and where they're going." Gambino says the US and the international community dropped the ball after 2006, when successful presidential elections provided the international community with an excuse to exit the place. Since then our policy has been one of benign neglect. We looked the other way as Kabila botched and possibly stole the 2011 election, he says, with the result now that the country works neither as a democracy nor "in a nuts and bolts" service-delivery way. And Rawlence says policymakers and the media are ignoring widespread insecurity elsewhere in the country, eg., Gideon's massacres in Katanga. "People want a story that they already understand," he says, and what's taking place elsewhere in Congo doesn't fit any pre-established narrative.

At one point, an audience member asked why international attention has been so intermittent and why so many people have been left to die. The panelists wrestled with the question, no doubt because they were trying to formulate a nice way of putting it. I'm not bound by similar constraints, so allow me to answer: Because no one in a position of power gives a damn.

FWIW: Introducing the panel was Mora McLean, ex-chief of the Africa-America Institute and Rutgers scholar, whose capsule history of the Congo included this aneurysm-inducing gem: "In 1965, with backing from Western powers including the US, Mobutu seized power from what had been an independent government led by Lumumba and Kasavubu and turned the country into a springboard for operations against Soviet-backed Angola and retained his position for 30 years …. "

The World Bank and the African Development Bank have promised $3.8 billion to finance development projects in DRC this year. The WB country leader, Eustache Ouayoro, says he's pleased by the country's recent economic progress, and that the Bank views the Congolese state's acknowledged weaknesses as a reason to do work with the state, rather than sidestep it.

Gecamines will be reviving a coal mine in Luena, in southern Katanga, between Lubumbashi and Mbuji Mayi. The mine has about 50 million tons reserves and had a peak production of 88,000 tons in 1990, before things fell apart.

Congo's Great Lakes cooordinator, Baudouin Hamuli, says the government is working hard to restart the mining industry in North Kivu, shut down since the de facto embargo imposed on the region's minerals since April 1, 2011. «Ce qui doit être fait maintenant c’est la réouverture des comptoirs d’achat parce que l’exploitation n’est pas interdite au Nord-Kivu. Mais, les comptoirs d’achat, pour des questions de conformité au processus de traçabilité avaient été fermés. Il faut immédiatement préparer la mission d’évaluation du site minier de Bisié », he said.

And here it is, your Revue de la Presse for Thursday, March 21, 2013:

Le feuilleton Ntaganda continue de défrayer la chronique à Kinshasa, raison pour laquelle le dénouement de ce dossier ne cesse d’être suivi à la lettre par les quotidiens paraissant dans la capitale Rd-congolaise.

« Transfèrement de Bosco à la CPI : les premières complications sont là ! », telle se trouve être la manchette du jour du quotidien LE PALMARES.

Pour assurer le transfert de Bosco  Ntaganda, Washington dit attendre que le gouvernement rwandais coopère et facilite l’opération conformément à ses engagements.

Or, à en croire notre confrère LE PALMARES, pour l’heure, le Rwanda divague, refusant de se prononcer clairement. Le départ de Bosco à la Haye dépend donc de l’engagement ou non du gouvernement rwandais.

« Après la reddition volontaire de Bosco Ntaganda : les Usa comptent sur la bonne foi du Rwanda », publie le journal LE PHARE. C’est l’essentiel de la conférence téléphonique animée mercredi dernier par Michael Pelletie, sous secrétaire adjoint de l’administration Obama, chargé des affaires publiques au département d’Etat américain à l’intention de journalistes du continent.

« Selon la Monusco : les hommes fidèles à Bosco Ntanganda sont en débandade », titre LE POTENTIEL. S’exprimant lors de la conférence de presse des Nations Unis mercredi 20 mars à Kinshasa, le porte-parole militaire de la Monusco, Prospère Basse, a affirmé que les hommes fidèles à Bosco Ntaganda sont en débandade, après avoir traversé la frontière rwandaise au niveau de Gasizi.

« Concertations nationales : le secret de Kabila, grandes révélations d’Aubin Minaku », écrit le quotidien L’AVENIR. Autour d’un diner offert aux professionnels des médias, le président de la Chambre basse du Parlement a dévoilé la pensée du chef de l’Etat Joseph Kabila, comme quoi ces concertations ne consistent pas à en faire un épisode long de triste mémoire à la manière de la conférence nationale souveraine (CNS), ni Sun City qui ont englouti le budget de l’Etat. Selon Minaku, Joseph Kabila tient à ce que ces concertations nationales soit une réunion comme toute autre.

Elles auront lieu sur base de la Constitution en son article 69 qui reconnaît au Président de la République le rôle de Garant de l’unité nationale, et donc de l’intégrité territoriale et l’arbitre pour le bon fonctionnement des institutions de la République.

En économie, le quotidien L’AVENIR écrit : « Après 60 ans d’existence : SDV-Agetraf devient Bolloré Africa Logistics Rdc ». Reconnue depuis des années comme la première entreprise spécialisée dans les métiers du transport et de logistique en Rdc, SDV Agetraf s’appellera désormais « Bolloré Africa Logistics Rdc ». Cette nouvelle appellation qui date de 2012 a été officiellement rendue publique le vendredi 15 mars 2013, au cours d’une conférence de presse organisée par Havas Média, à l’hôtel fleuve Congo.


March 20, 2013
Via Teleconference

MR. BENTON:  Thank you, and good afternoon to everyone from the African Regional Media Hub with the United States Department of State.  I would like to welcome our participants calling in from across the continent and media gathered in various U.S. missions.

Today, we are joined by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, who is speaking to us from Washington, D.C.  We will begin with remarks from Assistant Secretary Carson and then open it up to your questions.  To ask a question, please press *1 on your phone to join the question queue.  Today’s call is on the record and will last approximately 40 minutes.  And with that, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Johnnie Carson.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON:  Thank you very much.  I hope the audience can hear me.  I apologize for keeping all of you waiting.  I’m pleased to be able to talk with you this morning for a few minutes about the current situation at our Embassy in Kigali.  And I’d like to provide you with a bit of background on Bosco Ntaganda and his current status in the U.S. Embassy in Kigali.

Bosco Ntaganda is one of the most notorious rebel leaders in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He voluntarily walked into the U.S. Embassy in Kigali on March 18th.  We were unaware of his presence in Kigali until he arrived at our Embassy.  We allowed him to enter the Embassy compound, and he immediately asked to be transferred to the custody of the ICC in The Hague.

Since his arrival at our Embassy compound, we have been in touch with the Government of Rwanda, the ICC authorities in The Hague, the Dutch Government, and also the British Government.  Although the United States is not a member of the Rome Treaty, which created the ICC, we in Washington share the ICC’s values, principles and goals in its efforts to end impunity for atrocities and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We are equally committed to doing all we can to end the cycle of violence and impunity in the eastern DRC, a cycle of violence that has resulted, by some estimates, in the deaths of some 5 million people since the fall of the Mobutu government a decade and a half ago.

We believe it is important to accommodate Bosco Ntaganda’s request to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague, and we are asking for the full and complete cooperation of the Rwandan Government, the ICC authorities and the Dutch Government to make this happen as quickly as possible.

I’ll stop right there and take a few questions.

MR. BENTON:  Thank you, sir.  Okay.  To ask a question, please push *1 on your phone.  As we have quite a few journalists assembled in our U.S. Embassy in Kigali, we will go to Kigali first.  And if you would please state your name and affiliation before you ask the question.

Okay.  Embassy Kigali.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Are we live?  Can you hear us.


MODERATOR:  Okay.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hello, sir.  I’m (inaudible) from the BBC.

MR. BENTON:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  The Foreign Minister here in Rwanda is quoted as saying that the Rwandan Government has nothing to do with the transfer of Bosco Ntaganda to The Hague.  So it is between the U.S. Government and the ICC.  What do you say about that?  Is that likely to complicate the situation?  And how long are you prepared to have Bosco Ntaganda in the Embassy here in Kigali?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON:  Thank you very much for that question.  Our Ambassador in Kigali has spoken several times with the Rwandan Foreign Minister, and we have also had other diplomatic contacts with the Rwandan Government.  We hope that the Rwandan Government will work with the U.S. Government, with the Dutch Government, and with the appropriate international authorities, the ICC and the UN, to facilitate the transfer of Bosco Ntaganda to The Hague.

I think that we all share – the United States, Rwanda, the ICC and the international community – a desire to end atrocities and crimes against humanity, to end impunity, and to work for the arrest, trial and conviction of those who perpetrate these kinds of crimes.  So we look for the support of the Rwandan Government.

Bosco Ntaganda is in the Embassy of the United States voluntarily, and while the Embassy in Kigali is sovereign U.S. territory, we also recognize that that sovereign U.S. territory resides inside of the territorial boundaries of Rwanda.  So we do hope that the Rwandan Government will extend its cooperation to those international authorities and governments seeking to move Bosco Ntaganda to The Hague, where he has asked himself to go.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Ambassador.

MR. BENTON:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  My name is Edmond  --

MR. BENTON:  Go ahead.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  My name is Edmond Kajir (ph).  I work for the East African and the Associated Press.  Ambassador, I would like to know what would happen if Rwanda maintained the stand that it has nothing to do with Bosco Ntaganda?  And what are the other options, apart from taking him to the ICC?  And, Ambassador, just if you could give us the timeline.  When should we expect this action to take place?  Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON:  The timeline is uncertain, but the need for rapid and quick action is clear.  We have been told that officials from the ICC are, as we speak, en route to Kigali.  We hope that when these officials arrive that they will be admitted into the country, that they will be allowed to proceed to the American Embassy, that they will be provided appropriate diplomatic courtesies extended to international organizations and officials, and that they will be able to work to make the necessary arrangements to move Bosco Ntaganda out of Kigali and into the arms of the ICC.

We believe that it is important that cooperation be provided in order to demonstrate continued good faith in the effort to end the violence in the eastern Congo, also to live up to the elements of the framework agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa two and a half weeks ago by the leaders of Rwanda, the DRC, Uganda, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and others.  Cooperation and – is very important.  It is in the interest of everyone who is interested in helping to foster peace in the eastern Congo.  It’s in the interest of everyone who wants to end impunity, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in that part of the world.

MR. BENTON:  We’ll take another question from Kigali.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Ambassador.  My name is Prince Bahati (ph) from the Voice (inaudible) Radio in Kigali.  My question is, now that Ntaganda has surrendered, to which extent do you think the crisis in Congo is solved?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON:  The – if, in fact, Bosco Ntaganda is taken to The Hague, it will, I believe, help to contribute to the resolution of the problems in the eastern Congo.  It will take off the battlefield one of the most notorious rebel leaders, a man who has been dubbed by many in the media as “The Terminator,” a man who is accused of overseeing massive atrocities over a long period of time.  We hope that if he is taken to The Hague, it will be a symbol to others, rebels, that they will, if they continue to carry on their activities, be eventually caught and prosecuted.

But more has to be done.  More has to be done to rebuild stronger trust, confidence, and diplomatic relations between the states in the region, especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, but also others as well, including Burundi and Uganda.  That trust, that confidence, that strengthening of diplomatic relations is absolutely critical.

It is important also that these countries address some of the key and core issues that underpin this conflict – issues such as the protection of citizens, the return of refugees, the treatment of displaced persons, dealing with the issue of land entitlement, and also the issue of conflict minerals.  We have to make sure these issues are dealt with.  They can be dealt with within the new framework that has been put in place by the UN and by the appointment of the special – new Special Representative Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland.  These are key things that must be a part of a long-term effort to resolve the problem.

Bosco Ntaganda’s removal is important.  It’s essential, it’s critical, but it’s not sufficient.  The core issues must be dealt with, and there must be an ongoing commitment on the part of the leaders in the region, the countries in the region, to help in this cycle of violence and bloodshed that impacts not only the eastern Congo, but undermines the security and stability of neighboring states as well.

MR. BENTON:  Thank you.  Kigali, we’ll come back to you, but at this point we want to remind callers to press *1 on your phone to enter the question queue.  And we’ll take a question now from our Embassy in Brussels.  Brussels, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Yes, my name is (inaudible) from the magazine (inaudible).  Mr. Carson, have you spoken with the Congolese authorities?  And the second question, do you have any news about the other rebel, General Laurent Nkunda?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON:  Over the past 36 hours, our Ambassador in Kinshasa has spoken with the senior officials in the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Responding to inquiries about whether Bosco Ntaganda was in our Embassy, our Ambassador did talk with very senior officials in that government to confirm the information that I have just given you, that he was there, that he asked to come in of his own will, and has asked to be transferred to The Hague.  So yes, we’ve spoken to that government and we’ve spoken to other governments in Africa and to – and in western Europe as well to keep them apprised.

With respect to the other individual you mentioned, Laurent Nkunda, we believe that he is under house arrest in Kigali or somewhere in Rwanda.  That’s as much as I know.  He has not been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for some several years.  We don’t know his exact whereabouts, but reports that we have suggest that he is in Rwanda and is under house arrest.  That’s an issue you would have to raise specifically with the Rwandans.

MR. BENTON:  Very good.  Thank you.  We’ll take the next question, from The Christian Science Monitor.  Mike?

QUESTION:  Yes, hi, good afternoon, Assistant Secretary.  It’s Mike Sands from The Christian Science Monitor.  I just wanted to go back.  You repeated at the beginning of the call that you were hoping for cooperation from the Rwandan Government.  Is there any reason to suspect that the Rwandan Government will not cooperate, say, with the ICC officials who are en route or with your desire to shift Mr. Ntaganda to The Hague?  Second smaller question:  You mentioned that you had spoken to the British Government.  Can you tell me the nature of those discussions?  Thank you, sir.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON:  Let me just say that until all of this is actually completed, I will continue to say that we seek the full cooperation of those international authorities and governments who have a role to play in this transfer.  So I will – we hope that the Rwandan Government will do its part.  It is a small but significant part to ensure that Bosco Ntaganda is able to move freely from the American Embassy compound to the airport, where he will board a plane and go to The Hague.  Yes, he is in the American Embassy.  Yes, there are ICC officials en route.  But between the Embassy and the airport, it is in effect important that his movement, his transport in no way be inhibited or prevented.  And so there is a role and a responsibility that is out there, and certainly we seek that cooperation.

I would make one fact known that should be known to all of you as well, and that is Rwanda, of course, like the United States, is not a signatory to the Rome Treaty.  It is not a member of the ICC.  Rwanda has remained outside of it, just as we have.  But we believe that we share a common set of values with Rwanda, and those are to end impunity and to end impunity against atrocities and crimes against humanity.  Rwanda suffered, as we all know, an enormous genocide in 1994, one that is tragic and seared in the memories of all of us who care about human life and human dignity.  We would hope that that would also motivate them to ensure that individuals who are accused of heinous acts of inhumanity to others would, in fact, be brought to justice in a fair and open tribunal and process.  And so this is the reason why we continue to say that we share values with the Rwandans and we hope that these values will motivate them to ensure full collaboration in the safety and passage of this individual from our Embassy to the airport with no interference and with appropriate safeguards.

The British – with respect to the British, I will say very clearly that Britain remains, along with France, our two strongest international partners globally and in Africa.  We frequently consult with both countries and also the European Union on key African issues.  I myself have been in contact with my counterpart in the British Foreign Office, Ambassador Nick Kay, to give him a full set of details about what is happening in our Embassy and to ask whether they could and would be supportive of diplomatic efforts to ensure that Bosco Ntaganda is moved to The Hague.

These same kinds of conversations have been held at high level with the – with officials, Dutch officials in The Hague.  I’ve spoken myself to senior officials, including the Dutch Ambassador here.  Our Embassy colleagues in The Hague have had full discussions with him, and we’ve also, as I said, spoken with others and with ICC officials as well.

Our not being a member of the ICC does not inhibit us from trying to cooperate with them fully in areas where our principles and values are in full alignment.  I would hope that the Rwandan Government would take the same kind of stand that when, in fact, their views and values and principles are in alignment with the ICC that they would also cooperate.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. BENTON:  Thank you.  Just as a reminder now, to ask a question, please push – press *1 on your phone.  I will now take a call – a question, that is, from the BBC, Megan Mohan (ph).

QUESTION:  Hello, Ambassador, this is Megan Mohan calling from London from the BBC World Service.  Just to go back to the question from the Christian Science Monitor, is it safe to say that Kigali hasn’t give you reassurances that they will cooperate?

And secondly, have you known – do you know if General Ntaganda has been in contact with any of his colleagues or any of the rebel factions out – from within the Embassy?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON:  The second question first, and thank you very much from London and the BBC.  Bosco Ntaganda has not been in contact with any of his colleagues from our Embassy compound.  He does not have access to communications, or communications equipment to either receive or to disseminate messages.  And so no contacts with any of his colleagues have been made to our knowledge, and certainly there would not have been access to facilities to make contacts.

With respect to the first question, again, we have had very open and good contacts and communications with the Rwandan Foreign Ministry and with the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Louise Mushikiwabo.  They have been open with us and they continue to say and give appropriate assurances that they will not interfere with Bosco Ntaganda being in our Embassy or his desires to go to The Hague.  They will not interfere with him being in our Embassy or with his desires to go to The Hague, no interference in that.

What we are looking for is the reality of what happens in practical terms when the ICC officials arrive in country, how they are facilitated and received, how the modalities of transfer are made, and how Ntaganda is moved from our Embassy through town to the airport for exit.  These are the realities of what we live with.  Again, the next 48 hours or so will be critical in all of this.  So far, we’ve had no indications of any negative reactions to his being in our Embassy or to his desire to move to The Hague.  But we do have, very clearly, the practical issues that I have pointed out, and this is absolutely important that they be assured and guaranteed as they unfold.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  David, can we go to one more question, please?

MR. BENTON:  Yes.  So we’ll take a question from Peter Fabragas (ph).  Your line is open.

Peter?  There we go.  Go ahead, please.

QUESTION:  Can you hear me?


QUESTION:  The fact that Mr. Ntaganda went to your Embassy rather than finding his own way to The Hague does suggest that he thinks that the Rwandans would try to stop him.  Why did he come to the Embassy in the first instance?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON:  I do not know the answer to that question.  As I said when I made my opening remarks, we were unaware that Bosco Ntaganda was, in fact, in Kigali.  As all of you know, that starting sometime around late March 14/early March 15, some five to reportedly as many as seven hundred rebels associated with Bosco Ntaganda’s group moved across from the eastern Congo into Rwanda.  We did not know at the time whether Bosco Ntaganda and other senior lieutenants had moved across, but we knew that there had been a continuing round of infighting between elements of the M23.  Bosco Ntaganda apparently was among that five to seven hundred who moved across the border.  Most of those individuals are now cantoned in an area being watched and monitored by Rwanda, Rwandan soldiers.  And that is where we had left it.

We then found Mr. Ntaganda coming to our Embassy.  We did not know he was in Kigali.  We did not encourage him.  We did not know his whereabouts.  I suspect that he may have come because he knows that we are a symbol of fairness and justice and integrity in these kinds of processes.  But I can’t tell you because I don’t know and can’t read his mind.

This is – I’ve got to stop right now because of another engagement, but let me say that this is an opportunity for forward progress to be made in the battle against impunity for atrocities and crimes against humanity.  This is an opportunity to take a rebel leader and put him before the international scales of justice.  This is an opportunity to demonstrate to other rebel leaders that they will be prosecuted for the crimes and human rights violations that have occurred.  This is an opportunity to advance a little bit of peace and stability in the eastern Congo.  This is a time for Rwanda to demonstrate its commitment to adhering to the framework agreement signed in Addis that calls on greater cooperation among the regional states.  This is a time to use this as an element to foster greater confidence and trust between and among the states.  This is a time to help begin to turn another page in ending the cycle of violence.

The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo joins the international community in wanting Bosco Ntaganda arrested and brought before a court of law.  This is something that we and many others in the international community believe must be done.  We believe this is also clearly in the interests of the Rwandan Government as well.  This is an opportunity for all of those who seek justice and who are committed to peace and goodwill to step up and do the right thing.

MR. BENTON:  Thank you very much, sir.  That concludes today’s call.  I want to thank Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson for joining us, thank all of our callers for participating.  If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the African Regional Media Hub at AFMediaHub, all one word,

Thank you.

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