Friday, March 29, 2013

Round Up in Brief

Sorry for the brief hiatus. Been traveling.

Africa Confidential briefs on the remaining M23 rebels, some 1300 troops under the command of Sultani Makenga. For a round-up of tweets about Sultani from June 2012, see here. He's fortifying his positions around Goma and recruiting heavily, reports The Guardian. According to a UN official: "Makenga has been digging in, consolidating and going after new recruits. Everything feels very jittery right now. It's an unstable moment." Makenga is apparently demanding full reintegration of his force into the DRC army and a senior position for himself that would give him control of the mineral-rich North and South Kivu provinces. So, good luck with that.

The toll for last weekend's Katangan dust-up: 35 killed and 53 wounded, including 15 seriously. Not clear: whether all or nearly all of the dead and wounded were rebels and bystanders, or whether some were FARDC soldiers. In other words: was this a battle or a massacre? Also still not clear: whether the "rebels" started the violence or more or less peacefully arrived en masse at the city center to hoist the flag of Katangan independence.

Memo to Colonel Bristol: This skinny Chinese guy,
he's whipping your ass.
Every once in a while, it's worth remembering that the Congo could be a dynamo for the entire continent. It's not too late for the DRC to be catching a continental wave, says mine-owner Robert Friedland. The DRC is laying an fiber optic cable between Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, with the help of the US military snipers--ha, ha--I mean with the Chinese, of course. But the challenges of re-igniting the Congolese economy remain enormous, as this article about the difficulties of relaunching a sugar cane processing plant in South Kivu makes plain.

Incidentally, this is precisely why the wars in the Congo--which generally feature so few actual battles--have nevertheless proven so deadly. In places like eastern Congo war is, in effect, development in reverse. It takes away the few economic opportunities people have; The sugar cane plant gets ransacked and the owners decide it isn't worth re-opening, given the ongoing insecurity; but with the sugar cane plant gone there's no longer any income to keep the town clinic open; and that means that when your kid falls sick with malaria you can't afford the fifty-cent fansidar tablets; and that means the death toll keeps climbing upward.

Some kind of weird shit's going down between filmmaker Thiery Michel and Katangan governor Moise Katumbi over the (from what I can tell of the preview largely positive) film Michel made of him. My best guess is that Katumbi's not as upset about the few criticisms Michel included as he is pissed off the filmmaker put him in Kabila's crosshairs.

More tk soon on the proposed Monusco strike force. Promise.

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