Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Coming Anarchy?

The Congolese state seems to me be teetering on the edge of collapse, about to forfeit even the appearance of control over the country. Consider: Outbreaks of localized violence in the east are increasing; an inadequately manned UN intervention brigade is on a collision course against a determined, Rwandan-supported rebel movement; Katanga is openly defying orders from the capital while dealing with its own rebellion; and Kabila's power base in Kinshasa is coming unglued. It's possible that Kabila's regime will continue to muddle through, absent an effective challenger. But the state's hold on power appears as fragile as it's been since the 1996-97 war, and I would not be surprised if there were a coup or some sort of temporary state collapse within the next Friedman unit or so.

Bukavu Online reports that 57 Congolese soldiers died fighting the Union des Forces révolutionnaires du Congo (UFRC), in a battle for control of Chisadu, in Walungu, a mere 60 kms from Bukavu on April 24. Civil society groups are warning that the Mouvement pour la restauration de la démocratie au Congo (MRDC), controlled by General autoproclamé Hilaire Kombi, is threatening to take Beni even as the town's mayor appeals for calm. Walikali has become a free-for-all in the mineral trade, says Christophe Rigaud with Afrikarabia, relaying a report from Prince Kihangi Kyamwami of the NGO, Le Bureau d’Etudes, d’observation et de coordination pour le Développement du territoire de Walikale (BEDEWA).

Meanwhile, negotiations in Kampala between the M23 and the Congolese government appear to have broken down, amid demands from the M23 for a blanket amnesty and reincorporation on its own terms into the Congolese army. Civil society groups are warning that M23 is reinforcing its positions in Rutshuru and Beni in preparation for battle against the UN's intervention brigade. And Congo365 wonders if a military confrontation inevitable.

If a confrontation does take place, it may not end well for the UN. Nadine Gordimer is among many South Africans voicing doubts about the wisdom of their country's participation in the brigade. Thirteen South African troops were killed in the Central African Republic in late March, and questions continue to swirl about whether they were there to protect South Africa's national interests or Jacob Zuma's family's personal investments with ousted president Francois Bozize. Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former UN Force Divisional Commander for MONUC in the DRC, raises a host of troubling questions about the brigade in an analysis authored by Fiona Blythe:
“No one has conducted an analysis of why, over the last five years or so, MONUSCO has been unable or unwilling to fulfill its mandate of protecting civilians, and until we have the outcome of this analysis we cannot determine if the solution is an intervention brigade.”

“The issue is not that proactive operations are not already authorized, but that troop contributors are risk averse, and show time and again a lack of political will to employ a full reading of the mandate, leading to accusations that it lacks robustness.” In the end, “the mandate is only as strong as the will of the leadership and the TCCs to implement it.”

“Is one brigade to be responsible for enforcing peace through the use of force and the other not? Is one set of rules of engagement to differ from the other, and if not, why deploy a new brigade with the same rules of engagement and force posture as the existing one?”
Reviewing the litany of potential pitfalls analysts worry may be facing the brigade, Christophe Rigaud concludes with one of his own: If the brigade focuses its energies on M23, the 20 or so other rebel groups operating in the Kivus may paradoxically end with greater room and freedom to maneuver.

And Jason Stearns raises the possibility of a re-internationalization of the Congo wars, this time featuring overt conflict between two African military heavyweights: South Africa  and Rwanda. The humanitarian consequences would be appalling.

Quote of the Day

I have written before about Congo being policy shorthand for "hopeless situation the cognoscenti know we're not going to do anything serious about," but with the clamor growing for us to intervene in Syria, I think it's worth pointing out that we could save far more lives and put far fewer US troops in danger--and at much lower geopolitical risk--if we were to make a determined effort to help the DRC. I do wish someone would buttonhole people like Anne-Marie Slaughter and ask her to seriously answer this question from Obama. (Not, for that matter, that I think he intended the question seriously.) How is it, exactly, that Arab lives have now risen to our level of consciousness--as they did for example when we decided to intervene in Libya--but Congolese lives still don't? Why doesn't the situation in Congo  raise the specter of our moral failure in Rwanda? Why the all-but complete silence from the internationalist humanitarian crowd about the DRC?
In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, can we make a difference in that situation? Would a military intervention have an impact? How would it affect our ability to support troops who are still in Afghanistan? What would be the aftermath of our involvement on the ground? Could it trigger even worse violence or the use of chemical weapons? What offers the best prospect of a stable post-Assad regime? And how do I weigh tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands* who are currently being killed in the Congo?
*And by tens of thousands, he of course means millions.

Had Enough of Enough?

Alex de Waal at the World Peace Foundation takes one hell of a whack at the Enough Project:

Reclaiming Activism
For most of my adult life I introduced myself as an “activist” first and a writer, researcher, or practitioner of humanitarian action or peacemaking second. Then, about seven or eight years ago, I became rather uncomfortable with the word. Not because I had diluted my personal commitment to working in solidarity with suffering and oppressed people, but because a group of people, in whose company I didn’t want to be, were claiming not only to be activists but to define “activism” itself. I am speaking of course about the policy lobbyists in Washington DC, also known as “designer activists,” who took on the role of promoting certain causes related to Africa, and who arrogated to themselves the privilege of defining these problems and identifying and pursuing ostensible solutions. It was no accident that those purported solutions placed the “activists” themselves at the center of the narrative, because many of them were Hollywood actors—or their hangers on—for whom the only possible role is as the protagonist-savior. The actions they promoted all had one thing in common: using more U.S. power around the world.

I was not the only one to find this arrogation of “activism” offensive, demeaning and counter-productive. One of the most refreshing aspects of our recent seminar at the World Peace Foundation was finding out just how much the consensus among national civil society activists from Uganda and Congo, as well as Sudan, has coalesced around the view that the basic narratives and policy prescriptions of the Enough Project and its ilk are not only simplified and simplistic, but actually pernicious. Theirs isn’t activism: it’s insider lobbying within the Washington establishment using celebrity hype as leverage. They are not just a benign variant of advocacy, perhaps somewhat simplified: they are wrong.
The disquiet about Enough's style of activism and agenda-driven policy recommendations seems to me to be reaching a tipping point. The conflict minerals debate, for example, is all-but over among serious Congo researchers: Just about every serious independent researcher and NGO to have studied the issue reached similar conclusions: DF-1502 has done nothing to end the conflicts, harmed the people it was meant to help and helped the people it was meant to harm. The question is: Are Enough's funders listening?

To be clear, I probably have fewer misgivings about Enough's style of advocacy than some other scholars and activists. I don't mind them promoting simplistic narratives or enlisting celebrity spokespeople, for example, just as I don't mind anti-poverty groups that pull on heartstrings or environmental groups featuring polar bears desperately swimming toward ice floes. I don't even mind Prendergast's self-promotional style, or at any rate, not that much. I find it in poor taste, but I appreciate that it's incredibly hard to enlist Americans in causes far from home and about which they have no first-hand experience.  My quarrel with Enough is much simpler: The policy they promoted to help end the conflicts in the Congo--the conflict minerals campaign--caused irremediable damage to the million or so people who depend on the trade for their livelihood, while doing nothing to help end the conflicts. And what's worse: They were warned of the dangers their campaign would cause by knowledgeable, local experts, yet went ahead with it anyway.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Lake that Probably Won't Kill You (anytime soon)

Looks safe from up here
[UPDATED 5/6 w/ embedded video--see below] One of the most poignant memories I have of the Asian Tsunami is of a Sri Lankan official, in near-tears, trying to explain why his government hadn't anticipated the catastrophe. "We have three thousand years of court chronicles," he said. "There's no history of anything like this ever happening." 

I remembered that episode when I read that the Congolese government had temporarily banned fishing and bathing on Lake Kivu in February out of concern that carbon dioxide eruptions along the shoreline had caused a number of recent drownings. Kivu is one of three lakes in Africa known to experience periodic lake overturns, in which gas that has been dissolved and compressed in the water suddenly erupts from deep inside the lake, with potentially devastating consequences. Two small lakes in the Cameroons famously overturned in the mid-1980s, killing 1,500 people.

Lake Kivu is not only 2,000 times larger than those lakes—it is located in a far more densely populated area, with over three million people living along its shores. When I lived in Bukavu, I was always told the chances of an overturn were virtually nil, but a quick google search led me to an NBC article suggesting that overturns occur with reasonable frequency--on the order of once a millenium or so. Given the number of potential casualties, this seemed often enough to be a matter of concern.

So I wrote a half dozen scientists who have studied the lake to try to find out more about our state of knowledge regarding the lake's dangers.[1] On the whole, they seemed fairly sanguine. Here's what I learned:

1) The lake is currently stable, chemically speaking; the methane is sunk at the bottom of the lake and there’s virtually no chance of it spontaneously welling up However, there is some evidence that methane concentrations in parts of the lake are increasing, and on current trends this could lead to an unstable situation in about a century or so. 

2) The amounts of methane and carbon dioxide bubbling up around the surface of the lake are entirely normal, occur in many lakes, and present zero danger. There was almost certainly no good reason for the government to ban fishing and swimming.

3) Some monitoring of the lake composition and volatility is being done but more could and should be done. For one thing, we don't know whether the methane concentrations are increasing in a steady and predictable fashion. And we’re still a long way from really understanding what might trigger an overturn.

4) The geologic evidence suggests overturns occur on the order of once every few hundred to once every few thousand years (there's a difference of opinion about this). These would have devastated the lake’s biota, but it’s not clear how catastrophic they were beyond the lake's shoreline. What matters is how explosive these overturns were, and the evidence on that question is very hard to read.

5) There’s a real but tiny risk of catastrophe. Given the current chemical stability of the lake, an overturn wouldn’t happen spontaneously, as it did in the Cameroons, but would have to be triggered by a major volcanic or seismic event, such as an eruption from Nyiragongo, near Goma—which would of course be a catastrophe in its own right—or an underwater landslide associated with a major earthquake. Scientists have recently uncovered evidence of volcanic activity at the bottom of the lake in the north basin; this is a matter of an as-yet unquantified concern. That said, the lake experienced both an earthquake and an eruption in the past decade without triggering an overturn, so the dangers should not be exaggerated.

6) On the whole, methane extraction is not only a good investment (the methane in the lake could be worth $20 billion), but probably wise ecologically, in that de-gassing the lake under controlled conditions reduces the already minimal risk of an overturn. One concern: that the de-gassed waters be re-infused into the lake so as not to disturb its delicate surface biochemistry in a way that that harms Kivu’s small fishing industry.

7) Bottom line: Given current conditions, the risks of an overturn are minimal. That said, should a massive volcanic event occur all bets would be off. The problem is that there would be no way to predict whether the eruption would trigger an overturn. Nor, given the short warning time volcanoes provide, would there be any realistic way to get the millions of Kivu-proximate residents to safety, even if the decision were made to evacuate.

Oh, and those rumors about the gas bubbling up and silently asphyxiating unfortunate fisherman out on their canoes? Old sailors’ tales.

[1] In particular, I'd like to thank Anthony Vodacek at the Rochester Institute of Technology;  Thomas C. Johnson, at the University of Minnesota Duluth; Martin Schmid at Eawag Aquatic Research; Alberto Vierra Borges, at  University of Liège Allée; and Jean-Pierre Descy, at the University of Namur, Belgium, who all gave generously of their time. Needless to say, all errors are my own.

5/6: I just came upon this video, which provides an interesting overview of the 
technical and political challenges of extracting the methane from Kivu. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Is Congo Spiraling out of Control?

Four reads today provide the most dire evidence yet that Congo is spiraling dangerously out of control. None suggests that an implosion is imminent; combined, however, they paint a picture of a government that is failing in every respect: unable to control its territory and in danger of collapsing or being overthrown in Kinshasa.

First, the ICG has an excellent backgrounder on last month's massacre in Lubumbashi. Money quote:
The unexpected occupation of Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), by 440 Mai-Mai fighters last month is another sign of the central government’s lack of capacity to govern, ensure security or pursue reform. The occupation, which resulted in 35 dead and 53 wounded, serves as a reminder that the country’s crisis is not limited to North Kivu, in eastern Congo, or to warlords.
 Second, Pete Jones has a sobering update on the Mai Mai Morgan operating in Ituri: "For nine months a brutal militia has made repeated attacks on villagers in remote areas of the Ituri rainforest. The Mai Mai Morgan, led by a man named Paul Sadala who likes to call himself Morgan, has created fear and suffering wherever it has attacked..."

Third, Agoravox details a confrontation earlier this week between Monusco forces and M23 rebels. The rebels blocked a UN convoy it suspected of carrying supplies for the proposed intervention brigade. The convoy was released only the arrival of heavily armed Monusco troops prepared to fight. The article also speculates about whether Rwanda and Uganda will continue to support M23 even after the brigade arrives. And it worries that the intervention brigade will be woefully underequipped for the mission en-tasked it.

Fourth,  Christophe Rigaud at Afrikarabia raises some troubling questions about the latest alleged coup attempt against Kabila, the third such in the past two months. Last Thursday, April 11, the government announced it had arrested 13 individuals plotting an attack on the presidential convoy. But the evidence against this latest group of coup plotters is thin, says Rigaud. Many of the alleged plotters are affiliated with veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi; he and other opposition leaders are claiming that this is simply an attempt to discredit them.

There are two possibilities here, neither of them good. The first is that the coup allegations are true. In that case, shadowy figures on the fringes of Congolese political society believe that the regime is weak enough to make a coup attempt feasible. The second is that the charges are trumped up, which means that the government is becoming increasingly paranoid and dysfunctional. It's hard to figure out which option is worse.

WSJ: "Opportunities for illicit gain only increased after passage of DF-1502"

Some readers might remember that I set out a list of predictions regarding the impact of Dodd-Frank 1502 back in February 2012. I wrote then that while a single correct or incorrect prediction wouldn't prove or disprove my overall assessment of DF-1502, they would constitute a marker for future reference and a baseline of credibility.  My third prediction was this:

3) The volume and value of the gold trade in e. Congo largely would be unaffected by DF-1502, because there's simply no viable way to control it.

Today the Wall Street Journal features a long piece, with reporting from Goma, Mumbai, New York and London, which says that the trade in gold was not only NOT affected by passage of the law, but that "opportunities for illicit gains only increased after the U.S. in 2010 passed a Wall Street overhaul, known as Dodd-Frank."

It's important to remember that the best estimates are that gold is and has been for a long time the most important and valuable of the minerals being artisanally mined in the Kivus. So the fact that the law has had only adverse impacts on the region's dynamics is hardly incidental.

It would also appear to contradict The Enough Project's repeated assertion that the legislation is "making it harder to profit violently and illegally from mineral smuggling."

The complete WSJ piece is available below the fold, for readers who aren't subscribers (or don't have free access to it via Starbucks, as I do.)

[UPDATE 4/19] I see Enough wrote a rebuttal contesting the Journal's reporting. They sidestep the central issue raised by the Journal: that gold is an internationally valued commodity traded in areas utterly unconcerned about conflict minerals and compact enough to make smuggling easy. Instead, they urge that more be done: "As the trade in conflict gold increases, now is the time for the Obama administration to have a major impact." I don't want to get into the details of their arguments--life is just too damn short--but consider this: A person can buy weed a mile from the White House, despite  the hundreds of billions of dollars we as a nation have spent during our 30+ year "War on Drugs." But Enough's contention is that an SEC regulation will prevent Congolese warlords from trading gold with Indian, Lebanese or Chinese merchants in the most ungoverned regions of Central Africa. That doesn't seem terribly credible to me, but give them this: They will never lack for opportunities to declare that "Now is the time to do more."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Other Casualties of War

Pete Jones has a piece in The Guardian about an attack last June on a village named Epulu in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The perpetrators were Mai Mai Morgan; they reportedly killed three people and ate the heart of one of them. They also killed all 14 of reserve's captive Okapi. The reason for their ire? Epulu is a base camp for the wildlife rangers assigned to stop the ongoing slaughter of the forest's remaining elephants.   Some 60 percent of Central Africa's elephants have been killed in the past decade alone, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, to fuel a growing demand for ivory in east Asian countries.

The slaughter of the Okapi was a devastating blow to the reserve's conservationists. Rosemarie Ruf, one of the zoo's co-founders, says it was a brutal end to a lifetime's work. "Twenty-five years of work is gone," she said. "All that effort, all that money. It's my life which has been.... I don't want to say ruined, but here now I'm standing in front of nothing."

Alarmingly, the article suggests that many of the region's inhabitants are sympathetic to the mai mai aims, if not their means. Some Mbuti are upset that the reserve has cut into their traditional domain:
"The forest is where we find what we need to survive" said one pygmy leader. "[The park authorities] have cut our land, there is now a part we cannot access. It has worsened in the last few years, since the RFO got bigger. We feel like the big non-governmental organizations and the rangers have privileged the animals over the people."
Jon Rosen in Roads and Kingdoms reported on this same attack in November, in the epilog to an otherwise upbeat travel report on life among the pre-agrarian Mbuti. (His numbers are a little different: six people and 15 okapi dead.) Rosen manages to avoid the dangers of exoticizing or sentimentalizing the Mbuti lifestyle, while still making it sound like an slacker's idea of heaven, with lots of drum playing, group hunting, and all-afternoon bong tripping:
With the smoking, drumming, and dancing in full swing, my mind drifted to an article by the geographer Jared Diamond that I’d read – along with Fukuyama’s book – in preparation for our trip. In the piece, titled “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” Diamond argues that the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture – long considered a fundamental driver of human progress – was actually a colossal blunder.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What You Need to Know Today

The M23 rebels have penned an open letter to Obama, asking him to scotch the proposed intervention brigade for eastern Congo.

The inquiry into human rights activist Floribert Chebeya's assassination has again been delayed, and the organization he headed, Voix des sans-voix, continues to boycott the proceedings, saying they are a whitewash for the man almost certainly responsible for his death, former police chief John Numbi.

Reuters has a good brief round-up on the DRC's political/economic risks. The key questions, with my best guesses in parentheses:
  • - Will M23 rebels return to arms as peace talks in Uganda splutter? (prob not)
  • - Will resurgence of pro-separatist violence in Katanga discourage investment? (prob not)
  • - Can the economy keep growing on the back of Katanga's copper production despite security fears? (yes, but slowly and fitfully)
  • - Can Congo re-establish a loan deal with the IMF? (yes)
  • - Will Kabila finally take any steps towards tackling endemic corruption? (no, corruption is not a bug, it's the way the system works)
  • - Will a reform to the mining code expected this year damage investor confidence? (no--Ponyo will see to that; but what the mining code says and what it actually takes to do biz in Congo are two different things)
  • - Will a plan to get state miner Gecamines back on its feet succeed? (eventually, maybe)
Can't possibly be true: South Africa is planning to invest $20 billion in Inga, says DigitalCongo. Seems too high by an order of magnitude.

On the airstrip under the active volcano Mount Nyiragongo,
an Antonov AN-12 cargo plane prepares to leave Goma.
Guy Tillim, in Vanity Fair
With about a dozen crashes in the past two years, the DRC remains the most dangerous place to be a plane: Radio Okapi reports on a conference held to address airplane safety. Which reminds me to plug this 2007 piece on Congo's aviators by William Langewiesche.

Questions continue to emerge about whether South Africa's recent decisions to participate in peacekeeping operations in CAR and now DRC are driven by the desire of the well-connected elite to protect their investments. More tk on this. 

Quote of the Day

I think it's safe to say that the M23 is not thrilled about the proposed intervention brigade:
Kigali, 2013 04 06
Open Letter to H.E. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
Your Excellency:
On behalf of Rufari Foundation, I have the honor and privilege to beckon you, and through you, your other UN Security Council peers, to attract your joint attention and diligence on the inescapable necessity, imperative rather, to nullify UN Resolution 2089 prescribing the dispatch of a 3 000-ish strong offensive intervention force into Congo. Failure to do precisely that, Excellency Barack Obama, will entail among other wanton consequences that of turning the entire Great Lakes region of Africa into a mammoth fireball, and the world far adrift will register in no small way adverse consequences thereof.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Quote of the Day II

"We are not scared to go to war," SANDF spokesman Xolani Mabanga told SAfm."If they [M23] declare war against the SA National Defence Force personnel, we are ready to tackle them. We, as the SANDF, will never be deterred by any circumstances to pursue or do what we are asked to do by the government of South Africa."
Take it down a notch, guys. Remember, the point is to not have to resort to force.

Quote of the Day

Hmmm. Much as I decry the evasive and muffled language of officialdom, I'm not sure that this is the kind of message the DRC wants to be sending out:
"If nothing is done, Katanga is a powder keg and anything can happen," Claudel Andre Lubaya, a legislator who is the rapporteur for the parliamentary commission for defence and security, said on Tuesday following a visit to Lubumbashi.
"Persistent insecurity could lead to investors pulling out. That's why the government must not take only cosmetic measures."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Quote of the Day

Our hero
"A curiosity of the last decade of western advocacy on conflicts is that a wholly different relationship has arisen between the “activist” and the affected community. Led by groups such as the Enough Project, “activism” has been redesigned as an entirely domestic endeavor: changing policies in western capitals by mobilizing constituencies around celebrities and publicity. Success is measured by the extent to which advocates can convince a domestic population that simple actions they can take will produce fundamental change in distant conflict-ridden places. Through highly-produced multimedia products, celebrity spokespersons, and simplified narratives, a new set of practices is developing. Invariably, the answers these campaigns propose are framed as apolitical: clothed in ethical absolutes, impervious to critique, and challenging to the activist’s own government only to the extent that it is called upon to do more. The message is one of empowerment—but the empowerment of a domestic constituency, consisting of people not affected by conflict."
                                                Bridget Conley, Advocacy in Conflict

The Lake that Wants to Kill You

I just heard about this, but apparently the government back in mid February forbade all fishing and swimming in Lake Kivu for an indeterminate period, saying that high levels of methane and carbon dioxide had caused several deaths by drowning. The fishermen are understandably miffed.

Lake Kivu is one of Africa's three "exploding lakes," along with the infamous killer lakes in Cameroon, that experience periodic lake overturns, where the compressed gas within the lake surfaces, poisoning the surrounding landscape.

I used to swim in Lake Kivu, back in the day, off the Peace Corps dock [1]. It was said that bubbles of methane would occasionally rise to the surface, killing fishermen out casting their nets in the evenings. The pirogues would drift back to shore with no one on board, and days later the men's bodies would mysteriously wash up on shore. You can imagine the legends that ensued.

I've always heard that Kivu poses no Cameroon-style threat, that the likelihood of an actual sudden and violent overturn is vanishingly small--but this NBC piece from a couple of years ago says that a catastrophic event takes place in Kivu once a millenium. Given the millions of people who live nearby, I wish I could be confident that the international community is keeping an eye out on this.  I learn from Wikipedia that a new effort is underway to tap the lake's vast reserves of methane, naturally, from the Rwandan side. And that "kivu" means lake in "Bantu language." But nothing on whether anyone's looking out for the three million people who live on its perimeter.

[1] I myself was not a PCV, but had lots of friends who were.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Amid Growing Doubts about Brigade, Rumors of M23 Reinforcements

Doubts about the planned intervention brigade for eastern Congo are growing, as renewed questions about the killing of 13 South African troops in Bangui last month threaten to put the kibosh on South Africa's anticipated participation in the peacekeeping effort. Meanwhile various Congolese news sources are alleging that the M23 rebels are receiving reinforcements from Rwandan and Ugandan sources in preparation for a renewed assault on Goma.

Reactions are Mixed
The Congolese government appears delighted by the UN resolution and views the proposed intervention brigade as a clear diplomatic victory. Ubiquitous government spokesman Lambert Mende told the BBC the brigade would bring the region "some hope of peace." If the Congolese government feels any shame at its inability to protect its own citizens, it is successfully keeping those feelings in check.

Congolese civil society and opposition parties also appear heartened by the proposed arrival of what they have already nicknamed the "super blue helmets" (or "supers casques bleus"--it sounds better in French). The war has gone on for too long, said one typical CSO leader, interviewed on Radio Okapi. Opposition leader and South Kivu native Vital Kamerhe also praised the brigade, though he lamented how long it's taken for Monusco to develop a forceful response to the rebels.

The Rwandan response has been more tepid. The usually garrulous foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, has said nothing, and Rwandan news sources have made little mention of the brigade. The only editorial to appear about it in the government-controlled New Times warned that providing additional resources to Monusco is like "giving money to someone who has intentionally infected you with a terminal disease and asking them to use that money to cure you!"

The M23 are predictably denouncing the intervention brigade in the most forceful terms. Bertrand Bisimwa, the group's president, said at a press briefing at Bunagana on Monday that "from now on, peacekeeping forces will wage war on groups of citizens who are demanding good governance in our country." The rebels are promising (via twittersphere) to fight fire with fire. Said one tweet, directed at the South African government, one of the countries tapped to provide troops to the brigade: "We don’t want to kill our brothers from SA. We are asking them to support peace in DRC, not to come to fight.”

IRIN takes stock of the M23 rebel movement's prospects at its one-year anniversary. In brief, the Makenga-Bosco split may have sufficiently weakened the movement to make a deal possible with the Congolese government:
Any deal is likely to involve the integration of Makenga’s fighters into FARDC, with lower cadre fighters automatically integrated and higher ranking officers considered for integration on a case-by-case basis. However, analysts say the re-integration method has not worked in the past and must be rethought.
“M23 integration in FARDC is feasible but is not suitable. The policy of repeated integration of armed groups in FARDC is [contributing] to the fragmentation and militarization of FARDC,” Marc-Andre Lagrange, DRC senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, told IRIN via email. “Since that approach has proven, with M23, to be a failure, the DRC government with MONUSCO and UNSC should look for another option.”
According to a recent article in the newsletter Africa Confidential: “Experts broadly agree that some kind of agreement between Kinshasa and M23 is in the offing and will be signed soon, but reliable sources in North Kivu diverge on what the outcome will be. Some feel that Makenga will reintegrate his troops into the FARDC, while others suggest that Makenga and [new] M23 political leader Bertrand Bisimwa can stay independent of the army while not being seen as a ‘negative force’.”
So it is not clear whether to take Bisimwa's belligerence at face value or see it as part of M23's negotiation strategy: In the face of an ever-weakening military position, loudly threaten to make trouble in order to get the best deal possible.

No word (that I've seen) on how the FDLR or local mai mai groups view the brigade.

Preparations Are Ongoing: But for War or Peace?
Monusco chief Roger Meese travelled to Bukavu last week to evaluate the security situation. Monusco's military spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Félix Basse, confirmed that the brigade would work in concert with FARDC and said that an advance staff is already in Goma to prepare for the brigade's arrival.

Jules Hakizimwami, Speaker of the North-Kivu Provincial Assembly, held a press briefing in Goma on Thursday, April 4, in which he denounced Rwanda for sending troop reinforcements to M23 positions, in preparation he said, for a renewed assault on Goma.

Friday's Kinshasa newspapers contained detailed if unconfirmed reports of Rwanda and Uganda reinforcing the M23 rebels. Under the headline "Rwanda and Uganda are preparing an attack on Goma," the newspaper  l'Avenir said that Uganda dispatched some 2800 troops across the frontier at Rwindi earlier in the week to reinforce the M23. Not to be outdone, Le Potentiel, citing sources in North Kivu, reported that Rwandan troops entered Congo at Kibumba.

Alex Engwete draws the details together: "According to observers Rwanda--and Uganda, incidentally--wants M23 to reoccupy Goma--and eventually attack Bukavu--ahead of the deployment of Monusco's Intervention Brigade so as: (1) to preempt this intervention by rendering the costs of its collateral damage prohibitive in urban settings; and (2) to force the DRC government to heed M23 "claims."

The government is holding further talks with M23 rebels in Kampala this week, with the hope of being able to sign a final and inclusive peace agreement on Thursday, April 11.

And Doubts Mount
South Africa's opposition party Democratic Alliance is demanding that the government reveal whether South Africa is "going to war" in DRC as part of the UN's proposed intervention force. Thirteen South African were killed last month in the CAR in a futile effort to defend President François Bozizé's from rebels. More tk on how this will affect SA's willingness to participate in the brigade.

David Bosco at Foreign Policy says that the brigade's interventionist mission is "unprecedented" only in a narrow sense: The UN has participated in kinetic, peace-enforcing actions over the years. The most significant such operation was in the Congo itself in the early months and years after independence; that operation proved so controversial that it "helped to ensure that the U.N. funded no new peacekeeping operation for a decade." He wonders if the brigade has been given the resources it needs, and warns that if things don't go right, "political will for the operation will likely melt away."

And The Irish Times recalls that the previous UN mission in the early 1960s was a "trial by fire" for Irish peacekeepers and warns that the UN's track record "does not inspire optimism."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tweet of the Day

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Twitter Bleg

The study of how rumors spread in person and now on the net is apparently a recognized sub-discipline in psychology (and of intense interest to marketers). An interesting case study for a masters' thesis might be this week’s “tweme” that MI6 was responsible for the assassination of the Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. It arose from a very casual assertion that appeared two weeks ago in the letters section of the London Review of Books. Although almost immediately debunked by specialists, tweets proclaiming that the Brits were behind Lumumba’s death at one point were spreading at a rate of 2 to 4 a minute. In fact, I suspect by now that “everyone” “knows” that the Brits killed him. (The Belgians did, actually, w/ American help.) Perhaps one of my readers, familiar with the tools to chart and analyze tweet mentions, could try to figure out how and why this tweme spread. I’d be more than happy to supply background info.

Your Tweets of the Day

Phil is apparently unaware of my own history with the GoE.

The Silence of the Billionaires

Buffett makes a point
So about that Buffett Foundation report that's so critical of the UN Group of Experts? Neither the Foundation nor the groups it contracted to write up the report are willing to take questions about it.[1] I've been trying to gin up some expression of regret about their reluctance to stand behind their work--you know, in a tone more of Seurat than of Ingres--but really, is anyone remotely surprised?

The basic argument of the report is: The GoE's mandate was to work with the governments of the region to identify the root causes of the violence in eastern Congo. For reasons not ours to determine (says the report), cooperation between the GoE and the Rwandan government broke down. The GoE therefore failed to do what was required of it--work with the GoR--violating its mandate and thus casting doubt on its findings. QED.[2]

Well, that's just ridiculous. First, there's zero doubt about who broke off the relationship between the GoE and the Rwandan government. The Rwandans did. They have a history of assassinating internal dissidents and PNG'ing Western critics. See this article by Reyntjens for a lengthy chronicle of these attacks. By contrast, the GoE never stopped trying to contact the Rwandans. Second, it introduces an  aneurysm-inducing premise: that a government can undermine the findings of a human rights group simply by refusing to cooperate with it. If that were so, the sound you'd be hearing is dictators everywhere slapping their palms into their foreheads and exclaiming, "Why didn't I think of that?" Ça fait rêver.

Buffett's second line of criticism is to paint the GoE and its findings as outliers. Would that this were true. In fact, Rwanda's record of plunder and atrocity in eastern Congo is perhaps the most exhaustively detailed human rights crime of our age. The latest report is not even particularly damning in that respect. Previous GoE reports have reached similar conclusions. And there's the mapping report, and literally dozens of reports from the usual suspects: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Crisis Group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the ICTR, the State Department HR bureau, not to mention Stephen Smith and Howard French and Rene Lemarchand and Jason Stearns and Gerard Prunier and above all the late and terribly missed Alison Desforges. Yet Rwanda always reacts as if the latest criticism were some new and terrible affront. For instance:
  • HRW's May 2001 report ‘Uprooting the rural poor in Rwanda’ was said to be ‘baseless and full of lies’, and HRW stood accused of disseminating ‘a propaganda that undermines human rights by promoting ethnic division among Rwandans’. 
  • A report by AI on the human toll of the Rwandan occupation of eastern DRC was characterized as ‘outright bias, lack of objectivity and outright lies’. Amnesty's observations were ‘clearly unsubstantiated’ and ‘a reflection of the longstanding antipathy that AI has demonstrated towards Rwanda’. 
  • The 2005 US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices was said to be ‘riddled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies’, and most of its observations were simply denied.
  • When a report discussed in the Security Council documented Rwanda's continuing support for the DRC rebel group CNDP, the government denounced ‘the dangerous inaccuracies and outright lies’ contained in the report, whose objectives were ‘malicious’ and which was replete with accusations ‘resulting from hearsay, perceptions and stereotypes’.
Given this history, it's no surprise that Rwanda reacted vociferously to the latest UN GoE report. The question is, why in this case have Kagame's Western supporters followed suit? Why have Buffett and Blair, among others, tried so hard to discredit this one particular report--out of the eighty or so that have come out in the past decade? Again, we don't know for sure, because they're not talking. But I think what's changed is that an entire generation of Western policymakers have come of age without having incurred the guilt of standing by during the genocide. They are, therefore, less cowed by Rwanda's indignation machinery, less willing to put up with its nonsense. The GoE report came on the heels of reports from AI and HRW that also alleged Rwandan complicity in fomenting the rebellion in eastern Congo, and in the shadow of the Mapping Report, with its mountain of evidence of mass killings in the region. The GoE report is--or is feared to be--the straw on the camel's back, the tipping point, the nudge that finally turns opinion against Kagame. And for that it has to be furiously resisted.

The ironic thing is that Buffett et Tony have a valid point to make: Cutting aid is far from the optimum policy response to Rwanda's transgressions. Aid works comparatively well in Rwanda, and it benefits a lot of people who are in no way responsible for what their government is doing. What the policy alternatives might be is a topic I'm working on now.

[1] It's not exactly clear from the text what role these two groups played in the authorship of the report, and of course, they're not taking questions. One bills itself as "strategy consultants," whose approach is to "get the right answer," and the other--well, its web site is a single almost blank page. Which makes sense, because it's owned and run by an ex-CIA agent

[2] Lest you find that synopsis too absurd to be credible, here is how the report summarizes its own key findings: "The UN’s search for the sources of instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is both timely and commendable. However, throughout 2012, cooperation and diplomacy between the Group of Experts (GoE) and the Governments of Rwanda (GoR) and Uganda (GoU), elements required by the GoE’s UN mandate, broke down. This fatally undermines the value of the GoE’s important work and increases risk in the region. It is not significant who was first to withdraw cooperation. The failure in process undermines the credibility of the findings, limiting potential policy prescriptions that could reduce violence in the Great Lakes region."

In the meantime, here for your enjoyment is the totality of my interaction with the Buffett Foundation.

From: David Aronson
Sent: Tuesday, April 02, 2013 1:45 PM
To: Contact
Subject: HGBF Contact - Report on GoE findings
To whom at the Foundation can I direct questions about the GoE report you’ve just published?
Many thanks,
David Aronson

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tweet of the Day

In the business, this is what is called a Marshall McLuhan moment.

Lumumba, the First Rendition

Still making trouble
The question of who killed Lumumba is in the news again, thanks to a just-published letter in the London Review of Books which reports that a retired MI6 agent, before her death, claimed responsibility for organizing the assassination:
It so happens that I was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park – we were colleagues from opposite sides of the Lords – a few months before she died in March 2010. She had been consul and first secretary in Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, from 1959 to 1961, which in practice (this was subsequently acknowledged) meant head of MI6 there. I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. ‘We did,’ she replied, ‘I organised it.’
OK, two things. First, this is so perfectly British you can practically smell the buttered crumpets. It reads like the start of a promising beach novel featuring well-born Brits setting the world to rights during the Cold War (think Nancy Mitford meets John Le Carre). Second, as evidence, it's almost useless. I've read a lot on the Lumumba assassination; I never heard anyone claim that the British were a lead player in the events unfolding then. Why would they be? This was nasty feud for control over a newly independent, mineral-rich country in the heart of Africa, contested by the US, the Belgians, and the Soviets, with the UN acting as both  player and referee. The British had no colonial history and few resources or personnel in the country. Unlike the Belgians, they had no stake in its huge mineral wealth. Nor were they afflicted with the perfervid millennialism of the major Cold War protagonists.

Ludo de Witte has written extensively on the Belgian role in the assassination. Bottom line: they pulled the trigger, dismembered the body, and dissolved it in acid. His book--and a subsequent parliamentary investigation--were considered definitive enough to prompt the Belgian government to offer an official apology to the Congolese for their primary and direct responsibility for Lumumba's death. The American role was more complex. In a national security meeting in August 1960, Eisenhower is reported to have uttered words to the effect of "Who will rid me of this man?"--words that were understood, at any rate, as an order to murder him. The CIA's man in Kinshasa at the time, Larry Devlin, published a self-absolving memoir in 2008 claiming that while he sought to neutralize Lumumba politically, he never authorized or supported US efforts to kill him--even when he was directed to do so by CIA headquarters. Steve Weissman, who's pursued this story for decades, says Devlin was lying his ass off wasn't being entirely forthcoming, as you'll see from this video of a 2012 Wilson Center event.

In brief, Weissman says, Devlin participated in a variety of unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Lumumba, including the infamous attempt to poison his toothpaste; he encouraged other Congolese to carry out the act; and he bought off as many anti-Lumumba people as he could, including a promising young army sergeant named Joseph Mobutu. Then, when the occasion presented itself, he almost certainly greenlighted the decision (made, ultimately, by Mobutu and other Congolese leaders) to transfer Lumumba to Katanga, where certain death awaited him.[1] Devlin also withheld from the ambassador and his superiors in Langley his foreknowledge of the plan to send Lumumba to his death, out of concern that Washington might seek to countermand it.[2]

On second thought, Lumumba's death is a little like a British murder mystery; in particular, Agatha Christie's Orient Express, where, you'll remember, everyone has a hand in the killing. Lumumba's Congolese rivals wanted him dead and brutalized him repeatedly; the Belgians pulled the trigger and disposed of the corpse; and the Americans, operating at times on their own individual initiative and in opposition to fickle and contradictory DC policy preferences, made sure the process proceeded smoothly. As for the British--well, Dame Daphne Park would not be the first elderly person to recall for herself a greater role in world events than the evidence would support.

[1] Remember that in the days prior to his being rendered to Katanga, Lumumba was in the hands of his enemies in Leopoldville (Kinshasa), having been captured on his way to Stanleyville (Kisangani) after escaping house arrest. Chief among those enemies was Mobutu, described by another CIA officer at the time as “our man, the man we had put our chips on,” and a person with whom Devlin had a daily intimate work relationship (and to whom he was dolling out huge sums of taxpayer dollars).
[2] Washington's desire to have Lumumba killed diminished markedly after the international uproar that accompanied his arrest and beat-down. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Readers: I, Who Am about to Blog, Salute You

CongoResources.org passed 100,000 views sometime last night. And my now semi-regular blogging is increasing my readership big time, as you can see from this helpful chart:

I'm averaging some 15,000 to 20,000 views per month.

Scattered Notes on the Economy

Fond memories courtesy Bukavu Online
Zambian and Katangan miners are trying to figure out how to ship their copper via Angola, instead of South Africa and/or Mozambique, says Africa Mining Intelligence. Their sister publication, Africa Energy Intelligence, reports that Mtata Ponyo is investing heavily in hydroelectric power.  And Africa Confidential's stepchild, Africa-Asia Confidential, reports that Gecamines is hoping for an infusion of cash from China.

According to the Mining Review, the Congo's mines minister is busy reassuring investors that last week's furor in Lubumbashi is over.  “I’m personally reassuring miners that these events are temporary and will be completely put to a halt,” mines minister Martin Kabwelulu said by mobile-phone message. “A psychosis will reign for several days, but that will pass as well.”

And Bukavu Online is reminding viewers that the main roads out of town still suck--National Road 2, in particular. They provide photographic evidence.

On that Intervention Brigade...

Is the proposed UN intervention brigade the proverbial camel's nose for the establishment of a de facto UN protectorate in eastern Congo?

The Key Facts:
Resolution 2098 (2013) passed last week by the UN Security Council provides for an intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups in the DRC. The brigade will comprise three infantry battalions, one artillery and one special force and reconnaissance company with headquarters in Goma. It is expected to be operational by July. Reuters says South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi are the most likely candidates to supply troops for the intervention unit. Projected troop strength will top out at either 2,500 or 3,069.

The resolution directs the force to act "in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner ... to prevent the expansion of all armed groups, neutralize these groups, and to disarm them."

The Key Text:
Here is the most relevant section of Resolution 2098 (2013). For the full text, click here:

The Security Council...
“9.   Decides to extend the mandate of MONUSCO in the DRC until 31 March 2014, takes note of the recommendations of the Special Report of the Secretary-General on the DRC and in the Great Lakes Region regarding MONUSCO, and decides that MONUSCO shall, for an initial period of one year and within the authorized troop ceiling of 19,815, on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping, include an “Intervention Brigade” consisting inter alia of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one Special force and Reconnaissance company with headquarters in Goma, under direct command of the MONUSCO Force Commander, with the responsibility of neutralizing armed groups 
International Reactions:
The resolution was approved unanimously by the Security Council, although several members voiced serious reservations about it.

  • Rwanda said the brigade should "help the Congolese Government focus on disrupting the activities of armed groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)."
  • Guatemala said the brigade raised conceptual, operational and legal considerations that had not been sufficiently explored. It would have preferred the brigade to be a self-standing unit with specific duties distinguishable from those of MONUSCO’s other brigades.
  • The United Kingdom admitted that the UN had entered “new territory” with the authorization of the brigade, but boldly declared: “This is the recipe for success.”
  • Argentina said the idea of “enforcing peace rather than keeping it” required deep reflection, certainly more than the week of negotiations allotted to it. Together with Pakistan and China, it emphasized that the establishment of the brigade in no way constituted a precedent-setting move.
  • The USA said nothing explicit about the brigade; it did, however, commend the UN for setting Monusco up for success by streamlining the efforts of its military component.

Although not a member of the security council, DRCongo's foreign affairs minister, Raymond Tshibanda, was given the floor after the resolution passed. He said the resolution should lead to the "dawning of a new era ... of human rights, security and stability for all, as well as greater regional cooperation and sustainable development." So I'm guessing he was pleased.

One dissenting note came from the International Federation for Human Rights, which says that the brigade marks "an unprecedented change to the traditional United Nations peacekeeping model and [will] require stronger human rights protection’s mechanisms to avoid increased harm to civilians.”

Three Key Questions 
The establishment of this brigade raises all kinds of questions, some of which I'm sure will become the subject of masters' theses for decades to come. Here are three.

What, Exactly, is the Mission Supposed to Be?
It's not clear exactly what the new troops are expected to do. Actually, let me rephrase that. The language of the mission is perfectly clear: The forces are to pro-actively--kinetically, in military-speak--neutralize and disarm the armed groups operating in eastern Congo. They are, in other words, to do what the Congolese state has notoriously failed to do over the past decade: Re-impose order on the eastern fourth of the country.

The problem is that there are some 15 armed groups operating in eastern Congo, an area larger than the United Kingdom. Is the brigade really supposed to seek out the M23 rebels and either destroy or cause them to surrender? Should it arrest or kill Sultani Makenga? What about the remaining FDLR? Or the local mai mai groups?  Should it go after these groups even if they remain hunkered down in their own ethnic enclaves, or should it wait until they attack someone? And what if a FARDC company deserts or goes on a frolic of its own, as one did for example in October 2010?

A plain language reading of the resolution is that the answer to most of those questions is yes. Yes, the brigade should go after the FDLR. Yes, it should disarm the M23 and the various mai mai militia. Yes, in conjunction with FARDC and existing Monusco troops, it should become the de facto hegemon for the region. You see the problem: There's no way a few thousand additional forces can accomplish that ambitious a mandate. So questions arise. Which groups should the brigade target first? What exactly should its rules of engagement be? Who gets to make these decisions, when, and in conjunction with who else? The fact that we don't have answers to these (obvious) questions is why I say that the brigade's mission remains remarkably undefined.[1]

Why Now?
Eastern Congo has been in more or less continuous upheaval since 1994, when some one to two million Hutu refugees arrived in eastern then-Zaire after the Rwandan genocide. A few of us realized from the outset that these camps presented an untenable situation and proposed that we disaggregate the genuine refugees from the mass of genocidaires hiding among them, using western military forces if necessary.  A few more of us remember the proposed Canadian-led international force in 1996 that the Clinton administration shot down, in part by flat-out lying about the number of refugees that were left in Congo. And in 2002, there was talk of using western troops to enforce . The French did send troops to Bunia in 2003, for Operation Artemis, which by and large succeeded in putting a cork on that sub-region's inter-ethnic violence. But in November and December 2008, all the Belgian chocolate in the world couldn't convince the major powers--the US in particular--to pony up troops to protect civilians in eastern Congo from yet another outbreak of violence.

It's also been obvious, for a very long time, that the extant UN troops were largely inadequate to the task of protecting the civilian population. I remember in Bunia in 2003 prior to Artemis hearing civilians boo the Monuc convoys patrolling town because of the UN's obvious failures to protect them. In November 2008, refugees and civilians in Kibati in eastern Congo surrounded and stoned a UN convoy in anger at the same. I wrote a brief, canned history of Monuc at that time, bemoaning the UN's reliable history of coming in with too few troops too late in the game to matter. Their surrender of strategic locales, from Bukavu in June 2004 to Goma in 2012, cemented their reputation for fecklessness. So, too, did their failure to respond to occurrences of mass rape and killings in immediate proximity to their own forces, such as happened in the Walikali region in August 2010.

So the question is, Why now? Why, after nearly two decades of refusing to dispatch troops that would engage the bad guys with force of arms, is the international community finally sending this (albeit small and inadequate) interventionist brigade? I don't know the answer, but I'm guessing three things helped: 1) Rwanda's diminishing moral and political influence. Rwanda just doesn't enjoy the moral authority it once did, and policymakers feel less constrained by Rwandan demands to stay out of its backyard. 2) The realization after the 2011 election that the Kinshasa government was here to stay, and that it was going to remain hopelessly inadequate to the task of reestablishing state hegemony over eastern Congo for years to come. 3) A dawning awareness that the existing UN forces were becoming a laughingstock losing credibility, that Monusco's record was undermining the entire idea of UN peacekeeping. All of these ideas/perceptions have been obvious to Congo observers for years, but it takes a while for an awareness of the problems to percolate up the chain of command and lead to serious policy changes. This is speculation, mind you: we need more thorough reporting on the topic than we've gotten to date.

What Is the Broader Significance for Human Rights and the R2P Doctrine?
The resolution takes great pains to emphasize that this is a one-off operation: The brigade, it says, will be established "on an exceptional basis, and without creating a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping." Indeed, not since Bush v. Gore have decision-makers taken such pains to emphasize the irrelevancy of their decision to posterity.

Except that, like Bush v. Gore, it is a big deal. I'm not a sufficiently well-versed student of UN peacekeeping operations to fully contextualize this, but the brigade clearly moves the UN into new territory, from peace keeping, in which it acts as a buffer between antagonists, to peace enforcing, in which it acts, in effect, as a state, neutralizing forces it deems negative or hostile. Among the questions this raises are the following:

  • The extent to which the UN has attempted such operations in the past, and their record of success or failure;
  • The legal framework and justification for the operation. Is this, in effect, a Chapter VII + operation? Does it fit within the UN's existing realm of peacekeeping practices--or does the UN need to develop new doctrine to codify it?
  • Does this brigade represent a step forward in the Responsibility to Protect, the emerging international norm that says that the international community has the right to intervene in countries that fail to protect their own civilian populations from mass atrocities?

What's Next?
While it's a welcome development, the insertion of a fighting force in the Kivus is fraught with peril. If they fail to engage negative forces, they'll be viewed as yet another UN failure. If they engage and suffer serious losses, there's a good chance they'll be yanked. (Think Clinton after Somalia, or Reagan after Lebanon.) Unfortunately, as currently envisioned, they're not nearly substantial enough to accomplish the mission assigned to them without putting themselves at serious risk. So where does that leave us?

The best case scenario, I guess, is that they win a couple of quick battles with minimal loss, build their credibility, and lobby for ever greater support. In that case, the special forces brigade would continue to grow, organically, just as UN troop levels in the country did during the period from 1999 to 2007, when they more or less leveled off at 18,000. [For more background on the growth of Monuc/sco, see below the fold.]  But think about what that means: The UN will, in effect, be running a protectorate in eastern Congo. It won't administer the state; it won't be responsible for getting the garbage picked up and the potholes filled, but it will, for all intents and purposes, have assumed the state's most vital function: the establishment of a monopoly of force.

Given the history of the region, worse things could happen.

[1] At least publicly. It could be that the relevant people have thought through all these questions and are, for good and proper military reasons, not sharing them publicly. I kind of doubt this, but it's possible.