"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

6.30.2010

cinquentenaire


Don't ask how it was that I came to be a platform guest for today's North Kivu celebration of 50 years of Congolese independence; I'm not really sure I know. Suffice it to say that between the governor's speech (which ranked today's occasion with the liberation of Nelson Mandela, the election of Barack Obama, and the opening of the first World Cup in Africa), the military band that apparently knows exactly two songs, the play-by-play commentary from two DJ's who apparently took their inspiration from The Ocho, and watching the military run their ceremonial sparkly batons from one end of the parade to the other so as to supply all the units because there weren't enough to go around, today was unforgettable.

(And that was before I somehow ended up in the same restaurant as the CNDP's youth wing, several of whose members insisted that there would be no barriers to us having a serious romantic relationship. How do I know they were the CNDP youth wing? Because they had matching t-shirts and they told me so.)

For an even better way to commemorate Congolese independence, Jason has posted Patrice Lumumba's Independence Day speech from June 30, 1960. It's just as inspiring today - definitely give it a read.

le 30 Juin


Happy 50th Independence Day to the Democratic Republic of Congo! The last fifty years have not brought all that for which the country's people hope or deserve, but we hope for brighter days to come.

6.29.2010

while we were out...

I spent the last five days traveling to North Kivu. While I'll spare you the details (which involved two unplanned stops, two screenings of Invictus in planes that lacked seatback video screens, and a yelling customer "service" agent), suffice it to say that I will never - and I mean never - fly Delta internationally again. You know it's bad when Kenya Airways is the most pleasant part of the journey.

Anyway, hellish travel nightmares aside, I'll be in the DRC conducting research for the next six weeks or so and it's my intention to keep blogging as much as possible. That said, the vagaries of electricity being what they are, all bets are off when it comes to frequency.

This research is a continuation of my dissertation project, so I'll be looking questions surrounding at the role of community organizations in providing social services in the state's absence in the cities of Butembo and Bunia. At the moment, I'm in Goma, recovering from jet lag, seeing old friends, and marveling at how much the city has developed since I was last here. The amount of new construction is incredible.

I'm also enjoying getting to meet several people from the blogosphere and the Twitterverse. Yesterday, I had the privilege of hanging out with @santis and @tmsruge at the Women of Kireka project outside of Kampala. We had a great time chatting about community-driven development, improving access to banking for low-income families, and all manner of other subjects. You can check out pictures of the women's beadwork here.

6.28.2010

conflict minerals

Minerals in EDRC are thus not a curse to development, but rather a safety net to support under the present adverse circumstances5 the approximately one million persons who depend on the trade regionally. Insecurity in Eastern Congo is primarily a result of the Congolese state’s inability to control the monopoly of violence and protect its citizens.
That's from Resource Consulting Services' excellent new report on the mining sector in Congo. Authors Nicholas Garrett, Harrison Mitchell, and Marie Lintzer argue convincingly that legalizing and legitimizing the mining sector is the best way to stabilize the region. They lay out clear methods for doing so, including engagement with civil society and strengthening government capacity to regulate the trade.

In other news, the U.S. Congress added the Conflict Minerals Trade Act as a rider on the financial reform bill. If passed, this legislation would eventually ban imports of minerals from the DRC and other countries that cannot be audited and certified to be "conflict-free" into the United States.

Whether it makes it into the final version of the bill out of conference or not, this strikes me as a mostly symbolic action that is likely to have almost no effect on the mineral trade or the conflict in the eastern Congo. It's ludicrous to pretend that the mineral trade in Congo can be affected in any significant way by American legislation, or that doing so will significantly affect the level of violence in the region. Without the basic tools of public order in place and functioning as instruments of the public good in the DRC, the provisions of this bill are likely to work about as well as does the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme does in weak states that lack functioning governmental institutions - which is to say, not at all.

Update: After I wrote this post, @katrinskaya let me know that The Kristof wrote on the issue in his Sunday column. The piece appears to be little more than a set of Enough Project talking points, but at least Enough's David Sullivan now openly acknowledges that the mineral issue is not a "magic-bullet to peace" in the region.

6.25.2010

paygo electricity?

Given the wild success of prepaid mobile phone service in sub-Saharan Africa, it was just a matter of time before the idea would be applied in other sectors. Congo's national electric company, SNEL, has embarked upon a pilot program for pre-paid electrical service in two Kinshasa neighborhoods, la Cite Mama Mobutu and la Cite Verte.

As Congo Blog notes (French), while the plan does eventually give residents the electricity for which they have paid in advance, the real problem is still SNEL's inability to deliver a constant current to Kinois residents. One Cite Verte resident, Maman Fifi, noted that her home only gets electricity two days per week.

Prepayment is a clever way to overcome a problem that plagues African utility companies: nonpayment of bills. But until infrastructure and delivery problems are overcome, it's unlikely to make much of a difference in the daily lives of the Congolese.

6.24.2010

the aid worker's dilemma

Over at Slate, aid worker Emily Meehan shares a story that we all know:
Aimé's situation didn't warrant the kind of foreign aid that my employer and most large relief agencies provided. The family was squatting in a city that doesn't get the support its poor and displaced need in terms of shelter materials, water and sanitation infrastructure, or mosquito nets to prevent malaria. In 2008 and 2009, foreign donors provided those amenities to people who had recently been displaced by rebels in the surrounding hills. But the "emergency" that had displaced Aimé's parents was more than a decade in the past, and only those still living as official refugees received aid. With primary-school needs unmet for DRC's children, the country's government and international donors have tended to see secondary school as a luxury they can't afford. So Aimé had slipped through the cracks.

I left the house, and Aimé walked me home. In a dejected voice, he repeated his desire to study and his need for money to pay his school fees. He was asking me to pay, but I wasn't prepared to do that. I had been in Congo a week, and it seemed rash to start subsidizing a child. Nonetheless, I was impressed by his evident intellect, which came, it seemed, from nowhere.

...It was a long time before anyone explicitly told me that they didn't like what I was doing with Aimé. I knew that I was breaking an aid-worker code, one that says it's unprofessional for an individual aid worker to single out an individual "beneficiary" and help them with their own money.

No one would actually talk about this code, just as they didn't talk about the code against discussing why you left home and came to work in a warzone. In fact, people didn't talk about a lot of things, and I sometimes think that's why we had become expatriates—to avoid talking about our lives and to avoid our lives.

Still, I had heard a number of vague reasons why I shouldn't help Aimé. One was that if you help an individual, they will become dependent on your help, and when you stop helping them, which is inevitable, they will be crushed. Aid agencies do that all the time, though. They help a group of people here one day and then stop another day. Besides, almost everyone broke the code.
Read the rest here. The final installment of the series will be published Friday.

6.23.2010

central africans in their own words

Jina Moore gives us this really cool piece on the situation in the Central African Republic:

Details here.

6.22.2010

sigh

The latest:
Six people have been arrested in South Africa over the shooting of a Rwandan dissident, police say.

Police spokesman Govindsamy Mariemuthoo refused to give the nationalities of the suspects but said more arrests were likely.

...Rwanda has denied any involvement in the shooting in Johannesburg.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg says a Rwandan national known to Lt Gen Nyamwasa is believed to be among those detained.
Meanwhile, a prominent Congolese Tutsi and CNDP leader, Denis Ntare Semadwinga, was killed on Sunday night in Gisenyi, the town that sits just over the Rwandan border from Goma. Jason Stearns has details and analysis here.

Suffice it to say that none of this bodes well for the prospects for regional peace.

6.21.2010

enough already

The other Rwanda-related thing that happened late last week was the release of American lawyer Peter Erlinder. Erlinder, you may recall, is the ICTR lawyer who went to Kigali to defend Victoire Ingabire, the Hutu opposition politician who would very much like to run for president in Rwanda's August 9 elections, but who is being blocked from doing so by the government, which accuses her of violating the country's vaguely-worded genocide law. Still with me? Good.

Rwanda released Erlinder on bail on Thursday and allowed him to leave the country, which effectively ensures he'll never stand trial there. Over the weekend, Erlinder made it to Nairobi, held a press conference, and immediately expressed dissatisfaction with what he apparently believes should be constituted under the term "American Citizen Services:"
Peter Erlinder, 62, said he had to sleep on a concrete floor without a blanket and without assistance from the embassy after his May 28 arrest in Kigali, Rwanda's capital. The Minnesota law professor thanked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying Rwanda shouldn't arrest lawyers but said embassy officials in Kigali and Nairobi have not helped much.

U.S. Embassy officials in Nairobi did not immediately respond to inquiries from The Associated Press.

"My government insisted that I take my medications from my captors rather than bringing me medications directly," Erlinder told a news conference in Nairobi, his first public comments since his arrest. "It was impossible for them to arrange a doctor whom I would pay so that I wouldn't have to get my food and my medication from my captors."

Erlinder did not outright say that he feared taking food from Rwandan authorities, but that was the implication. He added that it wasn't clear to him that "my own embassy was working in my interests." He did not elaborate.
A couple of points are in order here. One has to do with what happens to an American citizen who travels to a specific country with the knowledge that he or she will likely be arrested upon doing so. In Erlinder's case, he clearly knew the risk of going - he took the precaution of notifying the State Department, his Senators, and his Congressman that he would be traveling to Kigali in advance of his departure.

This suggests that Erlinder at least in part went to Kigali in order to make a point. Fine. What I'm not clear on is why he believed that the U.S. Embassy staff would be willing to provide him with services when he traveled to the country in full knowledge of the risk he was taking. Quite frankly, it's not a foreign service officer's job to get an American citizen out of trouble when it's very clear that the citizen got into that situation willfully and in full knowledge of the potential consequences of doing so.

Even if it were - and even though these requests seem fairly reasonable - American diplomats are not miracle-workers. While it is possible to pressure a foreign government in cases like this (which, given Erlinder's release, almost certainly did happen), they have absolutely no authority to force the Rwandan authorities to do anything. Erlinder was being ridiculously paranoid in assuming that the Rwandan government would try to off him by denying him medications or poisoning his food. They don't like Erlinder, but the RPF are public relations geniuses. The last thing they wanted or needed was a dead American ICTR lawyer on their hands.

From what I hear from Kigali, the U.S. Embassy staff were none too amused by Erlinder's decision to show up in Rwanda despite his knowledge that he was likely to be arrested. Even so, Erlinder was released within three weeks of his arrest, which suggests that a great deal of diplomatic activity took place in order to secure his release in a pretty quick time frame. While I do think Erlinder has the right to say what he likes and believe what he believes about Rwanda and its history without being arrested, he knowingly invited trouble by taking this trip. He's fortunate to be a free man today.

6.19.2010

this will end badly

From the BBC:
A former Rwandan army chief of staff, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, has been shot in South Africa and taken to hospital in a critical condition.

His wife told the BBC the couple had been returning from shopping when a gunman opened fire on the car.

She said it was an assassination attempt as there had been no demand for money or goods.
It's going to take awhile to sort this one out. Nyamwasa is reported to still be in surgery. There's a conflicting report that says he was shot while on his way to the Ghana-Australia World Cup match that took place earlier this afternoon, but the basics of the story seem to be the same from the media accounts that have been published thus far.

I'll need a lot more information before being able to offer anything in the way of reasonable analysis of these events, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Nyamwasa and his former colleague and friend, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, despise each other. They've been having a bit of a tit-for-tat for months now; Kagame blames Nyamwasa for the grenade attacks that have periodically hit Kigali over the course of the last few months. Here's some background on what they're mad at each other about.
  • None of this will be helped by this report from Rwanda's official news agency that was published last week, in which the author refers to Nyamwasa in the past tense. That gives the conspiracy theorists fodder, although I'd expect that the "was" was used more in the "dead to me" sense than in the "he's actually dead" sense. Nyamwasa was most definitely alive on June 10 and, as of this writing, is still very much alive as well. (HT: @baldaufji)
  • The shooting took place in Johannesburg, which, as we all know, can be a violent place at times and in certain neighborhoods. That said, as Mrs. Nyamwasa alludes, violent crime in Joburg is typically connected to theft. That this was apparently not that sort of crime - and that the shooter kept shooting until his gun jammed - gives some credibility to her claim that it was a targeted assassination attempt rather than random violence.
  • There are reports of a strong troop presence on the streets in Kigali today, with both the presidential guard and the army posted along key routes, including the road to the airport. I don't see how this isn't connected to the Nyamwasa shooting; he certainly still has supporters in Kigali and the government is likely monitoring their activities. Of course, there's always concern that this could result in another grenade explosion after night falls.
  • There are French and Spanish warrants out for Nyamwasa's arrest on charges relating to the lead-up to the genocide.
Long story short, there's no telling what actually happened today. I'll keep an eye out.

this & that

6.18.2010

rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

From the BBC:
A Dutch court has sentenced five Somali men to five years in prison for attacking a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden last year, in the first such case to come to trial in Europe.

The men were convicted in Rotterdam of attacking a Dutch Antilles-flagged ship, the Samanyolu.

They were arrested last year when their high-speed boat was intercepted by a Danish frigate.
Here we have a rare conviction in a piracy case, which stemmed from an also-rare arrest and detention of piracy suspects. Why is the arrest, detention, and conviction of pirates so rare? Because international law on these matters is, to put it mildly, slightly unclear. Who has authority to capture and prosecute criminals on the high seas? In what country's courts should the suspects be tried?

Some of this is laid out in international law, but much of it is a lot more ambiguous than you might think. Piracy is definitely illegal and gives the rights to capture and prosecute pirates to other countries, but it doesn't say a thing about pirates who are captured in their own country's waters. Which is one of the reasons why most of the pirates who are captured these days are more often than not set free a few days, weeks, or months later.

What makes this case different? Well, for one thing, the Dutch courts were willing to try a case that involved a Dutch Antilles vessel. The pirates were arrested by a naval ship of another European state.

Does the possibility of detention act as a deterrent to Somali piracy? It hasn't thus far, and there's little reason to expect that yesterday's conviction will stop any plucky young Somalis from joining the gangs. While European and American naval patrols have stepped up their activity in the last year, piracy has become an even more popular career choice, particularly in Puntland and the northern reaches of Somalia proper. Estimates are that the number of Somali pirates has tripled to about 3,000 in the last few years. It's a lucrative business, with high risks and high returns. The capture and conviction of five people won't seem like much of a threat on the ground in Harardhere.

6.17.2010

the more things change...

The first research I ever did on African politics was about oil in the Niger Delta. I was eighteen, a freshman in college, and completely naive about a lot of things. Everything I knew about big oil came from my dad's stories about my grandfather, who worked in the West Texas oil fields for decades. My dad had his own stories, too, about working in the fields during summers home from college and how little the petroleum engineering majors from Houston really knew compared to the field hands like my grandpa. Our family didn't love the oil companies, but they had provided for us.

I was naive at eighteen, but I was also smart, and a hard worker, and so I started reading. My topic was the case of the Ogoni Nine. Just a few months before, Ken Saro-Wiwa and his fellow activists had been executed by General Sani Abacha's regime for their protests against what Royal Dutch Shell was doing to their land. It was a fascinating topic to study, as responsibility was in some ways crystal clear and in other ways impossible to untangle. It was obvious that Shell was responsible for more than they would admit, that the government was corrupt and brutal to the core, and that the lives and livelihoods of millions of people were being forever destroyed by the marriage between the two.

What I learned from that research about power, resources, social movements, political manipulation, backroom deals, disasters, and injustice set me on my life's course. I was fascinated. I never got over wanting to know more. A few months later I started studying refugee movements in the Great Lakes region, obsessively reading Howard French's dispatches from Kinshasa and Judith Matloff's analysis from Johannesburg and tracing movements across maps of Zaire, a country that soon ceased to exist. And that was that. I was hooked.

Not much has changed for the Delta, either. Nigerians of the Delta region are watching in dismay as every news network in the world covers the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, wondering why their despair has been ignored for so long. “We don’t have an international media to cover us, so nobody cares about it,” said Mr. Mbong, in nearby Eket [told the New York Times]. “Whatever cry we cry is not heard outside of here.”

We don't have the slightest idea what it's like to live in the Niger Delta. Yes, it's bad on the Gulf Coast, and it will take years if not decades to clean up. But we live in a strong state. Clean-up crews are trying. Victims will be compensated. New regulations will be enacted. Stories will be in the papers for years.

And most of us will go on with our lives, not changing our habits, and certainly not thinking about the tiny threads that tie our stories together with those of Nigerian children who swim in oily water and oil hands in West Texas and nasty dictators and refugees walking to Kisangani. I wonder what would change if we did.

6.16.2010

total cop-out

Things are a little hectic here, so for now, I'm just going to recommend that you read this.

Also, I'm a little bit worried that Tales from the Hood is about to snap, given all the heat he's taking from the "No, Good Intentions ARE Enough" crowd. Deep breaths, TFTH. We don't want "going aid worker" to replace "going postal" in the lexicon. :)

6.15.2010

new & exciting

I am very excited to announce my involvement with the Christian Science Monitor's new Africa Monitor blogging team. Africa Monitor provides up-to-the-minute news and analysis of events on the African continent from academics, journalists, and the CSM's outstanding Africa team. As someone who's relied on the CSM's coverage of the continent for my research for almost 15 years now, I am excited and humbled to be posting alongside people like Jina Moore, G. Pascal Zachary, and CSM Africa Bureau Chief Scott Bauldauf.

Africa Monitor combines the best of the Africa-centered blogosphere with the CSM team's independent reporting. Everything I write will still be posted here, so nothing will change if this is your normal read. That said, I'd strongly recommend subscribing to Africa Monitor's feed so you won't miss out on insight from all the other bloggers and reporters. Thanks to the CSM for this great opportunity!

6.14.2010

speechless

This popped up on Twitter over the weekend: Paul Kagame has started his own social network to promote his re-election campaign. Which, come to think, might be an interesting indicator of his level of support if any other credible candidates were being allowed to run against him.

In actual news from Rwanda, the government has a new listening post on the DRC border and arrested the head of its football federation just as the World Cup kicked off. 'Cause that's a great idea when you're facing bad global PR. Speaking of, Rwanda is still holding ICTR lawyer Peter Erlinder under arrest despite his significant health problems. Erlinder certainly has some off-base views about the genocide, but Rwanda is wrong to detain him for expressing them, particularly since he apparently never said anything controversial while in Rwanda. The government is apparently primarily upset about things Erlinder said in the course of his work for the ICTR. And as this excellent piece from the NYT points out, the Erlinder situation is already having an effect on the tribunal's work. That's not good for Rwanda, for international transitional justice, or for the RPF's claims that their government is free and open.

6.12.2010

this & that

6.11.2010

football [sic]

I realize that the following statement may cause me to lose half of this blog's readership, but here goes nothing: I am not a soccer fan.

Before you send me hate mail, let me note that:
  1. Yes, I understand that everybody else in the entire rest of the world thinks soccer is the greatest sport ever and the World Cup is the greatest spectacle in sports and that we Americans just don't get it.
  2. Yes, I know that it takes incredible athleticism and stamina to run around a field for 90 minutes.
  3. Neither of the above facts has been enough to convince me that watching a bunch of men run in circles for an hour and a half while the actual action is confined to two or three fifteen-second segments is interesting.
  4. I'm sorry.
  5. I'm still interested in the World Cup as a phenomenon, especially given that this year's event takes place in South Africa.
  6. I really liked the K'Naan song as it was before Coca-Cola got ahold of it.
That said, I will be cheering for Cameroon without actually watching any of their games, as has been my custom for the last ten years. What I won't be doing is blogging about the World Cup. (I did watch the end of the opening concert, but that was mostly out of a desire to see Shakira's crazy outfit. It sure wasn't for her singing "talent.")

Nope, we're going to stick to the usual agenda of politics, development, and advocacy for now. In case you're looking for some good coverage, here are some people who'd be good to follow:
Again, I'm sorry. But this is as good as it's going to get. Please feel free to add suggestions for other bloggers following the World Cup in African perspective in the comments.

(See The Onion for this post's title's origin.)

6.10.2010

exactly

All these initiatives have, however, to face a basic problem. The values which motivate the various national or international lobbyists, such as the inalienability of human rights (the civilian victims attributed to armed groups, the enslavement of miners and their inhuman working conditions, the impunity, and the absence of social dividends), the political climate (the management of natural resources, taking into account also the environmental as well as the social impact), and lastly the economic liberalization (the market, rather than the armed groups, regulating the trade), can hardly succeed in raising the level of responsibility of a Congolese state that is no longer seen to exist in much of the public sector and in many areas of the country(10). The question that arises is: Without a Congolese state capable of playing its role in controlling and running affairs, how can the minerals of Kivu be de-criminalized?

It is imperative that the various people and organizations of good will who are determined to ensure that the minerals of Kivu are 'clean' or conflict-free first work towards a definition of the basics necessary for the re-establishment of the Congolese state. Only when this is in place will the control of the mining industry be possible. The various initiatives will not be effective unless this basic condition is met.
That's Aloys Tegera, writing on conflict minerals for Congolese think tank The Pole Institute.

6.09.2010

i may have to rethink some things

Via Politico:
Ashley Judd has long been an advocate for global women’s rights, but now she’s a scholar on the topic, too: Judd just received her master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

“I learned a lot that is really augmenting and enhancing the work that I’ve already been doing for some years now,” the actress told POLITICO about the year she spent in school...

Meeting at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to kick off the conference, Judd told the story of Melody, a young woman she met while on a PSI trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Melody worked in the sex industry, but as Judd questioned her, she learned that the African woman hoped to become a hairstylist.

Thanks to her academic endeavors, Judd had a greater appreciation of Melody’s experience. “I wouldn’t have realized that Melody was hoping to make a transition from the informal to the formal economy without having taken Martha Chen’s class,” the actress said, giving a shout-out to her professor, an expert on women, poverty and employment.
Two thoughts:
  1. You can get an MPA from KSG in one year?!?
  2. Upon reflection, I think this is a good thing. We're always complaining about mind-numbingly ignorant celebrities making idiotic pronouncements about development and coming up with harebrained ideas to collect leftovers for poor Africans. If more celebrities were to follow Judd's lead by getting a real education on the issues for which they advocate, maybe the realm of celebrity advocacy would improve. Of course, the bigger question is whether most celebrities' abilities to cut it in graduate school. I have a feeling that Judd is a bit of an outlier on this one...
What do you think? Should we be encouraging more celebrities to change their badvocacy ways by seriously studying the issues?

6.08.2010

U.S.-Rwanda relations

From Reuters:
Three Rwandan opposition parties have asked the United States to use its influence to help resolve social and political tension in the country before the presidential election in August.

Rights groups say the government and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) have become increasingly intolerant of dissent and criticism in the run-up to the vote, which President Paul Kagame is widely expected to win.

In an open letter last week to the U.S. ambassador in Kigali, Stuart Symington, and seen by Reuters on Sunday, the three-party coalition said: "We strongly believe that your leverage as the ambassador of the United States of America in Rwanda can help diffuse tensions as the presidential elections loom and... (the) military crisis deepens."

...The coalition asked for U.S. assistance in opening up politics, changing anti-genocide legislation and guaranteeing the security forces remained outside politics, and sought a postponement of the ballot, due take place on Aug. 9, to allow more time to ensure it is transparent and free.

"Unless (development) efforts are underpinned by democracy, freedom and the rule of law, the achievements in that area will not be sustainable," the parties said.
U.S. policy towards Rwanda since the genocide has always been a mixed bag. On the one hand, diplomats are constrained by the fact that the Clinton Administration chose not to intervene in the genocide - and deliberately prevented others from doing so. Add that guilt to the tension between the Rwandan government and the French and Belgians and in many ways it made strategic sense for the United States to support one of the few bastions of stability and economic growth in a volatile region.

On the other hand, American diplomats are not stupid. By and large, they don't blindly support Kagame while ignoring his undemocratic tendencies. Most Western diplomats in the region have tracked these issues for years, along with Kigali's role in fostering conflict in and stealing minerals from the DRC. But they tend to walk a fine line and are rarely vocal critics of the regime.

In the past couple of years, however, we've seen U.S. administrations become increasingly willing to call Kagame out, albeit in mostly muted ways. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson's recent testimony before Congress about the tightening of political space in Rwanda is the clearest statement to date that the U.S. is not willing to let Rwanda get away with repression. Let's hope that the follow-through - including the delegation of U.S. observers who are to monitor the August 9 presidential elections - is appropriately forceful and sends a clear message that Rwanda's people are best served by a free, open, and fair political system.

On a related note, Jason Stearns' recent post on Rwanda-DRC-Uganda relations is a must-read for anyone interested in the Great Lakes' regional political dynamics.

6.07.2010

what's going on in north kivu?

Seems the integration of the CNDP into the Congolese national army hasn't gone exactly as planned:
The scarlet-lettered flag flaps atop a lush green hill in an apparent declaration of ownership. Here, a rebel movement turned political party collects taxes, appoints local officials and even polices a border post.

These former rebels are accused of populating the land they have grabbed with thousands of people from neighboring Rwanda to form a mini-Tutsi state. The state-within-a-state is emerging in the shadow of Rwanda's genocide two decades ago, and is raising the specter of new violence in war-ravaged east Congo.

..."The situation is explosive," Jean Baumbiliya Kisoloni, vice president of the provincial assembly based in Goma, said of Masisi, one of the districts under the new flag. "I am not really optimistic that this can be resolved without conflict."

...Nkunda was arrested in 2009 under a hastily-cobbled peace accord between longtime enemies Rwanda and Congo, but his fighters were integrated into Congo's military. These fighters — known as the CNDP — have tripled the area under their control to include lucrative mines and tens of thousands of acres.
The issues of land ownership and territorial control by entities other than the state are central to understanding what's going on in the DRC. I agree with the Pole Institute's Aloys Tegera - who is without question among the best social scientists working in the Kivus - that the numbers of Rwandans reported to be settling in North Kivu are greatly exaggerated, but it does appear that not all of the so-called refugees coming back to Masisi territory are actually Congolese.

There's no question that the CNDP is not interested in seriously integrating itself into the Congolese national government. They have a good thing going in North Kivu: territorial control, the ability to tax, and plenty of power. As usual, the key issues to watch will be land and citizenship rights. Periodic disputes over the citizenship rights of Kinyarwanda-speakers that date to the immediate post-independence period flare up every few years. Since land rights flow from citizenship rights in the DRC - and since many Congolese have long lacked documentation as to their citizenship status - there's always the danger that tensions over who is Congolese (and therefore has rights to the land) and who isn't Congolese will erupt into violence.

It's also important to remember that Congolese politicians have a long history of manipulating fears of a "Rwandaphone invasion" to strengthen their political positions. As Tegera points out, North Kivu politicians are engaging in blatant fear-mongering in order to strengthen their political positions. Legislative and presidential elections are scheduled for 2011, and the Congolese government at just about every level is unpopular in the Kivus - primarily because Kabila ran on a platform of bringing peace to the region in 2006. Contrary to their expectations when the region voted for him at above 90% rates, most residents of the Kivus have experienced more insecurity since 2006, not less. Politicians in the Kivus have an incentive to stir up emotions in the electorate, and dredging up the spectre of a longstanding enemy is a surefire way to win support.

Are we likely to see outbreaks of violence in North Kivu in the upcoming months? I'm inclined to think not; everyone is on his best behavior for the upcoming celebration of 50 years of independence on June 30, the outbreak of fighting would be disastrous for Kabila in the lead-up to the elections, and Rwanda has an incentive to keep its allies in the Kivus calm until their elections are over in August. Violence tends to occur seasonally in the Kivus; no militant group seeking legitimacy wants to fight during the rainy seasons or to be seen as interrupting key events like the end of the school year, major religious holidays, or elections.

But, still, it must be said: until the state reestablishes territorial control and the key issues of land and citizenship rights are dealt with once and for all, there will not be an enduring peace in the eastern DRC. There's no way around it.

6.05.2010

this & that

6.04.2010

two things

6.03.2010

the profits kept rolling in

Seems that Congolese President Joseph Kabila and his First Lady have a bit of an issue on their hands:
This past Thursday, May 27, Pastor Théodore Mugalu, head of the “Maison Civile du Président” (the General Secretariat of the President), took the extraordinary step of summoning various leaders of Kinshasa evangelical churches at the Cathédrale du Centenaire in Lingwala Commune to tell them to stop soliciting meetings with the presidential couple to share their “prophetic messages.” Mugalu decried the fact that the chief of staff to the President is swamped under these demands for audiences with the presidential couple by prophets and born-again kooks of all stripes.

Mugalu told the assembled self-proclaimed pastors, high-priests, bishops, archbishops, brothers-in-Christ, sisters-in-Christ, crazies-for-God, apostles, visionaries and prophets that “at the kindly request of the First Lady, Madame Marie-Olive Lembe,” he wanted to remind them that the DRC is a non-religious state.

6.02.2010

risk & Rwanda

A very helpful political risk analysis for Rwanda from Reuters' Hereward Holland:
Foreign diplomats and sources close to the government say deepening rifts within the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) risk undermining the the nation's stability.

Regional analysts say parts of the banking, tea plantation, coffee, tobacco and mineral exporting businesses are now in the hands of people close to Kagame and the RPF elite.

Political analysts say the divisions are partly connected to the privatisation of government and party assets into the hands of President Paul Kagame and his inner circle.

The Rwanda Development Board denied any government assets had been sold off to the RPF elite.

Meanwhile, Kagame's war on graft has seen former political associates locked up.

The arrest of two senior army officials in April, following a dramatic reshuffle of the military hierarchy, underscored the tensions and erosion of trust at the top. Analysts say the generals' detention -- one for abuse of office, the other for immoral conduct -- is part of a crackdown on critics of Kagame's centralisation of party financing and political power.
Note that Reuters is one of the (or is it the?) only Western media agencies to have a reporter based in Kigali. I'm in full agreement that the increasing centralization of power and resources in the RPF is a key motivating factor in the party's internal divides. In addition, as Holland notes, the status of Laurent Nkunda is another important issue over which RPF elites disagree. Few in the RPF want to see Nkunda take the stand at a trial in the DRC or at the ICC.

6.01.2010

teens & HIV

Stephan Faris writes about Ugandan teenagers living with HIV/AIDS:
Yet the teenage years, when not-yet-mature patients begin to take responsibility for themselves, are perilous for bearers of a chronic disease...

...Once firmly established on a treatment regimen, they can check its progress with their doctor as seldom as twice a year. But for HIV-positive people in places like Uganda, there are also a lot more reasons therapy is likely to fall apart. Shattered families, poor education, or the lack of bus fare to the clinic can come between a patient and the medication. "Many of those who fail on their treatment have poor social support," said Kitaka. "They have multiple caregivers. They are in boarding school."

...Among adolescents--prone, the world over, to easily mix judgment, hypocrisy, and naïveté--these sentiments seem particularly sharp. And for those who slip up in their treatment, the consequences can be unforgiving. "You don't get many chances in Africa with medication," said Yuka Manabe, head of research at the Mulago Hospital's Infectious Disease Institute and a professor at Johns Hopkins University. Whereas in the United States, 24 different drugs can be combined into many different types of therapies, options in the developing world are limited. "You get a first-line regimen, and you might get a second-line regimen if you're lucky," Manabe said. In a region where finances form the barrier to the availability of drugs, allowing the virus to build up resistance has dire consequences. "For every person that goes on second-line therapy here, nine people will [have to be denied] first-line therapy," Manabe explained--the alternate treatment is that much more expensive. "These are tough decisions. Is your first allegiance to the people who have been on? Or should it be on trying to give as many people access as possible? And if you blow it, 'Sorry'?"
I found this to be a particularly well-written piece for several reasons. First, it doesn't exoticize its subjects. Yes, the teenagers live in Uganda and deal with a disease that most readers of the Atlantic will never contract. But, like all teenagers everywhere, they are sometimes prone to making unwise or poorly thought-out decisions. Not treating these teenagers as exotic creatures in a faraway land makes it possible for readers to more fully consider the complexities of the issues surrounding their treatment without distraction.

Finally, it's always nice to see reporters follow good standards of ethical journalism for reporting on children and youth. There's rarely a reason to disclose the identity of an HIV+ child - especially one whose parent or guardian may not really understand the implications of consenting to do so.