Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Monday, August 30, 2010

Assassination of Nkunda ally in Goma

This afternoon, Emerita Munyashwe was assassinated in broad daylight on a busy street in downtown Goma. A car reportedly pulled up next to her, a gunman stepped out and shot her.

The killing is politically significant. Maman Emerita was a close associate of Laurent Nkunda - she handled a lot of the CNDP finances during his tenure as commander of the movement. She was also allegedly close to General Kayumba Nyamwasa, which has led some to speculate that the assassins came across the border from Rwanda (the border is just several hundred meters from where she was shot).

Yet another sign of deep rifts within the Tutsi community, pitting Congolese against Rwandans.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thoughts on the UN mapping report

I've received some angry emails and comments about the posting on the UN mapping report. Since then, the Rwandan and Congolese governments have responded to the allegations, as well. Several of these points merit reflection.

Some general points:

1. The report's intention is to call for accountability for the mass atrocities committed during ten years of conflict in the Congo, not to single out Rwanda for "acts of genocide." Indeed, Angolan, Burundian, Ugandan, Chadian and Congolese officials are also cited for war crimes in the report. While the systematic massacre of Rwandan Hutu refugees stands out as one of the worst crimes committed during the war and deserves to be highlighted, the press should have put the report in context and highlighted its call for a tribunal and a truth and reconciliation commission.

2. There is no doubt that some Rwandan opposition members will seize this opportunity to resurrect the notion of a double genocide. The comparison is not helpful in the least. Some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed during the 1994 genocide. This reports suggests "tens of thousands" of refugees killed by the RPA in the Congo and probably several times that many died from disease and starvation. However, while the figures of refugees that died were nowhere near as high as those of people killed in 1994 genocide, the systematic nature of the killing is deeply chilling and indicates complicity at a very high level within Rwanda's government.

To the concrete points made in Rwanda's rebuttal, which can be read here:

The report was leaked to distract from allegations that UN peacekeepers did nothing to prevent an incident of mass rape in Walikale.
This is unlikely. The report was written by a team under the authority of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, not by MONUSCO. While MONUSCO did have a copy, all indications from within the UN suggest that it was leaked because some UN officials wanted to change the language in the report, in particular allegations that Rwandan troops may have committed acts of genocide in 1996/7. As reported here, Rwanda has threatened to withdraw its peacekeepers from UN missions if the report is published.

It is immoral for the UN, a body that failed to act during the 1994 genocide and then managed the refugee camps that hosted refugees and genocidaires alike in the Congo, to accuse the Rwandan army of genocide.
The UN failed abysmally to bring and end to the genocide in 1994. It also failed to separate soldiers from civilians in the refugee camps. These failures will continue to bring shame and discredit to the organization. However, that past mistakes should somehow prevent the UN from criticizing other atrocities does not make sense. We should recall that the massacre of refugees was not carried out in self-defense, nor were the civilians killed by stray bullets; the evidence gathered by the UN investigators suggests that the massacres were systematic and carried out intentionally, in a coordinated fashion. That 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed in Rwanda in 1994, and that the RPA helped bring an end to the genocide should in no way prevent the UN from criticizing them for killing tens of thousands in the Congo.

The mapping team did not consult the Rwandan government.
The mapping team did apparently show the Rwandan government a draft of the finished report shortly before publication. However, they should have probably confronted the Rwandan government with the evidence gathered, but we should remember that none of the armed groups had a right of response to the allegations before they were published. The investigators presumably - I don't know this for sure - wanted to prevent interference in their investigations. In any case, given the evidence listed in the report it is difficult to imagine that anything the Rwandan government said would have changed the investigators' minds.

Rwanda's intervention in the DRC was a matter of personal survival for Rwanda and a consequence of the irresponsible management of the refugee camps by the UN.
Yes, this was in large part true. But does it excuse the massacre of innocent civilians? Some argue that the innocent civilians were not innocent but had hidden grenades or were otherwise complicit with the ex-FAR/Interahamwe. I suggest you read the parts of the reports, as well the newspaper articles from the period I link to below. Can once simply presume that thousands of infants, women and elderly men were all some how complicit in the genocide and execute them without trial or jury?

The standards of evidence were so low that the investigations cannot be taken seriously.
The standards of evidence were not as high as in a court of law - that would have made investigation of 700+ cases impossible given the limited resources. But the officials did rely on two independent, reliable sources for each incident. This usually included an eyewitness, but not always. For the specific cases of Rwandan involvement, again I invite you to read some of the excerpts. They are telling. They also confirm what I have heard from several Congolese soldiers who fought side-by-side with the RPA in 1996 and witnessed the killings, in some cases even were forced to participate in it. Victims' accounts can also be found, for example Beatrice Umutesi's Fuir ou Mourir au Zaire.

But I recommend you read the entire report here. You can also read this New York Times piece from April 1997, as well as this one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Highlights of the UN mapping report: 1993-1996

As opposed to what some press accounts may have you believe, the UN mapping report is not a report on the Rwandan genocide of Hutu refugees in the Congo. The sections on the massacre of refugees is a small part of a 565 page report that chronicles many different mass atrocities between 1993 and 2003.

The purpose of the report is to jump-start the transitional justice process in the Congo. Other than a deeply flawed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), nothing has been done to hold those accountable for the hundreds of thousands of violent deaths accountable. The report recommends a new TRC and a mixed tribunal to be set up to investigate and try the worst crimes, staffed by Congolese and foreign judges and prosecutors.

But you need to know what the report talks about, I don't expect you to read 565 pages. Here are the first highlights of the report, chronicling the period between 1993-1996. This period was less intensively documented, I think, as the team focused much of its efforts on the wars:

1. In 1990, Mobutu opened his dictatorship up to multiparty democracy. His main challenge came from civil society and particularly Etienne Tsisekedi's UDPS party, which had strong backing from the Kasaian community. In order to divide the opposition, Mobutu pitted the Katangan opposition against the Kasaian community in that province - hundreds of thousands of Kasaians had moved to Katanga to work on the railroads, in the mines and in public administration. Governor of Katanga Kyungu wa Kumwanza rallied his JUFERI youth militia to attack Kasaians and chase them out of the provinces. The team indicates that as many as 780,000 Kasaians could have been expelled from the province between 1993 and 1995, many of them crammed onto freight trains, "coffins on rails," in which many died. Thousands died in these cars, due to unsanitary conditions in IDP camps and at the hands of JUFERI thugs.

2. Tensions between local communities in North Kivu exploded into violence in March 1993. The main fault line was between "indigenous" and "immigrant" populations, the latter composed of descendents of Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi who had come to the area during the colonial period to flee famine in Rwanda and to work on colonial farms. These "immigrants" made up the majority of the population in Masisi and spilled over into neighboring Ruthsuru and Walikale territories. In March 1993, spurred on by speeches by the governor, militias from the Hunde and Nyanga communities killed dozens of Hutu in Ntoto and Buoye villages, Walikale territory. The violence quickly spread, and Hutu began forming their own militias and carrying out revenge killings, sometimes with the help of the Zairian army (FAZ):
153. On 22 July 1993, armed Hutu units supported by the FAZ killed at least 48 people, most of them Hunde but also three Hutus, in the village of Binza and the surrounding area, in the north of the Masisi territory. The victims were shot or killed by blows from machetes or spears. According to one eyewitness, some of the victims were maimed and a pregnant woman was disemboweled. Several other villages in the vicinity of Binza were attacked during this period, including Kalembe on 25 July 1993.
The team investigated seven such incidents in which hundreds of Hutu, Hunde and Nyanga were killed. Doctors Without Border put forward a figure, which the team cites, of 250,000 displaced and between 6,000 and 15,000 killed between MArch and May 1993 alone.

3. The arrival of 700,000 Hutu refugees from Rwanda further shattered the stability of the province, dividing the Congolese Hutu and Tutsi communities. Hutu joined the defeated ex-FAR, while Tutsi took part in the Tutsi-led RPF.
157. Between July 1994 and March 1995, over 200,000 Tutsis left the province of North Kivu and returned to Rwanda. Some left of their own volition to benefit from the employment opportunities offered in the army and administration of the new Rwandan regime. Others fled the growing hostility of the Hutu Banyarwanda and ex-FAR/Interahamwe attacks, as well as the resumption of the ethnic war between the Hutu Banyarwanda and the Hunde and Nyanga Mayi-Mayi.
The stance of the Mobutu's army became increasingly ambiguous. They sometimes protected Tutsi, but also victimized them, forcibly evicting many Tutsi living in Goma in early 1996. The army also launched two operations - "Kimia" and "Mbata" - in 1996 to disarm the Hunde, Nande and Nyanga militia that had been formed, but in other cases they collaborated with these militia.
164. On 29 May 1996, FAZ troops massacred over 120 civilians in the village of Kibirizi in the Bwito chiefdom, in the territory of Rutshuru. The FAZ fired at the village using heavy weapons and set fire to several houses.

In June 1996, FAZ troops massacred over one hundred people in the village of Kanyabayonga in the Lubero territory. Most of the victims were killed when the village was shelled using heavy weapons and hundreds of homes were torched. Kanyabayonga was considered a Ngilima stronghold and most of the victims were Nande armed units or civilians suspected of supporting the group.
The team was unable to confirm how many people died in total between 1993 and the beginning of the "real" war in 1996, but they cite an estimate of 70,000 to 100,000 deaths since 1993. In addition, they say 80% of livestock in the province was pillaged.

4. At the same time, many other areas of the country were experienced turmoil due to the transition to democracy. This was especially true for Kinshasa, where security forces rounded up a lot of people, accusing them of supporting the opposition, and tortured or killed them. The team has documented four specific incidents in the capital, including:
171. On 4 May 1994, elements of the security forces executed 15 people at the Tshatshi camp. The victims had been kidnapped by the security forces (notably the BSRS) two days previously at a protest march staged by the opposition. A further five individuals who had been kidnapped and transferred to the CIRCO military garrison were released after protests from human rights organisations.

On 27 May 1994, Civil Guard elements executed six UDPS activists in the Maluku district in Nsele commune. Their bodies were loaded on to a boat and dumped in the middle of the river. The activists had been kidnapped that day by the BSRS and taken to the Civil Guard training centre at Mangengenge. On 27 May, the opposition had called a day of ville morte in Kinshasa to demand the return of Étienne Tshisekedi to the Premiership. Between 1993 and 1994, the security forces killed a number of UDPS activists, including minors, during their crackdown on the movement.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The vulnerable link in the minerals trade: Banks

Some of us have been wondering how this hue and cry and conflict minerals will actually impact the trade in the Kivus. Some, including myself, have suggested that the pressure in Europe and the US will just displace the trade to Asia, where companies care less about their human rights records.

We may have been wrong. Sources from within the industry indicate that the Malaysia Smelting Corporation - one of the largest buyers of Congolese cassiterite (tin) ore - is having a hard time getting lines of credit from banks for ore coming from Central Africa. The other big smelter, Thaisarco, already had to interrupt its Congolese purchases in August 2009 due to pressure from advocacy groups.

It is the banks, many of which are based in Europe and the US or listed on stock exchanges there, that are getting jittery about the US legislation. In addition, the Electronic Industry Citizen Coalition (EICC), the body that includes the world's largest electronics companies (Apple, Kodak, Philips, Sony, Microsoft, HP, Samsung, etc.), may be taking action of its own soon.

The big question is: Will all this pressure amount to a boycott of the Congo, harming tens of thousands of people involved in the mineral trade as well as the armed groups? Or will donors and the Congolese government take this opportunity to try to press for sustained reforms of local institutions and a better regulation of mining in general? After all, trade could be the engine of development and stability, not just the driver of conflict. The US State Department has been tasked to come up with a strategy. Let's hope for the best.

UN mapping report leaked: Crime of genocide against Hutu center of controversy

Over a year after its completion, the UN mapping report has finally been leaked to the press. The report was mandated by the UN to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Congo between 1993 and 2003 in the hope that there could be accountability for the violence. To date, almost nothing has been done to bring those responsible to justice.

The report is huge, spanning 545 pages, and deals with war crimes committed by the security forces of Angola, Mobutu's Zaire, Uganda, Chad, Laurent Kabila's government, Joseph Kabila's government, Zimbabwe, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe (and later the FDLR), the Mai-Mai and the many other rebel groups. I will speak at length about the massacres carried out by these forces in later postings. Here, I will speak about the most controversial claim: the massacres carried out by the Rwandan army (RPA) together with the AFDL rebellion (led by Laurent Kabila) against the Hutu refugees in 1996-1997.

The striking conclusion is that the crimes committed by the RPA/AFDL against Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutu could constitute a crime of genocide. This will be a bombshell for Paul Kagame's government, which prides itself for having brought an end to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and has built its reputation and its appeal to donors on its promotion of post-genocide reconciliation. This report will rock the internet for months and years to come. Its political importance is hard to overstate.

A few words of caution. The report was not based on the standards of a judicial investigation; it was intended to provide a broad mapping of the most serious human rights abuses between 1993 and 2003. Indeed, the report says that an international court will have to be the final arbiter of whether the RPA/AFDL did actually commit acts of genocide. Verbatim: "The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report, which targeted very large numbers of Rwandan Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide."

Nonetheless, the mapping team's mandate was to documents crimes of genocide, and it was rigorous: In total, the team gathered evidence on 600 incidents of violence between 1993 and 2003. Their standard was two independent sources for each incident. They interviewed 1,280 witnesses and gathered 1,500 documents. Many of the reports of killings of Congolese and Rwandan Hutu civilians were corroborated by eyewitnesses. While we always knew that there had been large massacres of Hutu refugees in the Congo, this is the first rigorous investigation, and the first time an international body has thrown its weight behind charges of genocide.

Another word of caution: This is the preliminary draft. The report is due to be released on Monday, but it has been leaked, I gather because Secretary General Ban Ki Moon - or othr UN officials - has pressed for the charges of "acts of genocide by the RPA/AFDL" to be removed. The Rwandan government has reportedly threatened to withdraw its troops from the AU mission in Darfur and the UN mission in Haiti. I imagine that it is to prevent such editing that the report was finally leaked.

On to the conclusion of the report:

"Paragraph 512. The systematic attacks [...] resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB [Burundian army] forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or pyschological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication. On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked, in particular in Orientale Province, depriving them of assistance essential to their survival

"Paragraph 513. At the time of the incidents covered by this report, the Hutu population in Zaire, including refugees from Rwanda, constituted an ethnic group as defined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Moreover, as shown previously, the intention to destroy a group in part is sufficient to be classified as a crime of genocide. Finally, the courts have also confirmed that the destruction of a group can be limited to a particular geographical area. It is therefore possible to assert that, even if only a part of the Hutu population in Zaire was targeted and destroyed, it could nonetheless constitute a crime of genocide, if this was the intention of the perpetrators. Finally, several incidents listed also seem to confirm that the numerous attacks were targeted at members of the Hutu ethnic group as such. Although, at certain times, the aggressors said they were looking for the criminals responsible for the genocide committed against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, the majority of the incidents reported indicate that the Hutus were targeted as such, with no discrimination between them. The numerous attacks against the Hutus in Zaire, who were not part of the refugees, seem to confirm that it was all Hutus, as such, who were targeted. The crimes committed in particular in Rutshuru (30 October 1996) and Mugogo (18 November 1996), in North Kivu, highlight the specific targeting of the Hutus, since people who were able to persuade the aggressors that they belonged to another ethnic group were released just before the massacres. The systematic use of barriers by the AFDL/APR/FAB, particularly in South Kivu, enabled them to identify people of Hutu origin by their name or village of origin and thus to eliminate them. Hundreds of people of Hutu origin are thus thought to have been arrested at a barrier erected in November 1996 in Ngwenda, in the Rutshuru territory, and subsequently executed by being beaten with sticks in a place called Kabaraza. In South Kivu, AFDL/APR/FAB soldiers erected numerous barriers on the Ruzizi plain to stop Rwandan and Burundian refugees who had been dispersed after their camps had been dismantled.

"514. Several incidents listed in this report point to circumstances and facts from which a court could infer the intention to destroy the Hutu ethnic group in the DRC in part, if these were established beyond all reasonable doubt. Firstly, the scale of the crimes and the large number of victims are illustrated by the numerous incidents described above. The extensive use of edged weapons (primarily hammers) and the systematic massacre of survivors, including women and children, after the camps had been taken show that the numerous deaths cannot be attributed to the hazards of war or seen as equating to collateral damage. The systematic nature of the attacks listed against the Hutus also emerges: these attacks took place in each location where refugees had been identified by the AFDL/APR, over a vast area of the country. Particularly in North Kivu and South Kivu but also in other provinces, the massacres often began with a trick by elements of the AFDL/APR, who summoned the victims to meetings on the pretext either of discussing their repatriation to Rwanda in the case of the refugees, or of introducing them to the new authorities in the case of Hutus settled in the region, or of distributing food. Afterwards, those present were systematically killed. Cases of this kind were confirmed in the province of North Kivu in Musekera, Rutshuru and Kiringa (October 1996), Mugogo and Kabaraza (November 1996), Hombo, Katoyi, Kausa, Kifuruka, Kinigi, Musenge, Mutiko and Nyakariba (December 1996), Kibumba and Kabizo (April 1997) and Mushangwe (around August 1997); in the province of South Kivu in Rushima and Luberizi (October 1996), Cotonco and Chimanga (November 1996) and Mpwe (February 1997) and on the Shabunda-Kigulube road (February-April 1997); in Orientale Province in Kisangani and Bengamisa (May and June 1997); in Maniema in Kalima (March 1997) and in Équateur in Boende (April 1997). Such acts certainly suggest premeditation and a precise methodology. In the region south of the town of Walikale, in North Kivu (January 1997), Rwandan Hutus were subjected to daily killings in areas already under the control of the AFDL/APR as part of a campaign that seemed to target any Hutus living in the area in question.

"515. Several of the massacres listed were committed regardless of the age or gender of the victims. This is particularly true of the crimes committed in Kibumba (October 1996), Mugunga and Osso (November 1996), Hombo and Biriko (December 1996) in the province of North Kivu, Kashusha and Shanje (November 1996) in the province of South Kivu, Tingi-Tingi and Lubutu (March 1997) in Maniema Province, and Boende (April 1997) in Équateur Province, where the vast majority of victims were women and children. Furthermore, no effort was made to make a distinction between Hutus who were members of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe and Hutu civilians, whether or not they were refugees. This tendency to put all Hutus together and “tar them with the same brush” is also illustrated by the declarations made during the “awareness-raising speeches” made by the AFDL/APR in certain places, according to which any Hutu still present in Zaire must necessarily be a perpetrator of genocide, since the “real” refugees had already returned to Rwanda. These “awareness-raising speeches” made in North Kivu also incited the population to look for, kill or help to kill Rwandan Hutu refugees, whom they called “pigs”. This type of language would have been in widespread use during the operations in this region.

"516. The massacres in Mbandaka and Wendji, committed on 13 May 1997 in Équateur Province, over 2,000 kilometres west of Rwanda, were the final stage in the hunt for Hutu refugees that had begun in eastern Zaire, in North and South Kivu, in October 1996. Among the refugees were elements of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, who were disarmed by the local police force as soon as they arrived. In spite of everything, the AFDL/APR opened fire on hundreds of defenceless Hutu refugees, resulting in large numbers of victims.

"517. The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report, which targeted very large numbers of Rwandan Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide. The behaviour of certain elements of the AFDL/APR in respect of the Hutu refugees and Hutu populations settled in Zaire at this time seems to equate to “a manifest pattern of similar conduct directed against that group”, from which a court could even deduce the existence of a genocidal plan. “Whilst the existence of such a plan may contribute to establishing the required genocidal intention, it is nonetheless only an element of proof used to deduce such an intention and not a legal element of genocide.” It should be noted that certain elements could cause a court to hesitate to decide on the existence of a genocidal plan, such as the fact that as of 15 November 1996, several tens of thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees, many of whom had survived previous attacks, were repatriated to Rwanda with the help of the AFDL/APR authorities and that hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees were able to return to Rwanda with the consent of the Rwandan authorities prior to the start of the first war. Whilst, in general, the killings did not spare women and children, it should be noted that in some places, at the beginning of the first war, Hutu women and children were in fact separated from the men, and only the men were subsequently killed.

"518. Nonetheless, neither the fact that only men were targeted during the massacres, nor the fact that part of the group were allowed to leave the country or that there movement was facilitated for various reasons, are sufficient in themselves to entirely remove the intention of certain people to partially destroy an ethnic group as such. In this respect it seems possible to infer a specific intention on the part of certain AFDL/APR commanders to partially destroy the Hutus in the DRC, and therefore to commit a crime of genocide, based on their conduct, words and the damning circumstances of the acts of violence committed by the men under their command. It will be for a court with proper jurisdiction to rule on this question."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mass rape in Walikale: What happened?

As you may have read in the papers, at least 179 women were raped by armed men around the small town of Ruvungi in Walikale territory between July 30 and August 2. The account I have heard on the radio (in particular on BBC, who interviewed International Medical Corps at length) goes more or less a follows: The rebels attacked the town, which is in a mineral-rich area, systematically raping women, children and some men during four days despite the presence of a MONUC base close by. They implied that the rebels attacked the town to get at the minerals.

This is mostly correct, but it isn't clear to me why rebels would rape 179 women in order to get their hands on minerals. Let's try to dig a bit deeper.

The facts are still a bit hazy, but this is what I can glean from some sources on the ground. (See map to get an idea where this took place - Ruvungi is around 20km west of Kibua).

Walikale is home to the largest tin deposits in the Congo and to some very large gold mines, as well. In particular, the Bisie mine is supposed to account for somewhere between 50 and 80% of tin exports from North Kivu. The control of Bisie mine is a main source of contention within the Congolese army, as it provides for upwards of $100,000 a month in taxes for local soldiers, which does not include the individual pits that some commanders control and kickbacks thet get from trading houses.

Since the Kimia II operations last year, the mining area has been controlled largely by former CNDP commanders. Until recently, Walikale town was controlled by the 212th brigade, led by Lt. Col. Yusuf Mboneza, an ex-CNDP commander still sympathetic towards Laurent Nkunda. He has deployed officers in various mining sites around Walikale, with orders to bring back a cut of the taxes on sales.

There are also various non-governmental armed groups in the area. In June 2009, a man called Tcheka, a former employee of the MPC mining company, started a new militia with a few local deserters and youths. He grew quickly, allegedly with support from Congolese army officers in Goma, and began launching attacks on mining villages. Many demobilized soldiers, disappointed by their lack of prospects, joined up - he now calls himself a colonel and allegedly controls several hundred men.

Another armed group in the neighborhood is led by Colonel Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, a Congolese Tutsi officer who used to be in the CNDP and defected in 2009, starting his own little armed group, allegedly in complicity with officers close to Nkunda.

Then, of course, there is the FDLR, the Rwandan rebels, who have several large bases in the Walikale forests. Of the non-governmental groups, the FDLR are probably the strongest. The relevant commander appears to be Colonel Sadiki, who is usually based in eastern Walikale, on the border with Masisi territory.

These four groups - the 212th brigade, Tcheka, FDLR and Emmanuel - reportedly collaborate. Tcheka, Emmanuel and the FDLR plan attacks together and share the loot, or divide up local taxation rackets. There was allegedly a meeting at Sadiki's headquarters around a year ago to formalize this collaboration. The fact that Emmanuel is apparently the cousin of the 212th brigade commander helps the group obtain ammunition and avoid clashes with the Congolese army. Tcheka has also allegedly been in touch with military officials in Goma recently, even receiving some new equipment around the time of the 50th independence anniversary celebrations.

Their lucrative racket has recently, however, been threatened, as the 212th brigade is supposed to be replaced by the 211th brigade, which is currently located in Omate (there is another gold mine there) to the east. The local population is tired of the 212th brigade, which has been abusive and is led by Tutsi - people are also sick of Tcheka, who initially had said he was going into the bush to protect to population against the Tutsi invasion. Voila, people say: now he is collaborating with them.

The mass rape took place when the 211th brigade, which is usually deployed in the area around Ruvungi, left to move to Walikale center, its new deployment. According to interviews carried out by MONUC and others, the rapes were carried out by a Tcheka-Emmanuel-FDLR alliance under the command of Colonel Mayele, a Tcheka commander. The armed groups carried out attacks on civilians in over a dozen villages along the Mpofi-Kibua road.

So was the violence carried out to protest the removal of the 212th brigade in the area? Or was it supposed to intimidate the population into providing the militias what they wanted: gold and tin from the nearby mines (there is a gold mines 7km from Ruvungi)? Was it supposed to be a warning to the announced operations to be conducted against Tcheka and the FDLR by the new troops in the area? It isn't clear. The rebels apparently told villagers that they wanted to stop the transport of minerals to Goma and to get rid of the Congolese army troops in the area.

The other scandal has been MONUSCO's reaction. I have heard various allegations, the most extreme of which was that the rapes happened at their doorstep and they did nothing to intervene. This is not entirely accurate. The MONUSCO base was 15-30 kilometers away at Kibua. But they had allegedly been informed by villagers about lootings (not rapes?) in that area on July 31, when the violence began. (Although now the UN is saying that the rebels cut off the road, preventing any information from getting to the blue helmets.) Some locals also say that MONUSCO carried out a patrol along the Mpofi-Kibua axis on August 2nd, after most of the violence had occurred, but didn't stop to talk to villagers.

Did they not want to drive/walk the 30 kilometers? Were they afraid of ambushes? We do not know - the initial information of the attacks did not come from the peacekeepers, but rather from International Medical Corps and local groups. Finally, on August 13 a MONUSCO joint civilian and military team from Goma arrived to investigate and was able to confirm most of the allegations. By that time, International Medical Corps had treated 157 victims, although local authorities have reported that there were many more.

All in all, there are more questions than answers here. Two main points:
  • MONUSCO's interaction with the local population appears to be poor, and their military are not patrolling and prioritizing protection of civilians as they should;
  • There seems to be a deadly symbiosis between various militia groups and Congolese army officers centered around gold and tin mines in Walikale - this violence could have been prevented if the Congolese army had gotten rid of Tcheka when he was just a gang of 15 bandits in the bush last year, instead of collaborating with him.

Pre-electoral throat clearing

There's nothing Congolese politicians enjoy quite as much as elections. So much, in fact, that they have decided to begin their pre-campaign. Vital Kamerhe, former head of the national assembly, announced his candidacy in late July; Etienne Tshisekedi, the veteran head of the UDPS, declared on August 18th he would run (he has already announced in April); and now a new opposition coalition has been formed in Kinshasa, the Sacred Union for the Alternance (USA).

Yes, the USA is going up against Joseph Kabila.

It's a strange coalition, whose name invokes the Sacred Union of the Opposition, a coalition formed in 1991 to challenge Mobutu's regime, as well as the alternance of power they would like to see, i.e. Kabila leaving. (As well as the home of the free, brave, etc.)

Much like that Sacred Union, this one is composed of some strange bedfellows. Their spokesperson (or the one who talks to the press) seems to be Jean-Pierre Lisanga Bonganga, the head of the Christian Democratic Convention (CCD) party, is one of the more radical members of the opposition; Ernest Wamba dia Wamba is a former president of the RCD rebellion and an ardent former opponent to Mobutu; Anzuluni Bembe is a former ally of Mobutu and vice-president of his parliament; Christian Badibangi was a member of Tshisekedi's brief government, while Médard Lwakabwanga was a minister for Mobutu. What a mix.

Maybe I shouldn't be going on so long about the USA. After all, the parties they represent only have a total of 3 seats in a national assembly of 500 MPs.

But it serves to show that the pre-electoral wrangling and positioning has begun. The next big fight will be over who gets to nominate one of the 3 opposition representatives to the electoral body, which also has 4 positions named by the ruling coalition. The UDPS and the RCD have both claimed a position, and I'm sure the MLC, the largest opposition party by far, will want at least one position.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Why Congo Siasa Will Not Be Sued

Because it is now out in the open that Dan Gertler, the prominent Israeli businessman often featured in this space, was behind one of the British Virgin Island companies that recently obtained valuable mining and oil concessions in the Congo. (His lawyers tend to be a litigious bunch). Today, we found out that Kazakh company ENRC bought a majority stake in Camrose Resources Ltd - a company controlled by Gertler - for $50 million in cash and $125 million in promissory notes.

Camrose owns five copper and cobalt licenses in the Congo, one of which was the Kolwezi mine taken away from First Quantum by the Congolese government. I wonder how much they paid for all that? To Congolese MPs reading this: an audit would be nice.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Of Foxes, Capricorns and Money

Who said the investment climate in the Congo is poor?

A few months ago, Kabila's government took away several lucrative concessions from multinational corporations - a copper/cobalt concession from First Quantum in Katanga (after they had sunk $750 million into the project) and two oil blocks from Tullow in Lake Albert (they had paid a $500,000 signing bonus). It then granted these same concessions to three new, unknown companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands: Foxwhelp, Caprikat and Highwind Properties, respectively. The first two deals were signed by Khulubuse Zuma (Caprikat), the nephew of the South African president, and Michael Hulley (Foxwhelp) , President Zuma's lawyer.

However, the companies shareholder structure is veiled in mystery. A trust based in Switzerland owns the two companies, but according to Reuters, a spokesperson has declined the reveal who is behind the trust. Congolese civil society groups have complained that the new deals leave the state with a smaller share in the venture and its profits.

Some foreign diplomats in Kinshasa speculate that Kabila might be using these new businesses to raise much-needed funds ahead of next year's elections. He allegedly resorted to a similar ploy in 2004-5 in the run-up to elections by granting lucrative mining concessions to businessmen such as Dan Gertler and George Forrest in return for financing for his presidential campaign - according to some of Kabila's advisors, those deals provided him somewhere between $20-60 million. According to unconfirmed sources, Gertler is also linked to Caprikat, although he has denied this.

Kabila is short on cash, but there may be big fish on the horizon. Italian oil giant ENI has indicated for some time that they are interested in coming into the Congo in a major way, and some believe that it will buy large shares of Capirkat and Foxwhelp. As for the First Quantum copper/cobalt concession, word on the street suggests that Kazakh company ENRC - which recently bought the copper miner CAMEC - might be buying a controlling stake.

All of this cause a stir in diplomatic circles. The alleged expropriation of First Quantum's concession was one of the reasons that the Canadian government questioned giving debt relief to the Congo - they said these kinds of action could lead to poor investor confidence.

I guess the Congo doesn't have many troubles convincing investors to come after all.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rwanda says enemies based in neighboring countries; Numbi interviewed

Two brief articles of interest:

  • John Numbi, the chief of police in the Congo, appeared in front of the military prosecutor for the first time since Floribert Chebeya's assassination yesterday. His own chief of special services, Colonel Daniel Mukalay, accused Numbi of having ordered the torture of the human rights activist.
  • Following the last grenade attack in Kigali on August 11th, which killed 6 and injured several others, the army spokesperson said that the Rwandan Defense Forces would take "radical measures" against their enemies, even if they are supported by "foreign countries." According to the spokesperson, they have proof that those who planned the attacks are well trained and have bases in neighboring countries. Neighboring countries? Uh-oh. That sounds ominous - Uganda? Congo?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


  • Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf published this article on The Huffington Post about whither Rwanda. Scott wrote a seminal book on the Rwandan genocide and teaches as U of Wisconsin, while Lars used to be the Human Rights Watch researcher on Rwanda and is currently senior lecturer at York Law School.
  • Further to my flurry of articles on authoritarianism and economic growth, Dani Rodrik from Harvard's Kennedy School just wrote on "The Myth of Authoritarian Growth" at Project Syndicate here.
  • Alongside Zimbabwe and Rajoelina, the investigation into Floribert Chebeya's death was a matter of debate at the AU jubilee summit in Windhoek this week, with NGOs pushing for an independent investigation. Their letter here.
  • Alexis Sinduhije, leader of the MSD opposition party in Burundi, published this Op-Ed in the East African this week, condemning the rigged elections and clamp down on civil society in Bujumbura.

Gas troubles

A delegation from US oil giant Chevron visited Kinshasa several weeks ago to discuss the building of a natural gas pipeline from its Block 0 off the Cabinda coast (see map) to Soyo in northern Angola. Initially the pipeline was supposed to go through the water, but it turned out to be too expensive, so the pipeline will have to cross Congolese territory around the mouth of the Congo river. According to some people close to the meeting, the Congolese government demanded a huge sum of money, a sum so large that Chevron had to walk away and the Angolan government, who is helping develop the $4 billion plant in Soyo, was reportedly furious. The Angolans reportedly said something like: "After everything we have done for the Congo, this is how you thank us?"

View Soyo in a larger map

Tensions between the Angolan and Congolese governments have risen in recent years, with ongoing disputes over territory, refugees, oil fields and now this pipeline. The Angolan army has made several incursions into Congolese territory over the past three years, and tens of thousands of migrants from both countries have been expelled in various bouts of feuding. Perhaps the most bitter battle is over sharing revenues from offshore oil blocks 14 & 15, which has prompted the Congolese government to go to international arbitration.

Kabila is stuck between a rock and a hard place. A little known fact is that his government receives almost $300 million a year in taxes from the oil production, far more than they get from mining. They should be getting much more, as they have claimed a share in offshore fields that Angola currently claims and that produce hundreds of thousands of barrels a day (the Congo currently produces just under 30,000 barrels/day). So Kabila needs this money badly from the oil fields, but he also knows that if he pushes too hard, Angola, which has been his biggest regional military ally for years, could turn against him.

Map of the area claimed by the Congolese government (courtesy of Jeune Afrique):

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Burundi, quo vadis?

Congo watchers, take some advice: ignore Burundi at your peril. Ok, that was a bit ominous, but most of us try to keep up with Rwandan and Ugandan politics - after all, those were the two countries in the East who actively took part in the 1996-2003 wars (Burundi did as well, but never officially) - and neglect Burundi.

As you surely know, Burundi just held a series of elections, most of which the opposition boycotted, alleging rigging. Hence, we now have a legislature dominated to 95% by the president's party, the CNDD-FDD. Two opposition leaders - both former Hutu rebels - Leonard Nyangoma and Agathon Rwasa have apparently fled the country and a third, Alexis Sinduhije, has gone into hiding.

Why should the Congolese care? First, Agathon Rwasa, the former head of the FNL rebel group, has probably crossed into the Kivus. Numerous reports, including from FDLR members, indicate that he is in South Kivu and that he has linked up with FDLR and some Mai-Mai groups (Gen. Dunia's name has popped up). The same sources indicate that Congolese army officers may have facilitated his crossing into the country. In the meantime, reports are coming out from former FNL officers and locals that the armed group has begun re-training former rebels in the Kibira forest in northwestern Burundi, possibly in connection with some of the more radical Tutsi youth groups from Bujumbura. This group is also said to have links with Hussein Rajabu, a former CNDD-FDD stalwart who is now in prison and some say that the former Tutsi officer corps (ex-FAB) is not happy that most of the procurement deals for the army now go through CNDD-FDD officers (notably Gen. Guillaume Bunyoni, Minister of Public Security).

There are also allegedly links to Congolese officials in Kinshasa. Rajabu lived in the Congolese capital during the war and has maintained good connections with people around Kabila. Pascaline Kampayano, who was also a CNDD-FDD representative in Kinshasa during the war, has spent the better part of the last several years in the Congo and is apparently there again this month. There are rumors that President Kabila may not attend President Nkurunziza's upcoming inauguration ceremony (although Kabila tends to shy away from these events - he didn't attend the AU summit in Kampala either).

But let's be level-headed about this. First, even though the opposition in Burundi has been excluded from power and the CNDD-FDD is guilty of many abuses, it will be difficult to re-start a rebellion. The FNL has demobilized a lot of its soldiers, and the countries in the region are hostile to the idea of a new rebellion. It will cost its leaders a lot of legitimacy if they try rally the boys (& girls) again. Key will be the disposition of the former Tutsi officer corps - they have stayed remarkably quiet since the CNDD-FDD took over power in 2005, and the traditioally UPRONA party is the only other party represented in parliament, mais on ne sait jamais.

Secondly, it isn't clear that Kabila stands to gain much by supporting a new Burundian rebellion. Yes, a few of his officers (Gen. Masunzu and Col. Nakabaka's names keep cropping up) may be involved for their own reasons, but Kabila appears to be genuinely trying to clamp down on the FDLR and patronage networks in the FARDC that he doesn't control - allowing an alliance between the Hutu rebels on his territory doesn't make a lot of sense. Plus, the Rais seems to be intent on sticking to his deal with Kagame for the moment, and Kagame is still pretty close to Nkurunziza.

In any case, we should keep our eyes open and ears sharpened. Burundi, quo vadis?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Are authoritarian regimes better at promoting economic growth?

I few days ago, I asked whether Rwanda should follow in Singapore's steps and clamp down on civil liberties in the interest of economic development. In the back of my brain, something was telling me that I had read Kagame's theories about development somewhere before.

Now I remember. The late great Samuel Huntington (of Clash of Civilizations fame), in his book Political Order in Changing Societies, argued that societies go through upheaval during modernization because popular mobilization outpaces the development of political institutions. Huntington fetishized these institutions, in particular political parties and argued that in poor countries it would often be easier for authoritarian regimes to develop these institutions. I am reducing a 500 page book to a paragraph, but bear with me. Huntington, a Harvard professor, later went on to provide advice to the military junta in Brazil, recommending they develop a strong party system before liberalizing the political sphere.

Of course, this elicited a lot of criticism. More recently, Adam Przeworski - an established Polish political scientist who knows something about authoritarian regimes - put Huntington's theory to the test. He examined 135 countries between 1950 and 1990 and did the necessary econometrics to figure out whether authoritarian states were better at developing than democracies. His conclusion:

Indeed, the 56 dictatorships with annual per-capita income of less than $1,000 when we first observed them simply failed to develop. By the exit year, only 18 of them had made it (whether under democracy or continued dictatorship) to $1,000, only 6 to $2,000, and only 3 to more than $3,000. South Korea and Taiwan are exceptional: they are the only two dictatorships that started under $1,000 in 1950 and had annual per-capita income exceeding $5,000 by 1990. If we consider as "initially poor" those countries with less than $2,000, we find that among 98 dictatorships first observed below this level, by the exit year only 26 had made it to $2,000, 15 to $3,000, 7 to $4,000, and 4 to $5,000. These figures should be enough to dispel any notion that dictatorship somehow promotes economic growth in poor countries.

Malu Malu responds

A couple of blog posts ago, I summarized some of the complaints leveled against Abbé Malu Malu, the head of the Congolese electoral commission. He has now responded to some of these criticisms in a somewhat heated interview with Radio Okapi (transcript here).

In sum, he says:
  • There is nothing in the constitution that says when local elections have to be held. This is true, although a calendar issued by the electoral commission several years ago has been revised numerous times now;
  • The new law on the electoral commission (CENI) says that its predecessor (CEI), led by Malu Malu, remains in power until CENI is named by the national assembly. (You can read the law here);
  • He will not be the head of the CENI.
Merci, Monsieur l'Abbé. I just wish they had asked you why the presidential elections are pushed back until November 2011, and why you are now re-issuing electoral cards to the whole country.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kony: Killing as a strategy of rule

Two new accounts out on the LRA's recent activity by Human Rights Watch and Enough. The Ugandan rebel group has abducted over 697 children in northeastern Congo and southeastern Central African Republic over the past 18 months and killed around 2,500 people. The violence has been underreported because they areas they operate in are very remote and the LRA doesn't play much of a political role in the region.

The LRA is a weird rebel group. Since it was pushed out of Uganda in 2005, the group has spread itself over thousands of square miles and over three countries (Uganda, Sudan and CAR). It has gone from being an almost entirely Acholi group to one where most of the footsoldiers are now Zande. According to accounts from researchers working on the LRA, the rationale behind their incredibly abusive behavior is partly internal: As they don't have a clear ideological program (at least not one that can attract recruits) and most of their soldiers are abductees and now no longer even from the same ethnic or linguistic background, they need violence as a way to socialize and indoctrinate their soldiers. Killing, in other words, often does not happen in response to contested military authority, but is used as a way make obedient soldiers.

(Other motives could be: using violence as a way to intimidate locals to provide them with resources and sending a message to foreign actors that the rebel group is strong and ruthless.)

Peace talks broke down when Joseph Kony refused to sign a deal in 2008 - satellite phone intercepts indicate that he has no intention of handing himself in. Most advocates I have spoken to, be they from governments, human rights groups or the UN, think that Kony will have to be killed to bring an end to the violence, although human rights groups have a hard time saying this in public. Some advocacy groups think that sending an international military force could set a good precedent for the execution of ICC warrants (Kony was the first indictee of the ICC).

International intervention may finally be in the cards. US Congress (which has been in a frenzy of Central Africa-related legislating) passed a bill in May this year requiring the Obama administration to support military and diplomatic efforts to deal with the LRA. The State Department is required to submit a strategy for this by the end of November. In private, US officials are skeptical about sending troops, but there have been suggestions that they could provide intelligence (they already do some of that) and financing for other countries to send in special forces.

In the meantime, Kony might be eyeing to get more support from Khartoum, a former ally who used to back him when it was at war with the SPLA. LRA troops have recently crossed into Darfur from CAR, and a defector suggested that they met with Sudanese officials there. As Sudan heads towards its all-important referendum on southern independence next year, a mercenary job or two might open by for the LRA.

Anger over elections in Kinshasa

A couple of days ago, the Congolese electoral authority announced the election calendar for the presidential, legislative and local elections. Congolese civil society and opposition are up in arms, but first let me outline the calendar:
  • Sept 2010 - May 2011: Revision of the electoral roll, resulting in a new list of voters and a new distribution of seats in parliaments
  • May 2011 - Nov 2011: Preparation for elections
  • 27 Nov 2011 - First round presidential elections and national legislative elections
  • 30 Dec 2011 - Publication of results
  • 26 Feb 2012 - Second round presidential elections and provincial assembly elections
  • 24 Mar 2012 - Publication of results
  • 12/13 June 2012 - Election of senators and governors by provincial assemblies
  • 31 Jan 2013 - Election of municipal, sector and chefferie councillors
  • 19 May 2013 - Election of Chefs of sectors, bourgomestres and urban councillors
  • 8 August 2013 - Election of mayors and deputy mayors
So here are the controversies:

First, the are various obvious violations of the 2005 constitution. The presidential elections have to "be called" 90 days before the end of his mandate. While there may be some ambiguity about what "etre convoqué" means, most seem to believe that elections have to take place at the latest on September 6th, 2011 - not November 27th, as the calendar says. Even if there is a winner in the first round, he won't be inaugurated until January 12, 2012, extending Joseph Kabila's current mandate by a month. If there is a run-off election, the president will have to wait until April 4th, 2012 to take power.

Another problem is the further delay of local elections - these were initially supposed to take place in 2005, if I remember correctly, and were then pushed back to 2008, then to 2010 and now they are supposed to take place in 2013.

Thirdly, a new electoral commission (CENI) was created on June 28th this year to replace the old one (CEI). Its seven members will be named by the national assembly, which does not come back from recess until September. So with what right does the old CEI announce the electoral calendar? They are only supposed to be dealing with temporary management issues until the CENI takes over.

Lastly, as mentioned here before, a lot of people are asking questions about the revision of the electoral roll. Since there has not been a census in the country since the 1980s, it is on the basis of this roll that the distribution of legislative seats and polling stations is made. As some did not register the last time around - especially in the Kasais and Kinshasa, where the opposition called for a boycott (although most ignored the call) - this is important. But now the minister of interior is saying that they will ask everybody to re-register. Will this cause beef in the Kivus, where the electoral card is the only proof of citizenship many have?

For those interested, here are some of the relevant articles in Kinshasa's newspapers: Le Potentiel here and here, Congo Independent here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is Rwanda like Singapore?

Pardon me for not blogging about Kagame's electoral victory; it was not much of a surprise. Instead, I've been wanting to talk about something that he mentioned often on the election trail: Singapore.

On numerous occasions over the past months, we have heard President Kagame express his doubts about the wisdom of importing democracy to Rwanda. He has said numerous times that he feels that the kind of limited democracy of South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore - all countries where authoritarian governments oversaw periods of steep economic growth - is more suited for Rwanda.

Political pundits like Andrew Mwenda agree, saying that the elites' isolation from popular pressures will allow them to avoid populist redistributive programs that mire the country in patronage. Their top-down management and lack of opposition can allow them to push through difficult reforms such as the new land law and the introduction of English as the language of instruction. He argues that this has allowed Rwanda to avoid the corruption trap of its neighbor Uganda, where the NRM has maintained its rule through patronage and co-option.

Others, such as Kagame's policy advisor Jean-Paul Kimonyo say that democracy could lead to conflict: "The issue here is how do you ensure political cooperation when confrontational politics will almost certainly lead to renewed violence?"

There are, indeed, some academics who might agree with this perspective. David Waldner, for example, suggests that Taiwan and South Korea succeeded at developing much quicker than Turkey and Syria, for example, because their elites were united (and authoritarian), didn't have to stoop to patronage politics, and were able to offer an educated and very cheap work force. It's not easy to push through tough policies like land reform and fiscal austerity - we need a strong state to do this, the argument goes (and if you don't believe us, look at Kenya and Nigeria).

However, most economists would insist that there is no recipe to growth. Dani Rodrik (Harvard), Pranab Bardhan (Berkeley) and Paul Collier (Oxford) - despite their many differences - would all agree that being authoritarian is not necessary for development. The danger is also that in very poor states, authoritarianism often goes hand in hand with weak checks and balances to hem in abuse of power. The bedrock of development - property rights, rule of law, fiscal solvency and market-oriented incentives - could be easily undermined.

The RPF largely protects most of these essential ingredients (although they also maintain a strong hand in the economy, in which the the RPF has significant involvement through holding companies). But let's not get carried out: The Asian Tigers all had vibrant industrial sectors built before and during WWII, drawing on cheap educated labor, cheap primary resources (cotton, steel, sisal and oil) and steep levels of foreign direct investment in manufacturing.

The real criticism, however, is a political one: The RPF is a very hierarchical regime with few checks and balances. This is not China, where the communist party has internal mechanisms for debate, promotion and sanctioning of abusive officials; it is also not Singapore, where a strong entrepreneurial sector has kept the pressure on the regime to maintain FDI and trade; this is not Korea, where there is a thousand year-old tradition of a strong, independent bureaucracy, and where the US invested billions after the Korean war in FDI and aid.

With all the raving about the RPF's forward-looking economic reforms, let us not forget that Rwanda is a chiefly agricultural country. Korea and Taiwan developed through export-led-growth and industrialization. By contrast, the RPF's vision is to grow through a service-based country; this is why they are wiring the country with fiber-optic cables and investing heavily in ICT training institute. But service industry usually serves the business sector, which is still very weak. The country is landlocked - the biggest investment possibilities are in methane gas in Lake Kivu, in coffee and tea, and in the mineral sector in the eastern Congo.

The real question is therefore not whether Rwanda can benefit from growth like Singapore - maybe it can. But let's ask instead: can the RPF maintain its "enlightened authoritarianism" despite the divisions within its own ranks? Has Kagame's leadership style resulted in divisions that are so deep that they threaten the stability of the government? Again, I would recommend that donors take a better look inside the black box of internal RPF politics before jumping to conclusions about the country's future.

I leave you with a quote from two political scientist, Nicholas van de Walle and Michale Bratton, who have written eloquently about democratization in Africa (h/t to Opalo):

“Liberalized authoritarianism…. is an unstable form of regime. Its political openings are easily and summarily shut as strongmen place ever heavier reliance on a shrinking circle of military loyalists. In the worst-case scenarios, blocked or precluded transitions lead to an intensification of political conflict, to anarchy (a regime without rules of any kind) and to the implosion of the authority of the state.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

Palace intrigues in Kinshasa

Once again, the éminence grise at the presidency, Katumba Mwanke, is in the headlines in Kinshasa. This time, he is allegedly engaged in a row with Théodore Mugalu, the head of the Maison civile du Chef de l'État.

What happened?

According to several sources close to the national security council, Mugalu submitted a complaint at the end of May this year, alleging that someone had been spying on him and stealing documents from his office. He pointed the finger at Augustin Katumba Mwanke, the former head of the AMP presidential coalition and financial right hand man to the president.

Then, over the past several weeks, a document has been going around on the internet, also allegedly signed by Mugalu, titled: "Security information for President Joseph Kabila." The memo says that Katumba has been plotting an assassination attempt against Kabila for some time together with Speaker of the National Assembly Evariste Boshab and Minister for the State Portfolio, Jeannine Mabunda. The document also included some bank account numbers in Europe that Katumba allegedly uses to transfer state funds to private accounts.

According to the same sources close to the national security council, Mugalu and Katumba have been at loggerheads for quite some time. Mugalu was a close friend of Laurent Désiré Kabila since his rebel days in the 1970s & 80s and knew his family well. When LD Kabila came to power in 1997, Mugalu was named ambassador to Tanzania; after his assassination in 2001, Jospeh Kabila brought Mugalu back to Kinshasa to look over his personal affairs. The Maison Civile du Chef de l'État does just this: it takes care of all of the financial and political arrangements necessary for the president's family (and deals with all the people who claim to be Joseph Kabila's relatives).

Mugalu was apparently not happy that Katumba's star had risen so quickly over the past couple of years. The young man from southern Katanga (Mugalu is from the north of the province) is the custodian of many of the state's most important financial dealings, even though since he resigned as secretary-general of the AMP, he has not had an official position other than MP from the district of Pweto.

It is therefore not surprising that Mugalu would accuse Katumba of overstepping his limits and trying to get involved on his turf. As for the documents cited above, it is not clear whether they are real or fake. Mugalu himself gave a press conference last Thursday in Kinshasa, denying that he had ever signed any such document, although people in the know continue to insist that Mugalu has been accusing Katumba of espionage. Both were apparently interrogated by the intelligence service this week.