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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Making of Bosco

Over the past two years, seismic shifts have taken place in Kivus region. First, in January 2009, came a secretive deal between Rwanda and the Congo, bringing a lull to over a decade of antagonisms. Then, last September, President Joseph Kabila banned mineral exports from the eastern Congo, a move that had a radical impact on the local economy. One can discuss the complex consequences these developments have had, but one clear winner has emerged, at least for now: Gen. Bosco Ntaganda. 

Bosco is one of the most notorious figures in the region, so much so that he usually just goes by his first name, a common name in these parts. Also known as "The Terminator," he was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2006. That indictment came shortly after his move from Ituri, where he had been the Chief of Staff of the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) to join Laurent Nkunda's Congres national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) armed group in North Kivu. 

He was Nkunda's main military commander, the man who took care of military business and deployments while Nkunda was busy politicking. He was most likely jointly in command of the CNDP operations that led to a massacre in Kiwanja (North Kivu) in November 2008. 

Then, the early 2009, Rwanda struck a deal with President Kabila to forcefully integrate the CNDP into the Congolese army. Although the precise chain of events is not entirely clear, Gen. Nkunda was arrested as a result of this deal and remains under house arrest until today in Kigali. Bosco, who is known to be a soldier's man, a intrepid but ruthless commander, was named to lead the remnants of the CNDP and to integrate them into the Congolese army. 

Bosco, who is a Tutsi of the Gogwe clan from Masisi territory (Nkunda is Jomba from Rutshuru), has little formal education and - in stark contrast with Nkunda - is not comfortable in the company of journalists or politicians. Perhaps this, along with his ICC indictment made him appear more malleable to his Rwandan allies across the border. Yet, he proved himself adept at surviving and making the most of the situation. He was quickly appointed as deputy commander of the Kimia II military operations – a position he has kept for  the successor Amani Leo operations –  and remained in direct control of many of the CNDP units, especially the several unintegrated ones that are deployed in the Masisi highlands. 

Tensions developed among the former CNDP units as Nkunda loyalists, irked by their new leader's tight connections with Kigali, scuffled with the smaller group of officers who remained loyal to Bosco. Under the informal leadership of Col. Sultani Makenga, they were temporarily placated by lucrative deployments to mineral-rich areas and generous operational budgets. But tensions mounted to a hilt in 2010, when soldiers under Bosco's command assassinated several CNDP leaders who had remained close to Nkunda. This coincided with concerns by Kigali that Nkunda loyalists were joining up with dissenting Rwandan officers led by former army chief of staff Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa. The worst incident was the brutal assassination of Denis Ntare Semaduinga, a highly respected Tutsi elder close to Nkunda. He was killed in a particularly gruesome fashion in his house in Rwanda, just across the border from Goma. 

Throughout this time, Bosco was living in Goma, in a house just a stone's throw from the Rwandan border. He frequently dined and ate in full sight of the coterie of foreign aid and diplomatic officials, much to the outrage of human rights workers. 

Then, in September 2010, came President Kabila's ban of mineral exports from the eastern Congo. It now appears that Kabila has been trying to secure large, industrial investments in the Kivus mining sector, which has hitherto brought little revenue to Kinshasa actors. (This strategy may have brought fruit this past week, with Malaysia Smelting Corporation announcing large investments in the region). Mining exports came to a standstill throughout much of the province. Minerals, however, continued to flow out of the region, albeit in much reduced volume. According to diplomats working in Goma, Kinshasa and Kigali, these smuggled goods needed military protection to muscle their way through border crossings or across Lake Kivu. Bosco, who commands many of the units controlling these crossings, was the go-to man for many of these operations. According to the same officials, most of these exports passed through Rwanda. 

Bosco was becoming increasingly wealthy and powerful. He managed to woo back some of the disaffected CNDP officers, united with Nkunda loyalists to resist redeployment outside of the Kivus.

Bosco's importance and stature as local military strongman was made even clearer during his involvement in a multi-million dollar gold swindle that took place in February this year. Although the details are still murky, a bunch of international investors was trying to buy gold from Congolese businessmen. The investors - some of whom had dubious reputations themselves - appear to have been swindled out of at least $10 million. Once again, Bosco provided some of the muscle for the operation, although his precise role remains unclear. 

What lessons can we draw? The economy and politics of the region is riddled with criminal networks; what one thinks may be a politically-neutral development project or reform can easily have political repercussions. The reconciliation between Congo and Rwanda was seen as a good thing by many diplomats - but it has helped create new, unwelcome power players in the region who may be difficult to get rid of. The export ban on minerals - seen by many as a strange initiative, as it didn't go hand-in-hand with major reforms - also fueled new networks of corruption, as well as vicious tensions within the Congolese Tutsi community. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Updated election registration figures

The election commission just published the latest registration figures. Bas Congo and Maniema, where registration has been completed with 1,4 million and 874,000 respectively, are not on this list.

Note that two Congolese human rights groups - including Asadho, one of the oldest in the country - came out today in support of a postponement of elections, arguing that it will be impossible to hold the polls by November 28th and a mad rush to do just that might end up in botched elections. This comes after Crisis Group made a similar argument a month ago. The Congolese groups say that we might need anywhere between one and two years more to hold decent polls.

Nord Kivu
Sud Kivu
Voters expected
Voters registered
Registration centers
Accredited observers
Accredited witnesses
Accredited journalists
Dates of operations
9 march to 6 June 2011
2 April to 1 July 2011
7 May to 5 July 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

UK police: Rwandan gov threatens to assassinate opposition

The British police informed two members of the Rwandan diaspora that their government may be trying to assassinate them, according to documents seen by various newspapers. The police visited Jonathan Musonera and Rene Mugenzi on May 12, officially informing them with letters. These letters were then apparently shown to various media outlets.

This incident follows a warning to the Rwandan ambassador by the British intelligence that his embassy would have to stop harassing opposition members in England or risk losing $135 million in aid. That warning, according to news reports, referred to other diaspora members.

The British development agency DFID said yesterday that this developments would not affect their aid, which goes primarily toward helping poor people in Rwanda. Still, the incident has become politicized, with expressions of concern from all sides of the political spectrum in the UK.

Several questions arise: Providing the British intelligence service is right about this threat, why would Rwanda jeopardize its good relations with the UK - one of its closest allies and largest donors - over two minor opposition figures? Mugenzi is a UK citizen who has dabbled in opposition politics, but also is active in British politics and a community NGO in London. Musonera is a former officer in the Rwandan army. 

The most plausible explanation seems to be their link to the newly formed Rwandan National Congress (RNC), which is led by President Kagame's former chief of staff, the former head of the army and the head of the external intelligence service.  Just a week before Mugenzi received the letter, he helped organize an RNC meeting in London with the leading members of the party present via Skype link, as well as opposition leaders such as Paul Rusesabagina (of Hotel Rwanda fame). Musonera is one of the founding members of the RNC.

Rwandan High Commissioner Ernest Rwamucyo
Still, it seems bizarre. The RNC has been busy courting the Hutu diaspora opposition - with some success - but is no apparent challenge to the Rwandan government, given their inability to campaign inside the country. This activism in Europe - as well as their alleged links to some armed groups in the eastern Congo - is probably more aimed at convincing leading RPF members and officers in Rwanda that they are well-organized and popular, rather than at posing an electoral or military threat to the RPF ruling party. But an attempted assassination in London would - to my eyes at least - just signal desperation on the part of the RPF, not strength.

The Rwandan government has been associated with assassinations in the past, including of former interior minister Seth Sendashonga in Nairobi in 1998, former vice-president of the supreme court Augustin Cyiza in 2003, as well as an attempt on former army chief of staff Faustin Kayumba in South Africa last year.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Updates on the electoral process

I will be updating my posting from Friday on electoral troubles as stories come in. So you can keep checking back to that posting for a summary of all stories from various new sites (mostly Radio Okapi for now).

Plus, according to people who attended election commissioner Mulunda Ngoy's talk in Washington, DC this week, here are the figures of how many people have been registered so far (h/t Monique):

- CENI's goal is to register 12 million more by mid-July.

- In Kinshasa, CENI's goal is to register 3.5 million voters (registration has not yet begun there.)
- CENI has reached its goal to register 1.4 million in Bas-Congo.
- Goal of 3.5 mil in Bandundu (at 1.6 mil now)
- Goal of 3.5 mil in Equateur (at 1.7 now)
- Goal of 3.9 mil in Orientale (at 1.17 now)
- Goal of 2.9 mil in N Kivu (at 1.3 now with 0 registrations in Walikale due to security concerns and lack of infrastructure)
- Goal of 2 mil in S Kivu (at 968,000 now)
- Goal of 759,000 in Maniema (at 874,000 now)
- Goal of 4.2 mil in Katanga (at 3.2 mil now with registration open until June 9)
- Goal of 2,4 million in Kasai Oriental (at 1,579,598 according to Okapi)
- Kasai Occidental?

Is the focus on conflict minerals justified?

My article in Foreign Policy received several helpful comments from friends who objected to the emphasis on conflict minerals by some advocacy groups in the United States and elsewhere. There is a growing number of people - including friends and colleageus from Laura Seay (of Texas in Africa fame), Nicholas Garrett (of Resource Consulting Services), Mvemba Dizolele and Friends of the Congo - who are skeptical of this approach.

Thankfully, I have a blog, which allows me to soap-box about these kinds of things.

First, as I say in the FP article, minerals were not the source of the conflict in the Congo, not will severing the links between the mineral trade and armed groups bring an end to the violence. I have said this so many times on this blog (here and here, for example) that I am becoming a broken record. The excessive focus on conflict minerals has the perverse side-effect of believing that the war is driven by greedy warlords, can prompt irresponsible policy and lead people to believe that the violence is somehow inexorable and due to deep rooted antagonisms.

Photo: Daniel Pepper

The conflict in the Congo is complex, and is being perpetuated by a mixture of permissive, structural factors and active spoilers. The country lacks functional institutions to police the country, secure equitable property rights and courts to peacefully adjudicate disputes. It has suffered from outside interferences (indeed, the current president came to power through such an intervention) from Rwanda, Angola, the United Nations, Uganda, and the list goes on - with a mixture of motives. At the very local level, disputes over land and citizenship - complicated by crises in civil and customary authority - have fueled feuds and conflicts, often expressed in ethnic terms.

Given all of this, the war in the Congo requires a much more comprehensive strategy that looks toward the long-term transformation of Congolese society to become a less violent, more equitable place. In the end, this will be responsibility and purview of Congolese citizens, not foreigners. However, given the excessive amount of foreign intervention in the Congo for centuries, from Diogo Cao to Larry Devlin, we can help provide Congolese the tools to rebuild their political system.

Obviously, a strategy focused mostly on conflict minerals will not succeed in such a transformation. More efficient institutions need to be set up that are accountable to the people they service. A high order for a country where multiparty elections are just 5 years old and the logic of ethnicity and patronage runs deep. Noxious interference from neighboring countries - and I do not just mean Rwanda - needs to be batted down.

Foreigners can help with this, but we can also harm. The record of the United States and others supporting "visionaries" with misguided policies in the region is well-known. The perverse effects of excessive aid have been well documented, as well.

Many of us have been pushing for years for a more comprehensive strategy toward institutional reform in the Congo - just see these reports (1, 2) by the International Crisis Group, for example, from 2006, or the the Governance Compact hashed out by UNDP, the World Bank and other donors in 2006/7. This should not be an imposition of foreigners' ideas or interests, but rather a framework for engaging with the Congo that allows for meaningful reform. After all, donors give over $3 billion each year to the country through various channels. With that influence comes responsibility.

While some advocacy groups have harped a bit too much on conflict minerals, I think others are sometimes unfairly singled out. Take the recent letter to Secretary Clinton by 77 groups from the Congo and abroad - it clearly lays out a comprehensive agenda with emphasis first and foremost on elections, aid conditionality, reform of security sector and tackling impunity. Conflict minerals is mentioned, but at the very end and is in no way the main focus of the document. This letter was spearheaded by groups such as Enough, A Thousand Sisters, Eastern Congo Initiative and Human Rights Watch.

The question is then: Should we also be working on conflict minerals (for the record, I don't like the term and wish someone had a better alternative)? I argue - along with many Congolese from the Kivus - yes, because it can make a difference. Not only because armed groups in the Kivus make an enormous amount of money off the tin, gold and tantalum trade. But because this initiative works differently than other outside interventions.

The "conflict minerals" approach works through the market, not through clumsy aid conditionality or diplomatic finger-wagging, which have rarely been able to persuade the Congolese government to reform. It sends a message through market that companies will be unwilling to continue trading from the eastern Congo if reforms do not increase transparency and to sever links between the trade and armed groups - importantly, any reforms must also increase the capacity of state institutions to manage the local economy, which could be a crucial knock-on effect of successful reform. Of course, as mentioned here, the Dodd-Frank reforms could easily backfire, cause the trade to collapse or push it out to Asia. Hence the emphasis on successful and intelligent reform - two adjectives whose use is unfortunately not yet merited. But again, most of the advocacy groups working on these issues are aware of this and working on them (although these unforeseen consequences could have been anticipated earlier).

As I said in the FP piece, in an ideal world, these market incentives would pressure traders to pressure the government to demilitarize mining, which could decrease military presence in the region and remove mines as a key objective of the fighting (e.g. Bisie). In this Schlarraffenland, institutional reform could lead to stronger state administration and better customs revenues.

So I urge people to understand that the debate is not whether we should privilege conflict minerals or a thorough overhaul of Congolese institutions. Although public advocacy by some groups has been overly simplistic in the past and should indeed be criticized, these different policy initiatives do not necessarily need to be mutually contradictory.  The debate is more over while pushing for comprehensive state reform whether we should also attempt to pursue intelligent reforms of the mineral trade in the eastern Congo, both through the market and through aid. I believe we should.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Transitional Justice in Rwanda and Great Lakes

I was asked to write a (very) small side-box in the Financial Times to accompany the interview with Paul Kagame. Due to space, they had to cut the parts in my side-piece about the Congo, so I will reproduce my full submission here. It was not meant to be an Op-Ed, but a descriptive, explanatory piece.

Also, see the twitter-spat between President Kagame and his critics following the interview here.

Transitional justice in Rwanda

Rwanda has always stood out as an extreme case in the fractious debate enveloping post-conflict justice. What do you do in a country with 800,000 victims and probably around 200,000 culprits?

President Paul Kagame has approached this challenge as he does most public policy, with hard-nosed pragmatism. The new regime obviously couldn’t prosecute all the killers, nor could they let them go. The court system was in shambles; most lawyers and judges were dead, in exile or tainted by the old regime. For years, the new government run by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) arrested many but prosecuted few.   By 1999, 120,000 people were jailed under hellish conditions. It was estimated that government courts would take over a century to clear the backlog.

In 2001, the government launched a radically new approach to transitional justice. The government set up 11,000 courts on hillsides around the country, drawing on aspects of a traditional form of justice called gacaca.  This process is now coming to an end. Over 400,000 people have stood trial, over 10 percent of the country’s adult Hutu population. The vast majority of those convicted have been given reduced sentences or have been sent home, having served their time in pre-trial detention.
This solution, even according to Kagame, is far from perfect. Killers now live side-by-side with families of their victims. The trials have been severely lacking in due process, and there are many stories of villagers abusing the gacaca system to settle scores. This is the post-genocide landscape in Rwanda, a cobbled-together compromise, a fractured society held together by tight government control.

But there is a far more troubling and deep-rooted problem with this approach to justice: It has been almost entirely one-sided. Neither the gacaca courts, the United Nations tribunal or Rwandan national courts have tried crimes committed by the RPF government. The government has insisted the few crimes committed by the RPF have been tried in military courts. In any case, they argue, any crimes were an utterly different nature and order of magnitude. 

This is not a matter of moral equivalence – the current government was not guilty of atrocities on the same scale as its predecessor. But more evidence is coming to light to suggest that RPF abuses, in particular in the 1994-1997 period, were not mere isolated acts of revenge. A United Nations report into RPF killings in 1994 has resurfaced, suggesting that there could have been as many as 40,000 killings by the new government in that year alone.  Only thirty-two RPF soldiers – including a mere two officers – have been prosecuted for 1994 crimes.

More worrisome is the tendency of donors – who have funded around half of Rwanda’s budget in recent years – to treat Rwanda’s past in isolation from that of its neighbors. A United Nations report last year concluded that Rwandan troops massacred tens of thousands of Hutu – both Congolese and Rwandan – there in 1996 and 1997. In subsequent years, Rwandan troops and their Congolese allies carried out repeated massacres against Congolese civilians accused of supporting Rwanda’s enemies. Until very recently, Rwanda maintained close ties with armed groups in the eastern Congo.
But will Rwanda’s experiment with justice work? Some argue that this kind of blinkered pragmatism is necessary to lift Rwanda out of poverty and violence. Others argue that one-sided justice will provoke more resentment than reconciliation. It is too early to tell who is right, although this privileging of ends over means steps dangerously close to privileging might over right.

But in neighboring Congo, it is clear that the failure to deal with this past has allowed resentments to fester. As a result, anti-Rwandan sentiment runs high in much of the Congo, fueling vicious anti-Rwandan hatred, focused mostly at the Congolese Tutsi community that has been there for generations, and undermining stability.

 The Congolese government is currently considering setting up a tribunal to investigate war crimes committed there during the 1996-2003 wars. The thorny debate around justice in Central Africa is set to continue for some time yet.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Is the Congo more peaceful than a year ago?

Sometimes it's good to take a step back and look at the Congo in historical perspective. So often we are bombarded by bad news stories in the press - not the least the recent rape statistics - that we lose perspective. After all, there have been some notable achievements since 2009: the main political faultline in the region between Congo and Rwanda has been patched over by a tenuous peace deal, Nkunda has been arrested and the CNDP semi-integrated into the Congolese army. A series of armed groups has also been semi-integrated (emphasis probably on "semi") and the series of offensives by the Congolese army (Kimia II, Umoja Wetu, Amani Leo, Ruwenzori) has petered off a bit in 2011.

So is the situation on the ground better now than a year ago?

The short answer is that we don't really know. Obviously, all the operations I mentioned above provoked massive human rights abuses and displacement. The event data is still pretty patchy, although Ushahidi is trying to do some rudimentary crowd-sourcing. One way of getting leverage on this question is by looking at displacement, as IDPs are somewhat easier to count than deaths or rapes. Here's what we know:

July 2008: 1,25 million internally displaced people
November 2008: 1,4 million
July 2009: 2 million 
September 2010: 1,7 million
March 2011: 1,7 million

There seems to be some discrepancy in the data from different sources. The above is from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. Here is a graph, however, that doesn't quite jive with that:

In any case, it seems that most agree that IDP levels peaked at some point in 2009 and have been slightly decreasing since then. However, this belies the subnational variation: It is NOT the case, for example, that between the peak and now 300,000 people have gone home and there have been no new displacements. Instead, hundreds of thousands have gone home and hundreds of thousands of new displacements have occurred. While some areas have become more stable, others have become less so.

For example, the areas where much of the CNDP-FARDC fighting took place in 2008 (Masisi, Rutshuru) are now more stable, while the areas where the anti-FDLR operations have been taking place (Walikale, western Masisi and Lubero, Mwenga and Shabunda) are more dangerous now. In addition, while Ituri remains much less violent than 4 years ago, LRA attacks have displaced several hundred thousand in Province Orientale. Here is a good (and grim) picture of the situation, thanks to OCHA.

Finally, here is what a diplomat who lives in the region and follows the security situation very closely told me when I asked what the trend in the security situation was:
The smaller scale attacks and ambushes are definitely ongoing in much of Rutshuru, Masisi, Walikale, and Lubero. And in some places it’s gotten worse where the FARDC abandoned areas to join regiments, leaving a void, and then the FDLR or other armed groups moved in, attacking the population on their arrival.
There also seems to have been a significant amount of new displacement in the past month in Masisi and Lubero, but it’s not clear how many people fled and for what reasons exactly. There’ve been more clashes in the Lukweti area, but MONUSCO and most humanitarians still have no access to that region so it’s hard to know what’s really going on.
And then we still have all the targeted attacks, killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, etc. by Bosco and co. and other FARDC commanders, including in land-related conflicts.

Troubles with the registration of voters

I will be updating this post to include articles on electoral troubles as they come in from different sources (probably mostly Okapi):

I've compiled a few articles that speak of various troubles the voter registration process has run in to.

In general the problems have included:
  • frequent breakdown of the election kits (computers, printing machines, generators)
  • late arrival of registration material in registration centers
  • in general, many delays and slowness in the registration process
  • poor access to communication by election centers and officials, as well as lack of awareness by local population

    Perhaps the worst problem has been the inaccessibility of the registration centers due to the drastic reduction in their numbers in comparison with the last registration in 2005 - in North Kivu, for example, there are only a forth as many centers as six years ago.

    Some other stories:
    • (May 16) Dozens of centers in Kasai Oriental cannot transit their results to the electoral commission due to communication problems - in one territory, only 40 out of 200 centers have transmitted their results.
    • Registration has been suspended in Lodja territory (Kasai Oriental) since April 14, when the territorial administrator threatened all electoral officials not from the territory with expulsion. Ten days later, the governor of the province suspended the administrator and called for registration to continue.
    • Two weeks into the registration process in Kasai Oriental, centers in Sankuru territory were still not working. Apparently the fuel truck got stuck on the bad road.
    • Voter registration has been slow in Bambesa territory (Province Oriental) - out of 28,000 voters in the town of Dingila, only 2,000 had been registered almost a month into registration. According to some, this feeble turnout is due to lack of awareness-raising, others say it police harassment, while local officials say it's harvest season and people will show up soon.
    • Registration has stopped since May 3rd in Kabeya-Kamwanga (Kasai Oriental), the hometown of Etienne Tshisekedi. According to the election commission, there has been a problem of fuel for generators and other materials. (This was as of May 6th)
    • According to the UDPS in Haut-Lomami district (Katanga), a large number of underage people have registered to vote in this area, which was very favorable to Kabila in 2006. The election commission said they had not received any official complaint yet.
    • Two registration centers in Kasai Oriental had been closed on May 11th due to local conflicts over land.
    • In Wamba territory (Province Orientale), almost fifty out of 170 registration centers had not opened at the end of April, a full month into the registration process. The problem, according to the election commission, was the lack of officials to staff the centers - they were held up in Kisangani due to lack of funds for their transport.
    • In Kisangani (Province Orientale), the election commission complained that political parties were not observing voter registration. In a visit of 7 centers, the local head of the election commission had only seen a handful of observers from political parties.
    • In Equateur, registration has come to a halt since May 1st in 3 whole territories due to the theft of funds to pay the local staff. 
    • The UDPS party has also complained about the alleged sale of registration "jetons" (the slips you need to be registered) in Mbandaka (Equateur province).
    Nonetheless, the election commission has succeeded in reaching their registration goal in Kasai Oriental (1 million) and getting over 728,000 registered in Ituri.

    For an interesting debate on the registration process, here is Radio Okapi's Dialogue entre Congolais from May 10th, featuring leading Congolese civil society activists.

    Article in Foreign Policy

    Here's a link to my article in Foreign Policy on conflict minerals and US policy towards the country in general.

    Thursday, May 12, 2011

    Reaction to ICG report from Kinshasa diplomat

    In my posting on the Crisis Group report from a couple of days ago, I said I didn't know whether they were right that it would be impossible to hold elections by November 28 and that therefore the opposition and majority should hold talks to postpone the polls. Since then, I have spoken with several Congolese and foreign observers about this, with most backing the Crisis Group analysis, although many Congolese are categorical about respecting the constitutional time limits (i.e. no postponing of elections).

    But opinions vary. I decided to reproduce here an email from a western diplomat in Kinshasa who follows these issues closely:
    My feeling was that the [ICG] report didn't sufficiently take into account developments in March and April - it was clearly written when we were all deeply concerned by the changes to the Constitution and how they were made, and by the political appointments in CENI, particularly the nomination of Pasteur Mulunda as President. Since then, Mulunda has been at pains to demonstrate CENI's independence by consulting extensively with the Opposition and agreeing a primarily political calendar, against the Majority's preferred option (decouplage). As far as I understand, discussions on the electoral law have also been a series of small victories for the Opposition - Lumanu hasn't even bothered to come defend the Government position during the debate in Parliament. I had hoped that the ICG report might analyse why the Majority was giving the Opposition so much space all of a sudden. Is Kabila basically confident that he can win, and therefore at pains to keep the Opposition on board? What do you think?
    On the calendar, I defer to what the experts in PACE and MONUSCO tell me, which is that the calendar is just about achievable but very difficult, with absolutely no space for slippage. Since this is DRC, to me that means it's unlikely the dates will be kept. It's a high-risk strategy for CENI. My guess is they're hoping that by spelling each step out, they can then blame whoever is responsible for the delay - the Parliament if the law takes longer to pass than envisaged (which it is likely to), the international community if any of the procurement or logistics are delayed, Government if it takes too long to disburse, etc.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    New sexual violence statistics

    A paper was published today in the American Journal of Public Health with a new analysis of sexual violence in the Congo. The conclusion: In 2006, over 400,000 women were raped in the Congo, with rates highest in North Kivu province. In comparison - the country-wide rape rate was 29 rapes per 1,000 women of reproductive age. In the United States, the corresponding rate was 0,5 per 1,000.

    We can't really make too many causal arguments on the basis of the study. What is clear is that rates of sexual violence were highest in the conflict-ridden province of North Kivu. Strangely, however, the second worst province was Equateur, where most sexual violence in absolute terms had happened: over 90,000 women in 2006. Other striking facts were that, while the 2006 figures were low for the Kasai Occidental, the lifetime rape rate there was higher than in South Kivu - about 14% of women of reproductive age.

    We also can't really say whether sexual violence is getting worse or better since there have not been comparable surveys carried out before and after this one. 

    The take-home message: This is the first time we have a ballpark figure for sexual violence in the Congo. Previous figures were based on women self-reporting, and ranged between 15,000-17,000 per year. And of course the real take home message is: levels of sexual violence are extremely high. Now the job is to figure out what can be done to address this.

    However, these figures are not as surprising as they might seem at first sight. For example, statistics from Maltheser health centers in South Kivu report that 20,517 women and girls were treated for sexual violence over a three year period (2005-2007). That's around 6,500/year based just on reporting to a selection of health centers. This article suggests that 41,000 women were raped in South Kivu in 2006 - not too surprising.

    The rates are also by no means exceptional compared with previous studies. An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated at that around 30 percent of women in the eastern Congo are survivors of conflict-related rape. This study puts that figure at around 12 percent (for women of reproductive age).

    There will always be methodological issues with rape statistics. The Congo is a big country, and there is probably wide variation in levels of sexual violence. Women often do not report sexual violence (although that would mean numbers are too low) and the sample size may not be representative.

    However, the data the researchers used comes from the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) funded by the US government; they use the same methods and sampling techniques that are used  in many other countries around the world. They surveyed 9,995 women across the country and used survey weights to estimate the total number of women in the country ages 15-49.