Sunday, November 21, 2010
Debt cancellation is a thorny issue. It's incredibly difficult to oppose the cancellation of the odious debt that had mostly been accumulated under Mobutu - why should the current government pay for the sins of a past dictator? It shouldn't.
On the other hand, if there is leverage to be had on the Congolese government, it is probably to be found here. The World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank account for a large majority of the financial support provided to the Congolese government, which makes up for half of the country's budget. There is a deep ingrained reluctance within the bureaucracies of these organizations to use grants and loans to leverage security sector reforms, decentralization or to tackle impunity. There was some pressure, especially from the Canadian government, earlier this year to use the $12 billion IMF debt relief package to push for governance reforms, although this was somewhat cynically tied to the squabble over First Quantum (a Canadian mining company) mining rights (was this really this most shocking issue to be confronting Kinshasa over?) In the end, however, donors decided that the the criteria had been met under the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative and that debt relief should be granted. Critics complained that the HIPC criteria were very narrow and looked mostly at financial matters - inflation rates, reforms in the financial regulations and procedures, fiscal performance, etc. - to the exclusion of political and human rights concerns.
Which it why it wasn't surprising to have some heavyweights again balk over granting the $7 billion Paris Club debt relief. Charles Michel, the Belgian minister for development, had said that debt relief should be postponed until next year due to poor economic governance. In the end, however, apparently, other considerations won over and relief was granted.
Which leaves two questions:
Why don't donors, who constantly wring their hands and complain about their lack of leverage to push for reforms in Kinshasa, use their financial weight in the World Bank and IMF as leverage? Perhaps debt relief is not the right forum, but what about all the other loans?
When leverage is considered, why is it almost only over "economic governance," in other words when Kinshasa begins canceling mining contracts and refused to improve the investment climate?
Thursday, November 18, 2010
The report also provides a list of detailed policy recommendations for the US goverment.
A new report on the Congo has come out by the International Crisis Group that concludes that the peace deal between Rwanda and the Congo has failed to bring about peace in the eastern DRC. It points to the violence over the past year, the failed integration process of the armed groups and the predation on natural resources by all belligerents.
Absolutely. And it’s a good report. But why do I have this nagging feeling of déjà vu?
Because we’ve seen it before. I probably wrote a report similar to this one for ICG five years ago. A myriad of NGOs publish reports calling on the Congolese and Rwandan governments to respect human rights, promote good governance and settle their differences peacefully every year. This is, of course, useful, especially if they can dredge up good evidence of their wrongdoing – it can serve as a necessary check on abuses.
But relatively few reports ask why the governments are carrying out so many abuses, why the CNDP does not want to integrate. Instead, the reports catalog the events, denounce the abuses and propose solutions. There is usually little analysis of the deeper Congolese and regional political motives. If there were, we could avoid nasty stereotyping and perhaps get a bit closer to constructive solutions.
Let’s take an example – the disarmament and/or integration of CNDP troops into the Congolese army. This is something that dozens of reports, including this ICG one, have called for, worried that renewed clashes between the Congolese government and the CNDP could break out. So why aren’t they integrated? There are a few theories. One is that it is Kigali pulling the strings, preventing CNDP redeployment because they need them to protect their interests. There has certainly been some truth to this – although also a lot of disagreement about what exactly Kigali’s interests are in the Kivus – but it is too simple a story, one proved insufficient recently when it was Kigali that reportedly pushed for some CNDP units to be removed from the Kivus for fear of their collaboration with RPF defectors.
Another theory is that it is the CNDP army commanders themselves who are the main obstacle to integration – they have gotten used to their autonomy and the various rackets they run and don’t want to be sent to Bandundu, where there are no mines, they will loose their power, and they will be unable to protect their communities.
Yet another view is that it is the Goma elites, the owners of mineral trading houses and leaders of the Tutsi political class who are blocking the integration/redeployment of CNDP troops. Or perhaps the local communities, who provide the footsoldiers and want the CNDP to stay back to protect them.
The point is that, depending on your analysis of the situation, the solution will look drastically different. Should we be putting pressure on Kigali, focusing on ensuring contractual security for local businessmen, working on co-opting or arresting CNDP commanders or solving local land conflicts?
Similarly goes it with the infamous security sector reform. If I had an AK-47 for every time I heard someone say: “Security sector reform has to be the number one priority,” I would be rivaling Viktor Bout (before his days in the clink, that is). So why is it that Kabila doesn’t arrest the army commanders who periodically embezzle funds, deal in minerals and preside over abusive units? Here again there are many theories. One suggests that the president is too weak, that if he were to clamp down on his commanders there could be a violent backlash and he could end up like his father. Another thesis – that doesn’t necessarily contradict the first – is that Kabila does not want to reform his security services, that this kind of fragmentation of control prevents other centers of power from arising and allows him to dole out favors and patronage at his own discretion. Yet another theory argues that the Rais does want to reform the army, but that he does not have the means or the technical know-how to do so.
The current scattershot approach to security sector reform is mostly based on the last analysis – the problem is a lack of technical training and infrastructures, which is why most of what we are doing is training soldiers and building barracks. As the millions of dollars provided to Mobutu’s army proved, however, throwing good money after bad will not solve anything.
So this is a plea for “deep diagnosis,” going beyond just denouncing abuses and describing trends and trying to understand the underlying political logic. One of the side effects of the “Oh My God The Congo Is a Mess” approach is that it reduces the actors there to a bunch of ruthless warlords and African bigwigs, catering to all the noxious stereotypes of the continent. Actors may be ruthless but they have all kinds of good reasons for what they are doing.
“Deep diagnosis” of this kind is difficult, as many actors have vested interests in concealing their motives, and it requires an enormous amount of patience and local knowledge. It is not the kind of analysis that can be done from London, Johannesburg or even just Kinshasa.
I am not criticizing ICG – they often do wonderful work that goes far beyond the "OMG Congo approach." But we need to go beyond this to truly understand how actors think, what they want and who is pulling the strings.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I learned a few things.
First, and most importantly, there had been some debate among experts about the exact provisions of the bill. Toby clarified: The bill does not prohibit companies from buying conflict minerals. Instead, it requires them to carry out due diligence on their supply chain and to report back to the Securities and Exchange Commission what measures they have taken to find out whether they are importing minerals that fuel conflict in the Congo. "It's a name-and-shame bill," Toby said. There will only be fines for companies that do not do good reporting and auditing. Companies that carry out all the correct due diligence and report back to the SEC that they are indeed importing conflict minerals will not be fined.
Hence the importance of pressure from NGOs, press and private citizens. Since all these reports have to by law made public by the companies, the cost for the company will be reputational. For example, we are already asking Yale University to make clear to the companies it invests in that it will not keep them in its portfolio if (a) they do not carry out all the due diligence required by Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank bill; and (b) if they do indeed buy minerals that fuel conflict in the Congo. Since Yale has a $17 billion endowment and is seen as a leader in investments, a policy statement could be important.
Secondly, Whitney bemoaned the departure from Congress of some of the congressional leaders on humanitarian issues. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) was beaten by a Tea Party conservative, and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) resigned from the senate to become governor of Kansas. Both had traveled repeatedly to Central Africa and, whatever we may think about their other political views, had promoted numerous bills and spending on humanitarian issues.
Lastly, Whitney detailed the resistance that had come up against the conflict minerals bill. Like many other congressional staffers, he reported the intense corporate lobbying against the bill. In the end, he said, they had won out because it was difficult for a company to be seen as in support of rape in the Congo
Thursday, November 11, 2010
There had been some speculations about Munene, a retired, former vice-minister of the interior from Bandundu province, since his family went on Radio Okapi on October 7, saying that their houses had been ransacked and they didn't know where Munene was. On October 12, minister of the interior Lambert Mende said the general had been arrested, only to add two days later that the general had fled. Now, Munene (or someone who sounds an awful lot like him) has appeared on Radio TV Bendele, an internet radio broadcasting from the diaspora, saying that he will fight to liberate the Congo.
The interview is in Lingala and very long. The old commander, who fought first in the Mulelist uprising in the 1960s (rebel commander Pierre Mulele was his uncle), then for the Angolan army, then for Laurent Kabila's AFDL, says: "I haven't changed, I am fighting against dictatorship since I was small child...we want to clean the plate so Congolese can eat from a clean plate. You can't go to election in these conditions. "
Strange, as TV Radio Bendele is owned/closely allied to Honoré Ngbanda, the former national security chief of Mobutu, who was known as "Terminator" for his repressive policies. Munene even praises Ngbanda as a patriot.
There is also a press statement that has appeared on the internet, claiming that Munene is the leader of the Army of Popular Resistance (ARP). Strangely, the press statement says the ARP began its rebellion on January 4th, 2010, when Munene was still to be seen in Kinshasa. They claim the attack on Mbandaka, as well, which at the time was claimed by Congolese Patriots Resistant Fighters (PRC), another group linked to Ngbanda. It is probable that both the Kikwit and Mbandaka attacks were local problems that people like Ngbanda claimed as their own to inflate their importance.
But Ngbanda and Munene have an audience among Congolese, especially those in the diaspora, who are increasingly upset with Joseph Kabila. The death of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya and Armand Tungulu has incensed Kinois in particular as much as the violence in the eastern Congo and has made the blogosphere explode with vitriolic diatribes against Kabila. Munene, incidentally, says that he met with Tungulu in Kinshasa and the latter was upset as his squalid conditions.
Is this important? Probably not militarily - some people have linked the recent unrest in Kikwit, 500km East of Kinshasa, to Munene, but the situation there is relatively calm now and the killing of 3 Congolese soldiers on November 2 may have just been due to banditry. But it is a good indicator of how upset the radical (often western) fringes of Congolese society are with their president - when even the former AFDL commanders start praising Honoré Ngbanda as a true patriot and several thousand people tune it to listen to the program.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Check out the program here and there will be a full 25 minute documentary on the piece airing tonight.
This is emblematic of the kind of opportunism that has characterized the Congolese army's deployments in recent months - when the UN Group of Experts' report is released (they are due to present it to the Security Council on Friday), I suspect they will confirm that criminal networks, mostly involving the Congolese army, have gained control over much of the mining in the eastern DRC. Criminal because they use military power to gain preferential access to mines, to smuggle minerals across borders, to tax the trade.
Tango Four, as many must know, is not an unknown figure - he's a nice example of how intertwined business, politics and the army are in the Congo. He's a former Mobutu officer from Maniema, recruited into the AFDL in 1996, then joined the RCD in 1998, eventually rising to the head of logistics for the RCD (hence the name Tango Four: the head of logistics was the T4). He became famous for helping command the repression of a mutiny in Kisangani in May 2002. He was later promoted to head of the 8th military region in Goma and then, eventually, to become commander of the land forces in Kinshasa.
Amisi is the owner of Maniema Aviation, as well as of the AS Maniema Union soccer club in Kindu. There have been many reports linking him through Col Etienne Bindu, the chief of staff for the 8th military region, to mining operations in North Kivu, in particular to the operations of Col Samy Matumo, the former commander of the 85th brigade that occupied Bisie mine for several years. So this might not be his first expedition into the land of mineral rackets.
Hopefully this, together with the Group of Experts report, will prompt some action on the part of the Congolese government against their corrupt officers.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
According to the law on the CENI, the majority in the national assembly gets to nominate 4 members and the opposition. It's a strange system, as it explicitly encourages the politicization of the body - many of the members of the commission are active politicians, as opposed to during the previous body (CEI), in which, at least nominally, the chair was politically independent and came from civil society.
So who has been nominated?
I haven't seen the names in the press yet, but the main man is reported to be Daniel Mulunda Ngoy, who is also favored to become the first president of the CENI. He is the former spiritual advisor to Laurent and Joseph Kabila and the head of the controversial PAREC non-profit organization that has organized a bunch of weapons-for-cash and weapons-for-bicycle disarmament campaigns throughout the country.
Mulunda Ngoy is very close to Joseph Kabila - he was a member of the government's delegation to the Sun City peace negotiations in 2002-2003 and a founding member of the PPRD. According to a former minister in Laurent Kabila's government, he was sent to help organize an alliance with former Habyarimana officers (ex-FAR) in 1998, and he was sent to Europe by Joseph Kabila in 2006 to organize the repatriation of former Mobutu officers. In other words, a close confidant of the president who is relatively independent of the various political parties, but deeply loyal to the president. He is also a Methodist minister who was a leader of the All Africa Conference of Churches.
Two of the other three commissioners nominated by the majority are technocrats, people who were in the commission before. The third is a member of Gizenga's PALU party. If true, this is a bit strange - none of the other members of the presidential coalition has a representation?
Who has the opposition named?
Apparently, they have divided their nominations along the three parliamentary groups they have: One for the MLC, Senator Jacques Ndjoli; one for the Christian Democrats of Gilbert Kiakwama, Carole Kabanga; and one for the the Order of Republican Democrats, Laurent Ndaya.
Monday, November 8, 2010
First, the good news. The DR Congo moved up four places to #175 out of 183. Break out the champagne. Seriously, though, the government was congratulated for having made improvements in the ease of registering property and starting a business. They even won the prize for the most improvements in obtaining construction permits.
Now for the bad news. Seriously - 175th? That's pretty terrible. Let's see how easy it is to make a profit in the Congo. If you pay all of your taxes, you will be paying 340% of your profits in taxes, a process that will take you 8 full weeks (working 40 hours/week) to do. In other words, nobody can even come to making a profit if you want to be legal - the government has institutionalized tax fraud.
Other factoids are: In order to enforce a contract through the law, it will take you an average of almost two years and cost you 1.5 times the amount of the claim.
Pretty atrocious. The government has made some improvements, this is true, over the past years. But apparently it's been a drop in the bucket.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
- The South Korean government is considering a minerals-for-infrastructure deal with the Congolese government worth $1 billion. Korean companies would build a deep water port on the Atlantic and a waste water treatment plant for Kinshasa in return for copper mines, including the Musoshi mine in Katanga. Investors seem undeterred....
- The United Nations is investigating the reported rape of 650 women who were expelled from Angola since September. While some reports seem to indicate that they were detained and abused in Angola, the UN has said they it does not know where they were abused nor by whom. What I cannot understand is Minister of Information Lambert Mende's position: ""We're not informed. We don't know, these figures are not confirmed," he said. "There are expulsions, perhaps there are rapes but we have received no complaints and we don't want to launch a dossier." He has outdone himself.
- On the Angolan front, its ambassador to the Congo announced this past week at a press conference that the Congolese government has submitted their dispute over offshore oil rights to the UN for arbitration. According to this article, Angola pumps 500,000 barrels/day from the disputed area - around 30% of its total production.
First the Armand Tungulu affair. Tungulu was a Congolese who had been living in Belgium for many years. He returned home and was arrested on September 29 for throwing rocks at a presidential motorcade. On October 2, the government announced his death, saying he had committed suicide with a pillow in his jail cell - this provoked outrage, as there was little motive for a suicide and because Congolese prisons are not known for their pillows.
The Congolese government proceeded to arrest witnesses of Tungulu's arrest and defy a Belgian court, which ruled on October 11 that Kinshasa would have to return Tungulu to Belgium or pay 25,000 euros a day in damages. Other countries, including the United States, joined in voicing their concern. The inimitable Minister of Information Lambert Mende castigated the Belgian court and government for interfering in the affairs of a sovereign country.
This has all had more of an impact on the population of Kinshasa than the recent news from the Kivus. All the more surprising that the Tungulu's family in Kinshasa (his widow lives in Belgium) would drop their suit against the Congolese government this past week; many suspect pressure from the Congolese government.
The second incident, also involving the presidential guard in Kinshasa, took place on October 19. Apparently, a traffic cop at the Socimat intersection in downtown Kinshasa did not respect the approaching motorcade of Zoé Kabila, the president's brother, cutting off their path as they were approaching. Some members of the presidential guard who were escorting Zoé jumped down and beat up several policemen. Apparently, Zoé was himself outraged by his guard's behavior and paid for the policemen's treatment. Two guards were later arrested. But many Kinois were upset by the incident, which reminded some of Kongulu, Mobutu's notorious son, nicknamed "Saddam" for his abuses, and wondered why Zoé was being protected by such muscle in the first place.
Lastly, on October 12, riots broke out in Likasi, in Katanga province, where pupils went to the mayor's office to protest several traffic accidents that had affected them. The mayor reportedly said: "If you are educated, go home, if you are dogs you can stay," and had some of their parents arrested. This prompted riots that ransacked several state buildings and resulted in the death of at least one student.
Many Congolese can relate more to this kind of arrogance on the part of public officials and security forces than with the violence in the remote Kivus. These incidents just go to show how tense the situation is throughout the country and how much work Kabila will have to do before elections next year if he is to have a chance of fairly winning the polls.
Friday, November 5, 2010
In any case, Kamerhe implies (without saying it - "let Congolese speculate positively") that he will be a candidate in 2011 and that he has met both Tshisekedi and Bemba recently.
So who is popular in the polls? "What polls?" would be the appropriate answer, I think. There is not much to go by in the Congo - BERCI, perhaps the most reputable pollster in the country, hasn't been heard of much in recent years. Polls are usually commissioned by the press or political parties. The former are too poor in the Congo (circulation is probably no more than 10,000-15,000 for the most popular ones in Kinshasa, although statistics vary), and political parties have not yet adopted polling as a useful tactic. After all, a good polls is expensive, as you have to get a decent sample of the whole country and avoid selection bias by just selecting phone owners or city dwellers.
Nonetheless, the pollster Institut les Points published a poll in the newspaper "Le Soft" a few days ago that asked voters who they would vote for in a presidential election. It's a classic "Le Soft" piece - the newspaper once commissioned a poll from the same institute asking who the most popular newspaper in the country was - surprise, surprise, it was "Le Soft," which is owned by former Mobutist and RCD minister Kin Key Mulumba.
Anyway, for whatever it's worth (it may not be much), the poll ranks Joseph Kabila first with 27% of the vote, Tshisekedi second with 22% and Kamerhe third with 5%. Say what? That totals up to 54% - who did the other 46% vote for? If my math is right, and no other candidate got more than 3rd placed Kamerhe, there must have been at least eleven other candidates or a large percentage voting for nobody.
The second poll that I would recommend looking at was conducted by the popular diaspora website Congo Mikili, who have a video here explaining the results. I like their emphasis on how "scientific" the poll is, and therefore the number cannot be contested ("others may tell you otherwise, but this is the scientific truth). Hmmm...it was a poll on a website, taken overwhelmingly by people outside of the Congo - most voters came from France, Canada, US, UK and Belgium. The words "selection bias" come to mind, especially as Congo Mikili has a pretty heavy anti-Kabila tone.
In any case, Tshisekedi was surprisingly popular for leader who boycotted the 2006 elections (to the dismay of many) and took the crown with 30%, JP Bemba is runner-up with 14%, Moise Katumbi got 12% and "No leader" got 11% - i.e. "I don't like any of the above options" - and Joseph Kabila got 8%.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Interesting and contentious stuff. Apparently The Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 prohibit pillage, and most domestic jurisdictions and international courts include laws against pillage.
But what Stewart is getting at is more than just soldiers running amok on the battlefield. He wants to know whether corporations can be held accountable for wrongfully acquiring property through complicity with armed force. The clearest precedents for this were during World War II tribunals - IG Farben, a German company, was charged with exploiting the military occupation of France to obtain property without the proper consent of the lawful owner. That is pretty straight-forward pillage. Stewart goes on to show, however, that Farben and other companies were also found guilty of having received stolen goods, i.e. buying property that had been unlawfully acquired by a third party.
In the case of the Congo, Stewart argues that companies/countries could be found guilty of pillage of warehouses and stocks (as with the AFDL/Rwandan invasion of 1996) but also for buying minerals that were mined outside of legal concessions or in violation of Congolese law. One could see, also, how his argument could extend to any minerals mined through forced labor or even tainted by extortion or similar abuse.
Apparently the ICC does not have jurisdiction to try corporate crimes, but national courts do. Also, it will be difficult to prove mens rea, especially for buying stolen goods, although some jurisdictions are pretty lenient about this.
Seems to be a long way off in the Congo, but interesting stuff.
A bunch of Congolese politicians have recently been courting Jean-Pierre Bemba, the head of the Congolese opposition who is now in jail at the ICC in The Hague. First it was Vital Kamerhe, the former Kabila ally turned opposition politician. Now apparently José Makila, the former governor of Equateur who has clashed with the leadership of the MLC, has visited the disgraced leader in prison.
Both Kamerhe and Makila say that they walked away with Bemba's endorsement. Bemba himself, however, has told some close friends that he hasn't given anyone an official endorsement for anything, and that people are exaggerating and misinterpreting what he meant. Of course, he being in prison, it is difficult for people to contact him to figure out what really happened. And in any case, he is apparently prohibited from getting involved in Congolese politics by the ICC - the MLC had to write a letter to the ICC when he first put in prison saying that he would stay out of politics. Oh well.
This reminds me of a story that Paul Kagame liked to tell to the RCD leadership, when they were still based in Goma during the rebellion (1998-2003).
Once, frustrated by their shenanigans, he told the RCD executive council the story of an emperor who had a wonderful advisor. As a reward for his loyal service, one day he told his advisor that he would fulfill any wish he had. The advisor told him: ‘I have but one simple request. When I want to tell you something, can I whisper it in your ear?’ The king, dumbfounded by the modest request, granted it immediately. From then on, whenever there was an important decision to take, the advisor would go up to the king and whisper banalities in his ear – he talked about the weather, or what the cook would make for dinner – and the king would nod. The advisor would then go and tell the court that the king had agreed with his suggestion regarding the momentous decision.
Kagame then thundered, wagging his finger. “Some of you fools come and see me here in Kigali, just to say hello and ask about my family! Then you go and tell the rest that Kagame agrees with your decision on this or that.” He banged his fist on the table. “I will have none of this!”
(The story was also told of Emperor Haile Selassie. Origin unknown. But very appropriate.)