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

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Susan Rice and the M23 crisis

As the M23 crisis has unfolded in the eastern Congo, the US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has emerged as a holdout within American foreign policy, a sort of minority report to the prevailing criticism of Rwanda and the M23.

The first indication of this emerged in June, when Rice delayed the publication of UN Group of Experts' interim report, insisting that Rwanda be given a chance to see the report first and respond. While these UN investigations are supposed to give the accused the opportunity to respond and explain––the Group says it was refused meetings by the Rwandan government, which Kigali denies––they rarely allow them to see the entire report before publication. In any case, the Group finally did brief a Rwandan delegation in New York in June in New York (unsurprisingly, the Rwandan rejected the report as flawed) and the report was released.

Rice emerged as skeptic within a State Department that had largely accepted Rwanda's role in backing the M23. Both Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson and Special Envoy Barry Walkley have told Kigali explicitly to stop supporting M23. According to sources within the Obama administration, Rice has weighed in during these conversations, even when they do not directly relate to the United Nations.

According to an international NGO that follows Security Council politics closely, "Rice isn't convinced that support is ongoing––maybe [there was some] in the past, but not now." Others point to her skepticism at the UN Group of Experts reports and their methodology.

Her latest controversial step was to block the explicit naming of Rwanda and Uganda in this week's UN Security Council resolution, condemning the M23 occupation of Goma. As in previous statements, the body demanded that "any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately." Other Council members had wanted to name Rwanda explicitly, but Rice demurred, arguing that this would not be constructive in a process in which Rwanda must be part of the solution. Rice's supporters say that this was simply the official US position, and she was following orders from Washington.

Rice's relationship with Rwanda goes back to the Clinton administration, when she began her diplomatic career. She worked on the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997, rising to become the Senior Director for African Affairs. Infamously, she is quoted as having asked in a cabinet meeting during the Rwandan genocide what its impact would be on the mid-term congressional elections.

Guilt over her inaction during the genocide––when she was still in a more junior position––and frustration with first Mobutu and then Laurent Kabila fueled her sympathy toward Rwanda. By 1997, Rice had been named Assistant Secretary of State for Africa. When the Second Congo War broke out in 1998, Rice was at the helm of a US policy that, according to colleagues of her at the time, did not denounce Rwandan abuses or involvement in the eastern Congo during this period. As Howard Wolpe, the US Special Envoy at the time, told me about Rwandan involvement in this war: "We just didn't know what was going on, most of the reports about abuses were coming from the Catholic Church and we didn't know what to make of them." For many, including Rice, the Congolese government was corrupt and inept, Rwanda's was efficient and had good security imperatives to justify their involvement in the Congo. (An excellent, if controversial, account of this era is a 2002 article by Peter Rosenblum in Current History.)

Now, however, the predominant mood in the State Department seems to have shifted to become more critical of Rwandan interference in the Congo. Past wars have brought suffering and few solutions, the FDLR threat, while still present, is much diminished. 

Rice is now favored by President Obama to become the next Secretary of State, a choice that, according to a Rwandan official, "would make many in Kigali happy. Rice understand us."


James Serudonyori said...

The bottom line is that Susan Rice is an educated diplomat. She studied philosophy to PhD level. she knows how researches are conducted. She is in position to distinguish between sound research findings and fallacies.
UN GoE produced fallacies! She is right to stand firm. Accepting fallacies produced by Hege and co. is tatamunt to abusing knowledge.
Bravo madam Rice, Obama kudos for thinking to appoint this good woman t post of secretary of state

congo man said...

SUSAN RICE is a corrupt person whose involvement with the COLTAN MAFIA shall also be investigated along side BENGAZI.

virunga mountains said...

What do you expect from an Illuminati Pole-dancer...
I bet she's not been off the phone,asking her masters-are we ready to Kill?


Mel said...

An "Illuminati Pole-dancer"! Ha!

While I really do feel Republicans attacks on Rice are entirely political and have nothing to do with Benghazi, as a proud Democrat I think its best O finds someone else for State.

Among the reasons:

1- On Africa, in general, she has clearly failed. Sure, she, Hill, and Powers scored a victory with Libya but outside of that its been very disappointing. I mean, how do you attend a funeral of dictator?

2- She is just too difficult. I've been reading the recent reports and its clear she is a bit too abrasive to be a diplomat. When you have the Russians calling her to task for profanities, well, that's a problem. I ofcourse believe part of that is clearly racism and sexism at work- strong black women with 'tude are a bit too much for a world filled with white men who think they are gods. But, even some African diplomats have problems with her so it can't be just issues of race/gender.

3- And yes, she seems way too trigger happy. I've always felt that's a problem primarily because it suggests she's uncomfortable with nuance in international relations- something one must have to play well in the world.

4- Her media appearances, as Dowd suggested in her column in the Times a week or so ago, suggest someone not fully comfortable with an aggressive press. Unlike Hillary, or Senator Kerry, or even Bill Richardson, she hasn't had to deal with constant in your face scrutiny in her career and, when she finally got into the limelight, she didn't too well. Sure, Condi wasn't too prepared either but she had southern grace and the humility borne of living under oppression in segregated Birmingham to give her a sense of perspective and awareness. Susan has NONE of that in my view.

4- O has some major things on the plate which may include, fairly soon, a Supreme Court vacancy. So, with the fiscal cliff, immigration reform, and defending/implementing Obamacare, I'd really rather not have a battle with Republicans on cabinet appointments at this point. It will just be too draining and drag down O's new found political capital.

Personally, I'd really like to see Rep Jared Polis of Colorado as UN Rep. He's on the short list, Dems could hold on to his seat, he's been AWESOME on Congo issues (once heard him call Kagame at "fucking criminal" at a fundraiser in Miami), and it would send a powerful signal to the gay community to have him as UN Rep. O would get someone super smart, loyal, and make history all at once.

Just my two cents but, again, I think Rice should go teach at Harvard or something and not be nominated as Hill's replacement.


Mel said...

Sorry, but my main point here is that with Hill's departure and the end of the "grand bargain" between the O and Clinton camps in the Dem Party, we have a real chance to get a REAL Africanist to head State.

This is very important and we need a REAL one from a NEW generation- not Clintonites.

Yes, Rice is an Africanist. But she is of the old kind/set.

We need someone new and someone who understands, in their bones, the need for a better deal for Africans and their desire for a more prosperous and democratic future. Rice and her ilk just want stability and the narrative. Africans deserve better than that since, in my view, that comes across as a kind of 21st century nobless oblige.

So, let's go with someone like Rep Jared Polis who is new and fresh and that vividly understands the winds of change blowing across the savannahs of Africa.

And after Jared in confirmed, let's all start a "Stearns for National Security Council" campaign!


bfhend said...

Hyperreality involves a situation in which people are bombarded with an overwhelming stream of deliberately distorted information flows until they are no longer able to distinguish between objective reality and a hyperreal simulation of reality - it is the downside of the global digital media revolution.

Since 1996 Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame have been extremely sophisticated in constructing a hyperreal narrative regarding events in the DRC. Their modus operandi is well-established: before launching a Rwando-Ugandan invasion they form a Congolese front, they deny their involvement and claim the ensuing conflict is purely an internal Congolese mutiny/rebellion while they carry out their objectives. Time and again we have witnessed the same pattern of destabilizing behavior - with the same destructive results.

Unfortunately, throughout her diplomatic career Susan Rice has tended to uncritically support Museveni and Kagame. I find it incredulous that she can doubt their direct involvement in the current crisis in light of the mounting body of evidence that implicates them. Their strategy only works if they have enablers in the corridors of power among decisionmakers who, wittingly or unwittingly, give their narrative some credibilty.

Breaking the cycle of violence in eastern Congo is made all the more difficult by the necessity of penetrating a carefully-constructed hyperreality in order to arrive at an intersubjective understanding of the truth. We've seen the campaign to swarm Twitter and other social media (including this blog) in an effort to discredit the UN GoE Report, its members, and even Jason.

From Jason's piece it is evident that President Obama is being given a range of conflicting views on the current conflict in the DRC - I have no idea which view will prevail; however, I do think he has been ably served by Assistant Secretary of State Carson. Hopefully President Obama will chart a course that avoids a repetition of the disastrous events of 1998-2002.


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Perks4U2 said...

Are you kidding Mel? Whatever she may do in Africa will not be of her own volition but that of a nasty imperialistic society that has a rapacious thirst for African minerals and dont mind shedding African blood for it. So lets stop acting as if shes got her own agenda.

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