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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


The Security Council will vote either today or tomorrow on a new mandate for MONUC. According to a draft, which is currently being debated, here are the outlines:
  • The mission will be named MONUSCO, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo. Its first priority will continue to be protecting civilians in imminent danger. But the overall mission will shift slightly to supporting Congolese institutions - the language over and over again is "support the Congolese government" with continuous caveats of "upon explicit request by Congolese authorities;"
  • However, the biggest bullet was dodged: they have decided on withdrawing 2,000 troops, but they will not withdraw any more troops until the Congolese government is able to fulfill certain benchmarks such as progress in bringing an end to military operations, "resulting in minimizing the threat and restoring stability in sensitive areas." MONUSCO will have to report back to the Security Council every three months over the next year on developments;
  • In somewhat convoluted (and contradictory?) language, in order to protect civilians, they are supposed to support the Congolese army "to bring to a completion" operations against the FDLR and LRA, while respecting humanitarian law;
  • They are explicitly mandated to continue efforts such as Joint Protection Teams, Joint Investigation Team, Women's Advisers and - a new development - "Prosecution Support Cells" to support prosecutions by FARDC military authorities;
  • Participate in the training of Congolese police and army battalions and mobilize donors to supply material;
  • Elaborate a plan with other UN agencies for a comprehensive support of the justice sector;
  • Establish, together with the DRC government, five mining "counter" in North and South Kivu to help enhance traceability of minerals (the so-called "centres de negoce").
Some problems:
  • There are no details of how exactly MONUSCO is supposed to support the Congolese army - no mention, in particular, of vetting out abusive officers;
  • No mention of pre-empting violence by taking offensive action against armed groups to stave off (not that it worked that well in the past);
  • No new ideas of how to put pressure on the Congolese security forces to improve behavior - just a small reference to paragraphs about conditionality in the last resolution;
  • Nothing on shifting some resource to deal with the LRA.
The politics of the resolution have been predictable. China is trying to remove many of the concrete suggestions for how to protect civilians, as well as the conditionality of supporting the Congolese army. The Americans are pushing strongly for protection of civilians (but not security sector reform), while Austria is pushing on strong language on security sector reform.

Uganda - wonder of wonders - didn't see the need to say that sexual violence was "widespread."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Unrest in Lubumbashi

On Sunday evening, the town of Lubumbahsi was alerted by large movements of military personnel through town, deploying to the airport, the presidential residence and various other places. According to local sources, some members of Kabila's family were evacuated to military camps.

The following day, the provincial interior minister told the press that around 20 people had been arrested for a plot to destabilize Lubumbashi. He didn't say who these people were exactly. However, other sources suggest that the people arrested are from Lualaba district, along the border with Angola, and would be plotting to secede. The two names going around are Maitre Mbenga Sandonga and Elie Kapend - the former has often advocated for the independence of Katanga, while the latter claims to be the head of the Front de libération nationale congolais (FLNC), the main organization of former Katangan Tigers (also called diabos), the descendants of Katangan secessionists who fled and fought in Angola in the 1960s, re-invading Zaire twice in the 1970s.

Lualaba district hosts some of the most lucrative copper and cobalt mines in the country, and is populated in large part by people from the Ruund ethnic community.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Doss announces resignation; mining troubles

Some news:
  • In a letter distributed to MONUC staff yesterday, the head of the mission Alan Doss officially announced his retirement from the UN, to begin once the Security Council renews MONUC's mandate, which should happen in the next few weeks. "After 44 years in UN service including almost a decade in peacekeeping it is time for me to move on." This is not unexpected, there have been rumors for over six months now that he will leave. No replacement has been found, although the former French ambassador to the UN, Jean-Maurice Ripert (currently the UN special envoy to Pakistan), is apparently close to the top of the list. Ripert has had a distinguished career in diplomacy, but has never managed a large operation or been an ambassador of UN official in a conflict zone. See here for his biography.
  • Political risk premiums for foreign investors in the Congo have risen by 40% due to the mining contract review process. Canadian mining company First Quantum had its license revoked and has gone to arbitration, demanding $12 billion in compensation from the Congolese government. The same Reuters article also suggests that FDI will rise to $5 billion this year before falling to $4,5 billion next year due to elections.

Monday, May 17, 2010


  • I was thinking about blogging about developments in Rwanda, but Texas in Africa beat me to most of the stories here.
  • The US State Department has officially begun talks with representatives from the tin and electronics industry with regards to the mineral trade in the eastern DRC. Last week, Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats spoke with industry officials in Washington, signaling that the executive branch has now gotten involved in trying to regulate the supply chain, after two bills were submitted in the House in this regard.
  • There has been increased presence of Rwandan troops along the border with North Kivu over the past week. It's not clear (to me, at least) what this is about, although it may have something to do with the grenade attacks that rocked Kigali on Saturday (2 dead, 26 wounded). A prominent Congolese newspaper reported large infiltrations of Rwandan troops, but I would take that with a large grain of salt until it is confirmed.
  • I have copied OCHA's most recent stats regarding civilian displacements and returns in North Kivu. (It's pretty small, see here for original.) The skinny: since January 2009, 675,000 people have been displaced and 717,000 have returned home. This is a bit confusing, as some areas have become more violent, while others have calmed down - in other words, not all those displaced have returned home. In general, the territories of Walikale and Lubero have been the worst affected in 2010, as most of the fighting with the FDLR has shifted westwards and as trouble with local militia (Tcheka, PARECO, ACPLS) has taken place mostly in these remote areas. Walikale has seen 100,000 new IDPs since Jan 2009 with only 5,6,00 returnees; Lubero has seen a whopping 400,000 new IDPs with 290,000 returns.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spying in the Congo

There was a nice piece by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker on spying. He describes how the Spanish government found dead body of a British man off their coast in 1943. Attached to his waist was a briefcase with some secret-looking documents. The Brits frantically tried to get the documents back, but the Nazi spies were quicker, uncovering the Allies' plan to attack southern Europe through Greece and Sardinia. Hitler quickly moved a Panzer division to the Peloponnese.

The only problem was: it was a set-up. The Brits wanted the Germans to believe that; the Allies invaded a relatively defenseless Sicily on July 10, 1943. Gladwell then goes on to explain the perverse distortions in intelligence services, where the more secret the operation and the intel, the smaller the audience, the more incentives for distortion and the less fact-checking. Moreover, intel operatives are so used to their counterpart trying to trick them, they see every piece of information as a potential set-up: The Brits will think the Germans wanted them to believe that the British wanted them to believe that...and so on, into infinite regress.

I have had some experience with Congolese and Rwandan intelligence services, who face similar problems. The most damaging such instance probably came after the AFDL arrived in Kinshasa in 1996 with Laurent Kabila at its helm, but surrounded by Rwandan security officers. From the moment he arrived in Kinshasa, he began thinking that Rwanda was going to get rid of him, egged on by his own coterie of wizened rebels who had little love for the Rwandans. His secretary, personal bodyguard and many security officers were Rwandans.

On the Rwandan side, they began watching him suspiciously, wondering what he would do. The people to take the first step were probably the Congolese Tutsi who had arrived with Kabila and were almost immediately marginalized. By March 1998 - only ten months after they took power - Moise Nyarugabo and Deo Bugera had (by their admission) begun planning to replace him, although allegedly without Rwandan support. They were mostly just frustrated that they had been marginalized and that Kabila had mismanaged his initial months in power.

The Rwandans probably didn't really get involved in trying to get rid of Kabila until later, although the facts are murky. Given that the guy - Commander David - who held his pen and pad and stood outside his room at night well into 1998 was a Rwandan, it's hard to believe that they wanted to get rid of him until much later. But the Congolese insist that the Rwandans mounted several assassination attempts in June and July 1998, just after Laurent Kabila asked them all to leave the country. By then, the Rwandan intelligence was reporting that Kabila had begun recruiting the very ex-FAR soldiers that the AFDL had initially set out to defeat.

Kabila did eventually recruit those soldiers, sending his trusted aide Daniel Mulunda Ngoy (now they head of the PAREC demobilization initiative) to Brussels and Nairobi to meet with ex-FAR leaders in May or June 1998.

But what came first? Kabila's paranoia and recruitment of the ex-FAR, or Rwandan attempts to get rid of him? Intelligence services from both sides hyped up these possibilities - that was their job. They also had a bunch of over-eager Congolese spies they had hired, who wanted to ingratiate themselves with their higher-ups. Perverse incentives.

There are many intelligence agencies in the Congo - the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), the National Security Advisor (he has his own agents), the General Directorate of Migrations (DGM, an immigration police), the police intelligence service, and my favorite - the Military Detection of Anti-Patriotic Activities (DEMIAP, the military intelligence agency).

But not all Congolese spies are inept. I have dealt with some ingenious ones. Here are some favorite stories:
  • A Congolese intel agent had several phone numbers he had gleaned from call sheets that were linked to FDLR operatives. He wanted to know who these numbers, which were called frequently, belonged to, so he went to some friends at Vodacom and Celtel and asked them to find out. As phone numbers in the Congo aren't registered, he gave two ladies some money and they began calling them. When someone answered, the phone company worker said: "Congratulations! This is Celtel's Grand Prize Lottery, we wanted to inform you that you have won a refrigerator! We just need your name and address so we can get the prize to you." The names rolled in: several Congolese generals, a few businessmen...
  • Another intel agent was called by someone in Kabila's cabinet who was very frustrated with the outcomes of some of the votes in the provincial assembly in the town where he was based. MPs were taking money and orders from the government but voting the other way, but because the vote was secret no one could find out who the traitors were. So the intel agent proudly showed me a device he had created, a ballot box that made sure every ballot fell on top of the previous one, so afterwards they could open the box and know who voted which way. He cackled gleefully.
  • More later...

Friday, May 14, 2010

New governors for the Kivus?

South Kivu will soon have a new governor. On May 12th, the application process was concluded. The main contenders are Marcellin Cisambo, who was nominated by Kabila's AMP coalition, and Francois Rubota Masumbuko a provincial MP from the PCBG party.

A lot of people in Bukavu aren't very happy with Cisambo's nomination. Many say they don't want Kinshasa to impose yet another governor on South Kivu who will work for the AMP's and Kabila's interest and not for the province. Cisambo, like the previous governor Leonce Muderwa, is known to be a smooth operator and somewhat arrogant.

Cisambo lived in Belgium for 20 years and returned several years ago to become Joseph Kabila's political adviser. He began one of the most influential members of the Rais' entourage until he was shuffled out last year.

South Kivu is getting a reputation for being ungovernable - Cisambo would be the third governor in as many years. There have been 7 (I think) governors since the transitional government began in 2003. So an average of one a year. Some of the problems: a strong and raucous civil society, a weak party system with little internal coherence, and a few local resources, as most revenues are sent to Kinshasa.

North Kivu is also looking shaky, as Governor Julien Paluku might finally be kicked out of office. Several reports have now been issued by parliamentary commissions on the corruption within his provincial government, but until now he has survived with the backing of Kinshasa. The Goma court of appeal had thrown out legislature's corruption report on procedural grounds. However, it looks like Paluku's fortunes might be changing. There are rumors that Kabila is increasingly unhappy with him. Now, the Supreme Court in Kinshasa issued a verdict on May 12th saying that the parliamentary case against him can be heard.

In any case, the stakes are high. Kabila want to put on a happy face for the 50th anniversary of Congolese independence celebrations on June 30th.

Update on integration of armed groups

My apologies for being absent for a week. I will try to catch up on a few important issues that haven't been covered much in the press.

First, on May 5th the CNDP president Philippe Gafishi finally gave a compte rendu to the CNDP of his meeting with President Kabila on April 17th. He said that Kabila had promised to revitalize the work on the Comite National de Suivi (CNS), the committee set up to oversee the integration of armed groups, before June 30th (independence day). Among the issues that Kabila said he would address regarding the CNDP are:
  • the return of Congolese refugees from Rwanda
  • the integration of the CNDP into the civilian administration and police
  • granting CNDP officers ranks in the Congolese army
  • incorporating the CNDP into the AMP (Kabila's coalition) and given them positions in government or the administration
Not everybody in the CNDP was happy with this state of affairs. A certain Patrice Habarurema (a Hutu from Masisi) said he was going to create a courant renovateur and challenge Gafishi. He was apparently arrested shortly afterwards in Gisenyi by Rwandan security forces for unknown reasons. In the meantime, the Rwandan military tribunal postponed Laurent Nkunda's hearing indefinitely for procedural reasons.

Other armed groups are also unhappy. On May 7, seven signatories of the March 23rd agreements wrote to President Kabila, saying that he had to take urgent measures to address their concerns or the integration process might fail. They also opposed MONUC's withdrawal. The signatories included some important groups: the PARECO Hutu wing (Sendugu Museveni), Mai-Mai Kifuafua (Didier Bitaki) and part of the PARECO Nande wing (Firmin Sikuli).

In general, things are getting increasingly tense in North Kivu. There has been quite a bit of violence in Walikale and Lubero territory by the FDLR several hitherto marginal groups. In the meantime, in South Kivu two new armed groups have been added to the laundry list: Jeshi la Uma (army of the community) in Mwenga territory and Parti Nationaliste Congolais (PNC)
in Shabunda territory. According to some local intelligence report, the head of this latter movement, Colonel Moriamu, lives in the United States.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Conflict Minerals: Summary of Initiatives

I thought it would be good to get an overview of various initiatives underway to help regulate the minerals trade in the eastern DRC. The basic idea is to reduce the amount armed groups are profiting from the minerals trade. Different scholars have different views about the importance of the minerals trade in the conflict. Some groups, such as ENOUGH, have portrayed the conflict as one driven largely by armed groups fighting over resources. Others, such as Belgian academic Koen Vlassenroot and Resource Consulting Services, place mining in the larger context of institutional collapse and emphasize the role that mining plays in providing a livelihood for unemployed youths.

I have suggested that mining was not at the root of the conflict, nor will cutting conflict minerals out of supply chains end the conflict. However, this is strategically perhaps one of the best approaches - it could weaken armed groups, transform the political economy of the region and strengthen the Congolese state apparatus. (In a very ideal world).

It is pretty amazing how this issue has been able to mobilize various constituencies, more than MONUC drawdown, perhaps equally as much as sexual violence. For the many skeptics of these two approaches (sexual violence and conflict minerals) - usually because of how reductive they are - we need to consider the fact that there are two bills currently in Congress on this issue and Hillary Clinton visited the Congo and has tasked her Undersecretary of State Bob Hormats to come up with a strategy for conflict minerals. This past week, Stanford University has recommended that its Board of Trustees take conflict minerals in the Congo into consideration in its investment portfolio. They said:

We recommend that the University vote in favor of well-written and reasonable shareholder resolutions that ask companies for reports on their policies and efforts regarding their avoidance of conflict minerals and conflict mineral derivatives.

Other initiatives underway are:

1. Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): They are currently drafting voluntary guidelines for due diligence in the supply chain. This is in response to calls from the G-8 meeting in L'Aquila last year and pressure from member states. I attended a workshop on their current draft in Paris last week - the guidelines are supposed to be a risk-based approach for companies to assess how risky their trade with the Congo is in terms of potential complicity in supporting armed groups, promoting corruption and child labor and harming the environment. Hopefully this will come to fruition by the end of the year.

2. UN Group of Experts on the DRC: The Security Council asked the GoE to draft recommendations for due diligence in the eastern DRC. Their interim report is due any time now, and their final report will be out in October this year.

3. Global Witness is pushing for companies to immediately begin supply chain due diligence and for host governments to hold companies responsible for violations of the OECD guidelines for for multinational enterprises.

4. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR): This is a regional body that is promoting economic and political cooperation in the region. A few weeks ago, member states (including Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi) committed themselves to a draft proposal that has each member state carrying out certification of minerals in its own territory and the creation of a regional database of minerals trade. In addition, there would be third party audits of these supply chains carried out by independent auditors. (I don't think the draft is public yet, so I will reserve comment for now).

5. The tin industry has begun its own tin certification scheme under its international tin body ITRI. They will be beginning a pilot program in the Kivus soon. This is the scheme that the Congolese government is backing and may be the means of certification they mention in the ICGLR draft. (See here for an article criticizing the ITRI approach)

6. The German government is also involved in a custody chain of natural resources through its Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), and they are working with the Congolese government and the ICGLR, but I must admit I haven't been following this closely.

7. The US government, as noted above, is pushing forward with legislation and perhaps even through State Department. The senate has also asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to draft a report for them on what is currently being done in the sector.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NYPD vs UN Group of Experts

US authorities managed to nab Faisal Shahzad - the Times Square aspiring bomber - after a mere 52 hours of searching. They were able to pull up emails, go through his phone records, check the vehicle identification number and scan through flight manifests.

I couldn't help but thinking of the work that we did with the UN Group of Experts on the DRC, a group mandated by the UN Security Council to find out who is supporting and financing Congolese rebel groups. We asked the US authorities for help to subpoena emails and financial records in the US belonging to FDLR and CNDP leaders. They still haven't answered most of the requests. They have very few staff in the Office of Foreign Assets Control (Treasury Dept) and all the requests have to be vetted thoroughly so we don't compromise domestic legislation. Plus, Al Qaeda, Taliban and Sudan take priority over the DRC.

A similar situation for France, where several FDLR operatives live and where many mail accounts that these rebel leaders use are based. Funnily, we got much better cooperation from countries you would not have expected: the United Arab Emirates helped us get tons of information on Thuraya satellite phones, the Congolese government seconded a public prosecutor to subpoena pretty much anything we wanted (including phone records and financial statements), and the Australian government helped us get access to tens of thousands of emails of one suspect within a week of our request.

There were only five of us on the panel. I had to personally enter by tens of thousands of phone numbers from call sheets into an Excel file for data analysis because we didn't have a budget for a data analyst.

We are still a long way away from the day when we actually do what the Security Council (where the US has veto power) mandates. And then diplomats throw their hands in the air and say they don't know who is supporting the FDLR and other rebel groups.


News roundup

Apologies for the long absence. In the meantime, a few things have happened:
  • The new CNDP President Philippe Gafishi met with President Kabila, but he has yet to inform people in Goma - including, apparently, members of his own party - of the conclusions of their meeting.
  • Several new armed groups have been reported in the Kivus, including one that attacked the Nyaleke military camp in North Kivu and another in Shabunda territory in South Kivu. Another, small group led by self-proclaimed Colonel Tsheka in Walikale territory has also attacked the Mubi mining center, killing several people.
  • Further north, close to the border with Sudan, the Lord's Resistance Army is reported to have killed another 100 civilians in February this year, according to the UN. That is in addition to the 321 they killed in December last year. The response from the Congolese army and MONUC has been minimal so far, with only a few battalions deployed against the LRA, compared with 18 operational against the FDLR in the Kivus. That is supposed to change: according to some press reports, President Kabila is sending more troops to Province Orientale.
  • MPs from Ituri protested this week, claiming that according to the constitution, their district should have been elevated to become a province by now (that much appears to be true) and that they will unilaterally declare Ituri a province. There is mounting pressure, especially in rich areas such as Ituri, for Kabila to finally decentralize the financial management of the country, as provided by the 2005 constitution.
  • The NGO PAREC, which is run by Kabila confidante Daniel Mulunda Ngoy, has done what the Congolese government tabled a long time ago in the 2008 Nairobi Agreement it signed with Rwanda: That it would relocate FDLR who didn't want to go back to Rwanda to other parts of the country, far from the border. This week, PAREC is taking 54 FDLR from the "Soki" splinter group to Katanga province. As it is not done either by the Congolese government or MONUC, it is unlikely that there will be much follow-up.