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, December 21, 2010

Massive recruitment, WikiLeaks and elections

A quick news roundup before I go offline for a few days.

  • Guy de Boeck has an article on CongoForum asking some questions about preparations for the elections - among other things, he points out that the constitutional revision has been put on the agenda of the national assembly without following the necessary procedure;
  • Some more Wikileaks documents have been put up concerning the Congo, including some suggesting that George Forrest's company was involved in smuggling uranium out of the Congo in 2006;
  • The French minister for human rights finished a trip to the Congo a few days ago, concluding the the human rights situation was "a shipwreck;"
  • Human Rights Watch put out a press statement a few days ago, drawing attention to the fact that since September there has been a wave of recruitment in the Kivus. According to HRW, both CNDP and FDLR have been responsible for a wave of forced recruitment, including of many children. Such recruitment is a bad sign - it often takes place shortly before an escalation of violence. 

The Congo and Hezbollah

Just when you thought the US didn't care about the Congo (see last post), the US Treasury has named a prominent Kinshasa company as part of a financial network channeling funds to Hezbollah. They have placed Congo Futur, a company involved in manufacturing, trade and real estate throughout the Congo, on a list of Special Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) for being a "cover company" for Hezbollah supporters. This should lead to the blocking of the company's assets in the United States and forbid American entities from doing business with them.

According to the Treasury Department press release, which has received quite a bit of coverage in Kinshasa, the owners of Congo Futur have been substantial financial backers of Hezbollah. Ali Tajideen and Husayn Tajideen, both of whom apparently reside in the Gambia, are the newly named alleged supporters of Hezbollah. Kassim Tajideen, their brother, is the one cited on the list as the owner of Congo Futur, based in downtown Kinshasa. He has been on the SDGT list since May 2009.

Congo Futur has responded denying that the Tajideen brothers are shareholders in their business and saying that they have never been involved in money laundering. Nonetheless, their website names their founder as Ahmed Tajideen.

Congo Futur has been in Kinshasa since 1997 (not 2007 as the Treasury Department statement says) and is one of the largest business conglomerates in the country. They have factories that make plastics, oxygen, biscuits and construction materials, as well as a sawmill and several large real estate holdings. They are currently building a fourteen story apartment building in downtown Kinshasa.

There have been persistent allegations over the years, albeit unsubstantiated, that Congo Futur is linked to Kabila's family and their rapid expansion into real estate and other ventures has benefited from this political cover. There have also been a bunch of allegations, made by think tanks and online newspapers, linking Congo Futur to the uranium trade and Iran. It makes for strange reading, especially as another close friend of the government is Dan Gertler, who has been linked with rightest parties and settlers in Israel.

An intimate look at US government policy toward the Congo - Interview with Tony Gambino

Congo Siasa spoke this week with Tony Gambino about US policy towards the Congo. Tony has been engaged on the Congo for 31 years, since he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural South Kivu and in Kisangani. He was the Mission Director of USAID to the DR Congo from 2001-2004 and authored an influential Council on Foreign Relations report on the country. He is now an independent consultant based in Washington, DC.

JS: To start off with, give us a historical perspective on US foreign policy towards the Congo. How has it changed over the years?

TG: During the Cold War, US foreign policy globally had clear priorities. Those priorities led the US to support the pro-West dictator, Mobutu. That clear lens, however, disappeared with the end of the Cold War in 1990. In the first phase after the Cold War’s end, US policymakers thought they didn’t need to care about or pay much attention to places like Zaire, Rwanda or Burundi. But the 1994 genocide in Rwanda dramatically changed that. Policymakers realized that they couldn’t ignore what was going on in Central Africa. But what did this renewed attention mean for Zaire, which at that time was going through a flawed democratization process and then, starting in 1996, an invasion from the east? Should the US prop up Mobutu one more time or sit back and watch? Eventually, the US and other Western states decided not to intervene and Mobutu fell.

When a new war broke out in August 1998, the US faced a traditional international problem – how to deal with a multi-state international conflict. The main priority for the US at that point was stability in the region, so it did what it could to contain the war, build a peace process and help the Congolese move to a transition and elections. Overall, this US engagement was a success.

After the Congolese national elections in 2006, the US and other concerned states made a fundamental mistake. It is well known that countries coming out of civil war with a fragmented, fragile political system are at high risk to relapse into conflict. Therefore, increased, enhanced engagement is what is required. However, the US and other Western states decided that once elections had been held, now Congo was OK – it was, after all, a democracy now – and it was time to scale down. Ultimately, this decision was driven by nothing more than “Congo fatigue” in Washington and other Western capitals. “Congo fatigue” is an intellectually barren way of thinking about the Congo, and it led the US in 2007 and 2008 to do precisely the opposite of what it should have done. US policymakers still struggle with the consequences – an international community that keeps providing money, but remains intellectually and diplomatically disengaged. As a result of this international disengagement and extremely poor governance within the Congo, the country began to drift. Conflicts broke out again in the East, and there was a lack of progress in consolidating state institutions to provide a basic minimum of security, justice and other basic state services. This is the situation in the Congo today.

JS: What do you say to the argument that this drift in attention has coincided with much greater economic investment, including by American companies?

TG: Greater economic investments should lead to more engagement by the US government, not less. No, it really was nothing more than “Congo fatigue”: US policymakers put the country onto a distant back burner with hardly any flame and that triggered the inappropriate US diplomatic disengagement. The main manifestation of this was the focus of the US government in 2007 and 2008 to draw down MONUC – the main representative of the international community in the Congo – as rapidly as possible.

Some US companies, including one very large one, Freeport McMoran, have invested heavily in the Congo. This is a good thing, and should have focused US policymakers much more towards promoting democratic stability. The scale of investments that Freeport is making takes decades of mining to justify. When companies are thinking about staying in a country for that long, they want a functioning rule of law and secure property rights. This is a good thing and should be encouraged.

JS: The other allegation we often hear is that the US was complicit in the violence due to its support for Rwanda. What do you make of this argument?

TG: Let us look at different periods. Early during the 1998 war, some US policymakers initially looked favorably on Rwanda’s invasion of the Congo, in part because US policymakers at the time listened carefully, even deferentially, to Rwandan President Kagame, and were disenchanted with Laurent Kabila’s ineffectual rule in the Congo. But as that war drew in states from around Africa and turned into a bloody stalemate, the US and other Western states realized that it made no sense to take sides. The US then turned to peacemaking and support for a successful Congolese transition process, which was the right approach to take.

Once the war ended and until early 2009, much of the violence came about because of actions by the FDLR, the Rwandan rebel group. The FDLR remained a serious force because it received support from Congolese political figures, from those based in eastern Congo linked back to political and military figures in Kinshasa. When that support finally was cut off, as part of a deal between Presidents Kabila and Kagame in late 2008, the FDLR’s ability to project power began to wane. It has been on the decline ever since.

Recent violence in the Congo is really about competition within the Congo over land, minerals, and, ultimately, power and wealth. While Rwandan and other neighboring economic interests have benefited from the messy, violent struggles in eastern Congo, they are not its present cause.

JS: Does this administration have a coherent, comprehensive strategy for the Congo, similar to the strategies their have developed for other countries in Africa?

TG: The US is still struggling with a strategy for Central Africa. The US thinks the Congo requires some heightened attention, but hasn’t yet figured out what that means. This administration came in wanting to do something regarding the Congo. This could be seen most clearly in the Secretary of State’s 2009 visit to Kinshasa and Goma. Secretary Clinton was genuinely surprised and moved by the scale and brutality of the violence. I believe her commitment for the US to do more to solve this problem is genuine and deeply felt.

So the administration wanted a new strategic approach to the country, but they weren’t able to get the intended results from a Special Envoy who could spearhead the process, so they went about it piecemeal, sending out a multitude of various teams to the Congo to draft reports with literally hundreds of recommendations – ultimately more than a thousand recommendations were made. This only ended up creating confusion; it certainly did not lead to a new, focused approach. Instead of tolerating multiple, loosely coordinated activities that often are only tangentially linked, the US needs to focus all parts of our government on achieving clear results in two crucial areas. The US should focus on two central priorities in the Congo: the first priority should be to bring greater stability to and reduce civilian suffering in eastern Congo. The second priority needs to be ensuring that next year’s national elections take place and are free and fair.

JS: Why is there this apparent disjointed approach to the Congo? Does it have to do with bureaucratic or organizational challenges?

TG: The Secretary of State has a lot on her plate, so she obviously will not have time to deal with the Congo on a regular basis. Below her, the key policymaker is Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa - but look at what is already on his plate: the referendum in Sudan, instability in Somalia, problems in Kenya, concern for the two African powerhouses of South Africa and Nigeria, and now a stand-off in the Ivory Coast.

The present governmental organization on the Congo is rather dysfunctional. An unintended consequence of Secretary Clinton’s trip was that everybody in the US Government wanted to jump in afterwards and do something. There were three or four entities just within the Defense Department trying to get involved, then various actors in USAID, as well as two Under Secretaries of State. Unfortunately, these actors have not been pulled together into a coherent approach. The old adage about “too many cooks in the kitchen” describes part of the problem.

There are a number of ways to streamline and focus this process. The important thing is the political will, which needs to come from the Secretary herself. When the administration decides an issue is important enough, it finds a way to get the job done. For example, in Sudan as the January referendum has approached, not only has money been provided as the Special Envoy’s office and others in the US government have worked harder and harder, but people like Ambassador Princeton Lyman have been brought in to do very substantive work. Another example is Kenya, where there are a series of complex issues important to the US. It is clear that the Assistant Secretary of State himself – who is a former ambassador to Kenya – gives the country a lot of attention, which also has brought about effective engagement and focus.

The problem with Congo is that the decision hasn’t yet been made that the country needs that kind of action and attention. We are now at the end of 2010, over a year after Secretary Clinton’s visit, and the Congo is no better off in terms of overall violence in general and sexual violence in particular. The Congo is less than a year away from crucial elections. No serious observer thinks these elections can succeed without serious engagement by the international community, with Washington necessarily playing a leading role. But I have not yet seen the political will at a senior level in the US Government that these issues are so important that the US needs to put its shoulder seriously to the wheel, like it has in Sudan.

JS: Do you think that naming a Special Envoy, something several non-profits are pushing for, would help?

TG: A Special Envoy could make a difference. But the decision for deeper, more focused engagement must come from the most senior levels of the Administration. Only that will give the necessary support to those who are pushing for the US to more effectively engage on the Congo. The fundamental issue is will there be a decision to put our shoulder to the wheel or not? Appointing a Special Envoy alone isn’t enough.

I’ll give you an example of how bad things are today. In a public presentation a few weeks ago, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Carson said that last year the US gave $900 million in assistance to the Congo. But the US is slated to spend only $4 million for the elections, compared to an estimated need from international donors of around $300 million. A 20% contribution from the US – about $60 million – would be considered pretty serious. But the US contribution presently is at less than one percent of estimated needs. That shows a lack of seriousness. The US planning process around this issue clearly has failed. The timing of this important election has been known for years. Of what use is a Special Envoy if the level of funding for and commitment to free and fair elections remains as low as it is today?

I want to call your attention to something Senator John Kerry said; this is the way I think about the Congo, too:

"We’re putting $106 billion a year into Afghanistan; more than a trillion went into Iraq.  [The needs in Congo are] so small in terms of the monetary requirement and what would make a difference, so stunningly small but so huge in terms of the dramatic impact it would have on the lives of fellow human beings and frankly, it would do America so much good to be able to say to the world that it’s not just the war on terror and other kinds of things we care about but it’s this kind of humanitarian challenge that motivates us and excites us and challenges us and brings a whole generation into a new level of engagement that can transform, in the end, a whole continent.”

JS: What would you do differently?

TG: My list of three priorities for the US: Help secure the eastern Congo, see that elections are free and fair and get serious about governance as a whole. This list is not different from the list you would hear from US officials. But while the US says it cares about these, it has not organized its engagement to make a serious difference in any of these areas. It’s the level of engagement and commitment that needs to change.

JS: Should the US use its financial leverage to reach these goals?

TG: Certainly the US should put money behind those things it believes in, such as providing adequate support for the elections.

Beyond that, though, people talk about conditionality and aid cutoffs much too loosely. Today, the US gives quite a bit of money for the Congo, but almost all of it flows through non-governmental structures. Much of that assistance is for humanitarian projects – it would be both immoral and counterproductive to cut off such funding.

What is more appropriate is to look at flows that go directly into the Congolese government’s budget. Here the main actors are the IMF and the World Bank. The IMF has been extremely reluctant to undertake simple pro-governance conditionality.

To gauge a country’s commitment to key sectors, you can look across those sectors in a country’s budget like justice, health and education. A very simple exercise would be to ask what do countries that are about the same level of development as the Congo spend in these areas? Take justice – normally it is 2-6% in comparable countries, but for Congo it is .2% [figures from this year’s or last year’s budget]. The fact is that the Congolese budget for these sectors is at ludicrously low levels. For anyone who knows how collapsed the justice sector is in the Congo, this level of commitment to justice is absurd. The IMF and World Bank, with the support of the US, should have a very intensive dialogue with the government to raise that figure. Let us remember that over a third of the government’s budget in the Congo comes from the IMF and World Bank.

The IMF has not been willing to engage on this. The World Bank is thinking hard about how it can be more helpful. The US should be playing a lead role in its engagement with the IMF and World Bank. What I am thinking about is an approach like the “Governance Compact.” [An initiative of the World Bank and UNDP in 2006 and 2007 to link aid to concrete political and economic reforms.]

JS: How useful do you think the lens of sexual violence and conflict minerals has been as an advocacy tool in the United States?

TG: I salute activists on the Congo: I think they have really done their job. Because of tremendous efforts around issues of sexual violence and conflict minerals there are high school and college students and others around the country making noise about the Congo and writing their Senators and Representatives, which produces legislation. This is all very, very good. The problem is that it has not yet been translated into a clear decision at senior levels in the Executive Branch that the US will focus and concentrate its efforts to make a serious difference in the Congo now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Congo club on the brink of world fame

Tomorrow is a hugely momentous day for the Congo. TP Mazembe, a soccer team from Lubumbashi, will face off with Inter Milan in Abu Dhabi for the title of best soccer club in the world. It is hard to understate the importance of this event, not just because this is the first time any African team has been in the Club World Finals. After years of repression by their own and foreign governments, the Congolese finally have a chance to be proud of a homegrown, talented and successful institution. Congrats to the guys for getting this far.

From a political point of view, this will be important, as well. TP Mazembe's chairman is Moise Katumbi, the governor of Katanga and reportedly one of the wealthiest men in the Congo. Katumbi is a controversial figure - he is hailed by many Congolese (and the movie "Katanga Business" as one of the few leaders who has been efficient and responsible), but he also is alleged to have been involved in corrupt dealings in Zambia, whose government at one point wanted to arrest him (they later dropped the charges). According to an article in the Financial Times (by Katrina Manson, who just moved to the FT from Reuters/Kinshasa), he offers up to $10,000 in bonuses to his players and helps the club have a $10 million budget.

Katumbi has been widely mentioned as an eventual rival to Joseph Kabila. He has waved aside these rumors, saying that he will retire in 2011 and return to business. Nonetheless, in a country where most of the chairmen of the top clubs have been involved in politics, a victory by TP Mazembe would boost his reputation even more.

As a reminder, the governor of Kinshasa, André Kimbuta, was the head of AS Vita Club, a Kinshasa rival of TP Mazembe, as was a 2006 presidential hopeful, Diomi Ndongala. General Gabriel Amisi, the embattled head of the army now accused of corrupt dealings in gold, built up Maniema Union from scratch, making it into one of the best clubs in the country. Claude Nyamugabo, the current Sports Minister, used to run OC Bukavu Dawa.

Kamerhe arrives in the East, conflict minerals guidelines and murder of bishop's wife

Some stories to watch:

  • Vital Kamerhe left for a tour of the East of the country immediately after launching his UNC political party on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he was in Goma, where a melee broke out between police, his supporters and people who turned out to stone his convoy. Given the commotion, Kamerhe was unable to hold his public rally. Kamerhe claims that he was blocked from speaking officially to his supporters; government officials say that the election campaign hasn't started yet, so he can't be carrying out such events. Yesterday he arrived in Bukavu, where a large crowd of supporters turned out to greet him.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has published their proposed guidelines for conflict minerals legislation, you can download them here. The SEC was required by the conflict minerals legislation passed last year in Congress to propose a set of regulations to implement the bill. Also, the UN has published a more accessible version of their own, very similar guidelines. In the meantime, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), meeting in Lusaka on Wednesday, signed an agreement on making the minerals trade more transparent.
  • Bishop Levy Mbala, the head of the Church of Christ in the Congo - one of the largest protestant church groups in the country - was wounded and his wife killed in an attack on their house in Goma on Monday. The cause of the attack is not yet known; the attackers wore balaclavas to conceal their faces.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kamerhe's party flyer

You saw it first on Congo Siasa - here's his party flyer,  distributed today at the press conference he gave in Kinshasa.

As suspected, his slogan is "Mopepe ya sika" - Fresh air.

CNDP, Tshisekedi and mining in the Kivus

News round-up:
  • The CNDP officially announced that it was joining the AMP ruling coalition. Critics suggest that this is a way for the AMP to secure votes in the territory occupied by CNDP troops - anywhere between 300,000 to a million people live in and around CNDP-controlled areas in the Kivus. Nonetheless, it seems strange to forge an alliance with an armed group that is so unpopular.
  • The Rwandan government is looking forward to an increase in mineral  exports due to the ban on exports from the Kivus, according to the mining minister. Hmmm...I wonder how that works? Perhaps because minerals from the Congo are smuggled into Rwanda and then exported? The minister hinted at that: "But we know that investors can get the minerals they were getting from Congo here in Rwanda." Minerals make up 30% of exports from Rwanda; while the country has its own tantalum and tin mines, a fair share of the exports are suspected to be from the Kivus.
  • Tshisekedi said that dissidents from his party, including former leaders such as Maitre Mukendi wa Mulumba and Francoi-Xavier Beltchika, can join the party again - but they have to do it from the bottom up, through participation in local UDPS cells. This was seen as another way of telling them they are free to leave the party. 
  • Vital Kamerhe just finished his much-anticipated announcement at the GB complex in Kinshasa - instead of announcing the members of his party, he just made official his resignation from the PPRD.
  • Rwandan dissidents Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa and Col. Patrick Karegeya, along with Theogene Rudasingwa and Gerald Gahima, launched the Rwandan National Congress, an umbrella group under which they hope to organize against the ruling RPF party. Some critics suggest that they have failed to rally more heavyweights to their cause, as the names of some signatories on the document are not well known. You can read it here.
  • Nzanga Mobutu announced that he would be running for the presidency in 2011. He was 4th in the 2006 elections with only a few percent of the national vote. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Message a tous les lecteurs francophones

Chers lecteurs francophones: j'ai recu pas mal de messages me demandant de publier ce blog en francais. Ca fait du sens, bien sur, pour un site sur le Congo. J'ai donc experimenté avec plusieures options, et le plus facile et d'utiliser une application de traduction dans le navigateur. Par exemple, le navigateur Google Chrome vous permet de télécharger une application qui s'appelle Google Translate qui vous facilite la tache. Ce n'est pas parfait, mais c'est mieux de vous torturer avec mon francais mediocre (et de me torturer moi meme avec le temps que la traduction me coute).

UDPS congress begins in Kinshasa

Etienne Tshisekedi addressed his party's national congress yesterday in Kinshasa. A full 5,000 delegates are reportedly attending from around the Congo and including members of the diaspora - an impressive mobilization. Tshisekedi called for unity within his party, which has suffered numerous defections and internal splits over the years. In this light, the fact that this is the first national congress of the party since its founding in 1982 has prompted criticism.

In attendance were also potential rivals in the 2011 presidential campaign - Vital Kamerhe, Azarias Ruberwa and Ne Muanda Nsemi. You can listed to their reactions here. It looks like Tshisekedi is already getting the sympathy (and perhaps endorsement?) of Bundu dia Kongo's leader Muanda Nsemi, which would be important for votes in Bas-Congo.

Strikingly, none of the anglophone media have covered Tshisekedi's arrival or the congress so far; a story about a South African kayaker killed by a crocodile has instead made the press. 

This is the depiction of the caricaturist Kash Tembo of Kabila's reaction to how Tshisekedi's arrival has dominated the local landscape. For those interested, you can find Kabila's state of the nation address here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fresh air in Congolese politics

It's (almost) official: Vital Kamerhe is leaving the PPRD ruling party and creating his own party, the Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC). According to a press statement released yesterday, Vital will make the announcement on Tuesday. The former PPRD governor of Equateur Jean Bertrand Ewanga will be the UNC coordinator - he told the press that the party already has a million members, people who have signed "fiches d'adhesion" recently. Of course, it is easy to sign a piece of paper that has no legal status (it doesn't allow you to vote in a party primary, for example). There are reportedly ten other parliamentarians who will leave their seats to join the UNC, including Claudel Lubaya, the former governor of Kasai Occidental, and Hubert Molisho, the former vice-governor of Province Oriental.

People close to Kamerhe are calling him "Alassane Ouattara," the surprise victor of the Ivorian elections. Those elections had a strong psychological impact on Kabila and his rivals - no longer does it seem impossible to unseat the incumbent through elections. When asked by a Congolese newspaper about the vision of his party he said: "Mopepe ya sika." Fresh air. Maybe a slogan?

A biographical note on Kamerhe: Born in Bukavu in 1959, Kamerhe is from the Shi community of Walungu territory. Growing up around the country, he went to school in Bandundu and Kinshasa and graduated from Université de Kinshasa with a degree in economics. This upbringing is important, as it gives him a claim to being both from the East and from the West of the country.

His began his career as lecturer at the university, but then soon entered politics. During the democratic transition under Mobutu, he was a member of the Rassemblement des forces sociales et federalistes (RSF) of Vincent de Paul Lunda Bululu and was also a member of the opposition youth league. Between 1992 and 1997, he becomes advisor to various ministers  (mining, post and communications and education). There is some controversy over whether he was a member of a Mobutist youth league (Frojemo), led by General Nzimbi, a fact his opponent often use to discredit him.

Under Laurent Kabila, Kamerhe becomes the deputy chief of staff of Etienne-Richard Mbaya, the eccentric minister of reconstruction, then director of the Service national (a quasi military service set up by LD Kabila) and finally deputy commissioner in charge of MONUC affairs. A founding member of the PPRD party in 2002, he becomes general commissioner in charge of the peace process in the Great Lakes and is one of the principle negotiators of the 2002 peace deal. In 2003, he becomes minister of information and government spokesperson in the transitional government. In July 2004, he takes on the leadership of the PPRD and prepares the president's election campaign, which he receives a lot of credit for. He is elected as parliamentarian in Bukavu with one of the highest scores in the country and becomes president of the national assembly in 2007. He is lauded for the conciliatory role he plays in moderating between the majority and opposition. In 2009, he falls out with the president over the Umoja Wetu operations that allowed several thousand Rwandan troops to deploy into the Congo. in March 2009 he is forced to resign as president of the national assembly.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

TshiTshi returns

Tshisekedi arrived in Kinshasa yesterday after three years in "medical exile." There is some debate about how many people showed up to greet him at the airport and along the 20km of road between Ndjili airport and his home in Limete. Some say hundreds of thousands, some tens of thousands. I've posted a video of his return below - it looks pretty impressive, although hard to gauge how many people showed up. Interesting to see all the MLC flags on the display and people saying: "MLC and UDPS, we are one party."

Looks like the MLC has to hurry up and designate a credible candidate, or TshiTshi will take their votes in Kinshasa.

The UDPS' first ever national congress began today. Let's see if Ya TshiTshi can unite the party.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The race for the presidency kicks off

Although President Kabila said that the election campaign will not begin until mid-2011, one can consider that the unofficial race kicked off today with the arrival of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. He had been in "medical exile" for three years in Belgium.  According to preliminary reports, several thousand people turned out at the airport to await the 77 year-old (he turns 78 next Tuesday). Many more lined the streets between the airport and his residence in the Limete suburb.

Tshisekedi's UDPS party will be holding their first national congress next week, and their leader will have to try to mend the cracks in the party that have emerged to his alleged less-than-democratic rule, as well as the frustration than many Congolese still feel for his boycott of the 2006 elections. In the East, where he was never as popular as in his Kasaian homeland and Kinshasa, "TshiTshi" is still derided for his alliance with the Rwandan-backed RCD during the Inter-Congolese Dialogue in 2002. Judging by recent comments in the Belgian newspaper - he called Kabila "a genocidaire" - the elections will be hotly contested.

Other presidential candidates are about to enter the scene, as well. According to sources close to Vital Kamerhe, the former head of the national assembly is likely to announce his new political party before the end of the year. The party has been registered since at least July this year, but Kamerhe has repeatedly delayed its official presentation. He will then also have to renounce his seat in parliament, as required by the constitution for MPs who switch parties. The only two ruling party MPs who are rumored to be joining him are two former governors: Jean-Bertrand Ewanga (Equateur) and Claudel Lubaya (Kasai Occidental).

In the meantime, the main opposition party is in disarray and risks being eclipsed by these other candidates. The MLC has not yet begun internal debates about their electoral strategy for next year, in particular who their presidential candidate will be. One reason for this, according to MLC officials, is that Jean-Pierre Bemba is still holding out the possibility that he might run himself, from prison if need be. His case is unlikely to be finished by the end of 2011 - the Lubanga trial is now close to two years old, and the Bemba case just began last month. "His ego is preventing our internal debate about the elections," an MLC official told me.

The presidential election is not the only thing people are worried about. In the past few months alone, 33 new parties have been registered, according to a UN official. There are reports that former North Kivu governor Eugene Serufuli might finally formally break with his RCD party - he has been locked in a fight with Azarias Ruberwa for the past year over the direction of the party - and create his own party. And US-based oncologist Oscar Kashala is arriving in Kinshasa this week to begin his presidential election campaign, as well.

One of the first battles will be over the composition of the electoral commission. According to the electoral law, the parliamentary majority appoints four commissioners and the opposition three. This has been done, but the majority is pushing for a steadfast Kabila associate - Daniel Mulunda Ngoy - to become the president of the commission, which many feel could seriously compromise the commission's credibility. Mulunda Ngoy ran a controversial disarmament NGO called PAREC that traded bicycles, agricultural equipment and cash for weapons and made a botched attempt at resettling FDLR combatants in Katanga (they turned out to be mostly Congolese). More importantly, he is seen to be deeply partisan. Talks with the opposition, however, do not appear to have produced a compromise.

Kabila's interview

Yesterday, Belgian journalist Colette Braeckmann published an interview with President Kabila in Le Soir. You can read the whole interview here. Here are some excerpts:

Constitutional revision

Kabila said that the "absolute priority" are the elections, and that the revision will come afterwards - this implies that he may postpone his commission on constitutional reform until after the elections, even though he may have been able to push through some of his reforms with a 2/3 vote in parliament. He does say he wants to reform the High Council of Judges (the body that names, promotes and disciplines judges), change the electoral law (his advisors have spoken of changing to one person, winner-takes-all electoral districts) and stop the creation of new provinces (from 11 to 26 provinces).
Mais on n’en est pas encore là ! Je crois qu’ il faudra introduire quelques réformes, principalement dans la loi électorale. Ce qui compte c’est d’aller aux élections, le reste viendra après. A propos de la Constitution, qui date de 2006, il y a quatre ou cinq articles à revoir, à propos du découpage territorial, du Conseil supérieur de la magistrature, mais la priorité absolue, ce sont les prochaines élections, il faut enraciner la démocratie.

Army involvement in mining

After the UN Group of Experts provided ample evidence of army involvement in mining in the Kivus, and after a BBC investigation in the army chief's personal involvement in gold mining, Kabila still says there is no proof of military wrong doing:
C’est à vérifier. Le jour où on les attrapera, ils seront certainement sanctionnés. On accuse les militaires de faire du business, mais il faut en apporter la preuve. Nous avons une armée de plus de 100.000 hommes, déployés sur toute l’étendue du territoire national ; or je n’ai jamais vu aucun rapport accusant les militaires déployés au Katanga, au Bas Congo ou au Kasaï, de faire du business…
"I have always told human rights defenders that I am their best ally"

When asked about Floribert Chebeya's death, Kabila says that it shocked him and that he supported Chebeya's work, even if he had been critical of the president. He also says that journalists should not be afraid, that they need to speak out and be critical.

J’ai toujours dit aux défenseurs des droits de l’homme que j’étais leur premier allié. Je serai toujours là pour les défendre.
Les journalistes aussi ont peur, certains d’entre eux ont été assassinés…
Ils ne doivent pas avoir peur. On a besoin d’eux pour qu’ils dénoncent ce qui ne va pas, et ce que nous ne savons peut-être pas, ni moi, ni mes services de renseignement, ce que peut-être on nous cache…Il est bon de révéler les choses, mais il faut avoir les éléments et pas se baser sur des rumeurs

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Do UN sanctions matter for the Congo? The experts respond

Congo Siasa spoke with three members - Steve Hege, Fred Robarts and Greg Mthembu-Salter -  of the UN Group of Experts on the Congo about the importance of the sanctions regime, which they monitor, on the conflict in the Congo.

CS: This is the tenth final report of the GoE since its inception six years ago. At the close of each mandate, Groups of Experts propose for sanctions a confidential list of individuals to be considered by the Committee for possible addition to the sanctions list, which currently is comprised of 30 individuals and entities. And yet, one could say that these sanctions have had little impact on armed groups or the economy of conflict. Does the Security Council take sanctions seriously? What impact does the GoE have?

Targeted sanctions are an instrument that the Security Council, through the Sanctions Committee, can use to impact the behavior of individuals and entities supporting armed groups in eastern DRC. Obviously, sanctions are much more effective when they are applied to individuals who rely on bank accounts and official international travel. Unfortunately, when sanctioned individuals, or those extensively documented in reports who are not ever listed, see little impact on their activities or are able to quickly change front companies, the real-time effectiveness of the regime can be called into question. 

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, there is no automaticity about decisions to sanction individuals or entities. The Security Council is not a juridical institution but an inter-governmental political body which deals with a different slate of agenda items every day. Sanctions are just one of the tools in the Council’s toolbox, a tool designed to deter spoilers and to encourage compliance with the regime so it can eventually be lifted.

Just this past Wednesday the Sanctions Committee on the DRC added four names to its list of designated individuals and entities based on information from last year’s GoE report. Since the establishment of the sanctions list in November 2005, the Committee has added 10 individuals and four entities to the list and updated the list nine times.

With regards to the GoE’s impact, it is certainly much greater when individuals – and entities concerned about their business operations – care more about the possible reputational damage that investigations may bring, essentially the “name and shame” effect. For these individuals or entities, the threat that certain activities might be exposed through a GoE report can lead to positive behavior. The Group has seen this to be true in the case of certain economic actors who have proactively sought to improve their profile vis-à-vis the sanctions regime in order to avoid being identified in future Group of Expert reports and thereby rejected by banks or potential business partners conducting due diligence.

Another litmus test of whether the Group is having an impact is whether its recommendations are taken up by the Council in its resolutions renewing the sanctions regime and the Group’s mandate, and this appears to be the case, particularly with the last three resolutions in 2008, 2009 and the recent resolution 1952 just adopted last Monday.  A number of GoE recommendations, particularly those on due diligence guidelines, weapon stockpile security, cutting off support by armed group leaders in the diaspora, and recommending that all States regularly publish import and export statistics for natural resources, have been integrated into Council resolutions.

Member states outside the ambit of the Security Council can also decide to take national or collective action based upon information and analysis in the Group’s findings, such as suspending foreign aid, arresting leaders of the FDLR diaspora, shutting down the FDLR website, or through notification of arms shipments to the DRC in order to avoid the diversion of weapons to armed groups. As an inter-governmental body, Member States are also ultimately responsible for implementing sanctions through freezing assets and enforcing the travel ban on individuals and entities listed.

Finally, the GoE’s investigations and recommendations have also been taken up by the media, national civil society, and international NGOs who play an important role in shaping the policy debate surrounding the obstacles to the stabilization process in the eastern Congo. This can have important consequences in the way that governments, companies, and development actors approach their involvement in the Great Lakes region. As GoE reports become UN documents, they can serve as critical references for national parliamentarians, corporate officials, or heads of mission seeking to strengthen or alter policies and programs.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What does WikiLeaks say about Central Africa?

There were, of course, many cables relating to the Great Lakes among the 250,000 State Department cables released last week. Very few, however, have been released. This is what I can glean so far:
  • A cable signed by Hillary Clinton (put up by Jeune Afrique but the link no longer works) directing US officials to gather all relevant information on "people linked the Great Lakes." Most of the information is pretty standard for intelligence gathering: phone, credit card and frequent flyer card numbers; email and phone address books; other biographical information. However, for political leaders, the directive also asks for DNA samples, fingerprints and iris scans. All of this tracks very closely a similar directive asking for information about diplomats at the UN;
  • In the same cable, the stated national interests of the US in the region are: natural resources and "the consequences of the genocide." Good to know;
  • But the US also appears critical of Rwanda, asking for information about internal rifts within the RPF, political assassinations, paramilitary groups and ethnic politics;
  • Catering to domestic pressures, the State Department is also interested in the country's view of genetically modified crops and food;
  • In another cable leaked regarding sites around the world important to national interests, a cobalt mine in the Congo (Tenke Fungurume?) tops the list;
Is any of this really surprising? Much of it isn't - the directives to gather information about political leaders is diplomatically not very charming, but falls within standard State Department (and probably international) practice. What is interesting, however, is to get an intimate view of how national interests in the Great Lakes are defined: natural resources and the aftershocks of genocide. Oh yes, and biotechnology (?)

(By the way, for US government purposes: I have not actually read any WikiLeaks documents for the purpose of this posting, just press reports. So the State Dept memos warning that any reading of unclassified documents will jeopardize a career in the foreign service does not apply to me. I can still be Secretary of State.)

News we missed last week

News I failed to blog on last week:
  • The newly ordained cardinal of Kinshasa, Laurent Monsegwo, arrived in Kinshasa from Rome on Wednesday to huge acclaim. Monsengwo is usually considered to be opposed to Kabila, but rarely takes public stands;
  • In another case that is bound to undermine investor confidence in the Congo, South African businessman Frans van Jaarsveld is trying to recover his $5.7 million in debts owed by the Congolese government from South African Airways, which pays landing fees to a Congolese parastatal;
  • Open Society Institute's AfriMap pubished a 282-page report on challenges to democracy in the Congo, with detailed descriptions of issues relating to the constitution, parliamentary oversight, political education, political parties and elections;
  • ASADHO, one of the leading human rights groups in the country, published a statement protesting President Kabila's forced retirement of the Supreme Court president on November 26th. This is not the first time, according to ASADHO, that Kabila removes and appoints judges without seeking the necessary input from the Supreme Council of Judges;

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Congo's day in Congress

A somewhat strange hearing took place this week on Capitol Hill. The Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House's Armed Services Committee had a hearing on the Congo. The aim: to see what security threats for the United States the Congo poses.

I understand the desire to appeal to the meat-and-potatoes issues that US congressmen understand, namely national security. But in the case of the Congo, this means going out on a bit of a limb. Three people were invited to give presentations: Adam Komorowski (Mines Advisory Group); John Prendergast (Enough); Ted Dagne (Congressional Research Service). I have uploaded their presentations, as the congressional page seems to be under construction.

The only piece of information that suggests threats to US national security is the link between Ugandan ADF rebels and the bomb attacks in Kampala. As argued here before, this link appears to be tenuous - while there is little doubt that the ADF, a fairly half-baked, small group based in the Ruwenzoris, has links to radical Islamist networks in the Horn of Africa, I don't think there is solid evidence linking them to the Kampala bombings.

Otherwise, the presentations must have confused the congressmen and women, who were expecting to hear about links to US national security interests. (The title of the hearing was: Crisis in the DRC - Implications for US national security.) Komorowski spoke about his de-mining organization's work in the Congo and made a cogent appeal for better stockpile management within the Congolese armed forces. Dagne, the only one to mention the ADF links, gave a basic overview of economic and political developments in the Congo with no underlying policy message. Prendergast used the opportunity to push for concerted action on conflict minerals, including the appointment of a US special envoy to the Congo with a good staff. He also mentioned to need for coherent sector reform.

It seems to me that the opportunity could have been better used. If I had been organizing the hearing, I would have pushed for security sector reform, the one issue that the subcommittee really has the prerogative to address through the Department of Defense's current training program in the Congo. Lead with this and then include stockpile management, the appointment of a special envoy and a coherent, multilateral approach under this heading.

And don't even try to make the argument, as some have in the past, that US security interests are at stake. That could lead to misguided, military attacks on inconsequential militia in the Ruwenzori.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Exclusive: Interview with UN Group of Experts

Following the release of their report this week, Congo Siasa interviewed Steve Hege (armed groups expert), Fred Robarts (regional issues expert), and Gregory Mthembu-Salter (consultant, natural resources).

1. Let me ask you to be reductive, as few will read all 190 pages: What are your three main conclusions?

Our key findings are the following:

-        One serious tension is fueling much of the instability in the East: The conflict of interests between the economic motivations of criminal networks within the FARDC and the army’s constitutional mandate to protect civilians. As a result, these criminal networks have led to pervasive insubordination, competing chains of command, a failure to actively pursue armed groups, and neglect of civilian protection. 

-        Seizing upon popular discontent in the Kivus, armed groups, both foreign and Congolese, have increasingly built alliances amongst themselves, strengthening their ability to resist operations against them and to jointly undertake looting operations, often in areas rich in natural resources. 

-        Private companies purchasing minerals sourced from the eastern DRC must mitigate the risks of providing direct or indirect support to armed groups and criminal networks within the FARDC by conducting due diligence checks on their supply chains.

2. In past years, the group of experts reports have focused on non-governmental armed groups, such as the FDLR and the CNDP. This year, the phrase that keeps on popping up in your report is "criminal networks within the FARDC." Is it fair to say that you see these networks as the main cause for concern in the Kivus?

We’re convinced that these criminal networks constitute an important cause of insecurity and conflict in the eastern DRC. In nearly all the places we visited, local authorities, civil society leaders, and even FARDC officers themselves pointed to the economic interests of these criminal networks as a critical element fueling insecurity and undermining the stabilization process.  President Kabila himself made a similar assessment of the severe negative impact of these networks when he suspended mining activities in the eastern Congo.

The officers and soldiers involved in these networks often compete amongst themselves for economically profitable deployments to zones rich in natural resources. While the FARDC is certainly justified in seeking to dislodge armed groups from the principal mining zones throughout the Kivus, we’ve seen that these criminal networks have been driven more by their own personal economic interests. Their duty to protect the local population and pursue armed groups is consistently trumped by their prioritization of multiple rackets, investments, and extortion arrangements. The number one priority for officers in these networks is personal profit for themselves and their patrons in high command positions. All other tasks are only undertaken in so far as they further this principal objective, leading certain officers to cohabitate and even collude with armed groups. Although the violence that has consumed Walikale in recent months is a dramatic example of the consequences of this conflict of interests, we observed these same dynamics in many other places in the Kivus. 

Moreover, these criminal networks are also eroding the process of strengthening the capacity of the FARDC. Insubordination, parallel chains of command, and the creation of special units are almost all linked to the economic interests of officers involved in these criminal networks. The creation of numerous independent battalions or reserve units for specific economic ends has led to the further fragmentation of the FARDC, an army already struggling with the numerous challenges of integrating former rebel groups.
The status quo of perpetual insecurity and interminable operations against armed groups allows for these networks to thrive. The interests of these criminal networks constitute the principal disincentive to reform, as the current state of affairs is simply too profitable for some for them to allow it to be altered.

3. What exactly are these criminal networks and to what degree are high-ranking Congolese officials involved in them?

First of all, it is important to point out that in referring to these networks we are intentionally not referring to the FARDC as an institution, but rather a series of competing patron-client relationships between high-ranking officers and subordinates strategically deployed to areas rich in natural resources. We describe them as “criminal,” because military involvement in mining and other economic activities is prohibited by Congolese law and numerous orders have been issued calling on all officers to immediately cease such activities.

The networks are constituted when high-ranking commanders consolidate a group of subordinate officers, which often include family members, personal escorts, or loyal soldiers from previous armed groups, for economic ends. Once their deployment to profitable zones is ensured by jostling amongst the high command, these protected officers commonly referred to within the FARDC as “enfants cheris,” are already indebted to their patrons. 

As a result, they must immediately set up as many rackets as possible, including illegal taxations regimes, security protection for important traders or buying houses, extortions and pillaging operations, as well as overseeing the direct commercial investments of high-ranking officers. If they fail to ‘report back’ to their patrons with sufficient revenue, often based upon pre-established quotas, these subordinate officers risk being rotated to other units and lose out on the small percentages of profits which they are allowed to keep. This becomes the principal logic behind the functioning of these criminal networks within the FARDC and all military resources, both human and logistical, are diverted to this end.

Criminal networks could not gain access to strategic economic zones without being led by high-ranking officers who can ensure the placement of loyal men in the most profitable locations. However, with competing networks also trying to fight for control over those same zones, high-ranking officers are often forced to create special units or reserve battalions to circumvent the formal chain of command, so that other officers are not able to siphon off a portion of the profits. This leads to serious internal tensions within the army over who gets access to what. In the case of Bisie, some officers even supported the creation of Mai Mai Sheka to undermine the increasing power of networks linked to ex-CNDP officers.

4. Your mandate is to investigate support to non-governmental armed groups in the Congo - how do you justify your focus on the FARDC?

First, while our field investigations were geared towards uncovering the financing of armed groups, we could not turn a blind eye to the pervasive presence of these criminal networks who have taken over nearly all the principal mining sites. As these economic activities have led them to at times collude with armed groups, as in the case of Mai Mai Sheka, we felt they were important subjects to investigate further.

Secondly, as our mandate included elaborating a series of due diligence guidelines for companies purchasing minerals from the eastern DRC, we examined how the private sector can ensure that those purchases are not exacerbating conflict and insecurity in the eastern DRC. In our view, directly or indirectly benefiting these criminal networks presents a clear risk of doing just that.

Finally, in consultations with the Security Council, the Group was asked to analyze some of the challenges to the integration of former armed groups into the FARDC. As such, the conflict of interests of officers participating in criminal networks came directly to the fore. Many officers that have been integrated into the FARDC are under the impression that access to natural resources constitutes the prize for joining the Congolese Army. 

The ex-CNDP’s refusal to be re-deployed outside of the Kivus is linked to these interests, as since becoming a part of the FARDC, they have established extensive profitable ventures in natural resources, including minerals, timber, charcoal, fishing, and land.  However, if those profits are threatened, the CNDP have and will continue to defy the orders of their FARDC superiors and in the worst case scenario could return to rebellion now with upwards of four times as much territory under their control and countless autonomous sources of financing.

5. There has been some debate about the extent to which minerals fuel the conflict in the Kivus. What is the Group's view?

There is certainly no doubt that profits from the trade in natural resources (not only minerals, but also land, timber, charcoal, fishing, and poaching) provides, amongst others, an important source of financing for most armed groups, essentially the “fuel” allowing them to purchase weapons, rations, and military supplies. This enables them to continue their armed struggles and presents a disincentive for demobilization, as individual profits left for commanders may be too enticing to give up. In certain cases, the lure of mineral wealth can also impact recruitment as the FDLR’s Montana battalion in Walikale is bustling due to its reputation for successful pillage attacks. On the other hand though, we have heard that since the suspension of mining activities, the FNL has experienced some challenges in recruiting because Burundians fear they will not be able to make any money in going to South Kivu. Nevertheless, there still are armed groups, such as the APCLS, FRF, FNL, and the ADF, who have benefited extensively from financial support from sympathetic local or diaspora communities.

As often pointed out, the actual root causes of conflict may be a different story. We’ve seen that the leaders of armed groups and some of their initial supporters often tend to be dominated by the pursuit of individual power, wealth, and recognition for their communities. Nevertheless, they have been successful in mobilizing local support by tapping into a number of complex socio-political issues which continue to plague the Kivus, including popular discontent with the perceived expansion of the Kinyarwanda-speaking community’s power since the CNDP’s integration into the FARDC, mistrust of the Congolese and Rwandan governments, and unease about or the deep interest in the return of refugees.

As for the criminal networks within the FARDC, economic interests appear to increasingly both be the principal cause and driver behind their creation and behavior. For many officers, operations and deployments to remote territories is where the money is made. Even when the FDLR cohabitates with the FARDC, such as in Lugushwa, the criminal networks impose an “effort de guerre” tax on all shops, traders, and households, a term which was resurrected from RCD days. When interviewed, they immediately exaggerate the threat of the FDLR and other groups, all the while trying to demonstrate the great results that they have achieved in conducting operations, most of which are characterized as “du theatre” by local authorities.

6. What exactly is the responsibility of foreign companies in fueling the violence in the Kivus? 

By purchasing minerals from the Kivus, foreign companies provide the liquidity that circulates locally in the pre-financing and purchasing of minerals. While foreign companies outside of the immediate Great Lakes region are less likely to negotiate direct arrangements with armed groups and criminal networks of the FARDC, they nevertheless risk providing direct or indirect support to both. When companies do not know the precise origins and conditions under which the minerals they purchase are extracted and transported, it makes it harder for them to take the appropriate measures to mitigate the risks inherent in purchasing minerals from the Kivus, which our due diligence guidelines require.

Due diligence by foreign companies cannot on its own bring peace to eastern DRC, but will induce downstream actors, including comptoirs and mineral traders to improve their own practices and exercise leverage locally, particularly with the military, to progressively demilitarize the mineral trade and sideline armed groups from selling minerals onto legal markets. Pressure and monitoring by local and international NGOs has already proven to be critical, but when it comes from foreign companies providing the financing for the trade, mineral traders and comptoirs are likely to be much more responsive and proactive in engaging Congolese authorities about real solutions. 
7. The due diligence standards that you propose are very rigorous, especially the second option, which I gather is your preferred one. Some will argue that these standards are too high and will prompt an embargo on all minerals from the Congo - what do you say to this? 

The due diligence guidelines are consistent with guidelines on due diligence in conflict and high risk areas drawn up by an OECD-hosted working group to which business has already signed up. We have strived in formulating our due diligence guidelines to to find a middle ground where the obligations are reasonable and doable for companies, precisely so they do not give up and pull out. The essence of the guidelines is to require companies to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk that their purchases are providing support to armed groups and/or criminal networks and perpetrators of serious human rights abuses in the FARDC. Where companies discover their purchases are providing support to armed groups, they should stop buying. Where they discover there is criminal involvement from the FARDC, we ask that companies should seek to alter the situation over an initial six-month period before suspending purchases from a certain area. As the involvement of these criminal networks is so entrenched and takes on so many different forms, if all companies had to conduct due diligence on their supply chains and suspend purchases where they were any armed actors were found to be involved, an embargo would be a de facto immediate reality.

The threat of an external embargo is, we think, a catalyst for change. Without endorsing it ourselves, we have repeatedly warned mineral traders and comptoirs about this very real possibility. At the moment, any eventuality of an embargo resulting from US legislation has been pre-empted by the mining ban imposed by President Kabila himself.

8. The military operations against the FDLR since 2009 have reduced the rebels' strength by half and pushed many of their units out of mining areas. And yet, you say that the military operations have not been very effective. Why?

The military operations have indeed dislodged the FDLR from many areas where they had established comfortable bases and important logistical liaison offices. Nevertheless, these operations resulted in few desertions amongst the top command structure and the rebels’ principal bases are mostly intact (if relocated in some cases). For their part, the FDLR have adapted to the prevailing scenario by creating more autonomous smaller units. While this strategy has made it possible for many more low-ranking soldiers to desert due to the weakening of strict command and control, it has paradoxically strengthened the position of mid-ranking commanders who now operate more freely. The FDLR have also built alliances with local Congolese armed groups, thereby exacerbating insecurity in the Kivus to press their case that military operations will not solve the problems of the region.

One of the only major offensive operations that took place during 2010 in South Kivu was illustrative of the weakness of operations against the FDLR. After more than five months of joint planning with MONUSCO, the FARDC attacked an FDLR base in the dense Itombwe forest in early August. Having forced the FDLR to retreat for five days, the FARDC soldiers complained of a lack of UN rations and they eventually departed allowing the rebels to return safely. While geography is certainly a serious obstacle, outcomes such as these can also be attributed to the interests of criminal networks within the FARDC, who have little incentive for the war to end.

9. Much of the focus on the international community with regards to the FDLR has been on their leaders in Europe and the US. Is this focus justified? How crucial are these leaders in running the organization?

Although few funds are actually sent to the military branch (FOCA) in the DRC, the FDLR has an elaborate political structure that supports the organization through multiple regional committees in Africa, Europe, and North America. The arrests of key FDLR political figures over the past year represent important signals that diaspora leaders cannot continue to operate with impunity. FDLR internal statutes stipulate that these political leaders are ultimately responsible for major operational decisions on the ground in the eastern Congo. However, the new President and Vice-President are now both high-ranking military commanders based in the Kivus, signifying a dramatic shift for the organization that no longer needs to rely on “detached” civilian politicians siting in European capitals for directives. This has had the perverse effect of empowering the military leadership on the ground which, according to some sources, always resented the power of the diaspora leadership anyway. This is likely an opportunity for military leaders to take decisions which will benefit themselves personally and operationally and be less concerned with responses from international media and diplomats, as illustrated through the FDLR’s marked rise in kidnappings and pillage attacks.

10. The GoE was initially intended to prevent arms from entering the region to fuel the conflict. Today, however, your work is only partially related to arms trafficking. Why?

While there still are movements of small quantities of weapons across regional borders into the DRC, as previous reports have pointed out, the majority of weapons used by armed groups in the Kivus are either leaked from FARDC stockpiles or remain from the various phases of the last 14 years of war.  The Congolese government no longer has any restrictions as to the arms that that it can purchase and import as long as they are notified to the Sanctions Committee. However, the improved management of weapons held by the Congolese government is critical to ensuring that local markets are not replenished.