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

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.)


Rich said...

Nice one Jason, Go on!

I’ve read some of the cables through the Guardian and other sources. I can also access the site through a hundreds of mirrors created by the promoters and sympathisers of the website. I don’t think that any of the threats made to discourage people from accessing the cables applies to me.

Sometimes I feel like I need a short break from the denials and hypocrisy in which politics, forcefully, wrap us in. I was listening to Daniel Ellsberg and it was quite refreshing to get his take on the cablegates.

I would like to read as much as I can until a court of law tells me that reading leaked cables is an offence. What I don’t like is to see politician interpreting the law in their favour and tell me what to do instead of referring it to the judicial.

Yes it was interesting to read in one of the cables that the US Secretary of State is interested to know if there other Tutsis who want to conduct political affairs outside the “Tutsi power elite”!!!

Anyway, as you have said, so far there is nothing unorthodox in the cables concerning the great Lakes!

Rich said...

Ref #"Daniel Ellsberg" the link is here:

Jason Stearns said...

Many thanks. The link to the first cable is at (h/t Rich)

Scott said...

I was interested that the links about the UN spying addressed issues of mass atrocity as well--including states and their capacities to provide support to UNAMID, for example. If i had to guess, i would think this would not have been part of state department spying a decade ago. Does this represent progress?

Nataly said...

None of teh information provided really surprised me, because there were always stuff going on no one knew of. But the reason why Assange is hunted is that there are many more secrets to keep.

Rich said...

@ Nataly,

You are right and I'm puzzled to see the effort deployed in hunting him. It is true that eventually they can manage to stop him (technically or physically). However, I'm struggling to understand why pressing charge on wikileak became a priority rather than protecting the very lives of those who can allegedly be compromised by these leaks.

I say this because, months before wikileak started publishing these cables, it offered the State Department to go through the cables and black out names of individuals or places they felt needed not to be compromised. In other words, the State Department was offered a veto on what information could come out. They refused to cooperate under the pretext that wikileak was acting unlawfully etc.

In my view, the State Department is happy to press charge instead of cooperating to protect the very individuals or secrecy it allegedly is desperate to protect. If the SD accepted to cooperate, it would have been less harmful and humiliating than, for instance, the case where a senior WH advisor (Lewis "Scooter" Libby), for cheap political grudges, purposely leaked the name of a CIA agent (Valerie Plame's) !!!


Anonymous said...

what did wikileaks say really about congo?

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