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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Voter registration figures

Voila the voter registration figures (h/t Rich). The figures haven't been audited yet.

Province    Number of voters registered    Number of voters expected       Completion rate

Bandundu               3 553 322                              3 555 702                                100 %

Bas-Congo             1 502 939                              1 485 850                                101%

Equateur                 3 960 643                              3 584 982                                110 %

Kasai Occidental     2 661 245                              2 457 453                                108%

Kasai Oriental          2 643 905                             2 437 108                                108%

Katanga                   4 627 302                             4 241 326                                109%

Kinshasa                  3 287 745                             3 573 399                                  92%

Maniema                  874 809                                759 427                                   115%

Nord-Kivu              3 003 246                             2 968 297                                   101%

Province Orientale  3 886 524                               3 927 123                                  99%

Sud-Kivu                2 022 960                              2 009 336                                  101%

Restructuring of Congolese army produces resentment

It's not too difficult to find Congolese army offiicers in a foul mood these days. Since January this year, the army has been undergoing a "regimentation process" during which the army has been consolidating its various brigades in the eastern Kivus provinces into 27 (13 South Kivu and 14 North Kivu) regiments of 1,400 soldiers each. The purpose has been to put together seriously under-staffed brigades whose ranks have often been inflated with fictitious soldiers ("ghosts"). In addition, the army is trying to better integrate the various armed groups that have lately joined the national army: CNDP, PARECO, Mai-Mai and FRF groups.

However, the process has been contentious. Not only has the regimentation opened up terrain that the FDLR and associated armed groups have filled as the soldiers enter regroupment centers; many of the officers who have been recently named to leading positions are from the CNDP and PARECO. The oft-heard refrain is: regimentation has allowed these groups, which are largely composed of Hutu and Tutsi, to consolidate their control over the military in the Kivus.

Is there any truth to this? Here is the initial proposal that the Congolese army had made for regimentation in South Kivu (I think similar ratios were used for North Kivu):

This was the original proposal that has since been amended for the second wave of regimentation (I think the first wave stuck to this schema).

The ratios were calculated on the basis of troops that belonged to each entity - since the Mai-Mai Kapopo and Kifuafua hardly came with any troops, they were given very few command positions. However, if you take a closer look at the affiliation of the commanders during the 1998-2003 war, you will see that a clear plurality of commanders come from the former RCD rebellion, and many of the commanders are either Hutu or Tutsi, which has angered many other communities. In addition, the CNDP and PARECO received positions according to the troops numbers they presented in 2009, and many of those troops may no longer be loyal their former commanders.

Other facts have further stirred the coals. A provisional list of sector commanders for South Kivu proposed that all five sectors in the province be led by former CNDP or PARECO commanders (Col Byamungu, Col Rugayi, Col Kabundi, Col Mungura, Col Gwigwi). For army commanders who have been fighting against these armed groups for the past several years at the cost of blood and treasure, this has been a slap in the face.

Above all, the influence of ICC-indictee Gen Bosco Ntaganda has been controversial. According to numerous officers within the FARDC, Bosco - who is still deputy commander of Amani Leo operations in the Kivus - was very influential in the process of putting together the lists of commanders. It is not entirely clear to me how this process worked, but many regiments bear the mark of Bosco's hand, with commanders close to him receiving important positions.

The response of senior loyalist officers to this kind of critique has been: "We need time to co-opt these other groups. We need to reassure them and dilute their influence before cracking down on their networks." But at the current stage it is unclear whether the regimentation process is diluting the influence of Bosco and his colleagues or renforcing it. In any case, the government had to revise its lists for the second wave of regimentation after coming under fire from several quarters for a CNDP/PARECO bias. These revisions, however, also allowed some mutineers - such as Col Kifaru who recently was in charge of troops who allegedly carried out mass rape in Fizi territory (South Kivu) - to be co-opted into the regiments.

In short, the regimentation process may indeed serve to integrate former armed groups and to consolidate troops. In theory, it should eventually lead to the redeployment of troops across the country, although many groups (CNDP, FRF, Mai-Mai) refuse to leave the East. However, it appears that it is also stirring up a lot of resentment among officers who did not participate in any of the recent rebellions in the East. In addition, it is strengthening the hand of Gen. Bosco Ntaganda and his allies, which may entrench interests that will be difficult later to uproot.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Moise Katumbi's mysterious vacation

The popular governor of Katanga Moise Katumbi has been gone from Lubumbashi with his family for several days now. It is indicative of the tense pre-electoral season in the country that rumors have begun to fly. Some say he has fled the country after an assassination attempt, others say that he is fed up with a central government that takes much more from Katanga than it gives back, still others deny these rumors and say he is simply on vacation. It would obviously be a huge blow if Katumbi - the popular governor of Kabila's "home" province (his father at least was from there) - defected from President Kabila's party, but let's not speculate on that until somebody gives us a better idea of what is really happening.

In the meantime, you should definitely check out his twitterfeed @moisekatumbi - it seems to be his official twitter account, but includes a wide variety of messages, ranging from explicit support to Kabila's brother Zoe to snide criticism of the central government's corruption. Here are some schizophrenic extracts:

24 Jul: Je ne me suis pas exilé ,je suis en vacance avec ma famille et profite de faire des consultations international . Bonne vacance a vous

24 Jul: Nous sommes aujourd'hui Des esclaves non plus des colons mais des sociétés ayant des pactes avec des personnes très haut placeés du pays

24 Jul: Pourquoi se débarrasser de la Gecamines!Combien Dan Gentler a débourser ?

26 Jun: Les hommes populaires sont amenées à prendre parfois des décisions impopulaires. Voter Zoé Kabila pour la paix au Katanga

4 Jun: Si je porte ma candidature à la présidentielle de 2011, je trahirai mon Président de la République et mon parti le PPRD

3 Jun: J'aime mon pays,suis un patriote .Je ne peux rester impuissant devant l'impunité du gouvernement central

3 Jun: Mes remerciements au Katangais.Veuillez comprendre ma situation ,pour des raisons personnelles je ne pourrai me représenter.

24 Apr: Mazembe ambitionne de gagner définitivement la coupe d’Afrique

13 Oct: Armand Tungulu Mudiandambu mort en hero national,meurtri injustement que son ame repose en paix
3 Sept: Puis-je faire pour la RDC ce que je fais pour le Katanga? .Pensez-vous que je peux etre un bon president

18 Jul: I hope to keep the the champion league coupe By the way ceci est mon premier tweet

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mutanda Mining’s Missing Millions

This is a guest blog written by a diplomat based in the Congo.

The Bloomberg News story published here last week could be Congo’s treasury scandal of the year. The article is about Gecamines, the once prosperous but now moribund state company, selling off assets worth over $800 million. No one wants to tell how much they've been sold for or what happened to the revenues. One allocation could be the state treasury – with a 7.2 billion budget, half of which is donor money, extra revenues wouldn’t be a luxury. But given the secrecy surrounding the case, there is little reason to expect much public benefit from the transactions. Half a year before elections are scheduled, there may be a need for cash flows that escape the governance rules the country has endorsed.

Assets worth over 800 million

A few months ago, Gécamines sold 20% in Mutanda Mining (MUMI) and 25% in Kansuki Mining. Both mining projects had been off the news radar so far, even though MUMI in particular is a very promising project. It’s only when Glencore, the world’s biggest commodity trader, got listed on the London Stock Exchange that one could read about the Gécamines sales, somewhere on page 830 of a 1600+p document describing Glencore’s assets and activities. In that document, an independent expert valued MUMI alone at over 3 billion USD. This means that Gécamines’ share was worth over 600 million.
This doesn’t even include the royalties Gécamines was entitled to. Royalties are typically a compensation mining companies pay to the state for depleting the deposit – in other words, for making Congo’s soil a little poorer as minerals get out. The MUMI Joint Venture was to pay such a 2.5% royalty on gross copper sales to Gécamines, in addition to the 2% legal royalties it owes directly to the treasury.

Over the life time of the open pit project, Gécamines royalties would run up to more than 200 million USD. Now, that money will no longer go to the State, not even to Gécamines: it will go the private entity that bought the Gécamines stake.

Sold to Gertler

Logically, Glencore could have bought Gécamines’ stakes, especially if it was being sold for cheap. As a shareholder in MUMI and Kansuki, it could block an purchase offer from a third party by buying the stake instead. But Glencore didn’t buy, even though it had the cash to do so. Instead, Gécamines sold its stake to “Rowny Assets, an entity associated with Dan Gertler”. As a reminder, Gertler is the businessman who got First Quantum’s cancelled Kolwezi Tailings license before including it in a package of assets it sold to ENRC for $175 million.

Gertler has great connections with the country's highest authorities. After having been invited to Kabila's exclusive wedding, he was more recently spotted on the VIP tribune during the last June 30th celebrations in Lubumbashi. Knowing that someone close to the Presidency bought assets worth over 800 million, two key questions remain. How much did Gécamines sell the assets for? And what happened to the revenues?

For how much?

Bloomberg News says it tried to reach Gécamines for over a month, only to get ‘no comment’ as an answer. Same silence from Glencore and Gertler. In theory, the sale price should feature in the Ministry of Finance’s revenues bulletin to be published every trimester, but there has been no report to date of any revenues for the state companies, whether from selling stakes, getting royalties or other cash benefits.

The sales agreement should be published on the Ministry of Mines’ website within 60 days of its signature. The deadline has past but the agreement is not up. There are two options. Either Gécamines sold the assets far under the market price (rumors say it went for much less than its market value). In this case we have a classic example of Congo losing hundreds of millions. If Gertler indeed paid a lesser price and he later sells it at market value, he takes the profit Congo as a state could have made. If he happens to sell to Glencore, then the latter confirms its shady reputation. It will have allowed someone close to the presidency to make a profit by not using its preemption right when it could.

If on the contrary Gécamines got something close to the assets’ real value, there is all the more reason to worry about the second question: where did the cash go?

Benefiting whom?

That’s the other secret. “They must (…) justify what the Congolese state has gained from the sale of all these concessions”, Honorable Bahati said in his Bloomberg interview, but it’s actually not clear whether the Congolese state got a single dime out of this. Hardly anything is known about the money flowing to Congo’s state companies: there is no well-defined system, let alone a transparent one. It could be transferred to the central government, or stay with the state company, or flow to selected individuals. It could be used for the organization of free and fair elections –buying, dispatching and collecting sealed ballot boxes and the like. But it could just as well be used for financing a presidential campaign – not the ballot boxes but the t-shirts, posters and other promotion that makes a single candidate popular.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guest blog: Why are there so many armed groups in the Congo (Parts II & III)

Part II: the ‘transition’ (2003-2006) and power shifts

In part I of the quest for the causes of ongoing armed group activity in the DRC, I have highlighted the process of the militarization of the political, economic and social spheres that took place in the course of the two Congo Wars. As we will see today, the period of the ‘transition’ did little to change the violent bases of the Congo’s political-economic order.  This is in part the result of the political and military power-sharing deal the transition was based on. This agreement essentially meant that the militarized power networks that had formed during the wars were incorporated into the state and governance system. These networks continued to instrumentalize violence for political purposes and to guard economic control over their former fiefdoms, leading to significant ‘top-down’ violence. Additionally, justice and truth-telling were sacrificed in order to keep the shaky transitional project on track. Those responsible for atrocities received important positions in the transitional institutions or the new national army, sending the message to society that violence pays.

At the same time, local conflict dynamics-like competition over access to power and land -remained unresolved and continued to generate violence from the bottom-up. Local conflicts sometimes even exacerbated during the transition as the return of those who had fled during the war, including local authorities, created tensions over land, assets and power. The wars had created significant local power shifts, and those who had profited were reluctant to give up their war-time power gains. This prompted some local power networks to keep their military structures intact instead of integrating them into the new national army.

The final peace agreement signed in 2002 in Sun City stipulated the formation of a new national army composed of all the signatories’ fighting forces. However, many ex-belligerents were extremely reluctant to give up their military powerbase, which underpinned their political and economic weight. Sometimes, (parts of) these groups were encouraged to sabotage the army integration process by elements from neighboring countries keen on maintaining their influence. This was for example the case with Rwandan support to hardliners in the RCD-Goma faction. Furthermore, in the climate of ongoing ethnic tensions, many feared for the safety of their constituencies, having little trust in the neutrality and capacity of the national army-under-construction to protect their communities.

Some of the smaller-scale power networks also judged they had little to gain from the transition and the integration of their troops into the military. Only the factions with considerable national level political influence managed to obtain positions of importance in the transitional institutions and the army. Many Mai Mai and other local armed groups, who lacked strong, unified political representation at the national level, felt they were losers in the transitional reshuffling of the cards. It was only in their local fiefdoms, where they had firm economic and political control, that they had significant influence. The minute they left  their home base, they would inevitably lose power and be returned to relative insignificance.

As a consequence, several commanders withheld their troops from the army integration process. Others did participate, but failed to obtain a high rank or position and eventually returned to the bush. Many of the armed groups active today are led by commanders who rejected post-war army integration or dropped out of the process. Why they chose to do so is partly the result of the fact that the option of integrating into the army remained indefinitely open to all armed groups, instead of being closed down after the initial merging of the ex-belligerents’ forces. This allowed army integration to become instrumentalized by local strongmen seeking to reinforce their power position, as they could use threats of refusal or withdrawal from army integration as a trump card. In this way, violence or the threat of it, continued to be convertible into power benefits.

Another factor was that keeping one’s troops out of the national army often bore little consequences. The UN mission in the DRC never received the mandate to actively hunt down armed groups, as it worked towards demobilization on a voluntary basis. It therefore never became a real force of deterrence. The Congolese army, the FARDC, had no such deterrence effect either. In fact, it became an important direct and indirect cause for continued armed group activity.

Part III: the post-transitional era (2006-present) and military deficiencies

In the previous part, it was explained why armed groups continued to thrive during the ‘transition’, highlighting the continued militarization of politics, the economy and governance. It was also mentioned how ongoing armed group integration in the Congolese military skewed incentive structures towards violence.  As we shall see today, this is but one of the many ways in which military policy and performance contribute to armed group proliferation.

It is generally recognized that the Congolese national army, the FARDC, do not pose a major threat to armed groups; its structural weaknesses and low operational capacities render military efforts against such groups relatively ineffective. In the past, these weaknesses occasionally even prompted the military to form operational coalitions with armed groups, for example when fighting against the CNDP. It is in this respect important to realize that Kinshasa’s support to armed groups, which became institutionalized during the Second War, when it used these groups as proxies, did not immediately stop at the start of the ‘transition’. In some cases, the FARDC’s lack of strength, as well as their abusive behavior, prompt armed groups to mobilize in order to protect their communities-either against other rebel groups, like the FDLR, or against the FARDC itself. This self-defense reflex, which is also visible in the vast isolated zones where there is no military or other state presence, became of increasing importance with the Kimia II/Amani Leo military operations, which led in many areas to a sharp increase in insecurity.

Aside from by its weaknesses, the FARDC contribute to armed group mobilization through forms of collusion. As is well-documented by the various UN Group of Experts’ reports, some elements in the FARDC maintain elaborate economic ties with armed groups, trading arms, ammunitions, natural resources and other products, and dividing economic spheres of influence by mutual consent. Occasionally, these groups form part of the same power (patronage) networks as FARDC commanders, and economic ties might be complemented by ethnic, familial or other social links or a shared background in the same rebel group. This familiarity increases the risks of information leaks and treason. The continued links between army commanders and (parts of) their former armed groups are facilitated by the way in which military integration proceeds. The principle of geographical and physical spreading of combatants is often only weakly applied, which contributes to the proliferation of parallel command chains.

In a sense, FARDC and armed group presence are mutually conditional. Whereas armed groups depend on the FARDC’s weaknesses for space of operating, the FARDC needs armed groups as these form a justification for the heavy militarization of the East and for carrying out military operations. Both these issues are important determinants of the military’s opportunities for revenue-generation. This mutual conditionality does not imply that the FARDC do not regularly clash with armed groups; they co-exist in complex patterns of collusion and conflict. This does not only apply to Congolese, but also to foreign-led armed groups. Adding to the chaos, the latter also maintain elaborate ties with domestic armed groups, being often an important source of arms and ammunitions, and sometimes reinforcing their operational capacities.

Surely, it are not only FARDC commanders who instrumentalize armed groups in order to further their power projects: a wide range of economic and political entrepreneurs at the local, national and regional level benefit from and hence support such groups. Locally, armed groups are vehicles for power struggles between and within communities, their elites and individual powerbrokers. This mechanism is also visible at the lowest levels, where local customary or politico-administrative authorities, even in the cities, maintain small-scale private militia. Nationally, armed groups help politicians and their constituencies to reinforce their bargaining position in Kinshasa. Regionally, they allow foreign powerbrokers and Congolese diaspora groups to retain political and economic influence in the DRC.

The power struggles at these various levels often have an economic dimension: armed groups remain an effective way of establishing economic control and enabling access to land and the extraction of resources. Obviously, armed groups need to finance themselves and most of them resort to forms of extortion and illegal taxation to do so, much like the regular state services.  However, the weight of this economic dimension differs per group. Whereas for some groups self-enrichment and economic control are highly important goals, others might be more pre-occupied with general political influence, not only for realizing their personal ambitions, but also for implementing their political vision.

What should be emphasized here is the multiplicity of motives and functions that armed groups have: for example, the fact that they engage in illegal taxation or extortion does not exclude such groups from also playing a certain political or ideological role. Armed groups are often an essential part of the fabric of local societies, and as such, they exercise forms of political, economic and in/security governance. They do not act alone, but in coalition with other actors, like local authorities, businessmen, and non-state actors, with whom they are engaged in a constant process of negotiation.

In a few cases, given the weak performance and legitimacy of the central state apparatus in the DRC, populations  even prefer to be under the control of armed groups, although there is always the down-side of violence and extortion. However, the alternative sometimes appears worse. Almost all armed groups capitalize upon the deficiencies of the state apparatus and draw upon aversion towards the government in Kinshasa to mobilize support. Most of them have political wings, which usually heavily denounce the central government’s bad governance and failure to bring security and development. Some observers have described this political rhetoric as a sham and present-day armed groups as being devoid of political ideology: however for the members of such groups as well as the communities they emerge from, this sense of political opposition can be very real.

Additionally, armed groups fulfill certain symbolic needs and may be perceived to represent or embody a certain community’s identity or values. Logically, the importance of this identification increases where power struggles are played out along identity-based lines. As we have seen, these identities have become hardened as a result of the traumas generated by past atrocities. These collective traumas continue to animate armed groups, as the latter draw upon feelings of injustice and memories of pain as a mobilization strategy. In this way, the undigested violent past remain an open wound that continues to fester and to feed the violence of today.

The next time, the importance of (ethnic) identity, worldview and political vision in armed group formation will be illustrated with a case study of one of the most important Mai Mai groups in South Kivu: the Mai Mai Yakotumba.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two Huge New Secretive Sales of Congolese Mining Assets

This story just broke today. It's huge in terms of money involved and the secretive way it was handled, and not least due to the involvement of Dan Gertler. My guess is: it's not a coincidence this is happening just before elections.

More soon.

Gecamines Sale of Congo Copper Assets May Undermine Share Offer 
July 13 (Bloomberg) -- The undisclosed sale of assets by Gecamines, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned copper and cobalt miner, may undermine its plans to offer shares to investors, analysts and lawmakers said.
Gecamines, which sits on the world’s biggest cobalt reserves, this year sold stakes in two mining projects to Israeli businessman Dan Gertler. The transactions were revealed without a sales price in a prospectus issued by Glencore International Plc, which operates the mines, before Glencore’s initial public offering in May.
While Gecamines has “world-class assets,” with some of the richest copper deposits available, investors may be reluctant to buy if it doesn’t disclose its revenue from selling properties, Adam Kiley, a London-based analyst at brokerage Ambrian Partners Ltd., said in a June 24 phone interview.
One of the complexes, Mutanda Mining Sprl, is worth more than $3 billion, according to calculations by consulting firm Golder Associates that were included in the prospectus.
Gecamines, based in Lubumbashi, is among state-owned assets being prepared for sale to private investors. The sale is intended to bring in capital to boost output after years of underinvestment and political corruption in Congo. The company’s production stood at about 20,000 metric tons last year, compared with 476,000 tons in 1986, central bank figures show.
“If they are getting rid of some of their better assets on the cheap that may not be such a good thing, so they would need to tell investors exactly what they have and what they’ve sold,” Kiley said.
World Bank Agreement
As of January, sales and prices of Congo’s natural-resource assets are supposed to be made public, according to an agreement between the government and the World Bank, and a Finance Ministry decree.
“Now that they’re becoming a private company they don’t tell us anything,” Modeste Bahati Lukwebo, head of the audit board of the National Assembly’s Economic and Financial Committee, said in an interview on July 6. “They must make management transparent and justify what the Congolese state has gained from the sale of all these concessions.”
Gecamines officials, including Managing Director Ahmed Kalej, didn’t respond over a one-month period to phone calls, text messages, visits to the company’s head office in Lubumbashi and a letter from Bloomberg requesting comment.
“Gecamines has no comment,” Chairman Albert Yuma said by mobile-phone message on July 11, adding that he was traveling in Malaysia.
Gertler Acquisitions
Rowny Assets Ltd., an entity “associated” with Gertler, “recently” acquired a 20 percent interest in Mutanda from Gecamines, according to Glencore’s May 4 listing prospectus. Biko Invest Corp., also linked with Gertler, recently bought a quarter of Kansuki Sprl from Gecamines, it said. Both companies were incorporated Feb. 23 in the British Virgin Islands, according to filings with the islands’ corporate registry.
The net present value, a measure that includes future earnings prospects, of Gertler’s stake in Mutanda alone may be more than $800 million when royalties and other payments are taken into consideration, according to calculations using figures in Glencore’s prospectus.
The entire Mutanda project is worth about $3.1 billion and could produce 110,000 tons of copper annually by 2012, the prospectus said. Neighboring Kansuki has “the potential to be a bigger producer” of minerals, Deutsche Bank AG said in a June 6 report on Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore.
First Refusal?
A Tel Aviv-based spokesman for Gertler, who said he can’t be identified in line with management policy, declined to comment.
Glencore’s half-owned subsidiary in Mutanda, Samref Congo Sprl, should have right of first refusal on any share sale by its partners, according to its joint-venture agreement with Gecamines. Simon Buerk, a spokesman for Glencore, declined to comment on the sale by phone on June 24.
Gertler has been doing business in Congo for more than a decade, first winning a monopoly over its diamond exports in 2000. He then diversified into copper, cobalt, iron ore, oil and banking projects across the central African nation, according to public filings and websites.
His success has also brought him into conflict with business rivals such as First Quantum Minerals Ltd., which is suing companies he owns with Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) for alleged involvement in the Congo government’s cancellation of its Kolwezi tailings license in August 2009.
License Rights
After Vancouver-based First Quantum lost the rights to the license, a series of transactions put it in the hands of ENRC, which bought 50.5 percent of Gertler’s Camrose Resources Ltd. for $175 million and a $400 million loan facility, according to an ENRC public filing.
ENRC required Gertler to sign a letter saying he wasn’t involved in the loss of the license, ENRC board member Paul Judge said on July 7 in an e-mailed response to questions, adding that ENRC lawyers said that nothing was illegal about the transaction.
Congo was ranked the second-least developed nation in the world last year by the United Nations Development Programme, out of 169 countries. Almost half its $7.3 billion budget comes from international donors. At the same time, such mining companies as Phoenix-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. operate in the country.
In its heyday, Gecamines was the largest employer in the southern Congolese province of Katanga. It provided housing, hospitals and schools around Lubumbashi, Likasi and Kolwezi, the main production areas in the so-called Copper Belt. That stretch across northern Zambia and southern Congo holds about 10 percent of the world’s copper reserves.
‘On Its Knees’
After providing 60 percent of Congo’s exports in the 1980s, Gecamines was losing $15 million to $20 million a month last year, according to the World Bank. The company has $1.5 billion of debt, according to the Portfolio Ministry, which manages Congo’s state-owned companies.
“It was the giant of the country, but when the giant was on its knees, the economy of the country was on its knees,” Moise Katumbi, governor of Katanga province, said in a June 15 interview. “We now have many partners with Gecamines. It’s a very good thing. First they need to stabilize production.”
The government, which holds all of Gecamines’ 10,000 shares, has yet to decide when it will begin offering stock to investors, Valery Mukasa, chief of staff at the Mines Ministry, said in an interview in Kinshasa, the capital, on June 23. The company also hasn’t said where it might be listed.
That Moment
“At a certain moment, the shares will be open and we’ll let investors invest in the shares of Gecamines,” Mukasa said, without providing further details. In December, the government valued the company’s shares at about 406 billion Congolese francs ($438 million).
“The sale of assets is a dynamic move because it’s recapitalizing the company,” Paul Fortin, who was Gecamines’ chief executive officer for four years until he resigned in September 2009, said in an interview. “If properties are sold to the private sector, that will increase production, no doubt. I think the route that has been selected is the proper one for the country to turn the resources into cash.”
Both Gecamines’ assets and debts are still being assessed as part of its transformation into a commercial company, a process that will continue until at least the end of this year, Steven Dimitriyev, head of the World Bank team advising Congo’s state-owned companies on their privatization plans, said in a June 28 phone interview from Kinshasa. “The valuation of the company is ongoing,” he said.
The Bank and the IMF are “insisting on fully transparent disclosure of all divestitures and new joint venture contracts” involving Congo’s state companies, he said.
“We trust in the government’s sincerity to do the job correctly, but the process should be going faster,” he said.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Congo Siasa Hiatus

We'll be offline for the next week due to travels and teaching.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Guest blog: Why are there so many armed groups in the DRC?

Today will be the first in a sequence of guest blogs on armed groups in the eastern DRC. The author is Judith Verweijen, a PhD candidate at the Center for Conflict Studies at Utrecht University. Her research focuses on the Congolese army, non-state armed groups and their relations with civilians. She has spent considerable time in the Congo, studying and living with various armed groups.

The first three short blogs postings by Judith will focus on the history and social context in which these armed groups have emerged. The last two will be case studies of two armed groups: The Mai-Mai Yakutumba and the FRF. The views and opinions expressed here are her own.

Day in day out, we read about ongoing violence and instability in eastern DRC. The main protagonists of this never-ending drama are the Congolese military (the FARDC) and a bewildering array of both foreign and domestic armed groups, like FDLR, LRA, PARECO, APCLS, FRPI, FPJC, FPLC, and a range of Mai Mai groups (Yakutumba, Kifuafua, Sheka), to name but the most well-known.  Sometimes armed groups integrate into the FARDC and disappear, others integrate but drop out later, while new groups, often led by army deserters, keep on popping up like mushrooms. It almost appears like a cancer with cells growing and dividing in an unregulated manner. However, armed group proliferation is not a natural phenomenon or an incurable disease: it is a man-made product, the result of deliberate choices of rational actors. This raises the question of what the underlying causes of this phenomenon are: why are there still so many armed groups in the DRC today? Obviously, this question is of great importance for understanding the ongoing violence and for opening perspectives of bringing this to an end.

In this series, I will first briefly explore the main reasons for ongoing armed group activity, and then present two case-studies of such groups, in order to explain why there is much more to armed violence than competition for natural resources alone. To be clear, I will focus only on Congolese armed groups, and I will only offer a no more than cursory analysis.

Part I: the legacy of Zaire and the Congo Wars (1996-1997 & 1998-2003)

Under Mobutu, domestic armed group activity was fairly limited, but foreign armed groups littered the territory of Zaire. Due to geostrategic calculations, the Leopard had turned the country into a sanctuary for such groups. The threat they posed was one of the reasons for several neighboring countries to support the AFDL insurgency in 1996. This insurgency led to an upsurge in the increased Mai Mai mobilization that had already begun around 1993, when ethnic militia clashed in North Kivu over the issues of access to land and positions of local authority. Then, as now, armed group mobilization was strongly related to political and socio-economic power struggles between and within different social groups, often, but not always, mobilized along identity-based (ethnic) lines.

What also played a role in this increasing militia mobilization were the longer term processes of the social marginalization of youth and rural areas. The decay of state institutions and infrastructure in Zaire, the collapse of the formal economy, the deplorable state of the educational system, increasing pressure on land in the Kivus due to demographic developments and changes in land-distribution systems : all these factors made that youth, especially in rural areas, had only very few opportunities for making a living and for social mobility. Together with a diminishing respect for state and traditional authority, this made them susceptible to recruitment into armed groups. Being a fighter offered  access to new forms of self-affirmation, social identification, and social mobility. Armed groups are also structures of belonging that give their members a sense of self, a purpose in life and a ready-made world view, and this continues to form part of their attraction.

Whereas more and more youth mobilized during the AFDL campaign, it was during the Second Congo War that armed group mobilization reached its apex. Aside from the larger rebel formations liked the RCD and MLC, a host of smaller-scale foreign and domestic groups were active on Congolese soil, in ever-changing coalitions. These armed entities were parts of militarized networks exercising both political and economic power, as they acted in coalition with economic and political entrepreneurs, local authorities and other powerbrokers. These “networks of profit, power and protection” drove and were driven by the militarization of the economy and governance. Violence became the principal strategy to acquire political influence and to control production, fiscal functions, trade networks, land, natural resources, borders and markets.

It should be noticed that neither the coercion-based character of the economy nor the close relation between political and economic power were particularly new: Mobutu’s patronage system was based on the distribution of opportunities for wealth accumulation in exchange for political loyalty, leading to a predatory system in which administrative positions were tickets to resources.  Furthermore, exploitative asymmetric relations and exclusive social capital in the form of patronage and ethnic connections had also been important characteristics of Zaire’s informal economy.

What was new during the period of the wars was the extent to which violence became a determinant of political and economic power, leading to the rise of a new class of violent actors. The reigning climate of insecurity pushed businessmen, administrators and other authorities to seek protection services from these actors, which offered economic benefits and enhanced influence and security in exchange for loyalty and cash.  Large parts of the population also turned to such actors to guarantee their own safety and survival, and to solve conflicts and settle personal scores. This led to the further militarization of local governance, especially in the spheres of conflict resolution and justice.

The result of these developments was the institutionalization and legitimization of violence, which became a more or less accepted way of social advancement and regulation. What was also new in the war era was the hardening of existing ethnic boundaries. This was the result of both the increasing importance of ethnic networks for access to power and resources and the horrific ethnically targeted violence during this period. These atrocities also enlarged recruitment pools for armed groups, which offered their members forms of protection in an insecure world, and an outlet for vengeance and grief.

However, when mass violence somewhat subsided after the Second War was declared over, armed groups continued to prosper. Why this was the case will be explored in the next part of this series, in which we will have a glance at the period of the transition (2003-2006).