Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Guest blog: US should not repeat Ugandan failures against the LRA

This guest blog was written by Ledio Cakaj. He has worked almost exclusively on the LRA conflict for the last three years as a consultant with various organizations. Most recently he was part of an international group of experts looking into possible ways to deal with the LRA. 
On 14 October 2011, President Obama announced in a letter to Congress his decision to deploy “a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces … to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield.”
Kony is the founder and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group which for more than two decades waged civil conflict in Northern Uganda before moving to bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2006. Since the end of 2008 the Ugandan army with significant US support, has hunted the highly mobile LRA in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. The aid from the US over the last three years includes logistics and intelligence to the Ugandans to the tune of about $40 million.
US troop deployment to central Africa is part of a larger US strategy to deal with the LRA that was unveiled on 24 November 2010. Obama’s recent announcement and the related media fanfare just shy of the strategy’s one-year anniversary are somewhat anachronistic, given that the current campaign against the LRA has largely stalled. Total numbers of armed LRA combatants today are virtually unchanged compared to last November – at about 350 – and the leadership of the rebel group remains intact.
In the meantime LRA groups have conducted numerous accounts in all three countries. Since December 2008, the LRA has purportedly killed over 3,000 people and caused the displacement of 440,000. The majority of killings and displacements have taken place in DRC.
Friction between the pursuing Ugandan troops and the regional armies, particularly the Congolese (FARDC), is one of many reasons for the shortcomings of the current efforts. Despite public pronouncements from Kampala and Kinshasa hailing the Ugandan-Congolese cooperation, the situation on the ground is dire. A recent Ugandan army internal report stated that FARDC troops have openly threatened to shoot Ugandan soldiers in DRC while a Congolese army officer told a journalist that the Ugandans were intent on looting Congolese resources. Ugandan officials accuse some FARDC commanders originating from  the Kivus of being pro-Rwanda and anti-Uganda. The history of the Ugandan-Rwandese conflict played out in Congolese territory in the late 1990s and early 2000s and the abuses by both sides are firmly rooted at the heart of the current hostilities.
The willingness and ability of the Ugandans to capture Kony and his commanders is also a likely negative factor. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly vowed to crush the LRA militarily – and systematically failed to do so – since the rebel group came to life in 1988.  Reports from the last ten years have implicated Ugandans officers in engaging in illegal mineral extraction in DRC and logging in South Sudan. It is possible that a predilection on the part of Ugandan army officers to first look for possible business deals then focus on the LRA hunt has contributed to the conflict’s longevity.
US soldiers on the ground could help to provide some transparency in the LRA operations and perhaps a rapprochement between the Ugandans and the Congolese. Supplied with sophisticated communication technology US troops should be able to provide real time intelligence on the movements of LRA groups as well as the behavior of the Congolese and Ugandan soldiers. But claims that the US troops will help quickly finish the job the Ugandans started 23 years ago are most likely a serious exaggeration. Contrary to commonly held views of the LRA as a group of rag-tag bandits, Kony’s men are well-trained, disciplined and capable of enduring extreme hardships while covering large swathes of inhospitable territory.
While US engagement is welcome as it brings much needed attention to a largely neglected conflict, the current approach might need rethinking. In its existing form, the US has comprehensively adopted the unsuccessful Ugandan policy of all-out war without appearing to question its merits or fully appreciating potential repercussions. The risk of overemphasizing the military offensive at the expense of encouraging defections of LRA combatants or enhancing civilian protection strategies cannot be overstated.
History has shown that a focus on a military solution alone has done little to end the LRA war, while simultaneously increasing violence to civilians, a strategy preferred by LRA commanders when feeling cornered. Rather than focusing exclusively on advising Ugandan soldiers how to capture or kill Kony, the US troops should help devise and carry out better strategies to protect civilians and encourage LRA fighters to leave the ranks.
The US strategy seems also to have espoused the Ugandan modus operandi of military operations against the LRA with no particular time frame, contingency plans and end-game scenarios. For the strategy to have a high chance of success, US planners need to match the LRA’s adaptability and quick thinking. Peacefully engaging LRA commanders and resuming peace talks with the top leadership of the LRA are options that should be considered either as concurrent to or as alternatives to the military approach.
Kony might still refuse to sign a peace deal, but luring his commanders out can be more devastating to the LRA than direct military action. The LRA has been greatly damaged during peaceful negotiations in the past as we have been able to learn a great deal about the otherwise secretive rebel group. Peace talks have also directly led to the defection of a few high profile commanders.
Not too long ago, my colleague Philip Lancaster argued in this forum that a serious analysis of the LRA had not been conducted by any of the militaries involved. Hopefully, the US military advisers can fill that gap and in the process help provide a flexible roadmap for ending this long and bloody conflict for good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Despite assurances, election date in doubt

Over the past weeks, Congolese officials have repeatedly insisted that they would be able to hold elections on November 28, as planned. Most recently, President Kabila himself, in a rare press conference yesterday in his office, explicitly confirmed the date.

Nonetheless, behind the scenes diplomats are expressing serious doubts, which two reports released this past week reinforce. (Also see this Reuters report)

The Congolese umbrella group Agir pour des élections libres et transparentes (AETA) concluded in a recent report that "we are worried by disturbing signs regarding the capacity of the electoral commission to master the logistical, technical, political and security challenges in order to be able to respect the election date of 28 November 2011." The Atlanta-based Carter Center released a similar conclusion two days ago, saying that "scheduling and logistical tasks pose a serious threat to the election date."

There are various reasons for the delay. The voter registration process took two months longer than expected, ending on July 15. There was then a delay in the ordering and printing of ballots, in part due to the suppliers in China and Germany; in part due to the huge number of candidates (18,386 for the legislative elections). While the electoral kits are being deployed throughout the country at the moment, the 120,000 ballot boxes still have not been delivered from China, and the ballots are only now being printed in South Africa.

According to diplomats, UN logistical officers have been saying for weeks that it will be almost impossible to deploy all the materials in time (other UN officials, however, insist that there is still enough time), while new litmuses keep on being set; the last one suggested that if the ballot boxes had not arrived by the beginning of this week, there should be a delay in the elections.

These delays are pushing the electoral calendar into dangerous territory. According to the electoral law, the voter roll has to be published one month ahead of the election campaign, i.e. by September 28. This has only happened over the past few days on the electoral commission's new website. But a much more dangerous line will be crossed if elections themselves cannot be held by November 28, as the opposition is already saying it will not recognize the president anymore after December 6, when his constitutional term runs out.

Both reports press the electoral commission to begin thinking about a Plan B - what should be done if the current schedule cannot be met. The AETA report already calls for a national debate on possible delays. Several months ago already, the International Crisis Group already called for the main political parties to agree on a transitional period that would allow for a delay, a call echoed by one of the main Congolese human rights groups, ASADHO. At least one presidential candidate agrees, Oscar Kashala, as does the leader of the RCD, Azarias Ruberwa.

Nonetheless, President Kabila and the election commission Mulunda Ngoy still insist on November 28. For the moment, no diplomat seems to disagree with them, at least not in public.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Elections Update

I have been posting irregularly over the past few weeks. Here are some stories you may have missed over the last week that relate to elections.

1. Attack on Lukolela: Compared to many incidents in the East, this attack seemed minor, but has a strongn symbolic value. According to Kinshasa, on October 6 an armed group attacked the fishing village of Lukolela, along the border with The Republic of Congo (ROC) around 500 km from the capital Kinshasa. Five of the attackers were arrested, allegedly carrying residency permits from the ROC and signed orders from General Faustin Munene, a dissident DR Congolese officer.

Immediately, the ROC government dismissed the claims as a set-up by the DRC government, saying "if those who are organizing the elections are not ready, they should say so, but they need to leave others out of this." Its minister of interior scoffed at the idea that the attackers had signed orders from General Munene, wondering how Munene could sign orders if he is in prison in their capital Brazzaville.

In response, Kinshasa sent a large delegation of 21 officials to Brazzaville to show them proof of the attack.

This back-and-forth comes to the backdrop of tense relations between the two countries. DRC officials have suggested that the armed men who attacked the presidential residence in February came from across the river, and Brazzaville has still not responded to an extradition request for DRC's two main western rebel leaders: General Munene and Udjani Mangbama. ROC President Sassou Nguesso visited Kinshasa in April to discuss these security issues with his counterpart, but no concrete steps have been taken to ameliorate relations.

2. Gizenga finally makes his move: Just days after his 86th birthday, Antoine Gizenga, former prime minister and the head of the PALU political party, declared his support for Joseph Kabila's candidacy. A declaration had been long awaited, as PALU had previously just said they would support the "party of the left." Gizenga made clear that Kabila had won that label, and that he was the only "Lumumbist" candidate in the running. None of these labels mean much to most Congolese, or they think they are window-dressing for political expediency.

The alliance is important, as Gizenga helped Kabila will over 60% of the vote in Bandundu province, where he is revered almost as a saint by many, in 2006. This time around, however, it may well be different, as PALU has held the prime ministry for the past five (first Gizenga, then Adolphe Muzito) and has not delivered much. Some doubt whether Gizenga has much appeal outside the elders of his Pende community.

3. Ethnic tensions rise in Fizi, South Kivu: On October 5, the jeep of the NGO Ebenezer was stopped by armed men close to Fizi. According to several sources, the soldiers seperated the passengers by ethnicity, putting the Banyamulenge to one side and shooting them, but sparing the others. Twelve Banyamulenge were reportedly killed in the incident. The attackers were allegedly members of the Mai-Mai Yakutumba, together with members of the Burundian FNL rebels. It was the FNL that claimed responsibility for the 2004 massacre of 152 Banyamulenge in the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi.

Yakutumba has gleaned a certain popularity in the Fizi area for his opposition to the deployment of rwandophone officers (ex-CNDP and ex-PARECO) in the region. He is rumored to be preparing an endorsement of Etienne Tshisekedi.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The electoral commission publishes the (partial) list of voters

The Congolese electoral commission has now put up a partial list of voters on its website here. For those of you with some free time, you can go through the tens of thousands of pages of voters who registered to vote. The commission has not put up the whole list, just three provinces (Bas-Congo, Kasai Occidental and Maniema).

Does this solve the controversy over an audit of the voter register? Maybe, but it the format of the document probably does not lend itself to identification of double or triple registrations (the famous "doublons") through computer programs. And if political parties want to make sure the no foreigners, ghost voters or children registered, they will have to decentralize the audit to their local offices in the provinces, where party officials would have to check the names registered in an area with the local population - an almost impossible task (the CENI list breaks it down to the level of neighborhood/groupement - still a very large area).

The peregrinations of Congo's politicians

For the past two weeks, the fate of the Congolese opposition has been played out abroad.

First, there was the trip to Addis Ababa, where the African Union asked Congolese political parties to agree on a code of conduct for elections and to campaign peacefully. This came just days after UDPS and PPRD followers clashed in Kinshasa. The meeting in Addis did not produce any visible outcomes - the UDPS is still the only major opposition party to refuse to sign the code of conduct, while UDPS followers continue to clash with the police in Kinshasa. Le Potentiel, Kinshasa's biggest daily, dismissed the initiative as "a distraction."

Then, Tshisekedi - the Sphinx of Limete, as he is called - traveled to Brussels, first to meet with Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. According to the Congolese press, as well as MLC members, Bemba refrained from backing the UDPS leader, preferring to just say that he would "back the joint candidate of the opposition," and urging the various opposition parties to find such a man.

Then, Tshisekedi went to meet with Kengo wa Dondo - who has just announced his own coalition that is backing him as "their joint candidate for the presidency." According to people close to Kengo, Tshisekedi gave him a document outlining his main policy plans, then urged him to sign up. Kengo is allegedly not happy with this way of proceeding. "You don't just hand someone your plan and tell him sign up - that's no way of negotiating," one of his associate told Congo Siasa.

Next stop: Washington, DC, where Vital Kamerhe, Mbusa Nyamwisi and Etienne Tshisekedi were all supposed to converge over the past several days. However, Tshisekedi missed meeting with Kamerhe due to a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he met with the large Congolese community. He did, however, reportedly send the same policy document to Kamerhe and urge him to sign up, as well. Kamerhe, predictably, demurred.

Of course, all of these meetings abroad have fueled speculation in Kinshasa about Belgian and American positioning during the elections. 

Despite these tensions within the opposition, something does seem to be afoot. For some time now, the main parties have been converging on Tshisekedi as the main candidate. However, the main stumbling block was his's reluctance to dole out specific positions before the elections - he told the other parties that the main spoils - prime minister, speaker of parliament, president of the senate - would depend on how each party fared in the polls. The other parties - UNC (Kamerhe), UFC (Kengo) and the MLC - insisted on knowing what they would get out of such an alliance.

Now, however, a plan is emerging that might solve that broker a compromise. While details are still fluid - and nothing is certain - under the terms of the deal, Kengo and the MLC would back Tshisekedi for the presidency if he promises that the UDPS would not claim the prime ministry or speaker of the national assembly. Instead, those positions would go to the other two largest opposition constituencies in parliament. That, of course, assumes that the opposition gains a majority in the national assembly.

It is not clear if Kamerhe, who has the most sway in the East of all the opposition parties, is involved in these negotiations. But it would be difficult for him to hold out alone if both Kengo and the MLC join forces with the UDPS.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Response by Zetes to allegations of fraud

In response to an earlier blog posting on possible fraud in the voter register, the company contracted for the issuing of registration cards has written a rebuttal. I will post some comments on this letter later. A French version of this letter can also be found here.

In response to the blog “Document may suggest fraud in voter register” by Jason Stearns
We would like to address here to some of the preoccupation addressed in this blog which was subsequently mentioned in the local press in Kinshasa (mostly in “Le Potentiel” 5343 and “Le Phare” 4176 on the 30 of September), for our company’s name, Zetes, has been referred to in reference to the some of the work performed by our AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) on the electoral enrollment data.
First of all, the title of the blog, even if in the conditional (“may suggest fraud”), has been transformed in the press in Kinshasa where fraud is now supposedly a fact, this without enquiry nor respect for the work being done.
As a partner of the CENI, Zetes participates in a joint effort with the objective of providing the best information possible to the CENI so that all in DRC can participate in the coming election.
In this perspective, we, as well as other partners, provide information so that the CENI can analyze, compile, compare and clean data gathered on the field as to obtain the most reliable collection of records with a minimized margin of error, errors that are inevitably encountered in such complex operations. There is no contradictory report to the official report of the CENI, sole depositary of the official and final information.
We take this opportunity to remind everyone that this kind of large-scale and complex operation always brings its share of problems we are here to help solving. We put our reputation at stake as our credibility and transparency in such operations we undertake and do not wish to see this work being used for political purposes by feeding rumors that do not have reason to exist at this stage. Any given number can be made to speak different kinds of truth. We strongly regret having been exploited and cited in the local press without having had the opportunity to comment but we hope this message can bring some reassurance to readers and will prevent the incorrect use of preliminary and outdated information in the future.
Having a long experience on the subject in hand, here is a statement, as bold as it may seem, that all involved in electoral processes should very well be aware of: fraud is impossible to organize at the level of centralization systems / databases.
Here are different reasons why:
  • It is impossible the create/delete persons in a database without anyone being aware of it, and there are many actors of different origin involved, when following centralization processes that lasts months.
  • All transactions in the databases from the field and in the central system are logged and linked to the operator who performed the actions so we are capable of tracing everything that has been done from beginning to end.
  • In terms of logistics, it is impossible to organize a fraud from an electronic file in proportion that cannot be detected or are of nature to have a significant impact. Try creating 100,000 fake voter within a database of more than 30 million by duplication. You would then need more than 2,000 buses (45 seater) or more than 400 planes (230-seater) to move them to other polling stations or manage to instruct 100,000 people without anybody else noticing. Having done all that, you would not even impact 0.3% of the electoral population. 
  • We always find in the end the same amount of “real doubles or duplicates” here and in many different countries; call it law of numbers. A large number of real duplicates for example is 0.5%  based on the total electoral population of which in 90% of the cases are people getting another card because their name was misspelled or didn’t like their picture or just wanted to have two card in case they loose one.
  • The nature of a duplicate is complex. The proven frauds (that can only be determined after human verification) are a small subset of the real duplicates, themselves a subset of the raw duplicates. Even in the eventuality that all of these where fraud attempts we are talking about way less than half a percent of the number of persons concerned (a double being a pair of at least 2 persons).
Computerized solution have the advantage of bringing credibility at this stage of the process by being able to cut down the error margin to bellow the percent which is seldom the case even in “mature” democracies but remains necessary in the absence of a computerized national registry to prevent fraud.
Errors on electoral lists in G20 countries are often greater than that even with electronic voting. With the experience of many projects, people should now be better aware, where fraud is possible or not, and it is not at the level of centralization systems that they can occur simply because it doesn’t make any sense.
As a result, we have transmitted information several time in the course of the process to the CENI and have continued working in order for the CENI to be able corroborate this with other information available from other sources and partners. The very presence of many players guarantees a degree of transparency through the exchange and ongoing consultation, which reveals that no alteration is possible. These information help improve the overall viability and confirmed that even though there were technical glitches, as you mention in you blog, we have early on stated that there where  no major problems to foresee as we have sufficient means to address them.
The numbers indicated in the blog are of different nature. Raw data is compared here with cleaned data, already deprived of technical errors. The comparison is therefore not possible.
In the hope that this, if not addressing the use of incomplete statistics will be reassurance enough to not concede to panic and invite those preoccupied to ask questions before relaying concerns expressed in this blog as facts.
We invite all who have used the information in this blog to read it again carefully, it expresses concerns that are not facts and it is irresponsible to use sparse elements in the press without further inquiry to obtain tangible information that would have inevitably lifted any doubts.
Kinshasa, October 3, 2011
Fabien MARIE
Program Manager
Zetes PASS

The short list

I realize that most of you do not have the time to read all of the news sources I listed in the previous post. If you don't, but still want to stay abreast of important events, the following is a short list.

Read Radio Okapi for daily news, and sign up for Google Alerts in English and French for "congo" or something similar. Read the daily news roundups by Congo Forum to get a feel for the Kinshasa press (or check out Africatime's DRC website).

Read the regular reports posted by OCHA on the humanitarian situation, as well as reports by the International Crisis Group, HRW, the UN Group of Experts and MONUSCO's Secretary-General reports. Don't forget to follow the country's political economy through Africa Mining Intelligence and Economist Intelligence Unit reports.

Sources for news on the Congo

(Apologies for formatting problems)

Here's my selective list. I have not included all sources, but the ones I feel are the most critical. It is heavily biased toward political reporting and neglects some excellent blogs on social and environmental issues. Feel free to recommend your own favorites. 

Notice that this list is for internet sources - some Congolese newspapers still do not have good websites, whereas some diaspora websites are extremely active but have poorer access to information from the ground. 

Also, I know that this is an English site, but it is impossible to get an accurate picture of developments in the Congo without reading the francophone press and bloggers. I encourage you to install the Google translate bar (or an equivalent) on your browser if you don't read French. 

Print Media

It is important to hail the courage of many Congolese journalists working - half a dozen have been killed or arrested in the past several years - but also to point out that few newspaper have a circulation of over 3,000 copies (each goes for between $1 and $3), and there are frequent allegations that papers are paid to publish articles favorable to businessmen or politicians. In addition, most newspapers have a known slant or are close to prominent politicians. 

Le Potentiel ( is reportedly the daily with the widest circulation (who keeps track?). Although historically linked to the UDPS opposition, its founding editor Modeste Mutinga is now affiliated to the government. Nonetheless, it has the largest staff and some of the most critical reporting, and its managing editor/director general Freddy Kabuayi remains a staunch critic of the government.

Le Phare ( is sympathetic towards the UDPS opposition. Founded and still run by Polydor Muboyayi, one of the newspaper's journalists was assassinated in 2006, allegedly for having written an article about diamond trafficking in Kasai province. 

L'Avenir ( was founded by Pius Mwabilu in 1997. The paper quickly became close to  Laurent Kabila, allegedly by way of Yerodia Ndombasi, who is now a senator. The paper is unabashedly favorable toward Joseph Kabila, as are the other parts of the Avenir empire: RTGA radio and TV stations. 

L'Observateur (, run by Makenda Voka, is one of the newspapers that tries not to be pinned to a political tendency or party.

L'Agence Congolaise de Presse ( is the national, state-run news agency that has become quite a bit more professional over the past several years.

For foreign press, you can sign up for a Google alert in both French and English. The foreign press with correspondents based in Congo are Bloomberg, Reuters, AFP, AP, BBC and Xinhua (some have local stringers). La Libre Belgique, Le Soir, RFI and VoA also have frequent articles on the Congo.

It is worth to figure out how to get access to several subscription-only services: Africa Confidential, the Economist Intelligence UnitAfrica Mining Intelligence and Africa Energy Intelligence have critical reports, especially on business and politics. 

Radio and TV

You can listen to several TV and radio stations online, including Top Congo FMCongo Planet and Congo Mikili. The quality and reliability, unfortunately, are not always ideal.

I would recommend going straight to Radio Okapi, a radio station and website run jointly by the UN peacekeeping mission and Lausanne-based Fondation Hirondelle. With dozens of journalists and relay stations around the country, and a budget of over $4 million, the station is the best source of news from around the country. Their website is a good first stop for Congolese news, and some of their shows - in particular Dialogue Entre Congolais - are good sources for analysis.

Websites and news aggregators

Several websites aggregate Congolese news. One of the best sources of daily summaries of Congolese news is on CongoForum, which has a "Revue de la Presse Congolaise" that comes out every weekday, and has an aggregation site in French, Dutch and English. Congo Planet has similar sites in English and French and also provides original news. Both and AllAfrica aggregate local and international news on the Congo, although neither translate the local media into English. aggregates local media on their website, which also provides original content. The Digitalcongo family, which has includes a TV and radio station, is known to be favorable toward Kabila.

I also recommend Congo Independent, which is edited by Baudouin Amba Wetshi in Brussels but provides good, if strongly critical, analysis on Congolese politics. Kaka Luigi is run by a Catholic priest in Bukavu and mostly re-posts other articles from the web.

In addition to these media that focus on the entire country, with a distinct bias toward Kinshasa (except for Okapi), there are also provincial media. Beni-Lubero Online provides local news from the northern part of North Kivu; Nyota Radio Television is broadcast from Lubumbashi but has a website with mostly national news; Congo Blog (last time I looked, managed by Cédric Kalonji) has a network of correspondents providing slice-of-life stories, full of color, from around the country, including cartoons and pictures; Mutaani is a Goma-based website in English, Swahili and French, with over ten journalists in Goma, Kinshasa, Bukavu, Kisangani and Lubumbashi, and with live streaming radio programs; Bukavu Online is managed by Olivier Katoto and posts articles regarding local and national politics; Uhaki News is a network of Congolese women journalists reporting on local and national issues, helped out by the Institute for War and Peace reporting; for those with a particular interest in South Kivu's high plateau, check out Journal Mulenge.

There are a number of websites with more of a regional nature, but crucial for understanding politics, especially in the eastern DRC. Grand Lacs Info is a website featuring original content as well as aggregating news on the whole region; Syfia Grands Lacs is a news agency with several original articles each week on the region; The New Times is Rwanda's government-run newspaper; The New Vision and The Daily Monitor are the top dailies in Uganda, with Andrew Mwenda's The Independent providing competition in the weekly news market; Iwacu is probably the best Bujumbura-based site for Burundian news, run by Antoine Kaburahe. (I'm obviously leaving out a lot of regional sites here).


There are three listservs that I can strongly recommend to get Congolese news and analysis provided straight to your inbox (I leave it up to you to find out how to get on them). The European Network for Central Africa (Eurac), through its director Kris Berwouts, sends out a host of much-needed information on the region if you can get on his email list; and Jean-Claude Willame of the Catholic University of Louvain has an excellent weekly summary of regional news in French that he sends out.

Not to leave out either is Denis Tougas, who works for a Canadian NGO, L'Entreaide Missionaire, and runs a listserv on Congolese mining.

In addition, Yahoo! has a number of listservs that you can search for ask to subscribe to (Hinterland, for example) that will put you in touch with hundreds of Congolese and Congo-watchers.

Blogs and other websites

Blogs on the Congo are proliferating, especially those in English. Some of the more important ones are:

Mvemba's Eye on Africa - This is run by Mvemba Dizolele, a Congolese journalist based in Washington DC and the author of a forthcoming biography on Mobutu.Friends of the Congo runs a blog based out of the US, blogging on all things Congo. Jina Moore is a bit less active on her blog these days, but still often provides good articles on the region through her blog on other outlets.

Laura Seay's Texas in Africa blog is one of the best known blogs on the region. Laura is a professor of political science at Morehouse College and wrote her PhD on the Congo. Congo Resources is a blog written by David Aronson, an longstanding Congo hand, who is particularly interested in natural resources. Alex Engwete has a fabulous blog that talks about Congolese politics with much gusto and wit, as well as many other things.

Colette Braeckman is probably the best-known Belgian journalist writing on the Congo and she has a blog based out of her Le Soir newspaper. While one may not always agree with her, her articles are often well-informed and always worth reading. Congo Masquerade is a new book by Theodore Tréfon, the director of contemporary history at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium; it is also the name of his new blog, well worth reading.

The Enough Project has a blog, including many postings on the Congo.

Other websites

Must read, in-depth reports on the Congo are written regularly by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Global Witness, Refugees International, Enough and the International Crisis Group.

I must give a particular shout-out to the reports by the UN Group of Experts (where I previously worked), which carries out investigations on armed groups in Congo under a UN mandate.

Pole Institute is a Goma-based think tank and research institute working on conflict, natural resources and governance. They often post interesting articles on their website. Gouvernance pour Tous is a site run by CENADEP, a Congolese NGO working on governance. They have a database of national laws, as well as news and analysis. ASADHO is one of the oldest Congolese human rights NGOs, based in Kinshasa and with a relatively new and well-managed website.

ACIDH is a Lubumbashi-based human rights organization that does investigations of human rights abuses, with a particular focus on mining. Héritiers de la Justice is a Bukavu-based human rights NGO with a newly refurbished website. Congolese civil society runs a website with reports of many different local NGOs, as well as their contact information.

IPIS is a Belgian NGO that works a lot on natural resources and conflict. It has a website with a mapping tool that allows you to see where mines and armed groups are located.

The UN humanitarian coordination agency OCHA has a website, featuring maps and weekly/monthly reports on the humanitarian situation in the country. It's extremely useful for a broad picture of the humanitarian situation.

CENI, the Congolese election commission, has a website that is not frequently updated, but still has important information such as the list of electoral candidates and various election laws.

The Ministry of Budget has a website, where it posts the country's budget; the Ministry of Mines also has a website, where it is supposed to post all of the country's mining contracts (it doesn't always live up to this). The presidency has a website, featuring the President Kabila's official press statements and speeches, but also important laws and decrees.

The UN peacekeeping mission has a website, which mostly just reports on its activities (see Radio Okapi for national news), but it also has important resources, including maps and its regular reports to the Secretary-General, which are very useful summaries of political developments in the country.

For economic statistics on the country, you can also see the IMF's statistical appendixes from its reports; the OECD and the World Bank are also valuable sources of information in this regard.

Finally, The King Effect is a blog written by Amy Ernst, who is a rape counselor based in the eastern Congo. She provides detailed and nuanced descriptions of her interactions with soldiers, rape survivors and other Congolese.