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, January 27, 2012

Legislative results

I did a quick back-of-the-envelope analysis to figure out how many seats Kabila's presidential coalition has won. The problem is, the president's strategy was to multiply the number of parties in his coalition, so now it's difficult to see through the thicket of parties to understand where their allegiances lie.

If I'm not mistaken, a total of 94 parties have won seats, along with numerous independent candidates. (The full list is here). Based on the April charter of the majorité présidentielle, along with public statements, I figure that Kabila's coalition has won at least 245 seats so far, out of the 424 announced. Of course, coalitions could shift, and these are only provisional results, based on a charter in April that was quickly made obsolete by the emergence of many new parties supporting Kabila. The majorité présidentielle has already declared that they have more than 250 seats.

Also, I am sure many will contest the results given the many reported incidents of fraud, we are still awaiting 76 seats to be announced, and 7 electoral districts have seen their vote cancelled.

Here are the main parties:

Kabila's coalition:

PPRD (Led by Evariste Boshab) 58 seats
PPPD (Ngoma Binda) 27
MSR (Pierre Lumbi) 25
PALU (Antoine Gizenga) 16
ARC (Olivier Kamitatu) 14
AFDC (Modeste Bahati) 12
ECT 10
MIP (Colette Tshomba) 9
PDC (José Endundo) 7
UNAFEC (Kyungu wa Kumwanza)
UNADEF (Charles Mwando Simba) 6
UDCO (Banza Mukalay) 6
ADH (Jean-Claude Baende) 5
NAD (Athanase Matenda) 5
CCU (Lambert Mende) 5
COFEDEC (Venant Tshipasa) 4
Plus many smaller parties....


UDPS (Etienne Tshisekedi) 34
MLC (Jean-Pierre Bemba) 20
UNC (Vital Kamerhe) 16
UFC (Kengo wa Dondo) 3
UDECF (Pierre Pay-Pay) 4
ATD (José Makila) 4
Plus other smaller parties...

I may have gotten something wrong, feel free to correct me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bleak choices for the path ahead in the Congo

Congolese politics, usually full of fire and scandal, seem devoid of hope these days. The presidential and legislative elections were both so badly botched that it is apparently impossible to figure out who won what. And yet, there is little hope of any far-reaching solution. The donors are divided, with the United States "deeply disappointed", the Belgians wanly congratulatory, and the South Africans outright buoyant. In the meantime, the opposition has not been able to mobilize any significant protests, largely because they are arrested/beaten/tear-gassed. While the Catholic church has announced a major demonstration on February 16 - the twenty-year anniversary of the "March of Christians" of 1992 - it is unclear whether kinois still have the capacity to mobilize on a large scale.

The latest sign of this despondency is an initiative reportedly mooted by Washington in recent days: a power-sharing agreement. According to various sources in the opposition and US government, the proposal that has been put forward in the past several weeks would have the opposition sharing power with Kabila, either by forming government under a UDPS prime minister, or by getting a fair share of ministerial positions. The only problem is: neither Tshisekedi or Kabila seem to be interested (Kamerhe and Kengo have apparently expressed interest).

It is difficult to see how such a power-sharing deal could be pushed through, given the divisions among the donors and Kabila's opposition (he is having hard enough a time managing the quarrels within his coalition without giving half the cabinet positions to the enemy camp). Nor is it clear whether this would make right the glaring flaws of elections; one could argue the opposite, that it could undermine the creation of a strong opposition and just postpone the troubles for a couple of years - the consensus among many Africans is that neither Kenya nor Zimbabwe have been great successes, and that Cote d'Ivoire managed to dodge a bullet by avoiding a power-sharing deal. 

But for those who would immediately cry foul, let's consider the options. They aren't pretty:
  • Declare the elections null and void and hold new polls. In an ideal world, this is probably what should be done. Both legislative and presidential elections were deeply flawed and, except for electoral districts where there is little doubt which MPs won, should probably just be reheld. This could be done at the same time as provincial and local elections, currently scheduled for March but which will almost certainly have to be pushed back to August or September due to delays. But the larger question is: Would Kabila accept this solution? Of course not. And donors, who could apply financial pressure, face a serious collective action problem. None of them seem in the slightest interested in this option. So should we pursue this path, even though it appears hopeless, just out of principle? Advocates of this path are hoping that the demonstration on February 16 will provide traction.
  • Recount the ballots. Again, Kabila would almost certainly oppose this. But even if he didn't, too many ballots have gone missed or have been tampered with to make this a feasible solution. Also, it wouldn't deal with the fact that many people didn't vote, voter lists may have been flawed, and there wee other abuses before the polls took place.
  • Give up on the presidential polls and try to salvage the legislative elections, as well as the subsequent polls. A few weeks ago, this seemed to be the approach. Ok, so the presidential polls were a debacle, but perhaps we can save the legislative ones - American election experts arrived and the CENI suggested they were stopping compilation. However, now CENI has indefinitely postponed announcing the results, the foreign experts have departed, saying they weren't able to observe or contribute in a meaningful manner, and many of the legislative ballots have been compromised by weeks of storage in unprotected warehouses and compilation centers. So how can the legislative elections be "saved?" It's unclear, at least to me. As for the following polls, the donors I have spoken with do seem to agree that there have to be changes to the CENI before they continue to fund the rest of the election cycle; many would like to see Mulunda Ngoy resign. I have also heard some say that they want to use the election fiasco to get leverage on Kabila: "we'll let you off this time, but now carry out the reforms you have been promising (justice, security sector, etc.) or we will cut aid."
  • Do nothing. Nobody will say this, but it is a possibility. But consider this scenario: Kabila manages to get his coalition to agree on a distribution of seats in parliament and imposes himself over the divided opposition. His coalition forms a majority in parliament, forms a government and makes some key concessions (governance reforms, bringing in opposition parties, reforming CENI). Already, the moderates around Kabila seem very sensible, ignoring Tshisekedi's calls for an army mutiny. What will donors do then? Prevent the consolidation of democracy and not fund the rest of the elections? Withdraw aid and punish the Congolese people?

Which brings us back to the power-sharing deal. If these reports are true, the Americans should be applauded for at least not just giving up (which is apparently what the Belgians have done) and accepting the botched polls. But will it work?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kabila's parties have strong lead in legislative elections

With over half of the seats in the legislative elections decided, Kabila's fractious coalition has a strong lead. We could well we looking forward to another five years of the ruling coalition controlling both parliament and the presidency.

Or perhaps I should say "tentatively decided." The legislative election results have been postponed to January 26, after which we can expect a protracted period of disputes, both inside and outside of courts. Kabila's Majorité présidentielle coalition has reportedly even set up an internal committee to deal with disputes. Stalwarts like Bahati Lukwebo, former member of the national assembly leadership, have made harsh accusations against the election commission and other MP candidates for fraud.

Nonetheless, according to my back-of-the-envelope count (don't sue me), here are the preliminary results as of today:

Parties supporting Kabila:
  • PPRD 39 seats
  • PPPD 18
  • MSR (led by Pierre Lumbi) 16
  • ARC (Olivier Kamitatu) 11
  • PALU (Antoine Gizenga) 9
  • AFDC (Modeste Bahati) 4
  • ADH (Jean-Claude Baende) 4
  • UNADEF (Charles Mwando Simba) 4
  • CCU (Lambert Mende) 3
  • COFEDEC (Venant Tshipasa) 3
  • NAD (Athanase Matenda) 3
Opposition parties:
  • UDPS 21
  • MLC 13
  • UNC 9
  • UFC 3
Many other parties only won one or two seats, but it is clear that the ruling coalition has a strong lead, with over half of the 500 seats announced, although their ruling coalition looks like it will be even more fractious than the last one. 

According to the published results, Lukwebo lost his seat in Kabare territory (South Kivu). So how have other legislative candidates fared?

There are some notable winners. Two of the president's siblings won in landslides: his twin sister Jaynet Kabila in the Kalemie (Katanga) constituency, and his brother Zoé Kabila in Manono (Katanga). Meanwhile, presidential advisor Katumba Mwanke won in Pweto territory (Katanga), and two brothers of the election commissioner won - despite controversies surrounding their campaigns - in separate Katangan electoral districts. Other Kabila allies who won: Evariste Boshab (speaker of the national assembly, Mweka territory); Aubin Minaku (head of the Majorité présidentielle coalition, Idiofa); Olivier Kamitatu (minister of planning, ); Jeannine Mabunda (minister of state companies, Bumba); Médard Autsai (governor of Province Orientale, Aru); Adolphe Muzito (prime minister, Kikwit); Konde Vila Kikanda (former governor of North Kivu under Mobutu, Goma); Norbert Katintima (minister of agriculture, Walungu); Jean-Marie Bulambo (minister of medium and small business, Bukavu).

Winners from the opposition include: Anzuluni Bembe (former speaker of parliament under Mobutu, Fizi); Gilbert Kiakwama (opposition leader, Mbanza-Ngungu); Jean Claude Vuemba (opposition leader, Kasangulu); Eve Bazaiba (former opposition spokeswoman, Basoko); Kizito Mushizi (former radio director, Bukavu); Omer Engwake (opposition leader and former minister, Bumba); Delly Sessanga (opposition leader, Luiza); Christian Badibangi (opposition leader, Dimbelenge).

The losers include several officials from the ruling coalition: Alexis Thambe Mwamba (minister of foreign affairs, Kindu); Claude Nyamugabo (minister of sports, Kabare); José Endundo (minister of environment, Mbandaka); Marcellin Cisambo (governor of South Kivu); Shenila Mwanza (senator, Fizi).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The FDLR suffer another blow and launch reprisals

While electoral wrangling continues, there has been an escalation of fighting in the eastern Congo over the past few months. Much of this fighting has taken place between the FDLR and local Congolese militia - the Raia Mutomboki in Shabunda territory and a new group called the Forces de défense congolaise (FDC) in Walikale. These skirmishes have often led the local population to be caught in between, and at the beginning of the year the FDLR reportedly killed around forty civilians in Shabunda in reprisal attacks.

But some of the worst fighting has been in Walikale territory, where a series of assassinations have had a serious impact on the FDLR, which has already lost around half of its troops over the past 3 years. On  Wednesday, 11 January, a group of soldiers - some reliable reports claim they were a unit of Rwandan special forces, guided by the FDC - penetrated into the FDLR headquarters in Walikale and ambushed FDLR leaders around a fire. They killed the FDLR chief of staff Brigadier Leodomir Mugaragu. The overall FDLR commander General Mudacumura was also apparently present but was able to escape.

Mugaragu, aka Leon Manzi, was one of the only remaining FDLR commanders with concrete allegations against him of involvement in the 1994 genocide. According to one report, he was a major and battalion commander in 1994 in Ruhengeri, where he was involved in mobilizing militias and setting up roadblocks to kill Tutsi. He had children living in Lubumbashi and Rwanda.

The killing of Brigadier Mugaragu is the last in a series of assassinations that began with Lt Col Sadiki Soleil, who was killed on 20 November, and Lt Col Furaha Honoré, killed on 6 December. All of these attacks have been linked by some sources - although not confirmed - to the Rwandan government, which has allegedly become more sophisticated in using local militia like Mai-Mai Cheka (for the Sadiki killing) and FDLR officers themselves (for the Furaha killing).

While these deaths may be heralded by some as good news, the immediate consequence has been a series of reprisal killings against local militia and, very often, against the local population.

The Catholic church maintains fierce criticism of elections

The Catholic church overcame internal divisions this week in the national assembly of their episcopal conference (CENCO) to fiercely denounce the elections. In a message entitled "The Congolese people are hungry and thirsty for justice and peace," the CENCO came out with its firmest denunciation of the electoral process yet. Saying that the elections had been "marred by serious irregularities that call into question the published results," and "what is currently happening with regard to the compilation of legislative results is unacceptable," CENCO concluded that "one does not build a state of law in a culture of cheating, lies and terror, of militarization and flagrant attacks on the freedom of expression." 

While Cardinal Monsengwo, the head of the Catholic church in the Congo, had previously made critical remarks, other members of the Catholic clergy were said to be more reticent to oppose the government. This joint statement is an important step for the church, which is very influential in Congolese society. While the previous Cardinal Etsou had also been critical of the 2006 elections, the church had been much less united in its opposition then. The church's stance, along with the numerous local NGOs that have said the elections are not credible - Voix des Sans Voix, Toges Noires, Linelit, Ligue des Electeurs, and others - may augur a more confrontational relation between the government and civil society. Nonetheless, some Congolese media suggested that the statement could have been much more severe, as the bishops did not ask for the government to resign or for a national unity government. (They did ask for the CENI to resign if it was unable to correct its mistakes). Nor did they ask, as some bishops close to Monsengwo had before, for the population to protest the elections.

The church's statement is in contrast with what the Congo's international partners have said. While France, Belgium, the EU, the United Kingdom and the United States all expressed varying degrees of concern and criticism after the deep flaws in the polls became obvious, major donors have since been relatively quiet. One notable exception has been Belgium, whose new prime minister recently sent a letter of congratulations to President Kabila. He said: "As I take up my position as prime minister, I would like to congratulate the Congolese people for holding elections that brought you back to the post of President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo." The letter was criticized by some in the opposition in Belgium as a "diplomatic gaffe," and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders had maintained that he will wait until the legislative elections (the results of which have been postponed to January 26) have played themselves out.

While American policy-makers have been more vociferous in their condemnation of the elections, internal rifts have appeared there, as well.  In December, US Senators Coons and Isakson called for a transparent review of the elections, while Secretary of State Clinton said she was "deeply disappointed" in the Supreme Court's failure to evaluate the allegations of irregularities.

Will these policy-makers walk the talk? Denouncing the elections is one thing, taking concrete steps another. There are many governments around the world that hold seriously flawed elections and that continue to have cordial and financially beneficial relations with donors - Ethiopia, pre-revolution Egypt, Rwanda, etc. It will be interesting to see what impact the electoral fallout will have on donor aid.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Does the UN think Dodd-Frank has "backfired"?

The UN Group of Experts' most recent report was released just before the New Year (you can access it here). Unfortunately, it did not receive much coverage in either local or international press, despite its detailed research into the financing and arming of armed groups in the eastern Congo. Other highlights include a Hollywood-worthy case of gold smuggling involving a basketball star, a war criminal and American businessmen; and how Burundian opposition politicians are dabbling in armed rebellion.

I will be posting an interview with the Group here shortly about the whole report, but let's first take a look at one issue that did receive coverage in the press: conflict minerals. A Reuters article published on Friday, December 30 was headlined "Conflict Minerals Crackdown Backfiring in the Congo," and suggested the Group's report had concluded that the Dodd-Frank legislation in the United States had failed by pushing the mineral trade underground.

This produced consternation at the UN. Members of the Group of Experts were alarmed, as this was not the impression they had tried to give in the report. In an emailed comment, Steve Hege - who is in charge of armed groups for the Group of Experts - wrote to Congo Siasa:
[The story's] content and headline misrepresented the Group’s findings on the impact on Dodd Frank bill in the eastern DRC. As per our previous letter to the SEC, the Group of Experts findings and recommendations have remained consistent that the U.S. legislation on supply chain due diligence in Central Africa has overall been quite positive and a critical catalyst for reform.
Advocacy groups in the US were also jerked from their New Year revelry, as this news came almost at the same time as the Securities and Exchange Commission announced yet another delay in the issuing of regulations to enforce the Dodd-Frank bill and the prospects of a watering-down of these rules appeared to grow.

So what does the Group's report say?

Unsurprisingly, the report steers somewhere between the stark opposites of "Dodd-Frank is going to bring peace to the eastern Congo" and "Dodd-Frank has plunged hundreds of thousands into misery." On the one hand, it says that the yet-to-be-enforced legislation (as well as the recent California state law) has led to a steep fall in production in the eastern Congo, producing "rising unemployment and worsened poverty among the tens of thousands of people who depend on artisanal mining, with a consequent sharply negative impact for the economies of the affected regions as a whole." (para. 368) In addition, there has been an increase in smuggling of ores, which has benefited select military officers.

But it also says that the legislation and advocacy efforts have led to a shift in mineral production from conflict to non-conflict sites, bringing about "a reduction in the level of conflict financing provided by these minerals." In particular, sites in northern Katanga and Rwanda that have begun complying with due diligence guidelines have seen an increase in production (although the Group also warns that some minerals appear to be smuggled into Rwanda and then passed off as "clean.")

Given this nuanced picture, what should the US government do? Steve Hege again:
The only solution to these outcomes is for the SEC to publish its rules expeditiously which should allow responsible commercial actors to begin once again purchasing minerals from the Kivus while conducting supply chain due diligence in compliance with the UN Group of Experts and OECD guidelines. This can happen if the key concept of mitigation is incorporated into the SEC rules allowing for purchases of supply chains where military criminal network involvement is identified provided that they can demonstrate time-bound progress in marginalizing military involvement.

This sentiment is echoed in the Group's submission to the Securities and Exchange Commission from October 21, 2011:
Scrapping or weakening Dodd Frank is not the solution to [these problems]. The solution is for SEC regulations to incorporate the UN Group of Experts and OECD due diligence guidelines' concept of mitigation. Mitigation allows companies purchasing from mines where FARDC criminal networks are in operation to continue purchasing provided they have put in place mitigation strategies and can prove they are working. [my emphasis]
By this, the Group is referring to their own due diligence guidelines (see here), which were endorsed by the Security Council in 2010, and which place greater emphasis on risk-mitigation than the Dodd-Frank law. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Blogging problems

My blog was down for a short period several days ago. It's still unclear why Blogger took it down, although "irregular access" appears to have played a role. I'm still trying to find out more. Thanks to those who expressed concern.