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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Guest post: From Campaigning to Action on Joseph Kony and the LRA

Below is a guest post by Ida Sawyer, an Africa researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch.

In the past week, a 30-minute video about Joseph Kony and his rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has received more than 90 million internet hits. Viewers of the video now know, if they didn’t before, that he is a wanted man with much blood on his hands. For years Human Rights Watch has investigated the LRA’s horrors, from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. We have visited remote massacre sites and listened to hundreds of victims and survivors who want their stories heard.

Most people in areas affected by the LRA today don’t have access to YouTube or Twitter. But I am confident that many of the survivors I’ve interviewed would be encouraged to hear that the world is waking up to Kony’s brutality, and that large numbers of people want to do something to end the LRA’s atrocities.

What will it take to end the LRA’s reign of terror? Millions of young people across the world watching a video about Kony’s crimes won’t end the brutality. But the massive attention generated by Kony’s unprecedented global notoriety should be harnessed to transform good intentions into concrete and effective action.

The LRA began fighting the government of Uganda in the mid-1980s partly as a response to the government's marginalization of people in the north. It swiftly degenerated into one of the most brutal and merciless armed groups, replenishing its ranks by abducting, terrorizing, and “brainwashing” children to fight. In 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and four other senior LRA leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Its forces, currently thought to number 150-300 fighters, plus hundreds of captive civilians, left Uganda in 2005 and now leave a trail of death and destruction in bordering regions of Congo, South Sudan, and the CAR.

For the last several years, as a Human Rights Watch researcher, I’ve traveled through some of the most remote areas in central Africa to speak to victims and witnesses to LRA attacks.

In March 2010, a colleague and I went to Makombo, in Haut Uele district of northeastern Congo. We had heard rumors of an LRA attack there, but we were taken aback by what we found. Dozens of victims and witnesses told us how, in December 2009, the LRA brutally killed at least 345 men, women, and children, and abducted 250 others during a four-day killing rampage. This attack, one of the worst LRA massacres ever documented, had gone unreported for months due to the area’s isolation.

During my research, I’ve talked with scores of children who had been LRA captives. One story I will never forget is of 12-year-old Eveline (not her real name), from Bas Uele district, northern Congo. She was held for more than six months and forced to become the “wife” of an LRA commander, who raped her almost daily. Eveline was also forced to kill; she didn’t remember how many. She told me the LRA didn’t release their captives because they didn’t want their camp location revealed to the Congolese army. Victims were tied up face down on the ground. Eveline and other children were forced to beat them on the head with a wooden club until they died. To make it easier to kill, the LRA taught her to view people as animals. The experience left Eveline deeply traumatized.

Despite the LRA’s 25 years of brutality, there has been no effective strategy to end its monstrous abuses.

The refrain I hear from victims and survivors again and again is the following: Why have we been forgotten? Our own governments have abandoned us. Why can’t the international community do something to end the terror and bring our children home? In a joint project with Marcus Bleasdale, Joe Bavier, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, we recorded many of these cries for help in a video message to President Barack Obama, Dear Obama. We believed it was important for Obama and other policymakers to hear the appeals directly from those most affected by the violence.

The United States did act. In May 2010, President Obama signed into law the most widely supported, Africa-specific legislation in recent US history, the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. It committed the US government to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians and work with the governments in central Africa to bring the LRA leaders to justice. Last October, the US announced it would send 100 US special forces personnel as military advisers to the Ugandan army and other armed forces in the region to help catch the LRA’s leaders.

The Kony2012 video has been criticized for oversimplifying a complex conflict in northern Uganda in which the Ugandan army also committed human rights violations. It is true that the Ugandan military has committed serious crimes, with little or no accountability, but the basic advocacy message is on target: Kony is a menace who commits horrific abuses; he should be arrested and brought to justice. Governments in the region have proven incapable of dealing with the problem; they want and need support from the international community, the US included.

But to keep the US government and other international actors engaged on this issue – since the LRA poses no direct threat to American security or financial interests – their constituents need to keep pressing policymakers.

Just by “liking” a video on Facebook, can young people actually make a difference in bringing Kony to justice? On the face of it, this appears naïve. Yet it is hard to deny that the overall impact of millions of people – including people in Congo, CAR, South Sudan, and Uganda – watching the film, tweeting about it, posting it on their Facebook walls, and yes, buying bracelets, can have an impact. It demonstrates to political leaders that ordinary people care about this issue and expect to see action.

Critics have correctly pointed out that the LRA is no longer in Uganda. (Though acknowledged in the video, this point could have been made more clearly.) But this should not imply that the LRA is a spent force, or that the video’s depictions of LRA brutality are exaggerated. Since the LRA was pushed out of Uganda, the group has been committing horrific attacks in neighboring countries.

Available statistics indicate there were fewer attacks in 2011 than the year before, though attacks have continued on a regular basis (the United Nations has reported 20 attacks already this year, in Congo alone). With the group’s leadership still intact and its tactics adapted for the difficult terrain, there are no signs that its capacity to attack civilians and abduct children has significantly weakened. There have been periods when the LRA was comparatively less violent, often while regrouping or resupplying, but these relative lulls were often followed by large-scale killings and abductions.

It is clear that capturing Kony is not the only action required to end the LRA problem. As Human Rights Watch and others have said repeatedly, ending the LRA threat to civilians requires a comprehensive solution. But capturing Kony is key. He and a small handful of other LRA leaders are central figures whose arrests would open opportunities to demobilize many fighters, rescue abducted children, and end attacks.

Any effort to arrest Kony should be accompanied by increased protection for civilians to prevent retaliatory attacks, better demobilization efforts to encourage defection; rehabilitation programs for former LRA fighters and captives; and enhanced communications systems for communities. And regional forces need to strictly observe international humanitarian law.

Some of these programs are being set up by groups on the ground, such as Invisible Children and local civil society groups. An early warning mechanism with two-way HF radios has been established so that communities (with no mobile phone coverage and limited road access) can report LRA movements and attacks. This information is logged on the LRA Crisis Tracker, an innovative and interactive map with comprehensive data on the LRA’s attacks and movements.

Such initiatives are important, but are not enough.

Many elements of a comprehensive approach were outlined in letters to regional presidents and President Obama from over 30 civil society activists, religious leaders, and human rights defenders throughout the LRA-affected region. Human Rights Watch helped bring them together at a workshop in Dungu, northern Congo, last October. These leaders have lived with the daily insecurity and worked tirelessly to document the LRA’s atrocities, aid survivors, and alert their governments and the international community. Their letters emphasized the need for regional governments to recognize the ongoing LRA threat and fully commit themselves to meaningful and active cooperation to protect civilians. These local constituents must also be a part of the conversation, and the solution.

For both detractors and supporters of Kony2012, it is important for the debate to move on to the issues that really matter to the hundreds of thousands of people in central Africa who still live in fear of the next LRA attack: What will it take to capture Kony and end the LRA threat to civilians? Today’s urgent task is to use Kony’s new international notoriety to move policymakers to take the necessary measures.


Dan said...

Does the means justify the ends? Is the promotion of false and misleading messages about Kony and the LRA justified to ensure continuation of a policy (US support of the Ugandan army) that has already repeatedly failed, in part due to the fact the Ugandan army does not prioritize this fight?

Anonymous said...

sigh. why does nobody want to see that the more international attention and funding to this conflict the less motivation Museveni has to end it? the whole thing is an immense cash cow for the Sower of the Mustard Seed-ranging from training for the UPDF (which, beware, the US has been carrying out since around 2002, including training special forces units to catch Kony-with no noticeable or counter-productive effects), scores of Western students, filmmakers,journalists etc in what has become a booming conflict-industry around Gulu (it is just a matter of time before busloads of tourists on a package holiday start coming in (Kony Tours), and then of course the usual army of humanitarians and other Saviors....the more money pours in, the more self-perpetuating a conflict situation becomes...btw the same applies to eastern DRC. In short, awareness raising can actually be harmful but as orgs like HRW depend for their funding on the same crowds, they will have a hard time telling that

Kiersten said...

Thank you Ida for writing this. This was a much needed explanation of what's going on. I did a lot of entry-level research in college on the LRA and their child soldiers. SO I appreciate your honesty and sharing your expertise. Hopefully, the policymakers will start to move and that things will change. I know that they can. And I just pray that something changes soon for the benefit of all the families in Uganda, the Sudan, Congo and the CAR. Thank you again

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this! So much of the debate is so negative that it is DISCOURAGING people from even taking the first step of caring and getting involved. I hope more people can focus on what almost everyone agrees on - Kony and the LRA must be stopped!! Survivors rehabilitated, returned home, development and social capital being facilitated. Who doesn't believe in that?!

I read all the comments and in the end I side with the pleas of the people of DRC and CAR from the numerous videos online where they are pleading for intervention and protection. I think their voices are the most important. Moreso than an American PhD or even a blogger sitting in Kampala. Who is being affected by the LRA right now?? Let's listen to what they have to say and focus on their needs. Just my two cents...

Anonymous said...

Joseph Kony does not exist ,and this LRA thing is just a propaganda that the Museveni and his war Criminal Generals have been using to cover up their war crimes and crimes against humanity that they have commuted in the Great lake region (Congo), and this LRA and Kony has allso been used by the so called Humanitarians as a found raising tool,and now the US is trying to use this to justify more involvement in East and Central Africa. Joseph Kony has not been seen any where for almost a decade now,and the Rwanda and Ugandan governments are more dangerous and have done more damage ,war crimes and crimes against humanity than the so called LRA.

Anonymous said...

Well, if the comments on this thread are any indication, we still are in this incredibly treacherous place when it comes to advocacy as it relates to the Great Lakes- which is unfortunate.


I want to sincerely thank Ida for both this remarkably BALANCED piece and, ofcourse, for her constancy as a researcher at HRW where, next to Amnesty, I have been a consistent yearly donor. I learned quite a bit from it and it is my sincere hope more voices of moderation like her's- in addition to more from actual victims of Kony- become more a part of this debate.

I also want to thank Mssr Stearns for having the editorial acumen to go for moderation as well in offering a platform for Ida. Jason's love for the people of this region has always been evident in this blog (and, ofcourse, elsewhere) and I can't thank him enough for maintaining a balanced line in the unfortunately volatile debates that typify issues that surround the Great Lakes.

I plan to participate in Invisible Children's "April 20th" action with our growing crew of "Great Lakes" activists in the Gainesville, Tampa, and Orlando areas.

Indeed, we are planning a major action in August during the Republican National Convention in Tampa to encourage the delegates to pressure whoever is picked to face Obama to make capturing Kony as mission critical as capturing/killing Osama.

We could fail miserably in our efforts. But we are committed to a better, brighter, more equitable, and more peaceful Great Lakes and, in spite of the criticism being leveled at our efforts, it is comforting to know the "experts" like Ida see the importance of developing an Africa constituency to pressure policy makers to do the right thing.

Ofcourse, the question of how, why, and agency in developing such a constituency is at the heart of the debate about Kony 2012 and, ofcourse, the conflict mineral issue. Those are important questions and considerations and I'm pretty sure we will not get to some glorious answer anytime soon.

In any event, thanks so much for this, Ida and Jason.


Anonymous said...

Dan, the UPDF is on the ground NOW - with US troops working alongside them - to partner with them - so this warlord can be brought to justice and put on trial at the Hague. Reports are that the forces tracking Kony are having much success in their efforts. I think the point of the Kony 2012 campaign is to further drive efforts to bring this into the international community's attention - and to further make this a priority. What "false and misleading messages about Kony and the LRA" are you referring to?

Anonymous said...


There is nothing, whatsoever, "false" or "misleading" about stating that Kony and his gang of murderous thugs must be eradicated from this Earth.

In essence, that is all IC is (basically) communicating through their campaign. It appears you are more concerned with US policy towards Ugandan more broadly, which I can support, but I do believe it is important to separate out concerns about Museveni regime more generally from this particular issue.

More to the point, Museveni himself is aware that continued support of his regime in entirely premised on the UPDF continuing to provide support for what essentially amounts to policing operations in Darfur, other Horn operations, and now getting Kony.

Given that his regime is coming under unparallelled and sustained fire from the opposition and his so-called "rebellious" NRM MP's over the Tullow deal, I can't think of a better time when we (the US) have the most leverage over him.

So, again, let's try not to conflate long stemming concerns with Museveni's regime with this issue and deal with all our concerns one at a time.

Impugning the integrity of American activists gets us nowhere and, if left unchecked, could actually lead to the kind of well intentioned but misguided policies that gave us Sec 1502 of Dodd Frank.

Let's focus on Kony and getting rid of him and, down the road, continue to empower democrats in Uganda to finally hold Museveni accountable. Getting to more democratic regimes in the Great Lakes is going to take a long-term strategy and this campaign is ONE tactic of that broader effort- however flawed it may be.

Anonymous said...

People are barking at a wrong tree while two criminals are wreaking havoc in the Great Lake region. One is busy using the presence of the so called hutu militia in the DRC and another is using Kony as business funds to remain in power and plunder the mineral resources in the Congo and thus forcing the killing, displacing and rape million in the process under the watchful supervision of the americans...

Rich said...

Anand -

I really liked your comment on the precedent thread. I think the video on the links below summarises quite well some of the things you said in that post.


Anonymous said...

All this is nothing but misleading propaganda ,not a single village any where in this region is under the control of any rebel group called the LRA.and if all this was going on what have the 17.000 so called UN peacekeepers doing in that same region for the last decade? only them (UN ),the UGANDAN army and the so called humanitarians are able to arm and protect this rebels i order to further their presence and the continued pillage of the DR CONGO'S minerals.

Anonymous said...

What is the reality behind this campaign against Kony?
Where were American human right watchers for the last 20 years?
Is there any one who can explain to me that the only solution to bring peace in this part of the world is to eliminate Kony?

I think this campaign is only to break donors heart and increase Job opportunity to American citizens.

Why do not they do such campaign against FDLR militias and others rebel leaders who are making the worst human right abuse and killing more than Kony?

Kony is no longer a treat to Uganda nor Congo.
I have watched the video but it looks only heart breaking for those Americans who have never been in Africa, otherwise it is not even different kind of atrocity committing when you compare it with other rebels in another part of African bushes.

Obama please do something for the sake of DRC, or help us organize a Congolese uprising for a change before you go.... You have not done much for Africa, as we have expected. Another Black American to get your current post will take another 1000 years - if the world still exist.


Mugwiira said...

Why not ask the Acholi, Langi and the people of Haut and Bas Uele whether they want an end to war or "Kony captured"? Why is nobody asking how long the people of CAR and DRC are ready to tolerate UPDF timber smugglers in the name of "universal justice"? Why should the ICC be a better way of doing justice than mato oput?

The Uganda Governmnent would have long time ago cut a deal with the LRA as it did with a dozen other insurgencies (some, like the UPA, much stronger and popular than the LRA) since 1986 if not for the international aid agencies which were happy to move in and feed the Acholi who had been herded into "protected villages" like "biological substances". These aid agencies were the critical enabler of a counterinsurgency strategy which killed more people than the insurgency itself, traumatized millions of people and left a land grabbing time bomb (who are more dangerous to the people of Northern Uganda at THIS time, the Madhvanis or Kony/Ongwen?).

Why would anyone think that the USSOCOM possesses that extra special "capability" to capture or kill Kony quickly, when it had spent 10 years looking for Osama? Of what value is SIGINT, ELINT, POSS against a force which has all but stopped using radio comms and has zero military infrastructure?

Well-wishing fools can be more dangerous that murderous thugs. Naivety can be a crime, more so than "ignorance" or "indifference".

Anonymous said...

The advocacy and increasing interest toward child soldiers is definitely one of the positives to take away from this. The campaign has caught the attention of all types of people and the conversation is growing! However, advocacy can only take this new interest so far. As various academics, such as Michael Wilkerson and Yale professor Chris Blattman, as well as the Acholi people have identified that the misrepresentation of information and actual call to action through military means is troubling. There is a need for people to connect with these greater issues—but through people who are actually making a difference and are well informed. Here is a list of organizations that I have found who are actually doing great work on the ground, are inclusive of the people who are, and have been, most affected, and, most importantly come from well-informed positions:

Also, check out what Chris Blattman, Michael Wilkerson and the Acholi Times has to say on the issue:

The ICC verdict on Thomas Lubanga is step in the right direction. Lets continue to make this issue loud and make a difference.

Anonymous said...

On awareness raising: who was not aware of the Vietnam war in the US and how much did the awareness help solve anything on the ground? On celebrity activism: How did it help Tibet?

Just some thoughts.........

Anand said...

@Rich - Thanks man. Yes, I have seen the Al Jazeera video regarding the failed screening in Lira. Apparently several other screenings have been cancelled due to extreme negative reaction. Again, for me the faults of the campaign are calls for short sighted to dangerous policy and an overall distraction from larger political issues that allow armed groups to operate in the first place (i.e. fraudulent elections). I am still bothered that the last congressional hearing on the DRC elections devolved into a Kony debate. Here is a video posted on twitter. It features the Invisible Children folks in a dance/comedy number, trying to promote their message in 2006. I think they were going for a self deprecating/ comedic approach, but it certainly didn't resonate with me. I'll let you judge.

Anonymous said...

@Anon March 15 10:06 AM

Sorry but Vietnam/Tibet = Great Lakes crises isn't a proper analogy.

One conflict/issue/campaign was entirely ideological whereas the other is entirely bereft of ideology.

You can essentially boil down nearly every problem in the Great Lakes from the Rwandan Civil war to this current day as the inability (or unwillingness) of elites in the countries of the region to build peaceful, multiethnic, and functioning nation-states. Sure, the end of cold war superpower rivalry helped deepen the problem but let's not confuse things here.

Also, I really don't think anti-war activists in the 60's were concerned about what life was like for a peasant in the rice fields in Vietnam.

Our government had been lying, consistently, to us and was clueless as to how to extricate ourselves from a proxy war.

Again, let's not confuse things here and keep ourselves trained on the goal: capturing and killing Kony.

Finally, what good has all these smart, brilliant, Phd's in African policy done to move the needle on a number of areas as it effects human rights, democracy, and freedom on the continent?

Sorry but I will take Angelina Jolie encouraging her fans to get involved by pressuring their representatives to do so over some "expert" any day.

We need more power to effect change and the weapon of choice cannot be a dissertation from Oxford or Harvard....

Anonymous said...

I wonder what all these critics of IC/Kony 2012 would have thought about the anti-apartheid efforts of students, black Americans, and Hollywood that- over time- helped bring down the Nationalists in South Africa? I remember similar charges of naivety and "oversimplification" then but who had the last laugh? - Marie

Rich said...

Anand -

Many thanks for sharing that video.

I do acknowledge the fact that neutralising Kony will always be a worthwhile endeavour. However, I'm puzzled by the shallowness with which they were attempting to approach such a sad and sensitive issue.


Anand said...

Rich - Yeah, I don't think anyone would argue that neutralizing Kony and disbanding the LRA wouldn't be a good thing. And I understand there are different points of view on what strategies will work. But I agree with your statement. I am puzzled by the dance video too. I guess it is trying for some pop culture appeal, but it is kind of bizarre.

It's too bad that a lot of the KONY 2012 discussion has degenerated into defensive arguing rather than objective debate. There is some productive back and forth out there, but not much. Again, the basic point of social debate (arriving at the truth) has taken a back seat to the perceived objective of debate (winning the argument).

Anonymous said...

I know and respect Ida's sincerity and I commend her work and that of HRW on Eastern Congo. However, if it comes to the Kony clip and the hype around it, it reminds me of a more modern version of "How to write about Africa" ( Maybe facts will prove me wrong but this clip will have no impact and not contribute to a change on the ground. Greetings (+ to be continued).

Anonymous said...

very cool, Mel! i will be in kenya for most of the year starting in april so i will not, unfortunately, be participating in ic's grassroots efforts.

and good to hear from you old gal! how goes you and the hubbie's investments in palm in the congo?

glad to see the "florida granmama" back in the mix on siassa. and good luck with the effort in Tampa.

the way things are going now, its looking like the Republican convention is going to be WAY more volatile than our debates on this blog.


Anonymous said...


the exit of the Nationalists in SA was more related to a number of structural developments within the country than to external pressure-external pressure was more related to geopolitical developments than to pressure of activists-and the impact of activists was more related to the economic boycott than moral arguments

no comparison between Vietnam and the Great Lakes was ever made: the argument was about the possible impacts of the nebulous concept "awareness raising" -may be in some cases it works (in combination with other factors) whereas in others it doesn't. I somehow feel it wont' work for the LRA

Anonymous said...

This Kony garbage is nothing but a misleading fundraising tool for the so called Humanitarians. This is not going to work. joseph Kony is long dead and the LRA is no visible any where in the Great lake region . Good luck to the NGO.

Anonymous said...

Anon March 15th 2012 @ 3:24pm (according to my computer atleast). I am pretty sure that if nearly every major american university that had an endowment of any size that was further asked to divest from companies doing business in SA- among other tactics- pretty much changed the calculus for Nationalists vis a vis the ANC. Did it tip the boat? Was it the deciding factor? Ofcourse not, but to deny that activists here and abroad did not add to the increasing pressure that "geopolitical developments" and "structural changes" within SA is to ignore history.

I'm not of the Vietnam/anti-war generation in America(thank god) but my parents were and nothing, whatsoever, about their activism was about awareness raising in the slightest. They were outraged by the lies emanating from several occupants of the White House(JFK to Nixon), egged on by a far better media than we have today, so there was no need to raise "awareness" because everyone was perfectly aware of what was wrong with the Vietnam War. It was crystal clear.

Most people in my country have no idea about what is going wrong (or well) in Africa. They NEED to become more aware because as citizens of a democracy that has alot of power in the world they need to be enlightened and informed in order to make good decisions about those who seek to lead them. A friend of mine who knows nothing about anything in Africa said to me that after watching Kony 2012 he finally realized how ONE the people of the world are. Why? Because like Jacob, the Ugandan in the film, he too wants to be a lawyer and found it very wrong that Jacob cannot be because now he must take care of his family given what he has suffered. Why are people so afraid of that happening? Why is this so terrible that the world's richest and self indulgent young people ever produced by humanity actually see the humanity of a boy who lives in a far away land? Why is this so offensive to you people?

I think a good deal of the critics of Kony2012 are just cynical and have chips on their shoulders. They need a little hope in their lives, I believe- Marie

Anonymous said...

Since 1996 millions of peoples have lost their life in that Region, and many more are stil dying because of this kind of misleading propaganda that the Rwandan and Ugandan governments with their Humanitarian partners have been spreading all over the western medias to justify and cover up their activities inside the DRC. The international criminal court has just found former war lord THOMAS LUBANGA guilty of war crimes and crimes atgainst it is time for his former bosses(Ugandan MUSEVENI and Rwandan PAUL KAGAME)to join Liberian CHARLES TAYLOR and face justice for the millions of Congoles who have lost their lives and who's blood is in the hands of those two presidens.that region have been destroyed by both KAGAME and MUSEVENI but not the non existent JOSEPH KONY.

Anonymous said...

It is my feeling that the Congolese need to stop blaming others for their plight and do whatever they need to do to right their ship of state. The fact remains that Mobutu was a good a solid friend of Habyarimana til the very end and did nothing when Tutsi's were slaughtered. Then, the Congolese welcomed with open arms Kabila I who rode into town with the help of Rwandans and Ugandans (who assisted primarily because of Mobutu's efforts to destablize their own regimes) and then turned on them. No one likes to be double crossed so Rwandans and Ugandans decided to arm rebels to overthrow Kabila I who then met his own death at the hands of his former soldiers. And now, Kabila II doesn't have the balls to assert his authority in the East because he knows full well Rwanda would defeat his shaky regime. So, wishing not to anger Rwanda, he lets his women and girls be raped day in and day out. Kabila II neither has the courage to stare down the decadent and corrupt political system he leads with its two governments (the parallel one and the "real" one) and transform it because he's afraid if he tried he would get shot by Katangans. So he plays along like all the others but only this time he played too hard and now has a smaller and more volatile "coalition" in Assembly and bigger opposition. He has so angered his current allies (dicator Dos Santos, dictator Mugabe) with is inability to stick to deals that he now cannot call on them for support either.

Congolese must stop blaming the West, Kagame, Museveni, "NGO's", IMF, World Bank, mining companies, the "international community", and everyone for their troubles.

Congolese must blame THEMSELVES, stop "dancing with monsters", and then do what needs to be done to liberate their nation once and for all.

Getting angry and a California filmmaker and his "cause" will not liberate the Congo.

The Congolese people must do that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jose! I was indeed in the Congo for six weeks with my husband and his jack awesome Congolese partners setting up Hope Farm- the name of our palm oil farm. I was rather nice being away from all the gadgets and the sheer beauty, history, and mysticism of Bas Congo province always takes my breathe away.

@Anon March 15, 2012 7:36 PM
Mostly agree with your sentiment and the condensed history of the Congo’s truly god aweful leaders but the stridency of your approach here grates just a bit. Don’t you worry- the Congolese will grab a hold of their destiny in due time.

@ All

Great piece here from a fantastic Congolese expert- Tony Gambino- and a great activist- Lisa Shannon, who founded “A Thousand Sisters”, about Bosco in an editorial in the Grey Lady (The New York Times) on Nick Kristoff’s blog there:
Perhaps Jason, Blaise, Bruno, Rich or others could comment but it is beyond ridiculous that Kabila is so afraid of the consequences of arresting this monster that he simply lets him roam free in Goma. Does Kabila not understand how to build alliances? If the Congo were to, I dunno, enter into a military alliance with Tanzania and Kenya that had at its core some kind of “if one of us is attacked the rest of us attack the attacker” trigger he could arrest Bosco without worrying about a mutiny or Rwanda destabilizing the East right? Rwanda may have no problem-absent such an alliance- retaliating but it would NEVER do so if it meant angering its neighbors who could block its access to foreign markets.

So I guess my question here is the following: why doesn’t Kabila atleast TRY to pursue a policy of containment (as opposed to the current one of detente) with Rwanda so as to finally bring the “troubled east” to keel?

Is it fear of Rwanda?
Are the region’s more (relatively) stable countries simply refusing to deal with him/be drawn into yet another Congo conflict?
Is it because his inner circle profit too handsomely from mining/timber in the East?
Is he too consumed with his clipped powers given the slight majority in the Assembly?
Does he just not care about the east?
It is all of this?
None of this?

I guess I’m trying to understand the logic of keeping Bosco safe and its truly failing me....


Anonymous said...

@ Mel...

Bosco is a key player to stop a war launched by Nkunda.
Most of intellectual Congolese were not happy with Kabila for the deal made between Bosco and Kabila.
Arresting Bosco is more simple to Kagame than Kabila.
Bosco has more than enough, strong and experienced troops to defeat any armed group in the east-not even forgetting FRDC troops.
Kagame has more experience and tactics about both kivu's political atmosphere than even Kabila.
Kagame has two reasons; 1- To control FDLR troops, 2- Natural resources benefits.

If you were in Kabila's shoe, what you could have done?


Rich said...

Mel -

Thanks for your comment. I wanted to quickly say something about the fundamental question you've asked here.

Ref # "...Is it fear of Rwanda...?"

To me this is one of my biggest disappointments with the Kabila regime. Your question is so pertinent because it goes at the heart of some of the blunt abuses of power in DRC that can be traced directly to the head of the state.

My understanding of this issue is that, J Kabila knows well that P kagame can hurt him badly. When I say p kagame I don’t necessarily mean the man but there is also this powerful network of support that has ensured that the Kigali regime stays in place despite its many abuses and enemies. All this to help compensate their inaction and misguided decisions during the sad events of 1994 in rwanda.

J Kabila learned quickly that if Rwanda was able, in complicity with the US and many others, to draw an end to the life of his father (L D Kabila), who was a remarkable warrior who survived Mobutu’s ruthless persecutions and sophisticated assassination attempts for more than 30 years… kagame and his network of support could come after him in the same way they did with his father. In that respect, he had no choice than to accommodate kagame’s ill wills in the region than risk his own life and to some extent that of the DRC and especially eastern DRC. And to be fair, the DRC has no army and let alone an efficient security service …

I can parallel the Bosco Ntaganda situation to the unjust incarceration of the brave Colonel Eddy Kapend et al… because here again everyone knows that L D Kabila was killed through a conspiracy from his ex-allies (mainly Rwanda) with the help of the US intelligence and some Congolese; but because J Kabila doesn’t want any upsets with the Kigali regime he prefers to put innocent people in prison. By doing so, he trying to show the DRC and indeed his family that at least he’s got part of the truth about the assassination of his father and that he has done something about it by putting people in prison… but the truth is by doing so, he deflects attention and the blame from the true murderers of L D Kabila…

I heard some saying that’s an understandable approach since it is not as bad as an open confrontation with Rwanda may have been and that it may help consolidate peace and allow working on state building and especially restructuring the army… but my question is for how long? And what can guaranty that this will hold until the DRC is able to properly look after itself?

Brief, as someone said, Kagame is to J Kabila a kind of noose that holds the hanged person… This is not as easy as it seems because one has to double check that the US, Great Britain etc… would not keep a blind eye on kagame’s unscrupulous behaviour in the region or indeed encourage them; before asking J Kabila to confront kagame head on. In my opinion, if it was not for the international community and its over protective attitude towards rwanda, I have no doubt the Kigali regime would have been a little bit more timid in that region hence allowing other nations like the DRC not to fear rwanda.


Mugwiira said...

What is the difference between Kony and Bosco?

1) Bosco was never isolated from his main constituency (the Banyamulenge).
2) Bosco has access to mineral resources.
3) Bosco is useful to at least one American ally (Kagame).

What is common between them?

1) They are psychopathic killers.


If you are a psycopathic killer you should: 1) build up a strong militia; 2) be useful to American allies.

Anonymous said...

please don't call Bosco's constituency "Banyamulenge". Banyamulenge are Tutsi from South Kivu with a totally different history than Tutsi in North Kivu (some of whom ARE amongst Bosco's constituency) While the FRF (Banyamulenge armed group) maintained some contacts with the CNDP, it was more with the Makenga wing, not with Bosco. Interesting that a number of "insiders" recently told me that Makenga's power is under-estimated (relative to Bosco's).

Anonymous said...

What is the different between George Bush, Bosco and Kony before ICC.

Anonymous said...

I think we should acknowledge that part of the fuzz about this video is related to the fact that Invisible Children is a US outfit. Sorry for the Americans, but the whole track record of US military interventions looks pretty bleak (from Central America in the 80s to Somalia in the 90s to Iraq in the 00s to Afghanistan up to present). I am saying it is necessarily worse than that of other countries, but at least those had also some “successes” (or a better PR machine) like Britain in Sierra Leone, and French involvement in Artemis in Ituri, aside from manifest failures of course (i.e. France in Rwandan genocide). While maybe the world can have faith in US college kids, many people are wary about the US Military (and that is what is at stake here, US military intervention is what is being called for).

A European

Anonymous said...


i think what mel is suggesting is a policy of containing Kagame vis a vis a military alliance with Kenya, Tanzania, or both since they are the strongest economies and militaries in the region and could damage the Rwandan economy if they needed to.

what do you think?


great points but what i like about mel's idea- as idealistic as it may be- is that it says 'to hell with americans' (something, as an american, i could cheer given the duplicity of my government at times) and places more agency in the hands of kabila to finally confront kagame. think about it this way: if kabila had, as defense allies, angola, zimbabwe, kenya, and tanzania kagame's power is effectively clipped.

also, by boxing in kagame, kabila can then finally assert some damn authority out in the east, arrest Bosco (and others), kick out the FDLR, FNL, ADU, LRA (and the other rebels), and finally pacify the east.

now, setting aside whether or not kenya or tanzania would do something like this (my thinking is they would not), this would also force kagame to get serious about real political reform in rwanda. congo's east is alot like the "Palestinian problem" for arab regimes: a convenient way to deflect attention from the lack of freedoms in arab states. well, pacifying and asserting state authority in the east removes the central rationale for RPF rule which means kagame has no choice but to open up political space in rwanda. one could see similar efforts in Burundi and even Uganda.

i realize there are alot of "what if's" here but I'm just not of the opinion that America "needs" Rwanda- which seems to animate alot of folks here. I know, that seems really odd to Congolese intellectuals here but America has no real strategic interests in this region save oil in South Sudan and Angola, a strong Kenya, ensuring genocide in Darfur ends, and eradicating Al Shabaab.

that's it.

if congolese leaders would simply champion american interests in the region more aggressively and do something about corruption i guarantee you are relations with uganda and rwanda would shift.

while i understand the prejudice and skepticism the congolese elite feel towards the Americans given our often tragic and exploitative history, i think it clouds clear reasoning on moving the relationship forward.

i also think that seeing america as "bad" and "in love with Kagame/Museveni" takes away responsibility from the political elite in kinshasa to pacify the east and figuring out a clear strategy to do so.

i think mel is right. detente is not working for the congolese and perhaps now its time to take the genie out of the bottle and move towards containment.

@ anon march 16th 6:21 am
i am completely with you on bringing Dubya to the ICC. problem is mr "hope and change" refuses to charge the former adminstration for torture- primarily because the current one has no problem killing american citizens at will if they are a threat to us and doesn't want to "divide" americans.


Anonymous said...

@ A European

Um, the whole track record? I'd be interested in your thoughts about our efforts with "interventions" like the War of 1812, the Spanish American War, WW1, WW2, the Korean War, Grenada, Haiti, Kosovo, capturing Osama, etc.
I would agree that the world often grimaces at the expression of American military power. Hell, AMERICANS grimace at American military power. But its also true Americans are the first called when a conflagration (military or economic) threatens world stability isn't it?

And therein lies the dilemma.

An American College Kid

Anonymous said...

@ MEL MARCH 15, 2012 10:29 PM

You ask a series of questions about JK:

If fear is the reason for the cowardly attitude of JK towards Rwanda, why not build a strong army even from scratch? Why not make himself (DRC) stronger?
If someone bullies you in the school yard, the reflex is to go and get someone stronger who can protect you. If there is no one to turn to, you can take up Judo, Kung Fu or go to the gym lift weights in order to make yourself stronger and better defend yourself. Why in 11 years of power, has JK failed build a strong army of 20,000 well trained, well equipped, well paid, well motivated Congolese soldiers with an officer corps of smart and patriotic officers? I believe strongly that this is done on purpose to keep the DRC weak. In the Bas Congo, the Equateur or the Katanga, a strong military could have been built in 11 years (a long time) away from the East. These patriotic, disciplined, motivated (to remove both the FDLR and Rwanda’s proxies) and well trained soldiers could have been used to put an end to the misery of the DRC citizens in the North East.

-…”is he too consumed with his clipped powers given the slight majority in the Assembly?..” JK was never held back by his majority in the assembly (it is actually a resonance chamber), he made a deal to bring the Rwandan army to the DRC a few years ago without the approval of his majority in the Assembly. Vital Kamehre at the time his ally and president of the assembly paid the price for his opposition to this move. The Assembly has always been there to pass a bunch of laws to the advantage of JK ( ex: changing the balloting from two to one turn for Last year’s presidential elections). His powers were never clipped given the fact that the parallel government (Katumba Mwanke and Co) was always at work (Chinese contracts….)

- A military alliance with Tanzania or Kenya is not in the interest of these countries as they are also profiting from the mess created by Rwanda in the North East of the DRC.
The ports of Mombassa (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) do great business with Congolese products exported by Rwanda and Uganda. Do not forget that the people in power today in both Rwanda and Uganda came to power with the help of Tanzania. Museveni was installed in power by the army of Tanzania; amongst Museveni soldiers there was one Kagame who rules Rwanda today.

- …” Does he not just not care about the east”… I am one of those who believe that JK is a Trojan horse who is actually doing the bidding for Rwanda, JK was an officer in Kagame’s army together with Kundabatware before the AFDL. In 11 years in power I am yet to see serious actions taken by JK to put an end to the mess in the East, on the contrary most of his actions have contributed to maintaining, reinforcing and expanding Rwanda’s presence and “main mise” in this part of the DRC. It is a sad truth but today, the North East of the DRC is ruled by Rwanda through its proxies the CNDP (Bosco Tangana)and others(corrupt DRC politicians).The DRC deserves a better leader, JK's rule has been a disaster for DRC Nation.


Anonymous said...

Mel raised such an interesting question. And Bismark and Rich's responses were really clarifying. Thanks guys. Just makes me think the status quo is the real enemy of the Congolese and from all sides (Americans, Ugandans, Rwandans, Tanzanians, etc)- Marie

Anonymous said...

I think something that is really important to remember in regards to the IC video is the fact that they are trying to reach the youth, the younger generations. They did just that. They created a video that caught every junior high, high school and college student's attention. The idea was to reach them and get them to become passionate about something while trying to bring justice for the people being affected by Kony. The video may seem shallow or leaving details out or whatever. But the fact is they caught the attention of so many. And now more than every those youth are researching and figuring out what is going on in their world. They are trying to learn and to be responsible for change. And that is an important thing to remember.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rich, Bismark, Marie, and Jose for your comments.

They were all really helpful in helping me understand the often dizzing logic that is the Congo and JK.

As an activist that came to the Congo largely because of the conflict mineral issue, my major goal really is to see an end to the violence. This is my goal and as long as I live I will do whatever I can to achieve it.

Sometimes, to be clear, it seems like such a lost cause.

Trying to encourage my fellow Americans to go beyond what they know seems like an impossible task. I have organized around other, mostly domestic issues, but the Congo and Great Lakes has been a challenge of real and, at times, disappointing proportions.

But it is always good to know and be enlightened by the likes of this blog/Jason, Rich, Blaise, Bruno, Bismark, and others. We activists need your "context" so as to deepen our knowledge of our efforts.

We really need this though, I must admit, at times the criticism of our desire to simply see change pains more than you may know.

We are doing our best to change things. We really are.

But I will soldier on because I believe that it is up to the the American people to pressure our elected representatives to ensure policy towards the region actually reflects my nation's deepest values- vs those of of our corporate sector.

I am committed to this cause and I can't thank all of you enough for educating us activists.


blaise said...

@ Mel,
I'm personally thankful to anybody who is giving voice to those many voiceless in Congo.
To add to those comments about JK fears, I will say that he came a rookie in a war game that was ragging since Leopold tricked his way to control the Congo.
His father LK made three mistakes :
- showed his hands too soon
- dismantled a shaky but still functional army
- made more internal enemies than building a support base.
I think is giving too much credit to JK by thinking he is like a character straight from Robert Ludlum, groom to lead the Hima-tutsti's empire.
I think JK is a survivor. He doesn't take decisions base of some long term plans, in the contrary, he is more in the short term, the immediate gain.
I believe that what we need is a banner-bearer, somebody or an organization that will help focus all the efforts of goodwill people to bring real change for the country.
There is a lot of efforts out there. The biggest problem is that they are not coordinate efficiently and the partner(government) his playing fool games.
We need a game changer. It's unfortunate that the UDPS and allies don't understand that.
The only force to reckon with (catholic church) seems to fight for his own survival as a chuch and doesn't have that drive to defeat this evil.

Mugwiira said...

@ Anonymous March 16, 2012 4:18 AM - you are apparently right, thanks for the correction.

Anonymous said...

I believe the key to change is finding something all congolese can unite around- and that includes kabila's supporters (which he has quite a bit of). Like many of opposition in Africa, the uniting force for opposition in Congo is "no more Kabila". Well, for many Congolese, that is not enough. Congolese want stability after so much war and pain. Kabila, to them, means stability. So, to get broad support, there must be efforts to unite the Congolese around some common concern and encourage them to act on this in every place in the country. This will bring change but who? What is this common thing?- Marie

blaise said...

That's an excellent question but the answer may be elusive. I think everybody agreed that we were united to kick the RCD coalition out. But now, with all those hope fading away,I don't think people have the stomach to rally behind an idea.
Maybe if we sold them a dream and a group of people are taking concrete and coordinate actions around the country, it will create that coalition.

Unknown said...

In this fast-paced world connected by technological advancement in communication, the World Wide Web has been the greatest tool in getting information across the world. Going online in pursuing college degrees could offer amazing benefits and advantages for many people compared to the conventional way. Visit good website for the details.

Post a Comment