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EITI report shows the peak of the iceberg

March 26, 2010

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI, recently published its first report on the DRC. According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, who audited the figures, there were discrepancies amounting to $75 million within the oil sector. That´s not a surprise for anyone who knows the degrees of corruption ravaging Congolese society (it rather looks like a low figure to me – by the way, after the crisis we have learned that PWC may be as trustworthy as an average Congolese minister).

“In some cases companies said they paid more than an individual agency said it received and in some cases agencies received more than companies paid”, says the dispatch. This messy sentence helps us imagine the size of the mess the EITI  report copes with. Congolese politicians asking a higher and higher percentage under the table… while their fellow citizens live in misery. Of course, not only politicians but foreign companies are to be blamed. “If I refuse to bribe him, my rival company will” is generally one of the thoughts feeding bad governance.

The problem of corruption in the DRC is sociological, strongly rooted, and it will need decades to be erradicated. I loved this sentence in a report on mining in the DRC released by LSE last year:

Generations of mismanagement and the arbitrary use of state power for personal or communal gain have left deep scars on Congolese society and a particular individualistic logic to economic and political relations.

That´s it.

If everyone around you steals (or “moves things from one place to another” as Mobutu said),  avoiding doing it is not decent, but something close to heroic. Fortunately, there are heroes in the DRC, like anywhere else in the world, and they are reasons for hope.

To read the EITI report, click here.

Kris Berwout´s article on the situation in Rwanda (in French)

March 24, 2010

“Une grande partie de l’importance du Congo pour le Rwanda se trouve bien sûr dans le passage du trafic illégal des ressources du Congo par le Rwanda. Ce trafic se passait en dehors du contrôle de l’Etat congolais (en toute évidence), mais pour une bonne partie aussi en dehors du contrôle de l’Etat rwandais, même s’il servait les intérêts des personnes-clés dans le paysage politico-militaire du Rwanda. Ces intérêts affairistes peuvent être divergents et ne contribuent pas toujours à la cohésion du pouvoir non plus. C’est partiellement en fonction de ceci qu’on doit comprendre la nervosité autour de l’obligation actuelle des dirigeants rwandais de présenter de façon transparente leurs possessions et leurs revenus”.

Read more here.

Thoughts on Global Witness´press release

March 14, 2010

I find Global Witness´recent press release very revealing. In retrospective,  it helps me understand what has been going on in the Kivus since January last year.

As those who follow the situation in the Kivus will remember, by October 2008 the CNDP controlled large parts of the Kivus and advanced towards Goma in full speed.  No one  -FARDC, peacekeepers- could stop them. We evacuated Goma (I had just arrived at the time). Surprisingly, thanks to political pressure, Goma did not fall in the hands of the CNDP.

The situation was extremely tense.

Nkunda had made too much noise -Rwanda was not happy at all about this- and North Kivu was again in the news, so the International Community had to prove that it was doing something about it. David Milliband and Bernard Kouchner came to Goma. They said a lot of words, and they left.  A coalition of NGOs asked the European Commission for a deployment of troops, as they understood (and they were right) that this was the only way to stop violence against civilians. The EU refused and showed zero political will towards this possibility.

A few months later, in January, the UN released a very well documented report, proving that Rwandan authorities had been complicit in recruiting soldiers, including children, had facilitated the supply of military equipment, and had sent their own officers and units to the DRC to support the CNDP.

The report simply put on a piece of paper what was well known by everyone in the Kivus. This time, however, it was official. No one could say anymore that it was an opinion. This triggered a chain of diplomatic reactions. Sweden first, then The Netherlands, froze their financial aid to Kagame´s regime. Criticism against Rwanda rose. Even The Economist criticized Rwanda.

Paul Kagame understood that the image of his regime was deteriorating and reacted. But no one could expect what was going to happen.

To the astonishment of all experts, the political situation turned 180º.  We were told that several meetings had taken place between some of the highest representatives in both Rwanda (James Kababere) and the DRC (John Numbi). The conversations were so secret that MPs in the DRC complained about it (not in the same way in Rwanda, as the quality of democracy in that country is well known). The results seemed outstanding:

-CNDP and PARECO abandoned fighting.

-Nkunda was arrested (by Rwanda!)

-And Rwanda and the DRC joined forces in a military operation, Umoja Wetu (“Our Unity”), to put an end to the FDLR in the Kivus.

Rwanda was sending this message to the international community: “I have listened to you. I will prove you that we are a serious country. We want dialogue with the DRC. And we both, DRC and Rwanda, will work together to put and end to the FDLR”.

Umoja Wetu was followed by Kymia I and II. The operations were a disaster from a humanitarian point of view. In many cases, the FDLR returned to the areas they controlled before their retreat and retaliated against civilians for their collaboration. Human rights violations by FARDC forces were so horrendous that MONUC had to react and warn FARDC that cooperation with them would continue on the basis of respect to human rights (now, the government of Congo urges MONUC to leave by mid 2011).

CNDP was supposed to dissolve and integrate in the new army. However, when I left Goma, in September 2009, it was already clear that this was not happening at all and that a parallel CNDP chain of command was becoming stronger.

Now, Global Witness says:

“Former rebels from the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) have established mafia-style extortion rackets covering some of the most lucrative tin and tantalum mining areas in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (…).

The ex-CNDP rebels, who joined the national army in a chaotic integration process during 2009, have taken advantage of UN-backed government offensives aimed at displacing the FDLR militia from profitable mine sites. They have gained far greater control of mining areas than they ever enjoyed as insurgents, and in many cases have retained their old command structures and political agenda”.

In retrospective:

I read what has happened in North Kivu as a new masterpiece chapter of Rwanda´s long dated parasitic economic policy towards the DRC. Rwanda has theatrically managed to show commitment towards ending the conflict, while… the situation on the field proves exactly the contrary: CNDP remains in control of many key areas and has even gained control of areas formerly controlled by FDLR.

Maquiaveli would not have done better.

From a personal point of view, I find this very sad. I have had the opportunity to meet many IDPs in Goma. Men, women, teenagers. I spent a lot of time in the camps. They just want peace at home and the end of impunity. However, for the Rwanda regime and for everyone involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC, these men, women and children are human waste.

Unfortunately, Rwanda is also a parasite for Congo because thousands of Congolese let this happen. For them, their fellow Congolese matter less than the minerals they trade with.

I heard once a pastor in Goma said: “Some houses in Goma are being built on blood”.

As greed keeps on fueling this conflict, and there are no lucrative alternatives in the horizon, the horror of innocent victims suffering in silence will go on.

New website: Fishing in troubled waters

March 1, 2010

I have just released a new website on the situation of IDPs in North Kivu. The new website, “Pescando en río revuelto”, (“fishing in troubled waters”) is available in Spanish. The English version will come soon.

To visit the site, click  here.

OCHA: 1.06 million displaced persons in North Kivu

August 5, 2009

“The humanitarian situation in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo has deteriorated dramatically in the last months. In South Kivu, an estimated 536,880 people are currently displaced from their homes. There is a continuous rise of the number of displaced in areas such as Kalehe territory (on the border with North Kivu), Kabare territory and Shabunda territory. Some displacements are caused by FARDC-RDF joint operations in North Kivu while others are caused by FARDC-MONUC operations (or Kimia II) launched in South Kivu. Since the launch of the military campaigns about six months ago, an estimated total of more than 1.5 million people have been displaced in North and South Kivu provinces and the total number of IDPs in the country currently stands at 2 millions”.

Download the full report here.

NYT: Male rape victims

August 5, 2009

“I understand the world feels guilty about what happened in Rwanda in 1994,” said Denis Mukwege, the lead doctor at Panzi Hospital, referring to Rwanda’s genocide. “But shouldn’t the world feel guilty about what’s happening in Congo today?”

Lax

July 28, 2009

Lax (adjective): lacking care, attention or control; not severe or strong enough:
He took a gun through baggage control to highlight the lax security.
The subcommittee contends that the authorities were lax in investigating most of the cases.

(Cambridge English Dictionary)

Lizzie Parsons uses this word in her last post at The Huffington Post:

For too long, companies, and governments of countries where they are based, have played a game of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil. They have chosen to ignore the blatant links between their trade and the atrocities in eastern DRC, allowing commercial interests to override the most basic human rights. It is time to challenge these attitudes and to start holding these companies to account.

Read more here.

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