Saturday, April 27, 2013

DR Congo: Appointed.

The BBC reports

Brazil's Santos Cruz to head UN's DR Congo mission

The UN has appointed a Brazilian general credited with bringing a Haiti slum under control to lead peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gen Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz will lead 20,000 troops, including a new combat force charged with targeting rebels in the east of the country.
This is the most offensive mandate given to any UN peacekeeping force.
Gen Santos Cruz told the BBC his troops would be trained to consider civilians and private property in DR Congo.
"The most critical area is nowadays the eastern part of the country," he told the BBC's Newsday programme.
"I am ready to face the most difficult of scenarios. The main objective is to relieve the suffering of the people."
Gen Santos Cruz will be in charge of a new 2,500-strong brigade tasked with "neutralising and disarming" armed groups which have ravaged eastern DR Congo for the past two decades.
The most recent uprising, by the M23 rebels, began in 2012 and has led some 800,000 people to flee their homes in the mineral-rich region.
Both neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda have denied UN charges that they are supporting the M23.
The UN peacekeeping force in DR Congo, known as Monusco, has been widely criticised as ineffective.
Troops from Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa are likely to form the bulk of the new brigade, which is expected to be deployed by July.
Gen Santos Cruz is a retired former force commander of the Haiti mission, and is credited with dismantling criminal gangs in Haiti in 2007.
UN peacekeeping forces battled for more than a year to regain control of the large Cite Soleil slum in Port au Prince from the gangs.

I guess good luck about covers it at this point.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Africa: Urbanisation. The way forward ?

New Times ( Rwanda ) reports

Urbanisation helps curb poverty, says World Bank

                                                                                         Chicken traders

THE U.N.’s ambitious global effort -- the Millennium Development Goals -- ends in two years. The program was designed to curb poverty and promote education, health and gender equality. The World Bank says many of the countries that have made the most progress so far have an important factor working in their favor: urbanization. The conclusion was part of the bank’s recent Global Monitoring Report 2013. 

I suspect that a greater factor would be sustainable economic growth.

It says countries and regions with a high rate of urbanization lead in the effort to reach their Millennium Development Goals (or MDG’s). For example, countries with large population centers in East Asia, like China, have made significant progress in reducing poverty.

Lagging behind is sub-Saharan Africa, where about 70 percent of the population still lives in rural areas.

This actually seems to be a bit of a simple take on the issue. I am far from convinced that greater urbanisation in Africa will alleviate poverty. It will probably have the predictable outcome of bring poverty to cities and I can't see how that really benefits anyone. 

    Phnom Penh

                                                                     Downtown Seoul 

Figures reflect the disparity between cities and the countryside: The World Bank says urban infant mortality rates are up to nine percentage points lower than rural areas in Central Asia and Latin America. By comparison, the gap is as wide as 21 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is hard to argue with figures but as Jos Verbeek points out ( below ) the reasons are fairly obvious. Mainly to do with economic growth and services delivery. Those reasons do not strike me as a great argument for Africa to embark on a huge urbanisation programme. 

Jos Verbeek, the lead economist of the Global Monitoring Report 2013, says there are many reasons why urban areas are quicker to make social progress.

“[Cities],” he says, “are centers of economic activity, growth and job creation; consequently, poverty is significantly lower in urban centers than in rural areas.”

For example, globally poverty in rural areas stands at about 29.5 percent, while it’s only 11.5 percent in urban areas. In Africa, rural poverty is about 47 percent versus 33 percent in urban areas.

He says urban areas are also better at service delivery…. For example, access to sanitation [such as toilets] is about 80 percent in urban areas and about 50 percent in rural ones. In Africa, about 40 percent of the population in urban areas have access to a toilet, while only half that amount have access in rural areas.

Verbeek says cities also benefit from greater density, or economies of scale, which makes it easier to extend social services like health,  education, electricity and water.

For example, he says it’s cheaper to extend pipes for water and sanitation from the city network to new settlements on the periphery than it is to run pipes tens or hundreds of kilometers to rural areas.  

While urbanization can greatly facilitate economic and social progress, Verbeek warns that unchecked city growth can quickly lead to slums. He says governments should use urban planning, including policies that increase the transparency of buying and selling land.

“If you are not property registered as a citizen of an urban area, “ he says, “you often don’t have access to government services. You might get turned away at a public health clinic in an urban area because you cannot prove residency, and that is a big issue for many people who end up in slums.”

“The other is thing,” he continued, “is uncertainly about where you are living. If there is uncertainty [over land ownership], then public providers will not come in and extend water pipes into the slums --  because no one knows for sure if the slums will still be there a year from now. Government might [decide to] empty them out, which in certain countries has happened in the past.

In both cities and rural areas, a major factor in improving health and social services is financing.  World Bank officials encourage countries with oil and minerals to use revenues from those resources to finance health and education systems. 

"...In both cities and rural areas, a major factor in improving health and social services is financing..." 

Well what a surprise. Not.

At the recent World Bank and IMF Spring meetings, African policymakers debated how best to fund social services. Some favored greater state support and financing of health and education systems, while others preferred a combination of public and private financing.

Uganda’s minister of finance,  Maria Kiwanuka, explains her government’s policy:

“We have a finite resource of oil,” she says, “We are not Nigeria, or Venezuela and certainly not Saudi Arabia. So our oil will run for a certain amount of time and then run out. Then what? We must make sure our investments are sustainable and increasing so we can pay an increasing amount of our share of the health and education budget. Our budget for health has been growing ever year. If we use the oil for health immunizations, medicines and salaries, then what about next year and the year after?

I would hope that Uganda"s oil wealth and revenue might last a bit longer than just one year. However  Rosebell  Kagumire points out.

" First of all President Museveni handed over this sack of money days after he launched the so-called Vision2040 that’s supposed to turn Uganda into a middle-income country. I don’t know any country that ever jumped into a middle-income country by having a president distribute money in sacks to citizens."
Kiwanuka says the Ugandan government spends up to 10 percent of its budget on health and up to 15% on education.  She says it prefers to spend its oil revenues on improving irrigation, electricity and other infrastructure in rural areas. She says that will allow rural people to make more money and contribute to the health care system. She says there are trade-offs.

The pie chart below details New Zealand expenditure and the health and education percentages seem to be roughly similar. A bit higher on health and lower on education. That differences are probably due to demographics. NZ has an aging population Uganda has the second youngest population in the world. Africa"s demographics are worth a look at. 

“So for health,” she says, “we’ve said rather than emphasizing quick access to health care – let’s say a health unit within 15 minutes of every habitation -- we’ve said, what if you have to walk a little bit longer, but then when you get to that health care center, it’s actually stocked with drugs and health personnel to look after you, rather than have clinic around the corner that doesn’t have any supplies?”

Well maybe. Sounds like bullshit to me though.

Kiwanuka says people are willing to pay to go to traditional doctors and herbalists because they believe in them. She says if they have faith in the government health care system, they should be willing to pay for its services as well.

Presumably having no faith in them would mean that they would be free. There's a thought.

Jos Verbeek says there are many different ways to fund health and social services and curb poverty. The important thing, he says, is that resources be available – either directly or indirectly – to improve the health and education of rural people.  He says it will help improve their job skills and make their transition easier, if they decide to migrate to a city.

Taxation is the usual way.

DR Congo: The eyes of the World are watching now.

Reporters Without Borders reports


                                          Radio Sauti ya Rutchuru, 

Reporters Without Borders is very worried by radio journalist Blaise Bahisha’s detention for the past eight days in Goma, the capital of the eastern province of Nord-Kivu. Bahisha was until recently the manager of Radio Sauti ya Rutchuru, a community radio station in Rutchuru, 70 km north of Goma.
Ten days ( now ) is bloody ridiculous. He is accused of spying for M23 in M23 controlled territory. What's interesting is the confidence of the authorities, I suspect that Blaise Bahisha's captivity is more about sending a message to M23. That  however, the Congolese government is behind this appalling assault on Human Rights comes as no surprise.      
The national police arrested Bahisha on 17 April and handed him over to Nord-Kivu’s military court a few days later. He is accused of spying for the M23 rebels and “participating in an insurrectional movement.”
It would appear that the Congolese National Police are useless, In fact more useless than FARDC ( The Congolese Army ) if that is possible.
“The paranoia of the Congolese security forces is the sole reason for Bahisha’s arrest,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He is innocent. There are no grounds for thinking he was an M23 spy. On the contrary, he fled the town of Rutchuru to escape the pressure that the rebels were putting on him and his radio station.
                                                                            Radio Sauti ya Rutchuru, 
“His arrest and the charges brought against him are grotesque and unjust, and have just contributed to the already difficult situation in which he founds himself. We urge the Nord-Kivu military court to release him without delay.”
I agree that this is " grotesque and unjust ". This is not about paranoia though it is about power. FARDC kill, rape and rob without restraint in the Eastern DR Congo. Why would they give a toss about the civil and human rights of Bahisha ? The reality here is that the regime of  Joseph Kabila has once again proved it is unfit to govern the DR Congo.
According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders from its partner organisation Journalist in danger and several local sources, Bahisha fled to Goma on 30 March after M23 members threatened him in Rutchuru. The town’s rebel-backed administrator, Benjamin M’Ponimpa, replaced him as the station’s manager because of his reluctance to broadcast M23’s anti-government propaganda.
This is not confirmed as far as I can see but it sounds a hell of a lot more plausible than the jacked up spying allegations. Ironically I suspect Bahisha would now be more than happy to disseminate any anti government information he can lay his hands on. 
Bahisha was charged with “spying and gravely endangering state security” on 23 April. The authorities say he was found in possession of a computer that had been stolen by the M23 rebels. He has been asked to pay the sum of 1,000 dollars (800 euros).
"...spying and gravely endangering state security...."  Something that the current Kinshasa regime do on a daily basis and far worse. As for the computer stupidity the less said the better. What does ring true is the attempted extortion. It is hard to get reliable income data for the DR Congo but the CIA puts the average income per year over the last 12 years at $ 300 US. That is probably on the low side. Never underestimate the greed and corruption of officials.  
When reached by Reporters Without Borders, the Nord-Kivu military court’s prosecutor said: “If the charges against him are not established, I will order his immediate release. If they are, we will recommend granting him a provisional release.”
It would have been nice to have the name of the military court’s prosecutor. One hopes he will do his job and dismiss the charges for the fabrication they so obviously are.
He added: “We are in the process of working calmly on this case, with his lawyers. I am awaiting instructions from Kinshasa. I think he could be released by Saturday (27 April).”
The eyes of the world are watching Goma. Something the fools of Kinshasa would do well to consider. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Zealand: Death's Bitter Trade.


                                                             "Children's Crusade"

Young men, soldiers, Nineteen Fourteen
Marching through countries they'd never seen
Virgins with rifles, a game of charades
All for a Children's Crusade

Pawns in the game are not victims of chance
Strewn on the fields of Belgium and France
Poppies for young men, death's bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed

Corpulent generals safe behind lines
History's lessons drowned in red wine
Poppies for young men, death's bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a Children's Crusade

Midnight in Soho, Nineteen Eighty-four
Fixing in doorways, opium slaves
Poppies for young men, such bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a Children's Crusade


             New Zealand and Conkbayiri Atatürk Memorials on Chunuk Bair

Thursday, April 18, 2013

DR Congo: M23 have a few more problems now.

The Daily Maverick ( South Africa ) reports,

SA fighting M23: What’s at stake?

The Congolese rebel group has continued to warn of dire consequences if they are attacked by the newly-assembled United Nations intervention brigade. And if South African troops are indeed part of such an attack on M23, there could be hell to pay. By KHADIJA PATEL.

On Sunday, Congolese rebel group M23 announced that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had set up base in Muningi, some 5km from the eastern city of Goma and a trifling 100m from M23 positions. “Any time something bad can happen,” the group warned on Twitter, adding that they would re-invade Goma within two hours of a SANDF attack on their positions.

I wouldn't imagine the South African forces will do anything further at this point. The reality is that until the African Brigade forms up we are in the typical military posture of hurry up and wait.

While some point out that when the group took Goma last November, purportedly with the full backing of Rwanda and Uganda, they never paused to tweet threats. They just went along and occupied Goma without too much bother, issuing a warning to the Joseph Kabila’s government in Kinshasa and the rest of the region as well.

The reality was I contend very different. They occupied Goma without to much bother because nobody could actually be bothered stopping them. One would hope the situation has changed on the ground at Goma at the moment.

Ten days after occupying the city, M23 withdrew from Goma on December 1 2012, with little explanation, leaving behind a trail of destruction and woe. The Congolese Red Cross counted at least 90 bodies in and around Goma and the Rutshuru territory, to the city’s north, after the withdrawal was completed.

I would be prepared to bet many of the bodies discovered were nothing to do with M23. The really badly behaved force was the FARDC the Congolese Army.

After the rebels left, the Congolese government asserted a semblance of control over the city, while M23 lurk on the outskirts, mulling their options in negotiations with the Congolese government in Uganda.

A few months later, M23's Bosco Ntganda is at The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity. But no one has claimed responsibility, or offered compensation to those caught in middle of the conflict. The focus of diplomatic efforts has been on stamping out the threat of M23 on Joseph Kabila’s government.

I think that in a situation like this it is logical to go after those with the deepest pockets and that means that the compensation owed to those murdered, robbed and raped should be addressed to the UN. This whole bloody debacle can be laid at the feet of the to date worse than worse than useless MONUSCO.   If they won't do the job they might as well go home.

The talks have been fraught with breakdowns as both sides refuse to compromise their positions.

The reality is M23 have already lost they are just refusing to face that fact yet.

On 28 March, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2098, which authorises three infantry battalions, one artillery and one Special Forces Company to be headquartered in Goma. The resolution “strongly condemns the continued presence of the M23 in the immediate vicinity of Goma and its attempts to establish an illegitimate parallel administration in North Kivu.”
but it’s not M23 alone that the UN resolution has named.

The text of the resolution targets the “increased activity of other armed groups, including the Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain (APCLS) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu, the Mayi-Mayi Gedeon and the Mayi-Mayi Kata-katanga in Katanga Province, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Orientale Province”.

The eastern region of the DRC has long been the site of an unseemly tug-of-war between the state and rebel militia.

The situation for the UN is really quite simple. You have beefed up forces a new workable mandate. Get it right or get out. 

So while M23 is the most immediate target of the UN intervention brigade, combat in the region may prove to be more complex than a simple fight for territory between the UN and one group of rebels. There are at least a dozen rebel groups operating in the eastern DRC, all of whom could come into play in some way against the intervention brigade.

Hopefully they will not choose to come into play but if they do so they may find they are in play as targets. 

Indifference met the announcement in January of South Africa’s readiness to contribute troops to the United Nations brigade to combat rebel groups in the DRC. Certainly at the time it appeared to be the newest extension of an ambitious foreign policy with little impact on life at home. For all the championing of African solutions for African problems, the troubles of the rest of the region, never mind the continent, are often too far removed from the South African everyday to inspire more than a passing interest in the latest episode of an old conflict.

The events in CAR last month reminded South Africans that the deployment of South African troops risks the lives of South African troops – and the minister of defence has said that casualties suffered by the SANDF in combat are the collective responsibility of the South African population.

“We as a country fully take responsibility for the death of your children. But we don’t regret sending them,” Mapisa-Nqakula said last month to the bereaved families of soldiers who had died in Bangui. “Painful as it may be, know that your children died fighting. I say this in all sincerity, without any arrogance.”

She stressed then that the losses incurred by the SANDF in CAR would not be a deterrent to future deployments.

And despite warnings of a massacre from M23, the SANDF has not been cowed from its deployment to the DRC.

The situation in CAR was quite different to the current situation in the DR Congo. The South African troops won at a high price the firefight with CAR rebels and it seems likely that the rebels were backed by real troops probably from Chad. M23 is no where near the force it was due to infighting. The South Africans are deployed as part of the African Brigade not as primarily South African troops attempting to impose a South African hegemony. 

“The SANDF and its members are not going to be scared by anything. We vowed and took oaths to serve the country even if there’s a need for us to die. Whatever task the government gives us will be taken with high morale and high spirits,” SANDF spokesperson Xolani Mabanga said last week.

As with CAR, however, South Africa’s willingness to offer military help in the DRC has prompted speculation of a more dubious intent behind the SANDF’s latest mission in the eastern Congo. 

Suspicion surrounding South Africa’s involvement in the DRC is not new. It is, after all, through its peace-brokering efforts that South Africa was able to brand itself as an African peacemaker. South Africa invested heavily in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue held at Sun City in February 2002, but this mediation effort was suspected to have been coloured by self-interest. South Africa has contributed peacekeeping troops, committed to the development of the DRC’s public sector, and invested millions of rands and years of diplomacy to bring stability to the DRC - the R126 million spent to assist the DRC with its election in 2011 is one such example.

This particular interest in the DRC has long been suspected of being a guise for securing lucrative opportunities for South African businesses.

In 2010, President Kabila set off a legal dispute between a leading European oil firm and Khulubuse Zuma, after he awarded two exploration blocks to companies owned by President Jacob Zuma’s nephew. Kabila’s government had previously allocated exploration rights to Irish oil major Tullow and South Africa's Divine Inspiration Group.

While Khulubuse has shrugged off suggestions Zuma was personally involved in the “smash and grab”, South African diplomacy in the DRC does certainly aid such deals.

A core tenet of South Africa’s foreign policy is to open African markets for South African goods and services. In the DRC, South Africa has fared very well in this regard. Two-way trade between South Africa and the DRC was R7.8 billion in 2011, up from R6.2 billion in 2010 and R4.8 billion in 2009.

Those numbers, however, may stand for nothing in the coming months when South African troops face off rebels in the eastern Congo. And a South African-steered attack on the rebels may be especially costly.

The next few weeks will be interesting to say the least.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mental Health Break: Kelly on The Don.

DR Congo: The rapists of Minova.

The Guardian reports

Congo: We did whatever we wanted, says soldier who raped 53 women

Congo: an army sergeant who says he was ordered to rape by his commanding officer. Photograph: Fiona Lloyd-Davies

In a small house on a hill overlooking Lake Kivu, a young Congolese soldier recounts the crimes he and his comrades committed in Minova a few months ago. "Twenty-five of us gathered together and said we should rape 10 women each, and we did it," he said. "I've raped 53 women. And children of five or six years old.
Any reader of this blog will be well aware of the contempt that I hold for the Congolese Army. FARDC are sometimes portrayed as the solution to instability in the Eastern DR Congo. They aren't they are very much part of the problem.
"I didn't rape because I am angry, but because it gave us a lot of pleasure," says 22-year-old Mateso (not his real name). "When we arrived here we met a lot of women. We could do whatever we wanted."
The history of rape as a war crime is quite extensive David J. Scheffer ( Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues 1999 ) points out,
" Specifically defined prohibitions against rape evolved against the backdrop of its all too frequent use as a weapon of war. Despite the fact that the prohibition against rape was not specifically identified, what many consider to be the first recorded international criminal tribunal, held in 1474, convicted Peter von Hagenbach and ordered his execution on a number of offenses which included rape."
I personally would lose exactly no sleep what so ever if 22-year-old Mateso (not his real name) was allowed to indulge in some more " pleasure " namely his summary execution. There is ample precedent it would seem.
As William Hague unveiled a sexual violence prevention strategy at a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in London this week, what happened in Minova is a stark reminder of the huge challenges facing those seeking to solve the problem of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo .
Yeah well  the Angelina Jolie, Foreign Secretary William Hague circus sure as hell does not inspire any confidence in me that there is any sensible solution being developed at an international level.

Take a fucking look. The world doesn't give a toss about the issue. All the world cares about the  engagement ring. Jesus wept.
On 22 November last year thousands of exhausted, battered and bruised Congolese army troops descended on the town having just lost a battle with the rebel M23 fighters in Goma, the main city in eastern Congo some 30 miles away.
I can't believe I am reading this bullshit. FARDC never fucking fought, they ran away. They looted Goma for three days until the M23 rebels started to arrive then  and only then did they piss of south to Minova to indulge in yet more theft and of course rape.

Their retreat was haphazard and chaotic. The soldiers were embarrassed, angry, upset and out of control; their commanders had disappeared and the battalion and regiment structures had disintegrated.

Again I would dispute this. They managed to organise the retreat so they stayed out of harms way and didn't engage the M23 rebels. I saw some initial evidence of actual armed clashes. Then it stopped and FARDC got down to its real business of rape and robbery before the M23 rebels could get themselves organised. That was what the battle for Goma was about. By that standard FARDC won they robed and raped far more. M23 actually was forced to take the extraordinary step of outlawing robbery  mainly because there was nothing left to nick.

When they arrived in Minova they were drunk, hungry and violent. The locals suffered two nightmarish days of looting, rape and murder before the army restored some discipline among its troops.

" Drunk, hungry and violent " sums up FARDC. One wonders with this standard of professional conduct how the Africa Brigade that is tasked to cooperate with FARDC will fare. I suspect that they will largely operate autonomously rather than run the risk of discreditably that close association with FARDC will inevitably entail.

Hundreds of women were raped. It is impossible to accurately state the number of cases as victims often fail to come forward, fearing that their communities and even their husbands will reject them, but hospital director Dr Ghislain Kassongo said he dealt with well over 100 women with rape-related injuries after the army rampage.

At a rape victim refuge centre a couple of miles from Minova, Nzigire Chibalonza, 60, tells what happened when the soldiers came to her shop. "They beat us and beat us, and then they started to rape. Three men raped me – two from the front and one from behind," she says, tears welling in her eyes as she nervously grabs and twists fistfuls of her dress.
"My head is still not right. I thought I had Aids, and now my husband mocks me. He calls me the wife of a soldier, he has rejected me," she says.

Whilst one can clearly not hold MONUSCO responsible for the actual rapes they are and should be accountable for allowing the situation to develop where this was possible. After the Congolese Army ( FARDC ) it is the UN who I blame and the reality is the actions ( or rather inaction ) of these UN soldiers was a cause of the rapes. In my opinion legal action should be taken against the UN and compensation should be awarded. We owe the rape victims of the Eastern DR Congo this as citizens of the world. In a very real sense the MONUSCO are our representatives thus we are liable.  

The refuge centre, set up and run by a woman who was herself a multiple rape victim, is the only place she has to go. It is home to a traumatised but resilient community of women who work and care for each other. One of the victims who spoke to the Guardian there was just 14.
The scale of criminality in Minova has forced the army to take action. Military prosecutors in North and South Kivu provinces – Minova is right on the border between them – have made powerful statements, even threatening to arrest the officers who failed to control their troops.

That sounds like bullshit to me. As far as I can see nothing has been done by the Congolese authorities or the UN. 

I blogged March 8 2013 on this issue including on this statement.
" Unless swift legal action was taken against the accused soldiers before the end of March, the UN said it would stop working with their brigades."
It is of course the end of March and nothing has happened other than a further deadline has been given to Kinshasa to ignore..

"There have been a lot of troubles here. The soldiers are traumatised by war and so commit serious acts and crimes," said Mokuta Amdondo, the North Kivu military prosecutor. "This is where military justice is of the utmost importance. We have not hesitated to put in place the processes to arrest the soldiers who have raped and pillaged the civilian population in Minova.
"If [the victims] are unable to identify the soldiers who committed the crimes, then we'll apply the hierarchy principle: the commanders of the units must be pursued for these incredibly serious crimes committed by soldiers under their control."
Observers hope a successful investigation can make Minova a watershed moment in the construction of a functioning justice system in eastern Congo. "Minova is at the centre of something, as far as justice is concerned in the DRC," says Charles Guy Makongo of the American Bar Association in Goma. "That the investigation is already ongoing is good. But the trials and certainly the convictions will change several things in the justice sector, in the fight against impunity and the process of building the rule of law in the DRC."

I am not holding my breath.

To date there have been few concrete developments. Military justice personnel told the Guardian they did not want to be involved in the case if it would lead to charges against officers, as they feared a backlash from powerful army figures. So far only three soldiers have been arrested – a sub-lieutenant, a corporal and a South Kivu-based soldier of no rank.
"If justice is done, this might stop the soldiers raping," says Chibalonza. "I will go wherever I need to go to in order to testify against these men because what they did to me was so awful. If they are punished I do feel justice will have been delivered."
Until significant arrests are made, however the women of Minova remain sceptical that justice will be done or that impunity will end. "The government says it will arrest these soldiers and officers," says the head of the victim refuge centre, who wishes to remain anonymous. "They may arrest some, but then later they will just set them free again." Unfortunately it is the gloomy predictions of the sceptics that have so far proved correct.

Well worth a read on the subject from a media reporting perspective is Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rwanda: Visit and screw human rights.

New Times ( Rwanda ) Sunday Times   

Come visit Rwanda, not just for the fun

Allen Brian Ssenyonga opines

                                                                  Allen Brian Ssenyonga

First of all, let me start by pointing out that I have not received a cheque from Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to promote tourism in Rwanda much as I would not refuse it if it came my way.
I think Allen would have a better claim for a cheque if the article had been run in The London Times, New York Times or even in Dunedin's Otago Daily Times rather than the Rwandan State controlled New Times.
But this actually gives me a chance to prove that RDB should not be the only government body in Rwanda charged with convincing foreigners to come and visit Rwanda. Yes, I know a lot of money has been spent trying to get people to think of the endangered mountain gorillas each time Rwanda is mentioned.
I have absolutely no idea how much the RDB has spent but I don't think of Rwanda as synonymous  with mountain gorillas. There would be many I suspect with an interest in the East African Gorilla population that are regularly hitting the Virunga National Park website and blog. That must surely count as an epic fail on the part of Rwanda and the RDB.

But you see, that branding came from the previous government where Rwanda was synonymous with the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This being the 19th year since that gruesome episode in Rwanda’s history, a lot has since changed and anyone thinking of Rwanda only through the Genocide lens is nothing but ignorant. 
Ignorant we may be but I for one look at Rwanda not so much through a genocide lens but through the lens of a bloody dictatorship overlayed with a  thin veneer of legality designed to convince the world that country is not the dictatorship it so obviously is. 
These days when you step out of Rwanda you are most likely to be asked about many other things besides the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis. People now know about Rwanda’s massive steps in the field of ICT, good governance, functioning state institutions, zero tolerance to corruption, impressive road network and many other things. 

Yes. Many would like to ask about Rwandas on going bad behaviour in the the eastern DR Congo ? Why on earth the government of Rwanda continually lies about its involvement when the evidence against it is overwhelming and conclusive ? The simple truth is Kagame is one of Africa's more successful Crocodiles  and  as for good governance ask Victoire Ingabire about that. Zero tolerance to corruption, for fucks sake theft is corruption and Rwanda participates in theft on an international scale amongst many other things  . From Reuters. 
" Congo and Rwanda had been working closely on the issue before allegations of Rwandan complicity in the M23 rebellion brought about a breakdown in relations.

Rwanda has historically benefited from the exploitation of hundreds of millions of dollars of Congolese minerals.

A U.N. report in December last year said that Bosco Ntaganda, one of the leaders of the current M23 rebellion who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, was continuing to smuggle minerals through Rwanda.

On Tuesday the advocacy group Global Witness said that its research indicated Rwanda was continuing to launder proceeds from minerals that may have benefited armed groups.

"Not only does Rwanda's predatory behaviour jeopardise its own reputation, ... it also risks undermining the credibility of initiatives being developed to tackle the conflict minerals trade," Global Witness spokeswoman Annie Dunnebacke said."

Rwanda’s impressive steps over the years have raised people’s curiosity about the country. And not only curiosity has been raised but also expectations. It is common to hear folks saying that Kigali is a beautiful city but with a lousy night life. Yes, that is very true but what is truer is that those amazed by Rwanda’s transformations have also set very high expectations for the same place.
Of course nothing happens in Kigali that can even be remotely acknowledged in the official mouth piece of the nation New Times. 
" Le Must, which is the smallest night club in Kigali, also costs 5.000Rwf a head. The atmosphere may be cozy but the decor and size can be suffocating to anyone who prefers space. There is a terrace outside that can cater to these needs although it won’t be of much use for anyone who has a problem with prostitutes."
Every year, a week is spent commemorating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and during this week a plug is placed on the few fun options the country may have to offer. Because of this, many foreigners (and even Rwandans) leave the country and only return after April 14. 
The same group of ‘fun refugees’ will go on to inform anyone outside that they should not visit Rwanda during the memorial week because “it will be so boring”.
The problem is not that the genocide is remembered but that it is done so in such a political way. There is no reconciliation agenda. This is a week of official ethnic / racial hatred and as such fails everyone. Sorry it does not fail President Paul Kagame.  
Well, that too is true. The Memorial Ws boring. But if you see it that way then you are also very ignorant and probably disrespectful of what this week is all about.
Again I am ignorant and disrespectful not because I find Memorial week boring, I don't. I find Memorial week to be yet another Rwandan fraud and as such it is boring because at the state government level fraud is what Rwanda is all about.
The week is just one out of the 52 in a year set aside for reflection and learning. I must admit, too, that on many occasions I would also head for Kampala when the week came around. But this was also because the week always came when schools had broken off and as a teacher I was idle and thought it was a good time to go and check on my family. 
Eventually, I decided to stay and see for myself what the week was all about. Of course it was not fun but there was so much, particularly for a foreigner, to learn about what Rwandans went through, what they still go through and the challenges the country faces. 
The challenge Rwanda faces is that it is a dictatorship under the control of a Crocodile. Political dissent is not tolerated. For the Rwandan government history has finished and will not be allowed to restart any time soon.
So, yes, there is no fun during the memorial week but there is so much to learn and I find it encouraging when people decide to visit during this week to learn. The other day I was walking around Nyabugogo and I noticed a bus belonging to Kabale University arriving. 
I later saw on TV that actually a group of students from the same university were here to learn about the events of 1994. They visited Genocide memorial sites outside Kigali and even interacted with some of the survivors.
The image I have of this is sick. I see clean cut young Germans on a bus travelling through a Jewish neigbourhood in a world where the Axis powers won the Second World War. Am I wrong ? Rwanda participated in what many think of as the Third World War fought through proxies in the DR Congo... 6 million dead  and still climbing.
There is no doubt that these students are now much knowledgeable about Rwanda than those other ignorant people I see posting crazy stuff on social media. I was shocked when I saw some of the things people were posting in denial of the Genocide.  It is also encouraging that the memorial week is commemorated in different countries or cities around the world. 
Again I assume that I am one of the ignorant not that I deny the Genocide but presumably because I for one will not buy into the post Genocide bullshit that is spouted from Kigali and is echoed ( perhaps quite unintentionally ) in this article. 
I think it is time we encouraged those who are interested in learning about Rwanda to come and visit the country during this week and integrate them in some of the activities that happen during this period. Those charged with tourism have more work to do in this regard if we are ever to get more people to understand this country and its people.
Of course I suspect that if I was to visit Rwanda I would be gaoled  as a holocaust denier or more probably an ironically for Lèse-majesté, but that is because to some degree I do understand this country. I understand its President and his international goals. I understand Balkanisation.
There is so much one can learn from Wikipedia or Google searches. If we can have the whole of East Africa following Kenyan elections, why not market Rwanda’s lessons to the region. I hope I am not asking for too much here.
Sometimes it is better not to ask in case you get. Rwanda has many lessons for the region in what not to do. Despite Kagame's attempts to end history Allan Ssenyonga may well not be asking to much, but Kagame may well think otherwise.