Monday, September 2, 2013

DR Congo: This American ' road map ' to peace won't work without some new cartography.

All Africa reports

Congo-Kinshasa: Bringing Peace to the Congo - a Blueprint for Special Envoy Feingold

                                        Congolese allies protest M23 in front of the White House by Joseph Mbangu

The clashes in the eastern Congo over the past week have once again brought into sharp focus the enduring conflict between the M23 rebels and the Congolese military as well as the role of the recently-deployed United Nations intervention brigade. As the new United States special envoy for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Senator Russ Feingold, embarks on his first trip to the region, it is imperative that he takes steps now to engage in the economic and commercial issues that are at the heart of the conflict.
I am having a huge amount of difficulty swallowing this as I imagine many of the Congolese people. But lets start with a little bit of accuracy. Senator Russ Feingold, is no longer a US senator, another point worth bearing in mind is that this conflict I agree is on one level very much about economic and commercial interests and to date Rwanda has been ruthlessly exploiting the resources of the Eastern DR Congo with until very recently the if not the direct support, then at least a tacit approval of the United States.

To be successful in the herculean task of helping end the world's deadliest war since World War II, Feingold would do well to learn from one of the most effective U.S. special envoy missions of our time, George Mitchell, during his tenure as President Bill Clinton's envoy to Northern Ireland. While many people remember Mitchell as having brokered peace in Northern Ireland, few recall his strategic approach: to focus on economics first, in order to build trust and lay the foundation for tackling the tough security issues.
I actually agree with an economic approach and think despite the historical revisionism that I feel is implied the authors are on the right track. So we have an idea but as yet no mechanism. If we want to rebuild security and I mean physical and economic then the west must be prepared to invest in the people of the region at a micro level. I am no Northern Ireland expert but I imagine the Irish investment was made at a macro level because however hard  " The Troubles " were, there is absolutely no comparison to be made between Northern Ireland and the Eastern DR Congo. The issues of education, infrastructure and  just the ability of the Congolese government to interact with its citizens are far more complex. Add in that the British and Irish governments were both actively supporting the process and we have a very different situation. ( The Government of Rwanda is doing all it can to derail the process ). 
A decade after his tenure, Mitchell described the key to achieving sustainable peace in Northern Ireland: "I stress the economy. ... These and other conflict situations... all have an important economic underpinning. I've come to believe that you have to deal with political and security measures, but you have to include economics right at the very top. You need economic growth, you need job creation, you need opportunity for people... if you want to reduce the likelihood of conflict. That isn't guaranteed stability... but without it, it's very difficult to obtain."
Agreed, but it is verging on the insulting for the authors to prescribe this cure and then treat it as job done. Mitchell is describing Ireland not the DR Congo. His prescription needs to be adapted to local conditions. 
A critical part of Clinton and Mitchell's strategic vision for the Northern Ireland peace process was economics, and they stuck by it patiently until it bore fruit. It was predicated on creating jobs, revenue and commercial opportunities in order to reduce violent tension between the two sides and incentives for peace and alternatives to conflict. Despite the violence at the time, Mitchell organized a White House investment conference on Northern Ireland in 1995, building on the recommendations of business leaders from Northern Ireland, Ireland, and the U.S., who believed there was far greater economic potential from peace than from war. The conference sparked the first meeting between Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Patrick Mayhew, senior leaders from the opposing sides of the conflict.
The senior players in the Great Lakes Region have met many times. It is fine to say that Gerry Adams met with Patrick Mayhew but remember that Kabila and Kagame not to mention Museveni meet several times a year. It is also worth remembering Rwanda's absolute refusal to meet with the FDLR and abuse of Tanzanian President Kikwete. I have no doubt that the region has far more to gain through peace but it is an option Rwanda refuses to entertain.  
“Those who think that Rwanda today should sit down at the negotiating table with FDLR simply don’t know what they are talking about,” she said adding that it is unfortunate that the rebel group has sympathisers in the region, including President Kikwete himself, should he not retract his comments.
The U.S. then contributed $100 million to a development fund for Northern Ireland and businesses set up cooperative bodies to facilitate cross-border trade, job creation, and infrastructure improvements.
There is a similar major opportunity with the war in eastern Congo today, and Special Envoy Feingold should follow the Clinton-Mitchell playbook.
I disagree, the situation on the ground is far different. In Ireland there was hatred but there was also business, effective courts and taxation authorities, checks and balances and no ingrained culture of corruption. The approach as I have said must be at a micro level. Obama / Feingold need to rewrite the Clinton / Mitchell playbook. 
There are critical security issues that must be dealt with, such as ensuring that the new UN Intervention Brigade contributes to the solution rather than exacerbates it. But the potential benefits to all parties of an economically prosperous eastern Congo would provide a major incentive for constructive negotiations, and commercial and economic issues can and should be addressed concurrently.
What a load of drivel. The authors obviously have no concept of the role of, or the situation faced by not only the Intervention Brigade ( Africa Brigade ) but MONUSCO as a whole. The role of the Africa Brigade is to stop the depredations of armed groups principally M23 and the FDLR, but a variety of others as well. That will necessarily exacerbate the situation with Rwanda for example. But it should happen regardless and the world should be making it very clear to Rwanda the price of sabotaging the efforts of the Intervention Brigade. I would hope the other international organisation such as the Commonwealth and Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie are involved in applying pressure to the regional players to force compliance.
For too many years, elites in Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda have exploited eastern Congo's mineral wealth, prolonging the war. But calculations are starting to change. Armed groups' profits from three out of four conflict minerals are down by an estimated 65 percent. Ten percent of the mines in the region have been validated as conflict-free and regional governments have signed up to a comprehensive minerals certification process. In a major development, local business leaders who had previously trafficked minerals for weapons for armed groups, last year refused to support the M23 rebels. As John Kanyoni, a leading exporter of minerals from North Kivu, said, "As long as there is conflict there, no one [internationally] will be purchasing minerals." In short, significant progress has been made in the commercial and economic sphere despite the conflict.
In short, no there has not. Yes there has been progress in reducing the amount of illegal minerals exported but that did nothing to slow down the flow of arms. One could argue it increased them in fact. Where did M23 develop an ability to conduct night operations ? Who gave them night vision equipment ? Not selling minerals means that the wealth is not realised today but there is no new wealth being created to replace the mineral receipts, and there is now no trickle down from the illegal exports.  
Feingold can take advantage of this momentum in three ways. Firstly, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has already announced an unprecedented U.S. $1 billion initiative for new projects that would help provide a "peace dividend" for the region. The U.S. should work with the World Bank to accelerate the implementation of the package. Priority should be given to investments in roads, agriculture and energy projects, and small and medium enterprises.
I agree. This can only be done at a macro level and these projects take time and are very prone to corruption, backhanders and embezzlement. We are dealing with kleptocracies so we need to have some checks and balances in place to make sure that not only we, but more importantly the people of the The Great Lakes Region also see the results of this investment.  
Second, Feingold should help speed up the mineral certification process in the region, so that Congo and neighboring countries, especially Rwanda and Uganda, can begin selling "peace minerals," people on the ground can benefit commercially, and companies can source from the region in good conscience, in fulfillment of the Dodd-Frank legislation, which discourages American companies from trading in conflict minerals. Some Congolese miners have already seen wages double at conflict-free mines, but this must be replicated at other mines.
Rwanda has minerals to sell ? Well that is good news that geologists will be pleased to hear, although I suspect that they will be somewhat mystified to learn about it. The minerals the authors refer to were stolen from the Eastern DR Congo. Could I suggest they have a look at the dramatic fall in Rwandan mineral receipts since the embargo and their expulsion from the Eastern DR Congo. 

Feingold should also urge Presidents Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Paul Kagame of Rwanda to enhance the credibility of the Regional Certification Mechanism of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, so that it provides proper verification of conflict-free minerals by the end of 2013. A transparent, certifiably conflict-free mineral sector will help to attract more investment and unlock wealth-creation opportunities that are sustainable, peace-generating and contribute to greater regional trade.
I hope Feingold has something very potent to urge with. Something like a warrant from the Hague. This is dreamland stuff far removed from the realpolitik of the region. Feingold should certainly emphasis economic opportunities but not for Rwanda to export minerals they don't have.
Finally, Senator Feingold should work with the U.S. Public-Private Alliance on Responsible Minerals Trade to organize an investment conference that brings together potential investors with leaders from the Great Lakes region to identify opportunities for conflict-free, transparent investment. A successful investment conference would be a win-win-win for people living in eastern Congo, companies looking to invest, and regional governments seeking legitimate revenue streams to replace foreign aid.
That idea has potential for the DR Congo alone. If this is an exercise in reducing foreign aid then at least be honest about it and lets call it western greed and selfishness. We need to increase the amount of aid and the accountability for that aid not reduce it. We need to get that aid to the people, first to provide them with security then to rebuild, then to reestablish their lives and finally to build up the regions economies.
There have been many U.S. envoys appointed over the years to tackle the seemingly impossible conflict in Congo, but Feingold now has a unique opportunity to leave a lasting legacy. If he can draw on the successful lessons of George Mitchell, incorporating the economic agenda from the beginning, Feingold can help the Great Lakes region join the other countries in Africa that have begun to experience impressive economic growth and opportunity.
I agree that he ( Feingold ) along with quite a few others working on the issues associated with the Great Lakes Region can make a real difference this time. Here is again the rub, America has contributed hugely to the situation in the DR Congo. It is little wonder previous envoys have failed, they were meant to and like the authors of this article they were either too blind or too loyal to Washington to do the job properly. I have no doubt this is an American ' shift the blame ' propaganda piece. America can be part of the solution and Feingold is probably the right man for the job, but to be part of that solution America needs to acknowledge its complicity in the past and its ability to collaborate with others for the good of the people of the region, not the regions political leaders or American corporate greed. 

Witney Schneidman is Senior International Advisor on Africa at Covington & Burling LLP, a Nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs. Sasha Lezhnev is Senior Policy Advisor at the Enough Project and author of Crafting Peace: Strategies to Deal with Warlords in Collapsing States.
Both should know a damn site better than to have produced this half useful roadmap, to use the American vernacular. It is at least a start I will concede. 

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