Saturday, March 29, 2014

All Africa blogs and the progressive Americans who have not thought.

The All Africa blog platform is back, as a ( initially involuntary ) contributor to the site I am pleased to see it back. Think Progress is a contributing blog and today I couldn't help but spot this post.

"If You Support The Death Penalty, You Are Probably White"

                                                                                                Death Chamber

Well I am white and don't support the death penalty although there have been times and will be again I am sure that as a watcher of the DR Congo and neighbouring countries I have and will again want the death penalty used. A great friend of mine Ross Blanch has actually felt the need to tell me to pull my head in on this subject. He was of course correct, he usually is. 
A new Pew Research Study reveals that the percentage of Americans who support the death penalty declined from 62 percent in 2011 to 55 percent in 2013 — and that support for executions is driven largely by white people. According to the survey, 63 percent of America’s white population support capital punishment, whereas only 36 percent of black people and 40 percent of Hispanics do.
I suspect and I have no evidence to back this up, that these figures would alter massively in the other direction if the study was done globally rather than just in America. Western European states and the Anglo Saxon derived states such as New Zealand don't want capital punishment. The headline for this blog probably should read more along the lines of:  " If you are white and don't support capital punishment you probably are in the majority unless you live in the USA "
This racial disparity is unsurprising in light of the way death sentences are often dolled out in this country. Florida, for instance, has never executed a white person for killing a black person. Defendants are 97 percent more likely to receive the death penalty if the victim in question was white, and Alabama follows a similar trend: African Americans are six times more likely to be sentenced to die for murdering white people with college degrees than white people who kill blacks. All told, 32 of the 39 executions that occurred last year were cases in which a white person was victimized.
" African Americans are six times more likely to be sentenced to die for murdering white people with college degrees than white people who kill blacks."
I have no doubt that the USA is totally screwed. The domestic citizens of Lego Land never fail to astonish me and always for the wrong reasons. However could anyone explain to me the relevance of college degrees ?  
I am totally in favour of college degrees, I think every one should be allowed the opportunity to get them ... but that statistic has made me wonder,  perhaps in the interests of fairness we should stop white Americans being allowed to matriculate. 
OK I am taking the piss but the author of this blog is also doing so. lets face it, this could be read as an instruction to black people planning to kill white people to select their victim carefully and make sure they don't have a college degree. 
Batshit crazy ? Yup. 

DR Congo: " Just another empty gesture with an empty glass "

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports ( Translated by a translation service and cleaned up by me. The author Chantal should be familiar to regular readers of this blog. I have resisted the temptation yo comment ).

Living near a large lake and dying of thirst
By Chantal Faida, Goma

March 22 was World Water Day. In Goma, DRC, there are voices demanding that special attention be paid to the problem of access to safe drinking water.

In an interview with a local radio Misona Gautier, president of the Civil Society in the city of Goma, suggests that the issue of water should be a popular topic: "Access to water is an inalienable right . The  people of the DRC should think about building public awareness through non-violent protests - peaceful marches, public statements, etc. -demanding the right to safe drinking water "

The ongoing water shortage 

More than a problem, the recurrent water shortages in the Congo in general and Goma in particular have become a disaster. To believe the 2013 annual report of UNICEF , 37 million Congolese do not have access to drinking water and the numbers are growing.

Improper water causes diseases

There is reason to wonder what use all that water 
serves us. With regard to the city of Goma, it is a paradox to live beside the majestic Lake Kivu and die of thirst.

In most residential areas of the town at the foot of the volcano, the taps are dry. The humanitarian consequences are unpleasant. The consumption of unsafe water (untreated water lake) is the cause of waterborne diseases. Fetching water early in the morning or late at night is dangerous, travelling very long distances on foot, with all the risks that may incur, such as kidnapping, rape and even murder.

The State is always absent when needed

"Our teams are hard at work to address this glaring lack of water in Goma, just a little patience," this is the standard excuse from the local authorities when we the problem of water shortages is mentioned.

There is no master plan for water, no water code, no reconstruction of damaged infrastructure for water, no development of a public water supply, in short, there is no way to deal with this issue that affects all of the local population.

Youth engagement

Meanwhile, some young people involved in the fight for positive change in Congo, Lucha - are planning to hold a day of demonstrations shortly, outside government offices to demand that the water flows back into the taps.

Welcome Matumo, a Lucha  activist advocates this action: "It is not a favor we will ask them, but it's a demand to restore our rights. Water is life. We have the right to life. For a long time people have had only half measures, we want sustainable solutions. "

Chantal's Blog is here   

Friday, March 28, 2014

DR Congo / Uganda - " Three boats down from the candy, much to much to lose "

The BBC reports

Uganda Lake Albert boat disaster 'killed 251 refugees'

                                    Ugandan police divers helped in the search for survivors, and bodies

More than 250 people died in last Saturday's boat capsize on Lake Albert between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, a minister has said.
This is a sharp increase on the initial death toll, partly a result of the vessel carrying many more passengers than the official capacity of 80.
The boat was taking Congolese refugees in Uganda back to their home country.
These were refugees from the Kyangwali refugee  camp. These deaths can be attributed to crap boats, crap regulation and crap oversight by both the UN, DR Congo and Uganda but lets not forget that these people were refugees due to the Ugandan ADF rebels.  
Boat accidents are common in both countries because of poor safety standards and overloading.

That is no reason to accept the deaths. Clearly there has been a failure by both Uganda and the DR Congo authorities as well as by MONUSCO who have run Facebook puff pieces on how they have a maritime patrol division.   

Some Questions,
- Was the boat fit for purpose ? ie. Could it operate on Lake Albert safely under all the conditions it was foreseeable it would face.
- Was the boat in a seaworthy condition and was it operating under a safe ship management plan? An 80 passenger limit would suggest it was.
- What was the history of the boat ? In the Pacific Islands we have similar tragedies usually the vessels in question have reached the end of their economic life in either NZ or Australia and are dumped on the Pacific Islands where they sink and kill.
Congolese authorities have declared three days of national mourning for the victims of last Saturday's disaster - among whom were many children.
On Tuesday they made up more than half of the then death toll of 107. About 300 people are now thought to have been aboard.

A boat that is surveyed for 80 passengers will under the best circumstances have life boat, life jackets etc. for 80 people I very much doubt that this was the case but even if it was with 300 people on board this was a foreseeable disaster and official heads should role.
"It is with deep sorrow that we confirm to the nation the death of 251 of our compatriots who had boarded the boat from the Ugandan side of Lake Albert," said Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende Omalanga, adding that "we have managed to have something like 50 people who have escaped."

Don't expect many women and children to be among those who survived.
Congolese authorities are helping to support survivors, while arranging funerals for the dead, he said.
Saturday's disaster happened just days after DR Congo launched a campaign to enforce the wearing of life jackets on all boats on its many waterways.

It is common for boats in both countries to have too few, if any, life jackets on board.

I am not saying that compulsory wearing of life jackets is a bad idea but it is a second class solution. What is needed is quite probably a new class of vessel designed for the Great Lakes region. The craft should be simple and the fittings should float you don't need GPS, flash electronics ... etc. Seaworthy simple modern ferries that are fit for purpose would fit the bill. 
The actual  " bill " for the boats should be a priority aid project given the reliance on maritime transport of the region but why not do it smart. Get a good design and licence it to local manufactures with a naval architect overseeing the builds, make the financing through a suspensory loan arrangement  with real incentives to operators running vessels that are maintained well and operate within survey limits. By incentives I mean up to at least an 80% right off of the loan. Carrots are more effective than sticks.
'Deeply shocked'
On Monday, the UN high commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres said he was deeply shocked by the disaster.

Yes... you were responsible Mr Guterres for those people and you failed. Your job was to get them home safely. I hope you have offered your resignation because your cavalier attitude to the repatriation of these people is yet another cause of this disaster. 
"My thoughts are with those who have lost dear ones, and the survivors,"he said in a statement.
"I am grateful to the government and other actors who have mounted a rescue-and-recovery operation and are assisting the survivors.''
The boat was one of two which left on Saturday from Uganda's Hoima district on the eastern side of the lake, which lies on the border with DR Congo.
The boats were carrying refugees who had been living at a camp in Uganda, and had decided to return to eastern DR Congo of their own accord, the UNHCR said.

The UNHCR had a responsibility to get them home. This was a UN failure let's not fail the people of the Eastern DR Congo again.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Australia: " pay the rent, to give it back, it belongs to them. "

The Guardian reports

Another stolen generation: how Australia still wrecks Aboriginal families
The mass removal of Indigenous children from their parents continues unabated – where is the outrage?

Most Aboriginal families live on the edge. Their life expectancy in towns a short flight from Sydney is as low as 37. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because [as an Aboriginal Australian] you're guilty before you're found innocent." The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again". A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."
This is beyond astonishing. It would seem Australia has learnt nothing from its past, I have no problem with kids being removed from inherently dangerous situations. Not removing them in New Zealand has lead to far to many of our kids dying.  The key point is that every attempt is made to place children the state has had to seize with other family members in a safe environment. 
This happened to an Aboriginal family in outback New South Wales. It is happening across Australia in a scandalous and largely unrecognised abuse of human rights that evokes the infamous stolen generation of the last century. Up to the 1970s, thousands of mixed-race children were stolen from their mothers by welfare officials. The children were given to institutions as cheap or slave labour; many were abused.
That it happened is terrible, that it is still happening is beyond belief. In a study released today by Monash University Melbourne a finding was made that should scare the crap out of Australians.
" The migrants were asked whether they would describe Australians as caring, friendly and hospitable people; just 1 per cent of Kiwis did so, compared with 7 per cent of immigrants from the United States and Canada."

The Kiwi figure is not that much of a surprise, we know the Australians better than anyone else what is a real worry is that it would seem that Australia is falling behind both Canada and the USA. But of course America and Canada have like New Zealand at least made an effort to compensate indigenous citizens for the appalling damage inflicted on them through colonisation. Australia has done nothing, in fact it is doing worse than nothing. Nothing would be a blessing.

Described by a chief protector of Aborigines as "breeding out the colour", the policy was known as assimilation. It was influenced by the same eugenics movement that inspired the Nazis. In 1997 a landmark report, Bringing Them Home, disclosed that as many 50,000 children and their mothers had endured "the humiliation, the degradation and sheer brutality of the act of forced separation ... the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state". The report called this genocide.
It is genocide.
Assimilation remains Australian government policy in all but name. Euphemisms such as "reconciliation" and "Stronger Futures" cover similar social engineering and an enduring, insidious racism in the political elite, the bureaucracy and wider Australian society. When in 2008 prime minister Kevin Rudd apologised for the stolen generation, he added: "I want to be blunt about this. There will be no compensation." The Sydney Morning Herald congratulated Rudd on a "shrewd manoeuvre" that "cleared away a piece of political wreckage in a way that responds to some of its own supporters' emotional needs, yet changes nothing".

" There will be no compensation...."  We may not have it exactly right in New Zealand but at least we have made an effort.

" Treaty of Waitangi claims and settlements have been a significant feature of New Zealand race relations and politics since 1975. Over the last 30 years, New Zealand governments have increasingly provided formal legal and political opportunity for Māori to seek redress for breaches by the Crown of the guarantees set out in the Treaty of Waitangi. While it has resulted in putting to rest a number of significant longstanding grievances, the process has been subject to criticisms from a number of angles, from those who believe that the redress is insufficient to compensate for Māori losses, to those who see no value in revisiting painful and contentious historical issues. The settlements are typically seen as part of a broaderMāori Renaissance."
Today, the theft of Aboriginal children – including babies taken from the birth table – is now more widespread than at any time during the last century. As of June last year, almost 14,000 Aboriginal children had been "removed". This is five times the number when Bringing Them Home was written. More than a third of all removed children are Aboriginal – from 3% of the population. At the present rate, this mass removal of Aboriginal children will result in a stolen generation of more than 3,300 children in the Northern Territory alone.
I guess it easier to keep people in poverty and despair than to take ownership of the past in a real way with an apology Rudd that is genuine and a plan to right the wrongs, easier still to keep on inflicting a very Australian genocide that you hope the world will not notice.  
Pat (not her real name) is the mother whose anguish was secretly recorded on a phone as four department of child services officials, and six police, descended on her home. On the tape an official claims they have come only for an "assessment". But two of the police officers, who knew Pat, told her they saw no risk to her child and warned her to "get out of here quick". Pat fled, cradling her infant, but the one-year-old was eventually seized without her knowing why. The next morning a police officer returned to apologise to her and said her baby should never have been taken away. Pat has no idea where her son is.

So the police knew she was a good mother two officers told her to bugger off quick. What is wrong with this picture, Australian police have guns, I am not a fan of giving cops guns, not least because they never seem to know when to use them. Those cops should have drawn their weapons and defended " Pat " a few dead Child Service Officials who are clearly not fit for the job would have been a small price for the Australian community to pay.  
Once she was "invited" by officials to bring her children to "neutral" offices to discuss a "care plan". The doors were locked and officials seized the children, with one of the youngest dragging on a police officer's gun belt. Many Indigenous mothers are unaware of their legal rights. A secretive children's court has become notorious for rubber-stamping removals.

You steal a country, you then commit acts of genocide on the indigenous population 200 years later. Fuck you Australia.
Most Aboriginal families live on the edge. Their life expectancy in towns a short flight from Sydney is as low as 37. Dickensian diseases are rife; Australia is the only developed country not to have eradicated trachoma, which blinds Aboriginal children.

Australia is of course known as the " Lucky Country " I guess you have to be White.
Pat has both complied with and struggled bravely against a punitive bureaucracy that can remove children on hearsay. She has twice been acquitted of false charges, including "kidnapping" her own children. A psychologist has described her as a capable and good mother.
Josie Crawshaw, the former director of a respected families' support organisation in Darwin, told me: "In remote areas, officials will go in with a plane in the early hours and fly the child thousands of kilometres from their community. There'll be no explanation, no support, and the child may be gone forever."

Think about that. It would result in a substantial gaol term in most nations.
In 2012 the co-ordinator general of remote services for the Northern Territory, Olga Havnen, was sacked when she revealed that almost A$80m (£44m) was spent on the surveillance and removal of Aboriginal children compared with only A$500,000 (£275,000) on supporting the same impoverished families. She told me: "The primary reasons for removing children are welfare issues directly related to poverty and inequality. The impact is just horrendous because if they are not reunited within six months, it's likely they won't see each other again. If South Africa was doing this, there'd be an international outcry."

Exactly. But it is our mates the Aussies....fuck you Australia I am ashamed of you, the ANZAC code only goes so far and you have broken it.
She and others with long experience I have interviewed have echoed the Bringing them Home report, which described an official "attitude" in Australia that regarded all Aboriginal people as "morally deficient". A department of family and community services spokesman said that most removed Indigenous children in New South Wales were placed with Indigenous carers. According to Indigenous support networks, this is a smokescreen; it does not mean families, and it is control by divisiveness that is the bureaucracy's real achievement.
I met a group of Aboriginal grandmothers, all survivors of the first stolen generation, all now with stolen grandchildren. "We live in a state of fear, again," they said. David Shoebridge, a state Greens MP, told me: "The truth is, there is a market among whites for these kids, especially babies."

It is time to sanction Australian politicians and senior officials. 
The New South Wales parliament is soon to debate legislation that introduces forced adoption and "guardianship". Children under two years old will be liable – without the mother's consent – if "removed" for more than six months. For many Aboriginal mothers like Pat, it can take six months merely to make contact with their children. "It's setting up Aboriginal families to fail," said Shoebridge.

Not at all Australia sets families up to succeed if they are white it is setting up Aboriginal families to fail. That is genocide.
I asked Josie Crawshaw why. "The wilful ignorance in Australia about its first people has now become the kind of intolerance that gets to the point where you can smash an entire group of humanity and there is no fuss."

Why indeed.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

DR Congo: "... always known his luck's in but now he's found the drive "

The World Bank reports ( I hate to admit that I have totally missed the clearly very important work that The World Bank has been doing in the Eastern DR Congo )

Rebuilding Lives and Infrastructure in Eastern DRC
                              For the children of Bunagana, the construction of a new school is cause for celebration.

BUNAGANA, February 11, 2014— Since the end of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the town of Bunagana, in the territory of Rutshuru, has slowly started to come alive. “We suffered greatly,” says Liberata Burawa, the administrator of this territory located in the North Kivu province.

This blog has for the last two years chronicled the failures of the DR Congo,  the nations surrounding it, as well as the failures of the many international organisations involved in the DR Congo, lets not forget the World and most depressingly of all humanity AKA us. It would seem that maybe, just maybe, things are starting to change.

It is Saturday, December 14, and the atmosphere in this small town , 78 kilometers away from Goma (the capital of North Kivu) , is festive. A large crowd has gathered at this locale fraught with symbolism—the former headquarters of the armed group M23—to participate in launching an emergency school reconstruction project funded by the World Bank. “We are delighted that the World Bank is helping us rebuild our school,” says principal Mateso Muhima.

The World Bank is in effect the UN and while it is early days yet one would have to say that this is a result of the excellent work that MONUSCO has achieved over the last year in suppressing armed groups. The UN needs to look at all its peacekeeping operations and more specifically the mandates those operations are working under. Since the MONUSCO mandate was altered to allow it an offensive capability we have seen some real results in the DR Congo. If that means the UN can move from a peacekeeping / stabilisation faster and The World Bank becomes the UN's lead agency in ( former ) conflict zones sooner surely we all win.

The new school opening today, a mere 39 days after the departure of the M23, is testament to the World Bank’s deep commitment to this region of the DRC. “It was important to us to respond as quickly as possible to this urgent situation,” says Eustache Ouayoro, World Bank country director in the DRC, who traveled from the country’s capital, Kinshasa, to take part in the ceremony.

39 days is bloody phenomenal and I am not in the least bit surprised. The World Bank is part of the UN Development Programme and that that part of the UN works should surprise know one. It is run by " Aunty Helen " as I think of her, one of the greatest Prime Ministers my country ( New Zealand ) has ever had and if the world wants a UN that works then it need look no further than Helen as the next Secretary General. I am a very proud Kiwi and yes we want her back but think about it ... New Zealand might just have to wait a bit.

The same sense of elation reigns in Kibumba, in the territory of Nyiragongo, where another school is opening on the same day. Here, too, the school bears the marks of war, its roof pierced by shrapnel. Without desks and chairs, the teachers stand all day and the students sit on stones. “The benches were used as firewood,” a teacher explains, adding: “You know, there are children who have not attended school in 10 years. Today, you are giving us hope.”

Let's do better, a lot better than just hope. Let's change things, dickheads with guns and an ethnic cleansing genocide ideology lets stop them. Our parents did once before let us do it again.

Priority to the most vulnerable communities

This emergency work is the result of the World Bank’s commitment to rapid aid for reconstruction of the eastern region of the DRC, ravaged by many years of war. A US$6 million advance will fund preparatory work for the Eastern Region Stabilization and Peace-Building Project (STEP), which seeks to stabilize vulnerable communities in North and South Kivu, as well as in the Ituri, Bas-Uélé and Haut-Uélé districts in Orientale Province. Special attention will be paid to those hardest hit by the conflict, such as the internally displaced and their host communities, at-risk youth, and women.

My daughters come from this community. Today I watched them here in Auckland but mainly I watched my first daughter who has been here for just about 3 years interacting with her sisters who have been here just about 3 weeks. I have never seen her so happy. It is impossible for me to understand what my kids have been through, it is probably impossible for you my readers to understand but I cried with joy for them. This is what the UN is trying to do.

STEP also seeks to reinforce the new prospects for peace and economic recovery. Addressing the collateral effects of the war, it will aid in economic reintegration, support repair and construction of community infrastructure, and help the population groups impacted by the war to rebound. “Vulnerable communities are our top priority,” says Maurizia Tovo, the World Bank’s task team leader.


To achieve its objectives, the project focuses on three aspects of recovery: community-building and better access to basic socioeconomic services; job creation to boost income among vulnerable population groups; and strengthening the capabilities of provincial authorities and entities.

I just wonder, has anyone thought about Emmanuel at Virunga National Park
He is bloody amazing and he has been quietly doing the job that we want done. He probably won't want to leave his park but he might be the man to run the UN Eastern DR Congo programme.

The STEP project is only one aspect of a more ambitious initiative the World Bank plans to implement in this region of the DRC. During a visit to the Great Lakes region last May, the president of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, traveling with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, announced the provision of US$1 billion in funding to help countries in the region improve their health and education services, increase cross-border trade, and finance hydroelectric projects. 

I agree with the initative . This blog however has noted all to often the regional ambitions of the DR Congo's neighbours. Balkanisation is not on the agenda. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

DR Congo: Inga III - " I plan the path of destiny from this maze "

The World Bank reports

Transformational Hydropower Development Project Paves the Way for 9 Million People in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Gain Access to Electricity

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2014–Sub-Saharan Africa is blessed with large hydropower resources that can bring electricity to homes, power businesses and industry, light clinics and schools, and spur economic activity, creating jobs and improving human well-being. Yet, only 10% of this hydropower potential has been mobilized, weakening the fight to end poverty and boost shared prosperity on the continent.

Six million people have died in the DR Congo alone since 1994. Getting communities on the grid is the first step in many instances to bringing about employment and economic growth. 

To combat this, the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors on March 20th approved a US$73.1 million grant to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the Inga 3 Basse Chute (BC) and Mid-size Hydropower Development Technical Assistance Project.

There is vast potential for this project to change the disaster that is the DR Congo into a modern functioning state. The DR Congo is infested with armed groups that are slowly being eliminated, but a project that empowers ( literally )  the communities these thugs prey on. Eliminating poverty would go along way to eliminating instability.

DRC’s overall hydropower potential is estimated at 100 gigawatts (GW), the third largest in the world, behind China and Russia. Only 2.5% has been developed. With a 40 GW potential, Inga is the world’s largest hydropower site and its proper development can make it the African continent’s most cost-effective, renewable source of energy with an estimated generation cost of US$ 0.03 per kilowatt hour.

The Clyde Dam in New Zealand produces electricity at $NZ electricity is being generated at 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to 1999 data the most recent I can get my hands on. I assume the cost is calculated over the lifetime of the development though. The relative cost must make the world take notice. 

At the moment mining operations in the DR Congo are primitive yet the country is awash in minerals. This project has potential secondary spin offs that are mind boggling with their economic potential .  

Technical assistance for responsible hydropower development

The technical assistance project will finance in a flexible manner a series of environmental, institutional, social and technical studies that will guide sustainable development of the Inga 3 BC and selected mid-size hydropower projects, with the ultimate goal of bringing more electricity to millions of people who currently have no access.

In the Eastern DR Congo access to electricity is described thus by Goma blogger Charly Kasereka: ( My translation )
" In the avenues, lighting indicates prosperity, how people are doing by the illumination of their house.

Some have private generators and others are subscribers to a common generator purchased and connected by an individual payment of fifty dollars a month but with limits. No irons or electric stove." 

The project presents a unified World Bank Group approach to support the Government of DRC in developing under a public private partnership Inga 3-BC and mid-size hydropower project through a flexible government-led, transparent process. The project will create functional national institutions such as the Inga development agency to pilot the site development and award concessions on a competitive basis. No construction or operational activities will be funded by the technical assistance project.

The DR Congo needs functional institutions even more than it needs Inga III the project funding seems to be on future sales with South Africa signing up for the lions share. From my blog in July last year:

The treaty makes South Africa the principal purchaser of the power generated at Inga III power plant, the first phase of the Grand Inga. The country will buy 2500 MW of the total 4800 MW from the proposed dam. The balance will be sold to mining companies in Katanga in southeastern DRC." 

Transformative projects that expand people's access to electricity are central to achieving the twin World Bank Group goals of ending extreme poverty and creating shared prosperity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The task of bringing electricity – through grid, mini-grid, and off-grid solutions – is urgent. With only one in three Africans having access to energy, and only one in 10 Congolese citizens having electricity, the challenge could not be greater.

The opportunities are greater still.

New Zealand: " And so as I patrol in the valley of the shadow of the tricolour "

The New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage describes our current flag thus:

                                                                                              Current NZ Flag

" The New Zealand Flag is New Zealand’s national symbol. Its royal blue background represents the blue sea and sky surrounding us, and the stars of the Southern Cross signify our place in the South Pacific Ocean. The Union Flag recognises our historical foundations and that New Zealand was once a British colony and dominion."

The problem of course is top left. The debate has been ongoing for a few years now, not only  does our flag look like the Australian flag but who wants the Union Jack ? Let the Brits and Aussies keep it and Scotland go for it in September.

                                                                                               Australian Flag

This is the best option I have seen to date and I really hope we adopt it or something better in the referendum on the Flag next year.

                                                                And screw you Canada we are in the flag game.

We have not been a British colony for years. Lets let the world know that, and lets get a jump on our cousins across the ditch.

Auckland: " I'm a citizen of Legoland travellin' incommunicado "

Any regular readers I have and I assume there must be a couple of you will have noticed a large drop in  productivity. This is I hope a temporary situation. Facebook friends and friends in the real world will probably have figured out the reasons.

18 months ago my partner and I set sail on a course that was bound to change our lives profoundly and 18 days ago we achieved the goal we had set for ourselves. A variety of factors have meant that my time available to blog has been slashed and this situation will not change over the course of the next few weeks possibly extending out to several months. I will still blog but probably only a couple of posts a week.

Incidentally one should never underestimate the competitive pressures of teenage daughters when it comes to computer usage. It is vicious and I am unable to compete although I have a few ideas that might allow me to regain the upper hand going forward.

                                                      My youngest daughter has discovered computer games.

All things considered this blog is way less important to me than my kids learning how to use the technology of the 21st. century.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

DR Congo: " Meaningless words, yellowed by time, faded photos exposing pain "

New Times Rwanda reports

Remarks by Rwanda Permanent Representative to the UN

                                                          Rwandan UN Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana.

Remarks by Permanent Representative to the UN, Eugène-Richard Gasana, at the UN Security Council briefing on Monusco/PSC Framework.
14 March 2014
Thank you Madame President. I thank SRSG Kobler and SESG Robinson for taking the time to brief us today on the reports of the Secretary-General and ahead of Monusco’s mandate renewal.
As the Secretary General report highlights, despite the positive developments of late last year, it is clear that the momentum has slowed, with limited progress on both the political and the military fronts. We are looking at a volatile security situation in not only the East but throughout the country.
I have no idea what report Ambassador Gasana is referring to. It would be logical to assume it is the most recent report, you can find it here. Go read it and then you can determine if " the momentum has slowed,.. ". I suspect you will reach the same conclusion that I have, that being, Gasana is talking shit. Something that is not uncommon with Rwandan officials.

“Negative forces” are still at rampage; killing and maiming, raping young girls and women, recruiting children and causing thousands of displacements of civilians. The seriousness and scale of killings and violations that continue in Katanga and in areas formerly occupied by M23 in North Kivu are deeply troubling.
Actually the report says nothing of the sort. I would suggest that it realistically details the situation in the East and points to some substantial progress. I can only assume Gasana is making this shit up for domestic consumption by the supporters of the Kagame regime. From the Secretary General's report:

" The situation in North Kivu remains volatile. Following the defeat of the M23, MONUSCO issued a warning to other armed groups, urging them to surrender or face military operations. Through sustained pressure and a proactive communication campaign by the Congolese armed forces and MONUSCO, armed groups, including Mayi-Mayi Lafontaine, Forces populaires congolaises (FPC), Mayi Mayi Simba, Mayi-Mayi Shetani and the Mouvement pour la libération du Congo (MPLC), expressed their intention to discuss the terms of their surrender with the Government. "

A major reason for this is the prevalent culture of impunity that continues throughout the country. All perpetrators, whether from the FARDC, which has committed 18 % of crimes reported in 2013, or any other armed group, must be brought to justice and held accountable for their crimes.  
Cry me a bloody river. That a representative of Rwanda has the gall to make this charge when Rwanda are the principal culprit behind much of the instability and it is Rwandan proxies that have benefitted most from the culture of impunity makes this charge one of the most cynical hypocritical I have heard in quite some time. Have a look at Rwanda's export receipts for coltan, a mineral it has virtually none of and then ask who has benefitted from a culture of impunity. Rwandan militias have raped the Eastern DR Congo and its people. 

There is no doubt, no doubt, that the next few months will be critical and we need to take a serious look at how Resolution 2098 is being implemented especially in the neutralization of negative armed groups; in the consolidation of the peace process, and in the protection of civilians in liberated areas.
What a dickhead. Resolution 2098 is the UN resolution that authorises the Intervention ( Africa ) Brigade. It was also a result of a major Rwandan own goal. We don't need to look at how Resolution 2098 is being implemented. We need to make it clear to Rwanda that it doesn't now or in the future have any further role to play in the Eastern DDR Congo. 

" Some how we are meant to believe that the political approach and the military are at odds despite both efforts being mandated under Security Council Resolution 2098. It then moves to the farcical with a reference to the ICGLR ( International Conference on the Great Lakes Region ) summit is somehow related to the United Nations as if it was another arm of the organisation rather than a separate body altogether. To make matters worse he either does not know or conveniently forgets that the origin of the Intervention Brigade or as I term it due to its origin the Africa Brigade is a request from the ICGLR to the UN Security Council. 

Fortunately or unfortunately from the perspective of Rwanda the UN Security Council made sure that the Africa Brigade was a neutral force tasked with extending the sovereignty of  the DR Congo rather than the Kigali aligned force Rwanda wished it to be... "

We welcome the reports presented by briefers on some members of some armed groups that have peacefully surrendered and indeed we applaud FARDC supported by Monusco for attacking and destroying a number of ADF camps. The resumption of the Minova trial is another positive development and we look forward to a conclusive prosecution that can set a precedent for future cases.
I agree the Minova trial is positive, it shows a commitment from Kinshasa and FARDC to clean up the mess that FARDC had descended into. In other words and contrary to Gasana's comments above an ending of the culture of impunity. Of course while the atrocities were occurring in Minova, M23 and their allies the Rwandan Armed Forces were  inflicting the same atrocities on the people of Goma during the M23 occupation of the city.

"  Human Rights Watch has documented at least 24 cases of summary executions by M23 fighters during the M23’s occupation of Goma and nearby areas, between November 19 and December 2. All but three of the victims were civilians. Human Rights Watch research found that M23 rebels raped at least 36 women and girls in and around Goma during the same period, including at least 18 wives of army soldiers and a 10-year-old girl, who died from her wounds a day later. The M23 forcibly recruited army soldiers and medical officers, police, and civilians into its ranks in violation of the laws of war, and took them to its military bases for “retraining.” They also looted hundreds of homes, offices, and vehicles. "

When Rwanda starts its own prosecutions of its Armed Forces for their role in the above crimes one might take Gasana seriously.

The recently promulgated Amnesty law as per Nairobi agreement is also positive step in national reconciliation but one that will require measurable actions. We urge Monusco and international community to closely monitor its implementation.
Yes. The amnesty that will allow M23 to escape the consequences of their actions in the Eastern DR Congo. When this guy talks about impunity the only possible response is laughter, or tears.

Madam President,
However, these positive developments should not obscure the fact that one of the oldest armed groups remains at large. As always for the past 20 years, the problem that we have is the posture of the DRC government and the UN peacekeepers ‘currently Monusco’ towards the threat posed by FDLR genocidal forces responsible for the Genocide against the Tutsi. 
The posture of both MONUSCO and Kinshasa is transparent. They will be neutralised, most probably by force.

Throughout the last quarter of 2013 we were told that FDLR are next on the list of negative forces to be eliminated; what happens from when the promise is made to the next briefing, no one knows, no accountability… At our last meeting on Monusco, the military operation plan presented to the Security Council was that FARDC was to go after ADF, they did it.
Actually we were told no such thing. I was surprised that the FDLR were not the next group targeted by the FARDC, MONUSCO and its offshoot the Intervention ( Africa ) Brigade it was an assumption most Congo watchers made. However by September 2013 it should have become obvious that things might not proceed in the order we assumed. 

I suspect that the ADF haven't thought through the consequences of this little bit of murderous adventurism. I hope the price that is extract in return is so high that we will never again have to read about these pricks."

Following that, we were told that Monusco was to put their resources against FDLR. Nothing happened! Only a week or two before this briefing, do we hear in the news that there was a military operation against FDLR. This threat of FDLR persists despite the mandate of Monusco, which was given extra offensive capabilities after the deployment of the Intervention Brigade and the lack of Monusco to commit to fighting this force remains evident.
I have argued numerous times on this blog that the timing is something that the allied forces of FARDC and MONUSCO and its Intervention Brigade will determine. That is just common sense. Rwanda seem to think they have some say in this issue, they don't.

Once again, It is high time we see a change of attitude of the DRC Government towards the FDLR; Rwanda has for several years expressed legitimate concerns with the lack of political will of the Government of DRC to tackle the threat of FDLR. Various UNSC reports have detailed evidence of all kinds of support given to FDLR by DRC and Rwanda has even provided more.
It is utterly appalling that the Rwandan Ambassador to the UN is even worse informed than than the nations propaganda outlet New Times, that is inturn so utterly incompetent that it can't even take note of what the major world news services are reporting. I blogged on this issue two days ago noting: 

" Or in other words New Times Rwanda have published today ( 14/3/14 ) a report that fails to acknowledge casualties reported two days ago by Al Jazeera."

The MONUSCO, Intervention Brigade, FARDC coalition have commenced operations against the FDLR.  

The continuous excuses given by Monusco again and again when it comes to conducting military operations against FDLR, is kind of disturbing. When it is not excuses of lack of intelligence, (and which Rwanda did share with Monusco), it is engaged in propaganda operations to hoodwink the UNSC about military operations with FARDC against FDLR.
What excuses? MONUSCO has given no excuses whatsoever. Equally before commencing operations against M23 it gave no excuses and was roundly criticised for that. The coalition of forces are presumably preparing and again as I have said time spent in preparation in a military context is rarely time wasted. Why the hell the coalition would keep a hostile government such as Rwanda informed of its preparations is beyond me but when you live in the fantasy world of the Rwandan regime it would seem anything however improbable is in fact possible and desirable. As for hoodwinking the UN Security Council the charge is laughable.

On 09 Mar 14, Monusco/FIB jointly with FARDC raided FDLR illegal roadblock along Karengera – Tongo road. Reliable information reveals that Col Ramadhan, acting FARDC commander of the 8th Military Region, leaked information of the impending FIB attack on FDLR, hence undermining this operation.
That is an allegation that I have only seen in pro Rwanda news reports to date. If it should turn out to be true and I am deeply skeptical, I would imagine Col. Ramadhan will face a treason trial and if found guilty will pay the ultimate price.

It is not only Rwanda expressing frustration over inaction against negative forces; the countries of the region, under ICGLR have expressed frustration by lack of political will by Monusco to address the threats of armed groups in the Great Lakes region.
Really ? What countries would they be. The most obvious would be Uganda and as far as I am aware they have said nothing of the sort. In fact the exact opposite would seem to be the case:

Officials said Uganda's chief of defence forces, General Katumba Wamala, met Congolese counterpart Didier Etumba in the town of Beni in Congo's North Kivu province, where Kinshasa was launching military operations against the rebels. "
As I said I have no idea which audience this speech was aimed at but if it was the international community, to whom it was given, it will only have confirmed as if any confirmation was needed that the Rwandan regime is not to be trusted ever on anything.

Eastern DRC has been host to domestic and foreign armed groups particularly M23, FDLR and ADF-NALU. As a result, ICGLR came up with detailed mechanisms to address the situation, including political and military measures. Some of these mechanisms have been taken over by UN, including Intervention Brigade under Monusco and yet the major threat posed by FDLR has not been tackled.
Yes as I said above that was a major diplomatic cock up on Rwanda's part. Mind you with diplomats of the caliber of Ambassador Gasana that is not all that much of a surprise. The reason the UN through MONUSCO is in command of the Intervention Brigade is that members of the ICGLR ( International Conference for the Great Lakes Region ) decided that the Brigade was a good idea but putting Rwanda in charge as Rwanda proposed was rather akin to putting the fox in charge of the chicken run. You might want to bare that in mind when you asses the reliability of the ambassadors statement on the frustrations of other countries in the region. Other ICGLR are frustrated but that frustration is aimed at Rwanda not MONUSCO.

This was again subject of ICGLR Heads of State Summit in Luanda, Angola on 15th January 2014, where the Chiefs of Defence Staff of Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa were again tasked to assess the situation and come up with new mechanisms of eradicating FDLR.
I will let the ICGLR own website deal with that. It is of course another out of context load of shit.

On the FDLR Current Situation; Let me briefly share with you some updates on the FDLR activities. The FDLR strength is estimated to 3,640 with infantry integral weapons. This strength is likely to increase due to ongoing recruitment and training.
What a load of bullshit. The FDLR have been shrinking in numbers for years. Even Kigali has made that claim and it seems to be born out. Yet this fool thinks he can make that statement and the world will agree with him.UN Experts Group for the DR Congo put the number at about 1500.

" Based on interviews with ex-FDLR combatants and UN sources, the Group estimates FDLR has approximately 1,500 combatants in both provinces (see S/2013/433, para. 97); of these, approximately 1,000 are in North Kivu. The Government of Rwanda told the Group that FDLR has 4,000 to 4,200 combatants."

Currently, FDLR is engaged in the following activities:
* Enhancing collaboration with FARDC especially at operation level. This has enabled FDLR to refit, re-arm, share intelligence, have freedom of action and free passage for infiltration and terror attacks in Rwanda. Since July 2013 to date, 42 FDLR infiltrators/terror elements have been arrested and undergoing prosecution in Rwandan courts;
Current evidence ?
* Mobilization, recruitment, training and establishment of terror networks in Rwanda. These activities are facilitated by provision of safe passage and logistics by FARDC;
Current evidence ?

* The recent claim by Monusco that FDLR is located in populated areas is a sheer lie; instead the outfit has most of its forward units in Virunga National Park in North Kivu Province. It also maintains its dispositions in unpopulated areas of Mwenga and Uvira Territories in South Kivu; and
The only claim I have seen along these lines is that the FDLR are in the field with families and that makes them a difficult target if you are trying to avoid killing non combatants.

* On Illegal mining and taxation in eastern DRC to sustain the war effort.
Well given Rwanda's expertise in this area I won't argue with him.

Madam President,
I would like to discuss a different issue of M23 Ex-Combatants; while the SG report suggests that consultations on the unresolved issue of these ex- combatants in Rwanda are ongoing; we remind this Council that these combatants have been in Rwanda since March 2013. It is almost a year. 
Really that will come as a surprise everyone. Just in case the Ambassador has forgotten M23 was in the field in the DR Congo until their defeat in November 2013. The lies of Rwanda never cease to amaze me.

The Government of Rwanda has done everything required by international law to contain this group, including relocating them to Ngoma District in Eastern Province approximately 250 Km from the DRC border, but despite our repeated calls for international community to take over responsibility, not much has been done.   There were some contacts that were initiated in December but its really not that much.
That is actually funny. Rwanda want the international community to take over responsibility for M23. I agree with the call. Lets start with investigators from the ICC.

On the report of the PSC Framework, I will not dwell much on that since the implementation of the PSCA will be discussed on 27th of this month in Nairobi.
To conclude, as we have said previously, next month marks the 20th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi and there could be no greater symbol of justice for its victims than the defeat and eradication of FDLR, a virulent genocidal force that has been allowed to terrorize the region for the past two decades.
With that statement I agree and this blog has always taken that position, however I will not characterise the genocide as against the Tutsi. It was a Rwandan genocide and many non Tutsi died.

I thank you Madam President.