Wednesday, December 27, 2006

DRC: "Dubious mining deals..."

John LeCarre, the celebrated author, and Jason Stearns, 
analyst for the International Crisis Group, published an op-ed in the Boston Globe just before Christmas describing the 
challenges to establishing fiscal legitimacy in DRC post-elections. 

"JOSEPH KABILA was recently sworn in as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The ceremony marked the end of a tumultuous peace process that led the country out of seven years of war. [...] But dubious mining deals between the Congolese government and international corporations may be threatening the nation's chances of rising from the ashes."

Read "Getting Congo's wealth to its people" here...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Uganda: Is the ICC a carrot or stick to the LRA?

[LRA: children killing children]

The answer is much more complicated. Local perceptions and opposition to the ICC in Uganda are extremely high, despite popular will to see an end to the ruthless terror of the Lord's Resistance Army in the north. Published by Zed Books, Tim Allen's recent book defends the institution's pursuit of LRA leaders and tries to understand Ugandan opposition to the ICC.

From the publisher's note, "The International Criminal Court has run into serious problems with its first big case - the situation in northern Uganda. There is no doubt that appalling crimes have occurred here. Joseph Kony‘s Lord‘s Resistance Army have abducted thousands, many of them children, and have systematically tortured, raped, maimed and killed their victims.

Nevertheless, the ICC has confronted outright hostility from a wide range of groups, including traditional leaders, representatives of the Catholic and Anglican Churches, and non-governmental organizations. Even the Ugandan government, which invited the ICC to become involved in 2003, has been expressing serious reservations. For many, the Court is spoiling the peace process and is making continued warfare and suffering more likely.

This book argues that much of the antipathy to the ICC is based upon ignorance and misconception. Drawing on field research in Uganda, it shows that victims are much more interested in punitive international justice than has been suggested, and that the ICC has made resolution of the war more likely."

Darfur: Western diplomats press for sanctions

From today's Financial Times:

Sanctions would force change of policy in Sudan.
A proposal from 15 former foreign ministers...

"The surest way to save lives in Darfur would be through a fully observed ceasefire leading to a sustained political settlement that allows refugees and the displaced to return to their homes. In the interim, the under-manned and under-equipped African Union peacekeeping force must be enlarged and strengthened. In meetings in Addis Ababa and Abuja last month, a broad diplomatic coalition recommended a hybrid force that would combine AU personnel with financial, logistics and other support from the United Nations.

In the past, President Bashir has claimed that outside efforts to save lives in Darfur were a ploy to mask western interference in Sudan’s internal affairs. The Addis-Abuja proposal clearly negates that claim, coming as it does with support from the AU, Arab League and UN Security Council (including China). This is an African and Arab-supported plan to save Sudanese lives. Mr Bashir has no more excuses. [...]"

About 2.5 million Darfuris have been made homeless by the conflict

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ethiopia: Mengistu convicted... of genocide?

The BBC reports on the conclusions of the marathon Mengistu trial:

"Ethiopia's Marxist ex-ruler, Mengistu Haile Mariam, has been found guilty of genocide after a 12-year trial.

The former leader was tried in his absence. He has been in exile in Zimbabwe since being ousted in 1991 and many fear he will never face justice. In a notorious campaign - known as the Red Terror - thousands of suspected opponents were rounded up and executed and their bodies tossed on the streets. Mengistu and dozens of his officials could face the death penalty. " [read rest here]

Mugabe in Zimbabwe of course refuses to extradite Mengistu. Hoorah, the African Old Boy's Club is alive and well. No surprise there.

Still, the Mengistu conviction is surprising. Mostly, why genocide--what 'genus' of Ethiopians were targeted and killed, besides those sharing the non-physical trait of opposing socialist policies implemented by the Dirgue, the military junta that ousted Haile Selassie in 1974?

Literature on Ethiopia's 'Red Terror' tends to amalgamate the government-sanctioned killing of political dissidents with those who died from famine (approx. 1.5 million) in rural areas in the late 70s and early 80s. These deaths resulted, so the argument goes, from land redistribution programs that forced the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of farmers to uncultivated, barren areas of the country. Little information is available on the legal arguments used to frame the totality of these deaths as genocidal, which would require proof of a state apparatus constructed deliberately for the single purpose of identifying and terminating the lives of individuals exhibiting certain physical traits. Rwanda and Nazi Germany are the classic examples.

My sense has always been that Mengistu's Ethiopia fashioned itself (with Soviet support) a laboratory for Marxist land reform schemes that failed miserably, such that millions perished, as lab rats do in any controlled environment when an experiment runs amok. Large scale humanitarian tragedy, yes, made even worse by a lack of justice for its victims. Social engineering in hyper-drive, yes, but a genocide?

The affair also made me do a quick mental inventory of other African dictators who absconded with their crimes--where are they now?

Idi Amin, the self-proclaimed 'King of Scotland', died in Jeddah in 2003 after a long exile. His ouster by Tanzanian troops ('regime change' a l'africaine) in 1979 ended an eight year rule. Amin never faced trial for his alleged crimes. Up to 400,000 people are believed to have been killed under his rule. [Amin in reflection: "No coffee, just more medals."]

Chad's Hissein Habre is still alive in Senegal, having fled in 1990 after ouster by Idriss Deby, the country's currently beleaguered president. A Chadian government inquiry accused Habre's regime of 40,000 political killings and 200,000 cases of torture during his 1982-1990 rule. After significant international pressure and a call for extradition for trail in Belgium, Senegal agreed to undertake Habre's trial. It has requested international funding to do so.

[With Mitterand, looking rather like a Whirling Dervish.]

Liberia's Charles Taylor first found refuge in Nigeria, but has since been extradited to the ICC in the Hague. He is accused of funding Sierra Leone's former rebels, the Revolutionary United Front by selling diamonds on their behalf and buying weapons for them. RUF fighters were notorious for hacking off the arms and legs of the civilian population with machetes, as well as killing, raping and robbing them.
[See other charges against Taylor here]

Monday, December 11, 2006

UN Convention against Corruption: will it have teeth?

Transparency International released its Global Corruption Barometer 2006 on Dec 7 last week, in advance of the third annual International Anti-corruption Day.

Transparency International looks at corruption from several angles. Its Global Corruption Barometer tries to show corruption through the eyes of ordinary citizens, by polling around 59,000 people in 62 different countries. It asks people their opinions about which public sectors are most corrupt, and which spheres of life are most affected by corruption (family, politics, business), and how their government is doing in its fight against corruption. This Barometer report investigates bribery particularly--who pays what to whom, why and how much--particularly regarding the forces of order (police, military, civil servants).

International Anti-corruption Day is in recognition of the signing of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Mexico three years ago. This agreement (in PDF here) came into force last year: 140 countries have now signed on, and 80 have ratified. DR Congo is not among them.

From 10 to 14 December, the UNCAC countries will meet in Jordan to decide the fate of the agreement: the funding of monitoring, how to ensure compliance and secure the repatriation of stolen wealth, among other issues. Compliance, or enforcement of norms, and the repatriation of stolen wealth are of obvious relevance to numerous African countries, particularly those with natural resources and little effective control over their extraction.

On unregulated resource extraction in Africa, the lobby group Fatal Transactions is active and interesting. Their March 2006 report on extractive mining in Katanga, DRC, is worth a look: "The State vs. the People. Governance, mining and the transitional regime in the Democratic Republic of Congo".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

CAR: Staging ground for regional conflicts

And is itself a powderkeg.... Intelligent coverage about dynamics in this little understood region in today's NYT:

The Central African Republic — so important as a potential bulwark against the chaos and misery of its neighbors in Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan — is being dragged right into the dangerous and ever-expanding conflict that has begun to engulf central Africa.
So porous are its borders and ungoverned are parts of its territory that foreign rebels are using the Central African Republic as a staging ground to mount attacks over the border, spreading what the United Nations has called the world’s “gravest humanitarian crisis.”

Read more here...