Thursday, November 20, 2008


Zambia had its elections after the death of President Mwanawasa. But there are accusations of fraud, corruption, and vote-buying by Banda who was the president stand-in until the election, and the deputy under Mwanawasa, and now the newly elected president.

I'm a bit glad I've lacked computer access, some free time, and updates have been deleted related to the Zimbabwe elections. If not you would have seen me say repeatedly that an accord would be reached. And each time, I would tell you that it was not and the unity-government talks have stalled over cabinet portfolio allocations. Mugabe has finally yielded the finance ministry to Tsvangirai and the MDC. But Mugabe wants at the very least to share Home Affairs; he won't concede it. Tsvangirai says without Home Affairs there is no balance in security ministries between Zanu-PF and the MDC. So we are currently at a stalemate. This week is the SADC summit, but the MDC is prepared to take it to the AU afterwards and all the way to the UN (SADC – South African Development Community, AU-African Union, UN—you should know this one—United Nations).

I know it's hard for him, too. Imagine. Mugabe is a guy you once admired and supported. Continually over the years you have had to distance yourself from him, and his group have physically beaten you badly many times. Now you win (educated guess on my part) the election. You agree to compromise and run in run-off.

Too many of your people are being beaten, killed, raped, intimidated, and vandalized. You pull out of the run-off (you wouldn't win the unfair run-off anyway). But you compromise and agree to a joint unity government.

Then in the unity government talks you are not allowed to have control of the MAJOR ministries whose mismanagement put your country in the mess it's in. People are currently dying, starving. Aid is needed and quickly. Companies and investors need to return to the country and to do this you need control of key ministries including finance, home affairs, local government, foreign affairs, etc. Which do you take? Which do you yield? What about the military and the police (local government)? Do you again compromise?

The toughest event to hit my heart is the fighting in the eastern region of Congo. It hurts for a number of reasons. It's hard to understand because it's complex. People are dying. People are being raped. People are displaced. Refugees are on the run, again. And part of it is Hutu-Tutsi fighting, again. This is why I believe so much in people who are doing Hutu-Tutsi and race-relations reconciliatory work in Uganda, Rwanda, Congo area. We need it badly.

First, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is at it again. The peace talks failed, and they were never signed months ago. Now they are again raping and killing and abducting children to be child soldiers, this time in Southern Sudan and northeastern DRC. Surprisingly, DRC local villagers are fighting back with their own local organized groups. But a bigger and older problem (for the DRC) still pervades. Over a million people have been displaced and there have been gender-based violence in rape since August 2008. Hutus and Tutsis have been fighting again. And this has been happening since the First and Second Congolese Wars (1994 and 1998).

After the First Congolese War in 1994 (60,000 civilians died), Rwanda-supported Laurent Kabila kicked out Mobuto Sese Seko (The former president of the DRC). When Kabila became president he kicked out all Rwandan military in the DRC and even fired his Rwandan chief of staff. So tension increased until Tutsi-led Rwandan and Ugandan troops backed an uprising around Goma (eastern DRC city in the valley of a volcano) called the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RDC). Kabila, in turn, recruited Hutus in anti-Tutsi retaliation leading to public lynchings in Kinshasa. And things have gotten worse since then.

The RCD, Rwandan, Ugandan, and Burundian forces took more and more of the country. So Kabila got help from Zim, Namibia, and Angola, and then reinforcements from Chad, Libya, and Sudan. With all these forces converging we had the Great African War from 1998 – 2003. This is normally why DRC people tell me there is no more fighting in DRC because this war ended in 2003. But there has been continued fighting, or let me say it has just restarted. Even with the peace agreements signed in 2008 in January (the Goma Agreement) in which 22 armed forces agreed, there have been over 200 violations according to UN monitoring groups and Amnesty International. This is because there are so many groups involved and they all have different interests and they sometimes work against each other or towards cross purposes.

You may be confused at what I just wrote about ethnic clashes and national clashes, so let me help a bit more. There are three situations going on at the same time. First is the LRA now moved into the northern and northeastern border of the DRC.

Then there is fighting between the Congolese army and Tutsi rebels (sometimes referred to as Congolese Tutsis in newspapers or journals). There is a man named General Laurent Nkunda, an evangelical Tutsi, leading this rebel group nicknamed “Rebels for Christ”. The actual name is Congres Nationale de la Defense du Pays (National Congress for the Defense of the Country). Nkunda's sacred mission is defending the honor of the Congolese Tutsi. He defected from the Congolese army in 2005 and settled in North Kivu where 23,000 have been displaced. He blames the government but eyewitness accounts have seen his own forces initiate conflict. So his Congolese Tutsi rebels are fighting with the Congolese army.

The third problem and probably the root of the fighting (related to the Congolese Tutsi rebels) is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), composed of Rwandan military and Hutu extremists responsible for the genocide in 1994 in Rwanda. Now (stay with me), twice Rwandan Tutsi forces have crossed the border to finish off the FDLR. Last year in 2007, the DRC agreed to get rid of the FDLR out of the border area, but they seem to be doing little to make it happen. The Economist reports that the FDLR and the DRC government collude to reap benefits from the mineral trade in North Kivu.

The problem with Rwanda and the previous peace talks is that there has been no component related to the FDLR. No Western forces is pressuring Rwanda to do so. The FDLR wants to be incorporated into Rwandan politics as a legitimized political party, but Rwanda refuses. A South African professor says that is the same thing as saying the status quo (with all the killing and fighting) is ok. The January peace deal only dealt with General Nkunda's rebellion. But even that peace deal failed.

The real surprise is the inability of the peace-keeping troops to do anything. The peace-keeping unit at one time increased to 17000 (the highest UN allocation anywhere in the world) but they are still unable to handle the situation. The UN has its hands full with Sudan and cannot even get all promised troops there. So more troops for this region is unlikely for the time being.

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