New leadership at Canada’s aid agency
Bev Oda, resigned as Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, the position in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It has been suggested that Oda resigned in a face-saving move responding to rumours of a small cabinet-shuffle in which she was set to be demoted. Oda had recently been the source of controversy. She had been criticized for her spending practices in a time of fiscal austerity, and for the inappropriate way in which KAIROS (a Canadian NGO) had their funding cut (the word “not” was written over a grant document). Oda also presided over important changes at CIDA, such as the shift to a list of 20 ‘priority’ countries for bilateral aid, the Muskoka Initiative and an increased emphasis on maternal health projects, untying some Canadian aid, creating new aid partnerships with Canadian companies working overseas, as well as tightening the regulations around CIDA-supported Canadian NGOs who do political advocacy. Click here for more on Oda’s ‘legacy’. The new Minister for International Cooperation is Julian Fantino, the former Associate Defence Minister.
Deconstructing language – Re-examining ‘Failed States’
The DRC, and other African nations experiencing armed conflict, are routinely described as being or nearing “failure”. Claire Leigh on the Guardian’s Global Development blog, criticizes Foreign Policy’s promotion of the Failed States Index and their ‘Postcards from Hell’ feature on failing states. She poignantly argues “…the label “failed state” implies no degree of success or failure, no sense of decline or progress….Failed means a binary division between those countries that are salvageable and those beyond redemption. It is a word reserved for marriages and exams. It does not belong in a pragmatic debate…What might appear to Foreign Policy readers as postcards from hell appear to millions of others as pictures of home.”
The latest UN report on the Congo – A smoking gun of Rwanda’s support to Congolese rebels?
The controversial (and nearly unreleased) annex of the UN Group of Expert’s midterm report on the DRC conflict, points to senior members of the Rwandan military (RDF) having strong links to the leadership of the M23 rebel movement, as reported by Colum Lynch, over at Foreign Policy’s Turtle Bay Blog. The named Rwandan officials are cited as mobilizing political and military support for the rebels, providing logistics support, helping with recruitment, and supplying arms. Of note is James Kaberebe, the Rwandan Minister of Defense who has previously been a major actor in recent Congolese history. Kabarebe led Rwanda’s support of eastern Congolese rebel groups such as the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD), the group which played a significant role in the sparking of the Second Congo War, and the AFDL during the First Congo War who overthrew Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. The Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, has denied that Rwanda is again supporting Congolese armed groups.
In defense of Rwanda’s support to Congolese rebels, Mwenda claims things are more complex than they seem.
Take a look at this must-read piece by Great Lakes political analyst Andrew Mwenda. Mwenda offers a perspective that is kinder to the Rwandan leadership than the “poorly informed, often prejudiced international observers and `experts’, and local and international human rights groups [that give] a blanket condemnation of Kigali as the mastermind of the rebellion”. Mwenda looks at the recent crisis through the lens of Rwanda’s security concerns, arguing that the relationship between Rwanda and certain predominantly Banyarwanda (Congolese of Rwandan descent) rebel groups is more complex than many observers think. A common explanation for Rwanda’s support of these largely Banyarwanda Congolese rebel groups is ethnic solidarity and the common enemy of the FDLR. Mwenda proposes that the Rwandan government is more interested in security in the Eastern Congo than the Congolese government itself, as a stable east is key for Rwanda’s ambitious plans for development. There is also this:
“Therefore, to understand the complexity of the current flare up in fighting in DRC is to first appreciate the fears and temptations people in Kigali face. First, the Tutsi militias in Congo, even without Kigali’s active support, act as a buffer between Rwanda and the FDLR. Second, they protect local Tutsi populations that face existential threats from the FDLR and other Congolese communities. Third, these militias and their warlords ensure order in a region where the Congolese state in almost absent. Therefore, their defeat would present a key security challenge to Rwanda. Hence Kigali finds itself in a position where it cannot support the Tutsi militias in Congo while at the same time it cannot condemn their cause.”
Malnutrition and food insecurity in the Great Lakes Region: Less sensational than war, but no less important.
The Congo Resources blog reminds us that one of the biggest issues facing the populations of the Great Lakes Region is not as sensational or widely reported on as refugees, war, and mass human rights abuses, but is nevertheless extremely important. Recently, banana wilt and cassava diseases, among other agricultural and livestock diseases, are negatively affecting food production and nutrition in the region at alarming rates. Read the post here for more.
Another issue rarely in the spotlight: Men as victims
Yovanka Perdigao, of Think Africa Press, examines how there is a dearth of services and attention and an abundance of stigma for Congolese men who are victims of sexual violence.
Check out this interesting piece at the Wall Street Journal which gives a look into Bosco Ntaganda, and the history of the latest UN Mission in the Congo.
An ‘Arab Summer’ in Sudan?
Although not a part of the Great Lakes, over the last while there have been developments in Sudan that, if escalated, may have implications for South Sudan and consequently the Great Lakes Region. Omar Al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, has ramped up arrests of activists and journalists in response to increasing protests and popular discontent with his regime. Some have said that the rise in opposition to Bashir is driven by Sudan’s latest austerity measures. The Sudanese government is under increasing fiscal pressure after having lost extensive oil revenue when South Sudan became independent, and with large military spending on the continued conflicts in Darfur and South Sudan.