Friday, April 30, 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Say No To Canadian Troops For Congo and Yes To Canadian Diplomacy

By Bodia Macharia, President, Friends of Congo University of Toronto

As Canada’s Governor-General Michaelle Jean visits the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), much speculation abounds regarding the new-found attention being paid to the DRC by the Canadian government. It appears that Canadian General Andrew Leslie is primed to head the 20,000 strong United Nations Mission in the Congo. There is speculation that the anticipated Canadian troops withdrawal from Afghanistan may result in Canadian troops presence in Congo.

Canadian troops should stay home. The DRC does not need more militarization, it needs justice. Canada can help to advance justice, peace and stability in the Congo without sending a single soldier. Should the Canadian government and people in general do the following, it would go further to advance peace and stability in the Congo more than any number of Canadian troops:

1. Call on the United States and England in particular as well as other nations throughout the globe to make Congo a top diplomatic priority.

2. Call on the United States and England to pressure their allies Rwanda and Uganda to cease the destabilization of the Congo, open political space in their own countries and engage in sincere and earnest dialogue with their countrymen who are wreaking havoc in the Congo.

3. Canada should also leverage its position with Rwanda to open political space inside Rwanda and engage in dialogue with Rwandan rebel groups inside Congo.

4. Canada should call on its corporations and those raising capital on the Toronto Stock Exchange (an estimated half the mining capital in the world is raised on the Toronto Stock Exchange) to cease their exploitation of Congo’s riches. Companies such as Banro, First Quantum, Anvil Mining, Barrick Gold via its partner Anglo-Gold Ashanti and others have or continue to benefit at the expense of the Congolese people. A good start would be for the Parliament to pass Bill C-300. In addition, assure that the Canadian Investment Fund for Africa is used for its original purpose - African companies, not Canadian companies that have ready access to capital markets.

5. Provide support to local institutions as opposed to authoritarian regimes that oppress their populations with the support of Canadian tax dollars.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Condition of Women in the Congo


"Recovery from Natural Catastrophes,Wars,and the Financial Crisis"

By: Saran Traore, Research Analyst, Friends Of The Congo

Howard University, the US Congress and the Womens Ambassadors Foundation collaborated on the 15th Annual Womens Ambassadors Conference in the Rayburn Building at the US Congress on April 7th, 2010. The conference had a morning and afternoon session of discussions on different issues facing the global community. Although all the events were informative, the “Recovery from the Financial Crisis” and “Recovery from Wars, the case of the Congo(DRC)” in the afternoon were most eyeopening.

Each session lasted for an hour with panelist giving some overview of the topic then a Q&A after. “Recovery from the Financial Crisis” covered the recent economic crisis that affected the entire international community. Members of the World Bank, experts from Howard university and financial groups were all present to talk about the beginning of the crash, where it started and who was affected the most in comparison to the US. One specific speaker, Mr. Shanta Devarajan from the World Bank, was the expert on the Africa and his take on the affects on the continent as a whole. According to Mr. Devarajan, African was showing great economic improvements not seen in years before the crisis. Overall growth was at 6% before the crash from 4%. Trade and need of commodities was in Africa's favor. Policies were being made across the board for smarter and better economic governance. These improvements then halted after the crash because of the big hit that Africa took. Growth reduced to 1%, Infant Mortality rates grew 30-50 thousand, and millions of people were thrown back into poverty. Although all this sounds severe, Mr. Devarajan says that it could have been worst if Africa had not been on the hot streak that it was on before the crisis. He also emphasis that we should be optimistic, for policy makers are seeing the benefits of prudent policies and many countries are staying the course on these policies.

As I and many other Africans were hopeful of these statements and numbers, I felt the need to ask a very realistic question. With the recorded growth mentioned, distribution of wealth (DOW) in Africa has been and remains a very serious issue. How was it factored into the growth and how was it further effected by the economic crisis? Mr. Devarjan very much agreed with my concerns. According to him, DOW was monitored because in comparison to India, Africa showed a 1.1% in poverty reduction which was better than in India. Once the crash hit, there off course was a drop in income and many people dropped jobs from the formal sector to head to the informal sectors. Also, as remittance is an important part of Africa's economy and wealth distribution, there was a significant drop since those in the Diaspora could no longer afford to send as much back as before the crash. The good news is, remittances are coming back, therefore giving some who have lost jobs some hope for income.

The second session, “Recovery from Wars, the case of Congo (DRC)” was a very powerful one. The panel consisted of Friends of Congo's very own Makeda Crane, a speaker and blogger for FOC, and Jeanne-Martin Cisse who was Guinea-Conakry's first woman Ambassador to the UN and in 1972 was president of the Security Council. Crane spoke of the political, social, and economic crisis that the Congo is experiencing and the millions of lives the have been and continue to be claimed from it. She gave a touching and gripping presentation about her involvement with the Congo and her plight to help the Congo get back on its own feet. She spoke of the fight for minerals in Congo, the tragedy of the amazing women being raped as a result of the war, and the need for social empowerment. In the same tone, she emphasized the political, economic and most importantly human potential of the Congo. Ambassador Cisse echoed in on the same note and spoke of healing Congo and the rest of Africa. She has witnessed the history of Congo and wishes to see a positive change in her lifetime for the country and the entire continent so that the dialogue can change for the better about Africa to the outside world.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

“Countries at the Crossroads”

“Countries at the Crossroads”

Political Turmoil and Receding Reform: Democratic Governance in Uncertain Times

By Saran Traore, Research Analyst, the Friends of Congo

Thursday, April 6th, 2010 was a remarkable and exciting day at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC for Freedom House as it hosted the release of the fifth edition of “Countries at the Crossroads.” The Countries at the Crossroads series are an annual assessment of government performance in 70 strategically important countries worldwide that are at a critical crossroad in determining their political future. This edition covered 32 countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Methodology behind these findings was founded by prominent scholars and analysts who are considered experts in the regions covered in the study.

The four main areas of performance that Freedom House considers to be the basis of analyzing the state of democratic governance in a country are as follows; Accountability and Public Voice, Civil liberties, Rule of Law, and Anti-corruption and Transparency. Each country is graded on a scale of 0-7. Congo's scores in each of these dimensions are as follows; In Accountability and Public Voice, Congo has an average score of 1.53, with the higher score in the category of 5.34 belonging to Ghana. Civil liberties, Congo has an average of 1.98, Ghana with the highest of 5.33. In the category of Rule of Law, Congo has a 1.15, Ghana yet again having the highest of 4.64. Finally for Anti-Corruption and Transparency, Congo scores a 1.06, while South Africa has the highest of 3.90. These average scores are a compilation of all 32 countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and Haiti in the Western Hemisphere. The findings also determined Ghana and South Africa as established democracies and found Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania in fragile democratic processes. On the lower spectrum of progress, they found Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda in faltering reforms and Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe as power concentrators. The last category that Congo falls in is simply explaining that undemocratic governance predominates and prospects for democratic gains are “dim.” Although “dim,” this does not imply impossibility of making progress to get Congo on a democratic path. As these numbers and findings may seem disheartening, it should be a motivator and emphasize the importance of the work that we all, stakeholders, are dedicated to in the Congo.

Although these indicators are mostly used by agencies such as the United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) and the Millennium Challenge Account to determine aid recipients, The goal of Freedom House and Jake Dizard, the managing editor of Countries at the Crossroads, is that these findings can be used by policy makers and leaders of these countries as a guide to remedy many of the issues hindering the growth democratic governance.

Thursday's event was a full house of different organizations and a very rich panel of experts to discuss the regional governance challenges in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The panelist included Joel Barkan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Kevin Casas-Zamora with the Brookings Institute, and Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations, just to name a few. The presentations by each expert on each region was extremely fascinating, especially Joel Barkan's take on the state of democracy in Africa. Although the focus of the presentation was on Kenya and Uganda, many of his analysis was applicable to other African states such as the Congo. He spoke of checks and balances in government, Rule of Law and the election process being gradually disregarded in many developing countries. So in order to change political infrastructure, it must be done in the wake of elections. The full report and scoring of the countries analyzed is on the Freedom House website along with greater detail about the methodology of the entire project. You can also get the full transcript of Thursdays event at the Brookings institute web address.


Freedom House

Brookings Institute

Friday, April 09, 2010

Military Presence and Aid Not the Answer

Increased military presence and aid alone will not prevent another Makombo Massacre.

By Noelle Barber

The tragedy in Northeastern Congo truly deserves our utmost attention and concern. First, the extent and persistence of the slaughter has resulted in an estimated 6 million deaths since 1996. Congolese in the northeast are brutalized and intimidated daily, men women and children live constantly with the threat of kidnap, rape, torture and death. Second, the extermination of the villages such as Makombo is something you and I, our Congress, and any person with a conscious and a piece of modern technology should take personally: This massacre is directly related to the highly profitable plunder of minerals, such as coltan, tungsten and cobalt, vital to our cell phones and computers. Mother Jones 2010: Blood and Treasure.

Indeed, the government in Kinshasa allows these massacres to continue, Rwandan and Ugandan leadership profit when villages of people are wiped out and enslaved to make room for unregulated resource mining. Yet the international community continues to provide the green light for both Kabila in Congo and Kagame in Rwanda and other international profit seekers to go on with their brutal business. Increased military presence and humanitarian aid will treat some of symptoms, but within this course of action, the underlying disease remains. For years to come it will cost a whole lot more than the 10 million dollars proposed in the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act to support and treat the victims of the world’s most brutal and deadly conflict.

It is excellent that the Los Angeles Times has made an effort to expose this horrifying incident to the American public and push for meaningful steps to end the conflict. Allow me to introduce an important perspective, one that cannot be ignored if Congo is to find a sustained and lasting peace within the country and along its borders. It is the voices and insights of the Congolese that must be heard, for in the end, the affairs of the Congo must be determined by the Congolese. Policy alternatives by Congolese.