Categories
Justice

Bemba: Condemned for Commanding a Rebellion

Rebel camp in Northern Central Republic, courtesy hdptcar/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies on 23 March 2016.

On Monday 21 March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found former Congolese vice-president and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although the charges emanate from crimes committed in Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003, his guilty verdict affects not one, but two African countries.

First, in CAR where the ICC found that troops belonging to Bemba’s rebel group Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC – the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo) committed the international crimes of rape, murder and pillaging at his behest. Second, the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where Bemba’s arrest and elimination from the political scene in 2008 significantly changed the political landscape.

In late 2002, Bemba – then MLC leader – sent his troops to assist CAR’s president at the time Ange-Félix Patassé. Patassé was attempting to quell armed attacks from François Bozizé, the man who would eventually overthrow him. At this point Bemba had been relying heavily on Patassé; using Bangui as his rear logistics base during his rebellion against DRC President Joseph Kabila. Responding to Patassé’s call for help was in many ways a survival strategy for Bemba. Despite these efforts, Bozizé ousted Patassé in March 2003.

Categories
Security Environment Terrorism

Is the Illegal Trade in Congolese Minerals Financing Terror?

Conflict Mineral Democratic Republic of the Congo, courtesy RSN_3230/flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 2 March 2016.

Many resource-rich states across the globe have used revenues from mining to finance their development. In Africa, however, a lack of sufficiently robust or effectively enforced regulatory systems often means that states lose vast amounts to the illicit trade of natural resources.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the scourge of illegal resource acquisition and smuggling has been taking on a new dimension with terrorist groups becoming increasingly involved.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) is currently conducting a research project that tracks illicit financial flows related to resource extraction in the DRC.

Our studies have found that where multinationals were once the major players, terror groups are now increasingly joining the criminal networks that extort minerals from the eastern part of the country. This underscores the need for urgent and drastic measures to improve natural resource governance, both in the DRC and the broader region.

According to a 2009 report in African Business magazine, the total mineral wealth of the DRC is estimated to be about US$24 trillion: equal to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Europe and the United States combined. The country is home to the world’s largest reserves of cobalt, along with vast quantities of diamonds; so-called 3T minerals (tin, tungsten and coltan – which are mostly used in electronics such as laptops and mobile phones); gold; copper and others.

Categories
Environment Human Rights Development Conflict

Exploiting Minerals, Exploiting Communities

A mine worker holding up pieces of Wolframite. Image: Julien Harneis/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 18 May 2015.

In Africa, and indeed in most developing countries across the globe, extractive industries have sparked much controversy and debate.

While these industries bring with them the promise of economic growth and social development, they have, in many cases, instead contributed to the devastation of the countries’ governance systems and economic structures, which has led to an increase in poverty in resource-rich areas.

This has seen a rise in human rights abuses, and at times irreversible damage to the environment. Indeed, that promise of economic and social transformation has rarely come to fruition.

Categories
Journalism Conflict

How (Not) To Write about African Wars

Rwandan genocide memorial church. Image: Adam Jones/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 30 September 2014.

Even a seasoned follower of political affairs might be excused for struggling to make sense of the seemingly worsening vortex of ongoing armed conflicts. Chances are, given the recent war in Gaza, the promising but still fragile developments in Afghanistan, and the twinned and tragic mess Syria and Iraq has become, his analytic brain might be reasonably overwhelmed.

But, to be sure, in the daily media discourse, some of the complicated nuances of these events have been gaining attention, making their way into public debates and helping form policy positions and diplomatic or military options. In short, news and information consumers are treated to a varied diet in relation to the coverage of world conflicts— most of which, in recent years, have been internal civil wars.

The argument holds, however, only if African civil wars are removed from the list. As it appears, those belong to a different category. For African civil wars, if the dominant media discourse is to be believed, explanations are easy and definitive.

Categories
International Relations Security Conflict CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Localizing Peace Processes in DR Congo

Photo: © Sara Hellmüller

The M23’s recent abandonment of its armed struggle has renewed hopes for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, it also underlines a major problem that has characterized peace negotiations over the past decade – namely their primary focus on the “noisiest” actors whose actions aim to shock the collective international conscience. For peace to be sustainable, greater efforts are needed to localize peace initiatives.

From the battlefield to the negotiation table

On 5th November 2013, the Head of M23, Bertrand Bisimwa declared that the organization would henceforth end its armed revolt in the eastern DRC and pursue its objectives through political dialogue. This change of approach can be explained by four factors. First, the M23 experienced some important losses on the battlefield after the United Nations bolstered its MONUSCO stabilization mission with an intervention brigade that possesses a robust mandate to neutralize armed groups. Ground was also lost to the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) after it was strengthened, restructured and made more capable of going after M23 rebels. In addition, diplomatic pressure and suspension of development aid, mainly by the United States and European Union, prompted Rwanda to decrease its backing of the M23. Finally, the appointment of Mary Robinson as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and Russell Feingold as US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and their diplomatic engagement has undoubtedly played a part in moving the warring parties from the battlefield to the negotiation table.