L’histoire risque-t-elle de se répéter en Centrafrique?

Because sometimes I write in French.Here is an article of mine that appeared in the Huffington Post QC

 

En 2011, c’était la Libye. En janvier 2013, le Mali. Aujourd’hui c’est la Centrafrique. Pour la seconde fois en un peu plus d’un an le gouvernement Hollande a décidé d’intervenir dans un pays africain, où les violences entre les combattants de la Séléka et les miliciens anti-Balaka entre civils musulmans et chrétiens ont déjà fait des milliers de morts et de déplacés.

Du coup, les questions fustigent. Quel est le but de ces interventions? Que veut la France sur le continent africain? Y a-t-il une «doctrine Hollande»?

Certains taxent la France de néo-colonialisme, de vouloir revigorer la Françafrique malgré les promesses de Hollande que ce temps était révolu. « Le président français doit arrêter de nous pomper l’air », dénonce le quotidien burkinabé Le Pays. D’autres pensent que la France veut contrecarrer les avancées chinoises sur le continent. Finalement, il y a ceux qui suggèrent que Hollande utilise la politique étrangère pour redorer son blason alors que son taux de popularité est au plus bas dans une France en crise économique.

Vu la nature complexe et parfois très douteuse des relations Franco-Africaines, ces interrogations sont légitimes. Il serait naïf de penser que la France n’a pas d’intérêts économiques dans ces pays. Mais il faut aussi rappeler que les Centrafricains, comme les Maliens, il y a un an, font face à une violence inouïe. Avant l’intervention française, 450 personnes avaient été tuées en deux jours, le Président Michel Djotodia étant incapable de faire quoi que ce soit pour protéger son peuple.

Sur le plan diplomatique, on ne peut pas dire que l’Union africaine ait montré beaucoup d’efficacité. Sur le plan militaire, la Mission internationale de Soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine (MISCA) ne semblait pas en mesure de ramener la sécurité. Après avoir alerté l’ONU et l’Union européenne, seule la France a pris la décision de venir en aide aux forces africaines. Le premier ministre Jean-Marc Ayrault déclarait alors que la France prenait ses responsabilités internationales et que « l’inaction n’était pas une option. » Personne d’autre ne semblait prêt ou capable de prendre l’initiative.

Vu l’ampleur de la tâche et la gravité de la situation, la France et les forces africaines ne peuvent pas agir seules. Catherine Samba-Panza, la présidente intérimaire centrafricaine, est favorable à une intervention de l’ONU. Une action concertée et multilatérale avec les membres de l’Union africaine est donc essentielle. La semaine dernière l’Union européenne a finalement décidé d’envoyer des troupes – une décision qui a d’ailleurs enfin été validée par l’ONU.

Mais certains pays, comme le Canada par ailleurs, semblent croire qu’ils ne doivent pas s’intéresser à ces conflits. Ni le Canada ni les États-Unis ne sont implantés dans la région et la Centrafrique semble si éloignée. C’est une erreur. Quand le Mali ou Centrafrique s’embrasent, c’est toute la région qui est affectée. Ce que cherchent les djihadistes, c’est des territoires instables où s’installer, comme on l’a observé au Mali. La France l’a bien compris : ce n’est pas seulement la sécurité des populations locales qui est en jeux – la sienne aussi.

Faut-il rappeler au gouvernement Harper que le Canada a pris des engagements en adhérant à des normes internationales comme la Responsabilité de protéger. La doctrine n’est certes pas parfaite, mais il est question de protéger des civils et de prévenir une montée de la violence alors que les Nations Unies ainsi que les soldats rwandais sur place s’inquiètent déjà d’un possible génocide.

Si l’ambassadeur canadien pour la liberté de religion, M. Andrew Bennett, se déplace en Ukraine afin de montrer son indignation suite aux menaces contre la liberté religieuse de l’Église grecque catholique ukrainienne, pourquoi ne prend-il pas position sur la Centrafrique ? La communauté ukrainienne étant importante au Canada, il semble que le gouvernement ne pense qu’à l’appui électoral et évite donc de s’engager dans un conflit qui semble lointain. Mais, encore une fois, ne pas comprendre que dans un monde interconnecté, les conflits dans l’Afrique subsahélienne, tout comme dans le Sahel, peuvent éventuellement affecter les intérêts et la sécurité des Canadiens aussi.

Au début du mois, le sénateur Roméo Dallaire se trouvait devant les Nations Unies afin de rappeler à l’assemblée que 20 ans plus tôt, on lui avait tourné le dos tandis que des atrocités de masse se profilaient à l’horizon au Rwanda. Alors que nous entamons les commémorations du génocide rwandais, les atrocités qui se déroulent en ce moment en Centrafrique, les images des machettes et des corps, font resurgir de mauvais souvenirs. Il serait donc plus qu’opportun de montrer que nous savons apprendre de nos erreurs du passé.

 

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Update and interesting reads

I great lack of update on my part. I have been writing but in French! I’ll post a new piece soon

In the meantime, here are some interested links

Responsibility to Protect:

“Into the Eleventh Hour: R2P, Syria and Humanitarianism

Here is a series of article on R2P and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.It brings together some of the most important voices on R2P and humanitarian intervention to examine the doctrine’s validity in the context of Syria’s civil war and humanitarian emergency. Does the Responsibility to Protect have a future?

Also on the same subject “The Responsibility to Protect and the Use of Force in Syria” written by Eamon Aloyo from The Hague Institute

Finally, in “R2P4: The Unsung Fourth Element of Humanitarian Intervention” Mark Lagon calls for a fourth pillar for R2P: ”

“So actually, rather than too much focus on Pillar 3 in place of Pillar 2, what is truly being neglected is an as yet unmentioned “Pillar 4.” If R2P is such a solemn norm, to save the livelihoods of targets of atrocities, then Pillar 4 would represent unilateral or, better, collective action when the Security Council’s approval is not forthcoming.”

The idea of Pillar4 is certainly controversial.

Syria

A lot is being written about Syria, torture committed in Syrian prisons, and Geneva II. But at the end of the day, this is what we have come to: “The politics of starvation: Syria’s civilians go hungry after months of sieges”. Eating rats, dogs, and cats to survive. All Syrians there want is peace and food.

Central African Republic

Civilians in CAR are facing extreme violence at the moment. The images are daunting and remind me the Rwandan genocide. Although the French have sent troops to help African troops, the task is enormous and more help is needed. The European Union will sent in peacekeepers as well but, as always, it is taking a long time. Only 10% of the humanitarian aid has been funded. The African Union, whose members have not shown the capacity to appease tensions, have also discussed establishing a Standby Force. But what is needed is a UN mission – something the new interim president of CAR has also requested. Why is action always so slow?

Human Rights Watch’s researcher Peter Bouckaert is doing an incredible job reporting on the situation and documenting crimes committed by both sides. You can follow him on Twitter or see his Twitter live feed for real time news. Also read his latest report “Riptide in the Central African Republic”. Also published in Foreign Policy, the article is fittingly titled on the main page as “The war nobody wants to see”.

I’m very much admirative of the work these humanitarians and activists are doing on the ground. They are simply reporting and documenting mass atrocity crimes, they also try to speak to those who want or have committed violence in attempt to appease them.

Aid Leap and Irinnews  offer overviews and analyses of the conflict

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Peter Bouckaert in CAR

Occasionally, you’ll read something more positive about the situation there and those who are trying to make a difference. This is the case of two men, one Muslim, one Christian, who are trying to appease their respective communities. Christiana Amanpour managed to interview them for CNN. They want to emphasize that the conflict in itself is not religious but that religion is being use to fuel violence. “In my childhood at the time of the Christmas holidays, we shared our toys with Muslim friends. At the time of Ramadan, we played. In the past we have never been enemies. We were brothers.”

South Sudan

There was hope when South Sudan acquired independence in 2011 but the upsurge of violence in December proves how difficult it is to build a new nation. The two conflicting parties are holding peace talks but are also accusing each other of trying to derail them. New satellite images by U.S.-based monitoring group, the Satellite Sentinel Project, suggest that at least 210 tukuls (houses) have been burned down in  Malaka, a town the rebels and soldiers are fighting over. Pillage is  widespread as well – the World Food Program’s warehouses have been completely looted, which hinders their efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to the 863,000 South Sudanese who have fled their homes.

Want to see a timeline of the conflict in South Sudan? Read it this one put together by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

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Rwanda

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Commemorations have already started. People reflect on the inaction of the international community, on lessons learned, and on the effectiveness of reconciliation efforts in Rwanda.

– Foreign Policy Magazine “How Tradition Remade Rwanda. The secret ingredient in Rwanda’s efforts to rebuild its nation after the violence of genocide.”

– Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Open Letter to All UN Member States “The ‘Genocide Fax’ and the 20th Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994”

– Videos and reports from conference Genocide – A preventable crimes. Understanding early warning of mass atrocities
On 14 January, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect organized two event at the United Nations with Lt. Gen. The Hon. Roméo A. Dallaire and H.E. Eugène-Richard Gasana, Permanent Representative of Rwanda. The press conference marked the anniversary of Dallaire’s sending a fax warning of the impending threat of a genocide perpetrated by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi population of Rwanda. Policymakers then refused to listen.

On 15 January, Roméo Dallaire then delivered a keynote speech at the UN. Also present on the panel were  Dr. Simon Adams, H.E. Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States,  Mr. Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Eugenie Mukeshimana, Executive Director of the Genocide Survivors Support Network, and Dr. Stephen Smith, Kwibuka and Executive Director of the Shoah Foundation.

An interesting point that also came out of the conference is Romeo Dallaire idea that the recruitment of child soldiers can be used a a warning sign of internal warfare. Militia men who want to build-up an army focus on children because they are easy to recruited or kidnapped, cheap, easily influenced or subdued. In short, children are used a weapons of war.

Myanmar/Burma

There has been more violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. The government denies the allegations. The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention published a new article on the systematic violence and patterns of ethnic cleansing.

Some History: Heinrich Himmler

If you are interested in the Holocaust, German newspaper Die Welt is published recently discovered letters and diaries written by Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the German Police and the Reich’s Commissioner for the “Festigung des deutschen Volkstums” (Consolidation oft he German Race). The material offers a view of the man who is responsible for the death of millions of Jews. This article is in English but for German speakers Die Welt is also publishing the material on a daily basis. An incredible and daunting view of one of the man behind the Holocaust.

“Many people tell me, ‘never again,’ but still, again and again”: the case of Sudan and the Central African Republic

These words were uttered by a survivor in Darfur, a region where populations are still prey to human rights abuses committed by the Janjaweed militias backed by the government of Sudan. The genocide of 2003, which claimed the lives of 400,000 people, already constitutes a textbook case of the international community’s failure to intervene but the violence also continues to be largely overlooked. The UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) fails to fulfill its mandate but this is largely ignored by the Security Council. Not only do violence and human rights violations persist in Darfur, Abyei and South Kordofan but those displaced by conflicts also still lack food, water and shelter.

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On Wednesday, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) accused the UN Security Council of prolonging the conflict in Sudan by failing to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is under an arrest warrant since 2009. Rightfully so, Fatou Bensouda criticized the Security Council for turning its back on Sudan, thereby allowing Al-Bashir and other alleged perpetrators of human rights violations to remain at large and commit more crimes. Since 2005, Al-Bashir has been allowed to travel to several countries without being arrested. Bensouda sees the inaction of the Security Council on Sudan as “a serious indictment on this council” and as an “insult to the plight of Darfur’s victims.”

U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current Security Council president, argued that the “the council is blocked, by some countries.” Particularly under the radar is China, which continues to block any council action. China has repeatedly said that pressing war crimes charges against the Sudanese president would have disastrous effects in Sudan and invited Al-Bashir to China in 2011. China has also long been Sudan’s biggest arms supplier (25% in 2010) and has major economic investments and interests in the country. China purchases more than half of Sudanese oil output!

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Further south west on the African continent is the Central African Republic, another country where the UN’s inaction attracted biting criticism this week.

Looking at the gravity of the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), it is clear that most of the world remains indifferent to the plight of CAR’s population. In the past week alone, sectarian violence has killed 600 people and since the beginning of the crisis, tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes, according to Unicef. Not only has the UN Security Council failed to take preventive actions against foreseeable violence, but the UN humanitarian aid system has failed as well. On Friday, international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) addressed an open letter to the UN Under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs denouncing “the unacceptable performance of the United Nations humanitarian system” in CAR.  This scathing critique is largely justified. Since July NGOs such as MSF have repeatedly urged the UN to provide adequate humanitarian action and resources but food, water, shelter and hygiene technologies still fail to meet minimum standards.

The failure of the UN system to fulfill its responsibilities towards civilians appears even graver in the case of CAR. Although challenging, humanitarian assistance is supposed to be impartial and neutral. Thus, the general expectation is that humanitarian agencies will deliver aid solely based on the needs of populations, whatever the circumstances. With few exceptions, this has not been the case of UN agencies in CAR. If MSF and other NGOs have been able to deliver, why not UN agencies?

The UN Security Council’s inaction in Sudan and Syria already discredited and delegitimized the international community. Now humanitarian inaction of the UN is having the same result.

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Bearing witness in the Central African Republic

If we needed another example of the power of the social media during protests and conflicts, the current conflict in the Central African Republic is yet another proof. Violence was particularly dramatic over the weekend, leading to the death of at 400 people.

We have seen social media being used during the Arab Spring and other anti-government protests around the world. This time, reporters and humanitarians working on the ground used Twitter to inform the world about on-going human rights violations, the impact on civilians and the arrival of the French troops to Bangui and Bossangoa. Among them are Alex Thompson and Stuart Web (Channel 4), Laura Jepson (IMC), Peter Bouckaert (Human Rights Watch), Tristan Redman (Al Jazeera English), Marcus Bleasdale (National Geographic Photographer), Mark Kaye and Justin Forsyth (Save the Children). They took pictures of Bangui airport filled with fleeing civilians, recorded videos of abuses, and reported live from discussions with Seleka. Here are a few examples:

Peter Bouckaert: @bouckap: At #Seleka base we found a Peuhl boy no older than 14 among soldiers, told us whole family had been murdered by anti-balaka, no place 2 go.

@bouckap Just finished briefing French captain in #Bossangoa on our research and recommendations for action. Very attentive and proactive audience.

Alex Thompson: @alextomo: #c4news #CARcrisis. Man with wheelbarrow with coffins of 2 brothers beaten to death by Seleka militia says F soldiers not in hotspots

@alextomo: #c4news #CARcrisis Quartier Combatants, Bangui – gangs with daggers and machetes looking for Muslims to kill. Finding them.

Marcus Bleasdale: @marcusbleasdale We met a 14 year old boy in the #Seleka military camp today. All his family was killed so he wants to be a soldier. Wrong.  #CARcrisis @hrw

Stuart Webb : ‪@Worldwidewebb1 #CARcrisis an all to common sight on the streets of Bangui this week-no doubt they’ll be more tomorrow…

 

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Justin Forsyth: ‪@justinforsyth Hard to tell how many people sheltering in grounds of Catholic mission – over 7000 #CAR

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Without these testimonies, how much would we really known? This is exactly what we mean by the “power of witness.”

In 2009, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said about the power of social media: “You cannot have Rwanda again because information would come out far more quickly about what is actually going on and the public opinion would grow to the point where action would need to be taken.”

While the international community continues to tip toe and hesitate on when, how, if they should intervene, journalists and humanitarian workers on the ground can, with a cellphone only, put pressure on world leaders by bearing witness. As pictures are taken and real-time events reported, perpetrators can be held accountable for their crimes and bystanders for their inaction. They can’t say they didn’t know?

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Image by Marcus Bleasdale

Central African Republic and the French Intervention – No longer a Bystander

 A year ago, when then President François Bozizé appealed to the US and “French cousins” to help repel Seleka’s advances on Bangui both countries refused. Angry crowds attacked the French embassy and criticized France’s passivity, especially since the former colonial power has a military presence in the former colony since 2003. When French President François Hollande visited Central African Republic (CAR) in late December he made it clear that he would not mingle in internal affairs, insisting that these days were over. Hollande knows the dangers of renewing its ties with its colonial past.

A year later, the CAR is on the brink of collapse. UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, warned that the country is at risk of genocide if nothing is done. Similarly, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the country is “on the verge of genocide”.

After ousting Bosizé, Seleka leader Michel Djotodia proclaimed himself President. In September, he dissolved Seleka and only integrated some of them into the army, leaving the others unattended to. Since then the country has plunged into chaos as undisciplined rebels commit widespread looting and abuses against those they consider as Bosizé supporters. The deep climate of insecurity has led to the creation of anti-balaka forces (self-defense groups) who have taken up arms against ex-Seleka fighters. The most worrying aspect of the crisis is the rise of sectarian violence between religious communities. Indeed, the majority of the Central Africans is Christian while Séleka fighters are predominantly Muslim, many of them from Chad and Sudan.

So who is going to act now?

In view the gravity of the situation, France has decided to send an additional 800 soldiers to help the 3,600-strong African Union force restore order. France’s decision led an Algerian journalist to state that it signifies a return of “Françafrique” since this new operation comes only ten months after the French intervention in Mali. The debate over France’s reason for intervening is always raised.

Why is France intervening after standing by in March 2013? The main reason cited by Paris is a humanitarian one. The situation is deteriorating badly and grave human rights violations are being committed, including rape and massacres. The self-defense groups are just as bad as Séléka and 460,000 people have already fled. Djotodia is unable to restore order and appears completely lost. For Hollande intervening has now become a question of responsibility. Whether there are real risks of genocide or not, Rwanda still haunts the French political class.

Beyond humanitarian reasons, there are of course security concerns and geo-strategic interests. This is not another Mali where soldiers are dealing with organized jihadists who have taken over a territory. What we are seeing in CAR is a complex social conflagration with, on one side, 15.000 to 20.000 violent Seleka rebels and on the other anti-balaka groups ready to commit massacres against the Muslim population. Nonetheless, there are real concerns that if nothing in done, jihadists who fled Mali and Libya may find refuge in CAR. There are also risks of spillovers and contagion into the two Sudans, the Congo and Chad, none of which are really stable.

Will the belated intervention bring stability to CAR? 1,200 French soldiers are unlikely to restore long-term stability, especially in a country bigger than France. However they will at least support the ill-equipped MISCA in an attempt to restore order. The French also hope that the UN will send additional peacekeepers as quickly as possible. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recommended 6,000 to 9,000 men.

But what CAR needs is a political solution and France made it clear that it is the role of Central Africans to settle these problems. Since its independence, CAR has never established a strong political structure or arena. Djotodia is clearly unable to deal with the situation. Just a couple of days ago, he denied assertions that the country is at risk of genocide and accused the international community of manipulating public opinion. “For me, there is nothing to show that we can even talk of what is going on as genocide. This is simply vengeance. A regime committed abuses, it is now gone. Its victims are taking revenge, that is all.” “That is all”? Graver still he criticized displaced Christians in the north: “He who wants to drown his dog, accuses it of having rabies, that’s all. Our situation is no less dramatic than that in other countries but it is portrayed as such. It is unfair.” The self-proclaimed President is either blind to the populations’ suffering or he is unwilling to prevent violence.

 As the International Crisis Group states, it’s “better late than never.” The current situation could have been prevented if regional and international organizations had acted early instead of being bystanders. Nobody moved a finger when Seleka staged a coup but the consequences should have been anticipated. The political situation will clearly not be settled through a military intervention but at least some seem to move beyond the bystander role.

Pinboard: News round-up

Central African Republic

Religious violence between Christians and Muslim is worsening in the Central African Republic. NGOs, aid workers, policymakers (such as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius) and UN representatives have issue warning of the violence spiralling into genocide. Amnesty International said war crimes and possible crimes against humanity may have been committed – people have been killed, raped and kidnapped. A clear sign that the conflict is escalating is the increasing number of child soldiers, now estimated at 6,000.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon first urged the Security Council to authorise the deployment of 6,000 blue berets but now says that another 3,000 should be on standby in case things get worse. “This cycle, if not addressed now, threatens to degenerate into a country-wide religious and ethnic divide, with the potential to spiral into an uncontrollable situation, including atrocity crimes, with serious national and regional implications,” he said. According to the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, Christians and Muslim will end up killing each other if nothing is done now. He did not exclude the possibility of genocide occurring. In an extensive article titled “Unspeakable horrors in a country on the verge of genocide” David Smith asks “What needs to happen before the world intervenes?” This question is certainly legitimate once again.

The problem is that UN peacekeeping forces are slow to deploy. I have also seen very little political will, at least in the West, to prevent an escalation of the conflict in a decisive manner. The only country that has stepped forward is France, who backed a UN resolution in October. The Central African Republic may be a big country but in terms of international attention, it gets very little from world leaders, policymakers or the general public.

Evan P. Cinq-Mars, who works at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, wrote a good op-ed in The Ottawa Citizen in which he argues that while warnings have been issued the situation resonates with what happened in Rwanda and Darfur. Words and lots of tip toeing but no action. There is no genocide yet but if nothing is done, that we may be heading in that direction. 

Thierry Vircoulon, Africa expert at the International Crisis Group, wrote this piece in which he underlines (as many think tanks and activists often do) that “prevention of a crisis is much better than a cure — and much cheaper.” While CAR has a long history of conflict, the current escalation of violence could have been avoided if regional bodies such as ECCAS and the AU had agreed on a political solution to the crisis, put more pressure on the transitional “government” to protect civilians, and if the AU’s peacekeeping force had more resources and support. Now refugees are fleeing to neighbouring countries and there is a real risk of spill-over. CAR could also become a safe haven for terrorists groups such as Boko Haram. Consequently, it would be wise for the international community to act.

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Myanmar: no citizenship for the Rohingya

On Tuesday, the UN asked the government of Myanmar to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, a stateless minority group that I have previously written about. A government spokesperson replied that “”We cannot give citizenship rights to those who are not in accord with the law, whatever the pressure. That is our sovereign right.”

Considered as illegal immigrants and “Bengalis” (a pejorative term) by Burmese authorities as well as the Burmese citizen, the Rohingya have long been persecuted and violence, including pogrom-like attacks, against them has increased since Myanmar embarked on a reform drive.

The authorities’ refusal to recognize the Rohingya is a clear sign that they are being discriminated against.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, agreed with the government’s position and added that “the Rohingya do not exist under Myanmar’s law.”

 

Lord’s Resistance Army: Little hope to catch Kony despite rumors of talks

Last week a spokesperson for the President of the Central African Republic, Michael Djotodia, claimed that the president is currently in talks with world-known LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony, and that the latter may surrender. President Djotodia reportedly said: “Joseph Kony wants to come out of the bush. We are negotiating with him.”

What to make of these claims and the possibility of  surrender? Very little. While the LRA has been weakened in recent years and probably feels under pressure, many remain sceptical, including Ugandans. We’ve heard to story before. The US State Department, which has backed efforts to hunt down the LRA, does not give much weigh to the claims either, arguing that Kony and his top men use this tactic “to rest, regroup, and rearm (…).” Similarly the AU’s special envoy on the LRA said that Kony may be trying “his time-tested tricks of buying time by duping the CAR authorities into negotiations”.

We also have to consider where this is coming from. Michel Djotodia became president after ousting President Bozizé with the help Seleka, a rebel coalition that is committing widespread abuses in CAR. By now the country has pretty much become a “failed state.”

Nonetheless, Joseph Kony has been weakened. In the end perhaps, continued military pressure may “bring him out of the bush” but since we are aware of his bluffing tactics, that kind of pressure should continue in order to prevent his men from reorganizing.

 

Conflict Diamonds and the efficiency of the Kimberley Process

A new map of the eastern DRC reveals that artisanal mine sites controlled by armed groups (200) or by the Congolese army (265). It shows the location of 800 mining site, cases of illegal taxation by armed groups or the army Researchers at the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) found that gold is the number one conflict mineral in the region. The rise as the first conflict mineral is both the result of the high value of gold and stricter anti-conflict minerals legislation, gold being easier to smuggle than tin, tungsten and tantalum.

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Although there have been significant efforts to guarantee conflict-free mineral, there are loopholes in the supply chain, a clear lack of monitoring and due diligence. Governments in the region are clearly not imposing sanctions on those who buy minerals from armed groups.

There has been quite a lot of debate on the need to reform the Kimberley Process (KPSC), a mineral certification process founded in 2003. Delegates from 81 KPCS member countries called for stricter sanctions. One of the biggest criticisms made by NGOs is the weak definition of conflict diamonds. Described as “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments”, they do not include state entities (ex: Zimbabwe in 2008). Times Live looks at the double-standards of the diamond industry.

 

The Justice vs. Peace Conundrum

“What place should the international community give to justice and accountability in its response to conflicts involving mass atrocities? Under what circumstances does the effort to pursue justice help or alternatively complicate the effort to bring atrocities to an end? Is it better to set a benchmark for justice by referring active conflicts to the International Criminal Court, or should efforts to seek justice be deferred until a peace deal is being discussed?” These are the questions raised by the European Council on Foreign Relations project on International Justice and mass atrocities. The goal? Examine the effects of international justice mechanisms on conflict resolution, the relationship between bringing violence to an end and holding perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes accountable: “How far are those two objectives mutually reinforcing, and how far are they in tension?” The debate over “peace vs. justice” is not new but the project takes a refreshing look at the debate thanks to the variety of case studies it examines as well as the impressive quality of scholars/experts Anthony Dworkin and the ECFR managed to gather. The ECFR commissioned 12 case studies in order to look at the variety of approaches and their consequences: Afghanistan, Bosnia, the DRC, Israel and Palestine, Kosovo, Liberia Libya, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Uganda and Yemen. The case studies are short and concise.

On the same, subject Al Jazeera presenter Mike Hanna sat down with the former President of South Africa to discuss the problem of peace and conflict, especially at time when many African leaders are rising against the ICC. Should justice trump peace?

 

DRC: one down but many others left

I have seen some optimism in Congolese and international media about the situation in the DRC. However, while the M23 may been militarily defeated there are other armed groups the DRC must still deal with. As this article by Ida Sawyer rightly argues, “it is by no means the end of Congo’s brutal story.” The M23 leaders and many of the rebels have found refuge in Uganda and Rwanda, who refuse to hand them over. No political solution has been found either so the cycle of conflict may continue. Foreign (the FDLR for example) and Congolese militia groups (self-defense groups such as the Mai Mai Sheka and Raia Mutomboki who are fighting the FDLR) are still very much present, especially in the eastern DRC, and continue to commit abuses against civilians. Similarly, in “An elusive peace” on The Economist’s Baobab blogger emphasizes the importance of a political deal with the M23 – the absence of a deal, considering the presence of M23 rebels in Rwanda and Uganda, is an “accident waiting to happen.” But the blogger also emphasizes on the need to track down the FDLR since Rwanda is unlikely to stop interfering in the DRC as long as these rebels are present in the Congo.

While the government and the UN may have won the fight against the M23, as Sawyer concludes “the road toward peace will remain as long as ever.” And this is without taking into consideration all other challenges, such as good governance and corruption, justice, reconciliation, and security sector reform. Amani Itakuya – Peace will come has published a list of articles written by journalists, academics, activists, and practitioners on the challenges and opportunities of peace building in the Congo and the Great Lakes region. This collection of articles allows us to get different views and arguments on a variety of subject linked to challenges in the region: conflict minerals, justice, the FDLR and the M23, the role of regional tensions and international intervention, security sector reform, ethnic conflict, and reconciliation.

 

Technology: Twiplomacy study

 Since the rise of social media, world leaders, policymakers, and international and regional organizations have embraced these new digital media to communicate and increase their impact. A new Burson-Marsteller Twiplomacy study looks at the way international organizations use Twitter and what we can learn from it. While some people may think of Twitter as something obsolete, they must realize that it has opened new communication channels. A lot of diplomacy occurs in the Twittersphere. These days important news, events or statements are tweeted before they appear on websites and certainly in traditional media. Statements, and judgments are made, debates and protests occur, and individual leaders also use Twitter to chat with their followers, thereby opening new communication channels. Imagine, combined, all organizations studied here have sent 770,547 tweets!

The Twiplomacy study focuses on 223 accounts from 101 international organizations, 51 personal accounts of these organizations’ leaders and 75 accounts in other languages. The research analyses each organization’s Twitter profiles and their recent tweet history based on 50 variables, including followers, retweets, replies and hashtags.

UNICEF is the most followed international organization. To measure an organization’s effectiveness, the research took into account the number of retweets (RT). The European Organization for Nuclear  (CERN) comes first, followed by UNICEF and the UN. To measure popularity, the study also looked at the number of times an account appears on Twitter lists. Here the UN comes first, followed by CERN, UNICEF, Greenpeace and WHO. You can also have a look at the most followed and the most conversational leaders