WrongingRightsNotes™: Hissène Habré Edition!

Have you seen recent news coverage of Hissène Habré’s arrest and/or Seinfeld-watching habits and thought to yourself “Huh? Who?”

Did you greet the news of his indictment by the Extraordinary African Chambers with a yawn and a muttered “Is there a reason I should care about this?”

Do you ever wonder what Reed Brody‘s always on about anyway?

Well, good news, everyone! I have answers to all these questions and more.

First, the basics: Hissène Habré became president of Chad when he seized power from the elected leadership in 1982. He ruled until 1990, when he was himself deposed in a coup. (Payback’s a bitch, eh?) Habré’s reign was characterized by extreme brutality against the political opposition, ethnic minorities, and anyone considered a potential threat to regime security. His secret police have been accused by the country’s truth commission of a mind-boggling 40,000 extrajudicial killings, as well as widespread and systematic torture.

Following his ouster, Habré fled to Senegal, where he apparently lived a luxurious life of must-see-TV reruns and being a dick about garbage cans. Meanwhile, his victims and their advocates got serious about pursuing justice. In 2000, following the UK’s ground-breaking arrest of Augusto Pinochet on a Spanish warrant for human rights abuses committed during his dictatorship in Chile, victims of the Habré regime filed a criminal complaint in Dakar, Senegal. Thirteen years later, Habré will finally stand trial. Here’s what went on in the meantime:

  • In 2000, a Senegalese court indicts Habré for torture and crimes against humanity.
  • Habré lawyers up, and cleverly argues that the Senegalese courts can’t exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed by foreign nationals on foreign territory.
  • In 2001, amidst accusations of political interference from President Abdoulaye Wade (who may or may not have been paid off by Habré), an appellate court dismisses the charges for lack of jurisdiction, on the grounds that Senegal had not passed domestic legislation implementing the Convention Against Torture.
  • President Wade decides Habré’s ongoing presence in Senegal has gotten a bit embarrassing, asks him to go stay on someone else’s couch for a while.
  • The victims get nervous and file a complaint against Senegal with the Committee Against Torture. The Committee tells Wade in no uncertain terms that he’s not getting rid of Habré by any means other than a legal extradition.
  • Victims’ lawyer Reed Brody, in Chad on an evidence-gathering mission in 2002, happens upon a treasure trove of abandoned secret police files, which demonstrate both Habré’s control of the organization, and its use of torture. (If there’s anything to love about abusive secret police operations, it’s that they always find it necessary to meticulously record stuff like “It was in compelling him to reveal certain truths that he died on October 14 at 8 o’clock.”)
  • In 2005, Belgium decides it wants in on this party, and indicts Habré on crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture charges pursuant to a complaint filed by victims in 2001.
  • Belgium requests Habré’s extradition. Senegal refuses because of…reasons, then gets stressed out and decides to kick the tough decisions upstairs to the African Union.
  • Senegal regrets deferring to the African Union when, in July of 2006, the AU issues a decision requiring “the Republic of Senegal to prosecute and ensure that Hissène Habré is tried, on behalf of Africa, by a competent Senegalese court with guarantees for fair trial.”
  • Piling on, the Committee Against Torture announces that Senegal is in violation of its Convention Against Torture obligation to prosecute or extradite Habré.
  • Senegal enacts new international crimes legislation with extraterritorial jurisdiction, then tells the international community that it can’t possibly run a decent war crimes trial without $36.5 million… and some new shoes… and one of those spiffy new Droids with the extra-long battery life. Extensive budgetary wrangling ensues.
  • As the aforementioned haggling drags on into year three, Belgium decides to introduce a new wrinkle, and up and files a surprise suit at the International Court Justice, demanding that Senegal honor its CAT obligations by trying or extraditing Habré. (I was at the ICJ at the time, it was all very unexpected.)
  • Meanwhile, in 2008, Chad tries Habré in absentia and sentences him to death. Senegal begins to think there may be an easy out to this whole situation…
  • Also in 2008, Habré’s lawyers remember reading something somewhere about non-retroactivity, and file suit with ECOWAS alleging that it is a violation of Habré’s human rights to be tried under a criminal statute that did not exist at the time of his alleged crimes.
  • In 2010, ECOWAS issues its decision, and sorta kinda maybe buys Habré’s argument. It decides that while it would violate Habré’s rights to be tried under the newly-enacted Senegalese law, he can still be tried under international law, but it’ll have to be by an internationalized court. (This is pretty much nutballs. Eichmann, anyone?)
  • The AU proposes that a nifty hybrid court be established within the Senegalese judicial system to try Habré. Senegal, realizing that this whole thing is turning out to be a total drag, chooses this moment to throw an epic temper tantrum, withdraws from the negotiations, and announces that Habré will be shipped home to Chad to be executed.
  • Everyone freaks the f*** out, eventually convincing Senegal that sending Habré to the executioner is not the brilliant solution everyone’s been searching for. But Senegal continues to drag its feet as the AU pushes for prosecution and Belgium issues approximately 347 more extradition requests.
  • In July of 2012, the ICJ hands down its decision, finding in Belgium’s favor, and ordering Senegal to get on with it already. Meanwhile, President Abdoulaye Wade is defeated at the ballot box by challenger Macky Sall, and suddenly, Senegal gets all cooperative.
  • The “Extraordinary African Chambers” is born on February 8, 2013. On July 2, 2013, Habré is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture. His trial is expected to begin in early 2015.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of this saga. (And if you want the longer version of the events to date, check out Human Rights Watch’s extremely comprehensive chronology and Q&A.)

Impress Your Friends and Outflank Your Enemies: The Wronging Rights Guide to the Conflict-Mineral Regulations in Section 1502 of HR 4173

As Kate notes, the recent passage of new legislation on “conflict minerals” from the DRC has prompted much discussion from the aid-blogosphere. Predictably, the reactions have been mixed. The Enough Project is thrilled, which is hardly surprising, given their extensive campaigning around the conflict-minerals issue. Jason Stearns offers more measured support. Laura Seay at Texas in Africa is not a fan. Chris Blattman, showing himself to be a ninja of skeptical ambivalence, has not just one but two posts in which he somehow manages to criticize nearly every aspect of the new regulations, yet still come out in favor of them overall.

Therefore, this seems like a good time for a quick analysis of what the new legislation actually says. So, without further ado, I present:

Impress Your Friends and Outflank Your Enemies: The Wronging Rights Guide to the Conflict-Mineral Regulations in Section 1502 of HR 4173.

1. Who has to follow the new law’s requirements?

Not clear! The text of the bill amends Section 13 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (which is codified in 15 U.S.C. 78m, if you’re interested in looking it up), by adding a new subsection (p) at the end. However, the new subsection (p) doesn’t specify who is bound by its requirements. It seems to leave that up to the SEC’s regulations, which haven’t been issued yet.

You see, paragraph 1(A) of the new law directs the SEC to issue regulations requiring “any person described in paragraph 2″ to comply with the new reporting requirements.

Easy, right? Just check paragraph 2! Well, except that paragraph 2 refers right back to paragraph 1(A). It defines “persons” as anyone (1) who is required to comply with the reporting requirements in paragraph 1(A); and (2) who manufactures a product that either (a) requires conflict minerals in order to function, or (b) requires conflict minerals as part of the manufacturing process.

So yeah, that’s a little confusing. As far as I can tell, this allows the SEC significant discretion to decide who must comply with the reporting requirements, as long as the category is limited to manufacturers of “products.” (Another term that isn’t defined yet! Isn’t law fun?)

(The Enough Project and the Washington Post appear to be under the impression that the law applies only to publicly traded companies, but I can’t figure out where they’re getting that idea from. I emailed Enough’s Laura Heaton, though, and will update this section if I get more information.)

2. What does the new law require people to do?

The new law’s requirements fall into two basic categories. The first category imposes new disclosure and auditing responsibilities on private citizens and corporations who manufacture products using “conflict minerals.” The second category orders the State Department to get to work on a “strategy and map to address the linkages between conflict minerals and armed groups.” Much as I love maps, I’ll focus on the first category in this analysis, because it’s the one that’s most relevant to the debate over the regulation of conflict minerals.

For the sake of clarity, I’ll begin with a few things the new law does not do. It does not outlaw conflict minerals, from the DRC or elsewhere. It does not create any new crimes. It does not apply to any person or corporation that’s outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. (For the moment, it’s unclear who it actually does apply to, as will be discussed further below.) It does not specify any new penalties or punishments.

So what does the new law require? Well, for the next nine months, nothing. The law directs the SEC to develop a new set of regulations on the disclosure of “conflict minerals” used in the manufacture of products. Those new regulations aren’t due until 270 days after the law was enacted, so for now, a lot remains unclear.

However, the gist of the new law is that although nothing has been outlawed, an awful lot of things are about to become much more expensive, complicated, and difficult. Congress did specify certain things that the SEC’s new regulations must include, so I’ll explain those for now.

a. Initial Disclosure
First, all “persons” covered by the law must submit an annual report disclosing whether they used conflict minerals that originated in the DRC, or in an adjoining country, to manufacture any of their products.

(The definitions of “person,” “conflict minerals,” and “adjoining country” are discussed more below. If you just can’t wait to get there, feel free to scroll down and check them out now, and I’ll wait for you up here. Otherwise, in a nutshell, “conflict minerals” are coltan, cassiterite, gold, wolframite, or their derivatives; an “adjoining country” is one that shares a border with the DRC; and “person” is not yet fully defined, but will be some subset of manufacturers who use conflict minerals in their products.)

Manufacturers who can be certain that their conflict minerals didn’t come from that region are done: no more duties under the new law. They also get to pass go, and collect $200. Lucky bastards.

However, if the manufacturers use minerals that are from that region of Africa, or whose source is unclear, then the new law imposes some significant new investigation and disclosure requirements on them.

b. Audit Requirements
First, the manufacturer must conduct an “independent private sector audit” of the minerals’ origin and chain of custody, and certify the audit’s results. The audit must meet standards to be set through the coordination of three different federal agencies: the Comptroller General of the United States, the SEC, and the Secretary of State. If the audit is found to be unreliable, then the manufacturer will be in violation of the disclosure requirements, and the person who certified it might also be in very hot water personally with the SEC.

This audit requirement has the potential to be hugely burdensome, because those kinds of audits tend to be very expensive and time-consuming. It’s not hard to see why. Not only is there limited information about conflict areas available, it’s also inherently difficult to tell where minerals have come from, especially if they have already been processed. In combination, those factors mean that investigating minerals’ sources and supply chains won’t be easy. It’s true that “difficult” is not “impossible,” but it is usually “expensive.” Especially because the most important pieces of information here are the ones that will be the hardest to obtain: where the minerals were mined, who mined them, and what relationship the miner had with the region’s “armed groups.”

Providing this kind of information will be difficult for artisanal miners (excellent euphemism alert!) and other small suppliers who are only involved at one stage of the supply chain. So, this seems likely to push minerals from the DRC and its environs further into black and gray markets. (Which is definitely great, because when I think of “markets in which illegal armed groups are unlikely to thrive,” “black ones” come top of the list.) Conversely, because a manufacturer can avoid the costly audit requirement entirely if it’s sure that none of its minerals came from the DRC or its neighbors, I would expect this provision to be a huge boost to large corporations that control mines in other regions of the world and handle their own processing and trading, because they will be able to charge more money for the regulatory safety they offer.

c. Reporting Requirements
After the auditing’s done, the manufacturer has to compile a report that describes in detail (1) the audit and its results, (2) any other due diligence measures that it undertook in order to document the origin and supply chain of the conflict minerals it used, and (3) any products it manufactures that are not “DRC conflict free.” The report has to be submitted to the SEC, and made publicly available on the manufacturer’s website.

Products are only “DRC conflict free” if they don’t contain any minerals that “directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or an adjoining country.” Needless to say, that definition is really, really broad. The distinction between “finance” and “benefit” suggests that an “indirect benefit” would not have to be financial in nature, leaving the options for what would qualify wide open. And “armed groups” include any groups from the DRC or its adjoining countries that have been identified as human rights abusers in the State Department’s country reports on human rights – and as of now, that definition doesn’t carve out exceptions for national armies or UN peacekeepers. (More on that definition below.)

This places the burden on the manufacturer to prove a negative: that the minerals at issue didn’t benefit any armed group, even indirectly. Otherwise, for each non-DRC-conflict-free product, the manufacturer must report “the facilities used to process the conflict minerals, the country of origin of the conflict minerals, and the efforts to determine the mine or location of origin with the greatest possible specificity.” Once again: very difficult information to get, even more difficult information to trust. Complying with this requirement will be expensive.

The other due diligence requirements, beyond the audit, won’t be clear until the SEC issues its new regulations. However, the text of the law suggests that they won’t be mere formalities. The statute specifies that relying on due diligence processes that have been “previously determined by the Commissioner [of the SEC] to be unreliable,” is not enough to constitute compliance with the new law.

3. Some Definitions! We Love Definitions!

  1. “Conflict Minerals”: the new law defines “conflict minerals” as either (A) coltan, cassiterite, gold, wolframite, or their derivatives; or (B) any other mineral or its derivatives that the Secretary of State later determines to be “financing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or an adjoining country.”

    This is interesting for two reasons. First, the definition isn’t limited to minerals that actually come from the DRC or an adjoining country. So, for instance, gold is now a conflict mineral, no matter where it’s from, or when it was mined. I can understand the reasons for using such a broad definition -if gold from the DRC is interchangeable with gold that was mined 500 years ago, then it’s worth paying attention to the overall market. However, this means that the regulatory burden of the new law will potentially fall on a very broad group of businesses, not just the gadget manufacturers that have been the focus of the media campaign for this new law.

    Second, the Secretary of State can add minerals to the list if they’re financing conflict in an “adjoining country,” but not in the rest of the world. So, minerals that fuel conflict elsewhere aren’t “conflict minerals.” Hear that, petroleum?

  2. “Adjoining Country”: The new law defines “adjoining country” as “a country that shares an internationally recognized border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” (It’s not clear to me why they didn’t just list those countries specifically. Perhaps that option was rejected as an unwarranted leap of faith that those borders would remain stable over the next few years?)

  3. “Armed Groups”: Somewhat confusingly, not all armed groups are “armed groups” for the purposes of the new law. Rather, to qualify, a group must (a) be an “armed group,” and (b) be identified as “perpetrators of serious human rights abuses” in the State Department’s annual human rights report on the DRC or any “adjoining country.” A couple of potential issues here.

    The first is that there’s no carve-out for government or UN forces. As noted in the latest State Dept. report, the FARDC has been responsible for significant human rights abuses. However, including them in the definition of “armed group” means that no minerals can be labeled “DRC conflict free” unless they did not indirectly finance the army, which presumably includes legitimate taxes collected by the government in Kinshasa. Is it just me, or is that not actually a great way to encourage or strengthen legitimate governmental capacity?

    Second, under this definition, if a group isn’t specifically mentioned in one of the State Dept. reports, it doesn’t count for the purposes of the conflict-minerals law. It’s unclear how this would work for groups like the Mai-Mai, who are often discussed in the State Dept. reports as if they are one category of armed actor, but are actually disparate local militias that may or may not be connected to each other, or to other rebel organizations. So, is just being labeled a Mai-Mai militia group enough to be considered an “armed group” under this definition? Or must the State Dept. report reference a specific militia by name in order to count?

I hope this is helpful to y’all. I’m one sleepy blogger now, but if I have time tomorrow, I’ll try to post about my reactions to the arguments that Laura et al. have raised.

What’s Up with the LRA, Anyway?

Have you been wondering what Ugandan rebels are doing massacring civilians in the Congo and Sudan? Did you briefly consider doing some googling or maybe just watching the “Invisible Children” episode of Veronica Mars? Are you way too lazy to actually do any internet research or watch a whole hour of canceled television?

If the answer to these question is yes, then you’re in luck because I’m about to break it down for you. Welcome to…

WrongingRightsNotes™: LRA Edition!

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is headed up by Joseph Kony, a four star lunatic who swears by holy water and believes that the Bible authorizes him to abduct children for use as combatants. The LRA’s goal is a bit opaque, but it definitely involves something about the 10 Commandments, liberating Kony’s home region of Acholiland, and probably doing something unspeakably nasty to (non-Acholi) Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Here’s how they’ve been doing so far:

  • Joseph Kony (pictured in an early photo at right) becomes main spirit-channeling militia leader in Acholiland following the defeat of Italian-army-officer-possessed Alice Auma and her Holy Spirit Movement by Ugandan government forces in the late 1980s and subsequent peace agreement between Kampala and rebel forces.
  • By 1990, Kony is the only game in town; absorbs rebels from the Holy Spirit Movement and Uganda People’s Democratic Army who don’t feel like disarming.
  • Kony & Co. realize they’re never going to make it big in the atrocity business without a signature move, try their hands at breakdancing, but ultimately decide abducting children is the way to go. 44 children are kidnapped from two girls’ schools near Gulu in 1992.
  • They get more adept with time, terrorizing Acholiland with unpredictable sweeps through the local villages, slaughtering adults and abducting children for use as combatants and sex slaves. The lucky ones get added to Kony’s growing collection of wives.
  • Now that they’ve got a signature move, Kony decides his gang/cult needs a better name, christens them the Lord’s Resistance Army.
  • In 1994, as the Ugandan government starts to get serious about dealing with Kony, Sudan decides to muddy the waters, invites Kony over for tea and sandwiches (and by “tea and sandwiches” I mean “a base of operations and lots and lots of weapon-y goodness” in exchange for assistance in Sudan’s ongoing civil war). Kony denies converting to Islam as part of this deal.
  • Villagers in the Sudanese state of Eastern Equatoria now get a taste of what Acholiland has been experiencing for the last few years; attacks and abductions for everybody!
  • Hostilities continue in utterly uncompelling manner for the next few years despite LRA attempt to drum up some outrage by making a brief cameo appearance in the Second Congo War. Kampala never really liked Acholiland that much anyway and global attention is focused elsewhere on more interesting atrocities / possibility that a U.S. president might have gotten a blow job.
  • Khartoum and Kampala work out their issues and in 2002 the Sudanese government okays launch of “Operation Iron Fist,” an offensive by the Ugandan army against LRA bases in southern Sudan. Unfortunately, the operation is not quite fist-y enough, fails miserably.
  • In 2003 the LRA start to spread their activities out of Acholiland, possibly because they’ve already kidnapped / looted everyone and everything worth having in the area. World becomes aware of the plight of children attempting to escape abduction and recruitment (pictured at right), probably because someone comes up with a catchy new term: Night Commuters.
  • After a few failed attempts at peace talks, Museveni gets bright idea to refer the matter to the newly established ICC, which issues its first ever indictments in 2005! Guess what? They’re for Kony, his second-in-command Vincent Otti, and three other LRA commanders.
  • Meanwhile, in fall 2005, LRA forces cross over into northeastern DRC, decide it looks like a nice place to hang out. Museveni tells Kabila he’d better disarm them, or he’ll be playing host to the entire Ugandan military; diplomatic row ensues, LRA not disarmed.
  • Juba peace talks between LRA and Kampala mediated by Riek Machar, Vice-President of Southern Sudan, begin in July 2006 amidst uncharacteristic and ultimately unwarranted optimism.
  • In October 2007, Kony kills second-in-command Otti for allegedly plotting a coup, possibly eats his penis. (No word on whether fava beans and a nice Chianti were involved.)
  • Juba talks collapse in April 2008, possibly due to concern over the ICC indictments, possibly due to Kony having a bellyache, most likely because the LRA are big atrocity-committing jerks who can’t be trusted. LRA immediately returns to old weapons-acquiring and recruit-abducting tricks.
  • Uganda, Sudan, and the DRC launch hilariously named Operation Lightning Thunder in December 2008, destroying LRA bases in the Congo’s Garamba National Park. So far, rather than forcing Kony’s re-entrance into the peace process, it has prompted the slaughter of several hundred Congolese and South Sudanese villagers. Way to go, guys.

So that’s the condensed story. As matters stand now, the LRA is continuing its atrocity rampage through the DRC, and everyone’s arguing about the merits of continuing Operation Atmospheric Electrical Discharge (or whatever).

How to Become an Expert on the Congo in Just Five Minutes a Day, Final Installment

Our last installment (the first two are here and here) left off when Kabila defeated Jean-Pierre Bemba to win the 2006 presidential election. Here’s what’s gone on in the two years since then:

  • While the election results are being confirmed, forces loyal to Laurent Nkunda fight government troops in the Kivus. Everybody has ominous sense of foreshadowing that maybe those guys are going to be trouble.
  • New senate is elected on January 19, 2007. Bemba gets a seat; congratulations Bemba!
  • Throughout February and March Kabila supporters and Bemba loyalists clash. An ultimatum demanding that Bemba’s people disarm inspires them to kill as many people as possible before laying down their weapons. Bemba decides now might be a good time to check out Portugal.
  • Rwandan Hutu militia FDLR continues causing problems in the eastern Congo, where “causing problems”= massacring civilians.
  • Laurent Nkunda and his National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) continue on their merry way, using ongoing presence of the FDLR to justify policy of recruiting child soldiers and ensuring that nobody in the Kivus sleeps through the night.
  • Shortly after MONUC’s mandate is renewed, Kabila calls out the peacekeeping force for failing to…uh… keep the peace, suggests that they’re useless. MONUC responds: “I’m rubber, you’re glue, defence of the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation and that of its people is firstly, principally, primordially, crucially, and incontrovertibly the responsibility of the state and that brings us to the question of the ‘raison d’etre’ of the state and of its authority.”
  • Bemba refuses to return to the DRC when his senatorial leave of absence runs up, citing personal safety concerns.
  • On September 6, 2007, a ceasefire between the government and Laurent Nkunda’s forces is announced. For the next couple of months Nkunda goes back and forth daily on whether the truce is valid, depending on what kind of losses his forces are sustaining at the time.
  • Meanwhile, the Congolese government probably allies itself with the FDLR to fight Nkunda, but has the good sense to deny it.
  • In November 2007, the DRC and Rwanda agree that the Congo will forcibly disarm the FDLR and Rwanda will stop supporting Nkunda. Like all good deals, it has something for everybody. Unlike most good deals, both parties renege almost immediately.
  • In December, the Congolese army gets totally pwned by Nkunda’s forces, crawls home in embarrassment.
  • In January 2008, the UN points out that over half a million people were displaced from their homes in northeastern Congo over the course of 2007, and that really, that’s not cool.
  • On January 22, 2008, Congolese government and Nkunda reach an agreement that his troops will be reintegrated into the national army, stop marauding through the countryside. The lack of provision for Nkunda personally is something of a red flag…
  • A month later, Nkunda suspends participation in the peace process.
  • In March, the Congolese government releases the findings of a commission that reviewed mining contracts signed by the government during the wars. Turns out, yeah, they were pretty much all illegal.
  • On May 24, Bemba is arrested in Belgium on an ICC warrant on charges of war crimes relating to his MLC rebel group’s involvement in putting down a coup in the Central African Republic in 2002. Everyone’s real happy about combating impunity and whatnot, but kind of skeeved out by the unfortunate confluence between the ICC’s efforts to bring war criminals to trial, and Joseph Kabila’s efforts to stamp out the political opposition.
  • In June 2008, the ICC suspends Lubanga’s trial, which would have been the Court’s first. Apparently, even accused war criminals get fair trial rights. D’oh.
  • In September, the UN Security Council suggests that seriously, everyone’s tired of the situation in the Kivus, and maybe Nkunda should give it a rest. Everybody ignores this advice, situation goes from bad to worse as Nkunda announces his intention to “liberate” the Congo.
  • After Nkunda takes over a strategically important army base in early October, Congo accuses Rwanda of invading in support of the rebels.
  • Meanwhile, heavy fighting between Ugandan rebel group LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) and the Congolese army in Ituri leads to another massive displacement crisis.

So, there you have it. The Kivus are continuing their campaign for the “Best Approximation of Hell on Earth” award (complete with new vocabulary – I’m sure we’re all happy to live in a world that requires a term to denote the status of having been raped on two separate occasions) and Ituri has exploded again. Thank god Congo week is over, huh?

How to Become an Expert on the Congo in Just Five Minutes a Day, Cont’d Some More

Yesterday’s story left off at the official end to the Second Congo War. A new transitional government had been set up, the UN peacekeeping force was already facing accusations of incompetence, and northeastern Congo was still crawling with armed militias. Let’s see how things progressed from there:

  • The transitional government made up of the former government, the political opposition, civil society members, three RCDs (seriously), the MLC, and the Mai-Mai takes office in July 2003. The former government, the opposition, RCD-Goma, and the MLC all get vice-presidents. You can probably guess how well that’s going to work out…
  • Everybody demobilizes verrrry slowly throughout the latter of half of 2003, various media outlets start counting some seriously unhatched chickens.
  • In early 2004, the situation in the Kivus starts to get ugly(er) as shockingly still-mobilized RCD-Goma elements clash with government forces.
  • Under “dissident General” / former-RCD-flunkie-on-the-take Laurent Nkunda‘s direction, the rebels take control of Bukavu, capital of South Kivu on June 2, 2004, meeting no resistance from notoriously unimpressive Uruguayan UN peacekeepers. Nkunda insists that he is acting to protect the Banyamulenge from being genocided by government troops. MONUC says “nuh-uh.” (Nkunda was later accused of pretty much all the war crimes in connection with his forces’ actions in Bukavu.)
  • Tens of thousands of people flee into North Kivu before UN negotiations secure the withdrawal of Nkunda’s forces from Bukavu.
  • Meanwhile, RCD-Goma leader and transitional government vice-president Azarias Ruberwa announces that things aren’t really working out, so his faction’s going to go ahead and pull out of the transitional government. Also, a coup attempt fails.
  • Two months later, following the massacre of 160 Congolese Tutsis in a Burundian refugee camp, Nkunda suggests he might need to go “protect” Bukavu some more. This prompts another mass flight; the number of displaced persons is now possibly as high as 150,000.
  • MONUC sends in 5,900 more peacekeeping troops to watch as 1,000 people / day die as the rebels and the army take pot shots at each other in the Kivus.
  • Rwandan troops figure no one will notice them amidst all the other armed groups operating in the eastern Congo, sneak across border to chase after remaining Hutu militias.
  • The IRC releases report in December 2004 pointing out that “seriously guys, everyone in the Congo is totally dying.” World community nods solemnly, goes back to searching for internet porn.
  • First MONUC sex scandal breaks in the media, everyone is majorly grossed out.
  • In February 2005, 9 UN peacekeepers are killed in Ituri. This packs more of a punch than the 4.5 million dead Congolese – several militia leaders are arrested, including Thomas Lubanga, head of the Union des patriotes Congolais (UPC).
  • On March 30, 2005, main Hutu rebel group FDLR agrees to pack it in, head back to Rwanda to participate in the political process. They turn out not to mean it, though.
  • MONUC announces that, the disarmament process’s deadline for chilling-the-fuck-out having passed, it will now be forcibly disarming the remaining combatants in Ituri. As it happens, the militias can arm themseves faster than the UN can disarm them, though.
  • Southern province of Katanga figures no one is looking, attempts to secede.
  • In May 2005, the National Assembly adopts a new Constitution, plans for first elections in four decades. And there was much rejoicing…
  • Human Rights Watch releases report noting that all this bad stuff probably wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the Congo’s vast mineral wealth, and specifically the gold mines of northeastern Congo. Good point. (AngloGold Ashanti’s response to HRW’s allegations regarding their direct role in fueling the Ituri conflict seems to have disappeared from their website in the intervening three years. Odd.)
  • Members of Uganda rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army cross into the Congo in late 2005. Uganda threatens to come after them, UN says “sorry, we’ve don’t have room for any more armed forces right now, please check back later.”
  • Congolese take a break from being alternately raped, starved, and massacred to vote at a referendum on the new Constitution in December 2005. It is formally adopted in February 2006, and they get a new flag, too!
  • ICC issues an arrest warrant for Thomas Lubanga on charges that the UPC (like virtually everybody else in the Congo) used child soldiers during the Ituri conflict. In March 2006 the Congolese figures “we’re sick of feeding this guy,” hands him over. ICC gets physical custody of a suspect for the first time ever!
  • In July the first multi-party elections since independence are held. (Because it’s their first time, it takes till November to get an actual result.) Vice-president / former MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba challenges Joseph Kabila for leadership of the country. Kabila responds with a masterful “no one’s going to elect a pygmy-eater, you pygmy-eater” campaign. Bemba attempts to refute the charges that his troops committed acts of cannibalism in 2002 by suggesting that someone count the pygmies, but no one feels like doing this, so Kabila carries the day.

So, that takes us up to late 2006. Here’s hoping I can cover the last two years (War crimes prosecutions! A rape “epidemic“! Renewed hostilities with Rwanda! And so much more!) in just one more post, because Congo Week ends on Saturday and we can all get back to ignoring it.

How to Become an Expert on the Congo in Just Five Minutes a Day, Cont’d

So, when we left off, former Marxist rebel (with whom, by the way, Che Guavara was famously unimpressed) Laurent Kabila had proclaimed himself president and renamed his country the Democratic Republic of the Congo. If you picked up on my subtle foreshadowing in yesterday’s post (e.g. “Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment ‘the Second Congo War’…”) then you know that another war was about to break out. Here’s how it went down:

  • Kabila takes office in May 1997, discovers running a country is not as easy as it looks, especially when the particular country you’ve chosen to run is the Congo. (Which, let’s face it, is more of an advanced level choice. Beginners should probably stick with Andorra, or something. That place runs itself, right?)
  • Faced with internal pressure to get foreign forces out, Kabila decides in July 1998 that he’s the sort to bite the hand that feeds him, demotes his Rwandan chief of staff James Kabarebe in favor of a Congolese replacement. Kabila then orders all Rwandan and Ugandan forces out of the country, personally frogmarches every Rwandan within reach onto a plane to Kigali.
  • Bits of the army rebel, Rwanda-allied Banyamulenge freak out, start making “we started one war, don’t think we won’t start another” noises. (You may be asking yourself, “wait, wasn’t Kabila on the Banyamulenge’s side last time?” The answer to that question is a resounding “sort of.” Basically, the Banyamulenge have, since independence, had a mutually mistrustful relationship with Kinshasa. The Congolese suspect the Banyamulenge have closer ties to Rwanda than to the Congo, and the Banyamulenge suspect the Congolese government wants to revoke their citizenship and probably kill them.)
  • With Rwanda’s assistance, Banyamulenge forces form the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD). Under awesomely named president Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, the RCD announces its intention to overthrow Kabila. Rwandan, Ugandan, and Burundian forces pour into the Kivus.
  • Kabila remembers what happened to the last Congolese president who pissed off the Banyamulenge, decides that a bit of constructive genocide might be in order. He signs up to his cause the Hutu militias still hanging around in the eastern Congo and encourages the creation of a bunch of new Congolese militias called “Mai-Mais.” Banyamulenge throughout the country become targets of anti-Tutsi violence.
  • Rebel forces advance on Kinshasa throughout August 1998, things look bad for Kabila until… Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe to the rescue! With the foreign forces’ help, Kabila pushes the rebels back, foreclosing all hope of a quick end to the hostilities.
  • Uganda decides it doesn’t like sharing control with Rwanda over their joint-enterprise rebel group RCD, throws its support to Jean-Pierre Bemba‘s Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC) in late 1998.
  • Meanwhile, multiple rounds of peace talks break down over Kabila’s refusal to talk to the rebels. Other parties variously agree to various ceasefires, but the fighting continues.
  • Our old friend Ernest Wamba dia Wamba leaves the RCD in May 1999 and establishes a splinter group in Kisangani called RCD-Kisangani (RCD-K). The old RCD becomes RCD-Goma, an ominous portent of the acronym soup that the Congo is about to become.
  • James Kazini, head of the Ugandan forces in the DRC, decides things aren’t confusing enough already and creates a new province called “Ituri” carved out of Orientale province.
  • Kazini names as governor of Ituri a member of the Hema tribe, convincing members of the Lendu tribe that Uganda and the RCD-K are taking the Hema’s side against them. This sparks the Ituri conflict, otherwise known as “Horrific and Ongoing Violence That Would Totally Count as a War Were It Not for the Fact That It’s Pretty Much a Sidenote to the Worst Conflict Since WWII.”
  • In July/August 1999, the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the MLC all sign the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.
  • Tensions between the two RCD factions erupt into open fighting between the Rwandan and Ugandan armies (clearly operating under some definition of “ceasefire” of which I was previously unaware) in Kisangani. Rwanda and the RCD-Goma win this one.
  • In early 2000, a UN peacekeeping operation called “MONUC“, shows up on the scene to monitor the Lusaka Ceasefire.
  • MONUC forces monitor like champs as Rwanda and Uganda again duke it out over Kisangani’s mineral wealth and DRC government forces clash with the MLC in Equateur.
  • An unexpected plot twist occurs on January 16, 2001 when Laurent Kabila is shot by one of his own underage bodyguards. (Called the “kidogos,” which means “little ones” in Swahili, they were a crack troop of child soldiers who traveled everywhere with Kabila.) He dies two days later and is succeeded as president by his son, Joseph Kabila.
  • Despite hopeful rumblings from the UN and Western media that Kabila the Younger would bring peace, he continues to funnel money to the Hutu militia-composed Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the biggest rebel group fighting against Rwanda and its proxy forces in the eastern Congo.
  • Multiple “accords” and “agreements” (Sun City, Luanda, Pretoria, etc.) are reached between various combinations of combatants over the course of 2002. Eventually, some of them start to take, and the foreign militaries withdraw from the DRC.
  • On December 17, 2002, the internal warring parties (by now including a number of additional RCDs whose acronyms I won’t burden you with) sign the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement which provides for everybody to disarm and form a transitional government. (I guess one out of two ain’t bad…)
  • Second Congo War officially “ends” as the transitional government under Joseph Kabila takes power in July 2003. Nobody seems too bothered by the fact that the apocalypse is clearly underway in the Kivus and Ituri.

This brings us to the end of WrongingRightsNotes™ – Second Congo War. Please check back for tomorrow’s installment on the aftermath, or what I would prefer to refer to as the still-going-on-math, of the Congo wars. Highlights will include the emergence of Laurent Nkunda, further speculation on those pernicious Bemba cannibalism rumors, and the role of your cell phone in the bloody deaths of adorable Congolese children.

Should be a good time.

How to Become an Expert on the Congo in Just Five Minutes a Day

Perhaps you’ve seen recent news articles about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and wondered to yourself, “what are Rwandan rebels doing in the Kivus?” Or you saw that Laurent Nkunda had announced his intention to “liberate” the entire country and asked yourself, “who is this guy, and where can I get a ‘rebels for Christ‘ pin?”

Then again, maybe you’ve just been reading our recent Congo coverage and thinking: “I too would like to be publicly snarky about events in a far away land that I’ve never visited, and perhaps make snide remarks at cocktail parties about other peoples’ activism efforts, but I just don’t feel confident enough in my background knowledge.”

Well, never fear! “WrongingRightsNotes™ – First and Second Congo Wars” (yes, I was calling them CliffsNotes before, but then I realized, that shit is trademarked), and the much needed appendix to the new edition, “Yes, They Ended a While Ago, But It’s Still an Issue and Here’s Why” is here!

So, down to business. The world said “someone really ought to do something,” then decided to go out for Thai food as 800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda during the spring and summer of 1994. Here’s what happened next:

  • Members of the Hutu militias responsible for the Rwandan genocide decide they’d be much more comfortable if they had a couple million of their countrymen between them and the advancing RPF forces, craftily spark general panic of retaliatory genocide, prompt mass militia-disguising Hutu flight into neighboring Zaire (now DRC).
  • Militias hidden among fleeing Hutu civilians join refugees in what UN Special Rep. Shahryar Khan describes as “a revision of hell.” Over-crowding, disease, and inadequate aid lead to the deaths of over 50,000 people in the camps in mid-1994.
  • Massive influx of aid leads to stabilization of the humanitarian situation, gives Hutu militias the opportunity to reorganize, take control of the camps, begin launching attacks on Rwandan Tutsis and the Banyamulenge (Congo’s Tutsi group).
  • President of Zaire Mobuto Sese Seko looks other way, hums loudly as militias ship arms into the camps.
  • Humanitarian aid groups supplying the camps ask themselves if they really want their delicious Meals, Ready to Eat in the bellies of genocidaires, begin cutting off aid.
  • Global community, having not learned its lesson, ignores requests from UN for peacekeepers to separate out militias from genuine refugees in the camps.
  • Rwanda, pissed off at UNHCR for feeding its enemies, begins to arm the Banyamulenge.
  • The vice-governor of North Kivu decides in October of 1996 that it’s time for things to go from bad to worse, orders Banyamulenge out of the country.
  • All hell breaks loose. Banyamulenge, well-stocked with Rwandan-supplied arms, rebel.
  • A seemingly already-prepared Laurent Kabila emerges as head of an surprisingly well-organized new rebel group incorporating the Banyamulenge militias called the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (ADFL). Mystery is later cleared up when Rwanda and Uganda admit: “Oh yeah, we totally orchestrated that whole thing.
  • As the ADFL sweeps through the Kivus clearing the camps, the Hutu militias decide it’s time for Operation Massive Human Shield: Phase 2 and push hordes of long-suffering refugees ahead of them from camp to camp.
  • Rwandan and Ugandan troops appear on the scene, assist ADFL as it decimates Hutu forces and Mobutu’s army. Angola, Burundi, and some Sudanese rebels show up for the party as well. ADFL insists that this was accomplished sans any incidental massacring of civilians; demographic statistics and eye witness accounts suggest otherwise.
  • ADFL, with Kabila at its head, begins march / amble to Zairian capital Kinshasa. Mobutu’s government insists that everything is FINE, thank you very much.
  • Mobutu gives up and flees the country in May 1997. Kabila declares victory, appoints himself President and announces that he never liked the name “Zaire” anyway. Proving that even corrupt warlords have a sense of humor, country is renamed the “Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

This concludes our discussion of the First Congo War. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment “the Second Congo War,” in which Rwanda and Uganda have second thoughts about their hand-picked stooge, and virtually every country in Africa decides to field an army.

[Please proceed to parts 2, 3, and 4.]