The Chinese are gaining ground in Africa while Western powers, and corporations, struggle to catch up. Last week, China’s official news service reported on the success of a joint effort of the Chinese and Congolese governments: A new $8.7 million, 40-mile long electricity line linking two towns in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The line will also supply power to a new hydroelectric dam. But an even larger dam – the largest in the world, in fact – to be built by Chinese contractors could also be in the works. And the United States is considering whether to contribute its own humanitarian funds to the project.
- Workers in a mine near Goma, eastern DR Congo. 2012
In today’s podcast, Nairobi-based reporter Jacob Kushner puts that news in context and explains why America should be open to collaborating with Chinese investments in the Congo. After reporting on Western mining operations in Haiti, Kushner visited similar Chinese mining operations in the Congo, but noticed that many Congolese respect and appreciate the presence of Chinese companies even as they extract the country’s resources without any “do-gooder” pretensions.
He published an e-book last fall called “China’s Congo Plan: What the Economic Superpower Sees in the World’s Poorest Nation.” Kushner joins us to explain what China’s influence in the Congo looks like on the ground, why many Congolese respect Chinese profit motives over Western humanitarian ones, and how China’s massive investments in Central Africa might hold up over the long term.
And I ask him an obvious but little-asked question: what should Western humanitarians learn from Chinese contractors? The answer might surprise you.
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The legacy and impact of Paul Kagame on Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of central Africa has come under greater scrutiny in the past few years. The divisive debate pits the supporters who say he has transformed the small nation against opponents who decry the human rights abuses carried out by Kagame’s regime.
Enter the Rwanda Gambit a new documentary that makes the case that the international community has turned a blind eye to Kagame’s crimes. The film is by Andre Vltchek, a journalist and filmmaker based in Nairobi. The film is sure to spark more debate over Kagame.
He poses the idea that international companies are using Rwanda to extract mineral resources from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Other critics have made such claims, but evidence to substantiate it has always been thin. The trailer and accompanying text make it seem as if this film will try to answer such questions.
The disaster following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines rightly has dominated the global twenty-four hour news cycle. Humanosphere has devoted more of our reporting time to the issue than anything else this week. With nearly one million people displaced and close to twelve million affected, the scope of the problem is vast and the relief effort has a long way to go.
While we were paying attention to the Philippines, there were other notable news stories that garnered less attention. Here are ten notable events and happenings (presented in no particular order) that you might have missed this week. It is by no means a comprehensive list. Do add anything else of note in the comments section.
1) Polio is worse this year in Pakistan, so the region is taking on the challenge by working together.
- Gates Foundation
The number of polio cases in Pakistan have already exceeded the total from 2012. Health officials announced Wednesday that there are sixty-two cases of polio in 2013. The total for 2012 was fifty-eight. Pakistan is one of only polio-endemic countries, alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Attacks on polio workers over the past year have hampered the effort to vaccinate children. An estimated 240,000 children living in the northwest were not vaccinated in August due to a ban by the Taliban.
The problem is affecting neighboring countries. An outbreak of polio in Syria was recently linked to Pakistan. To deal with the issue, the WHO is working with twenty-one Middle Eastern countries to stop polio in its tracks. However, much of what happens in Pakistan is out of the control of the UN and its neighbors.
- M23 rebels on patrol.
The M23 rebel group that has led a twenty-month insurgency in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo waved the white flag today. An announcement Tuesday morning that the rebels gave up came in the wake of a Congolese army campaign that beat back the group over the weekend.
“The chief of staff and the commanders of all major units are requested to prepare troops for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration on terms to be agreed with the government of Congo.”
Rebels will put down arms in order to accomplish, “purely political means,” solutions to the root problems that gave rise to the rebellion said M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa in a statement. The Tutsi group opposes the existence of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a militia made up of ethnic Hutus, that group that carried out the Rwandan genocide, in eastern Congo.
The Congolese army already says it move to deal with the FDLR. The M23 was at the top of the list for the army’s concerns and it is now moving on to the next group, said government spokesman Lambert Mende. He said an attack is “imminent” against the FDLR.
“There is no more place in our country for any irregular group,” he said referring to the FDLR. “We are going to get on with disarming them.”
Only a year earlier the M23 rebels marched, without resistance, into the main eastern city of Goma before agreeing to retreat. The destabilizing group garnered greater international attention when a United Nations report said that the Rwandan military was providing support to the rebels. Continue reading
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is by many measures one of the world’s most difficult places to live.
Government instability, rebel attacks in the east, terrible health services and more contribute to an environment that some have gone as far as to call “hell on earth.”
Congolese activist Neema Namadamu launched a Change.Org petition late least year to call for the US to create a presidential envoy that will work with the United Nations and the African Union to help establish a peace process for the DRC. Crippled by polio at the age of two, Namadamu has emerged as a leading activist for women, children and the disabled in the DRC. She is joined by fellow women activists who are speaking out against the violence they face and to find inclusive solutions to the country’s problems.
“We know that we can create peaceful, sustainable communities in Congo through a holistic new model that ends violence, poverty, and the destruction of nature altogether,” she wrote in the petition. Continue reading
- Victims of sexual violence, Kivu clinic 2010
- Flickr, andre thiel
What really happened in a village near Luvungi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in August 2010?
At least 200 fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Mayi Mayi Sheka looted homes, committed rapes and abducted hundreds. 387 people (300 women, 23 men, 55 girls and 9 boys) were systematically raped over the course of four days by rebels, according to the International Medial Corps (IMC) and the UN.
An article by Laura Heaton, a freelance reporter and consultant for the Enough Project, in Foreign Policy this week says that the figures were exaggerated. She uses the attack as an example of how an extraordinary amount of attention and resources are diverted to the problem of rape in the DRC while issues like displacement garner much less attention and financial support.
She visited the area after the attacks and interviewed a few women about their experiences. In those discussions, Heaton and her colleague felt that they were being lied to by the women.
When the interviews were over and we were out of earshot, my colleague and I stood in confused silence. I had interviewed survivors of rape in eastern Congo before; a psychological element seemed to be missing in these interactions. Before I managed to articulate the uncomfortable feeling that we had just been lied to, my Congolese colleague spit it out: “Those women have been coached.” Continue reading
- Families on the move to escape the current fighting, eastern DRC; Credit
There is a new peace deal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, the outlook is mixed.
11 countries (DRC, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) signed onto the deal at the EU headquarters in Ethiopia.
The Central African coalition agreed to provide support, including 2,500 troops, to stabilize a country that has been beset by conflict for decades.
It’s not stable yet, and many are uncertain if this negotiated deal will accomplish much. Continue reading
The long journey through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Section 1502 in the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act has come to an end. A 3-2 vote adopted the provision that will force mining companies to detail their operations in conflict regions.
For consumers, this means that large electronics companies will be put on the spot to show that they are sourcing their minerals from conflict-free sources. The section has elicited a very strong debate and neither side was very happy with the final decision on Wednesday.
Supporters of the bill say it is a way to reduce the power of armed militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. If companies are unable to trade in conflict regions the areas will be forces to make changes in order to enjoy the benefits of international mineral trade. The decline in power will provide more safety for the people who have been brutalized for years.