Friday, December 11, 2009

Emotional scenes at Copenhagen: Lumumba Di-Aping @ Africa Civil Society Meeting – 8 Dec 2009

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, nature & environment by adamwelz on December 8, 2009
Dear All
The leak of a so-called ‘Danish text’ that would sideline the UN in future climate deals is reverberating around the Copenhagen negotiations. (see
Today I witnessed an unexpected and extraordinary outburst of candour from one of the key players in these negotiations — Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese by birth and chief negotiator of the so-called G77 bloc (which mostly consists of poor countries).
I attended an ad-hoc meeting in a meeting room of the Bella Center attended by about 100 African representatives of civil society and a few African parliamentarians (among them Lance Greyling, an MP from South Africa) this afternoon. The meeting was called at short notice and its agenda was not announced. After a few minutes of introductions Di-Aping was given the floor to speak to fellow Africans. Requests were made by organisers to turn off all microphones so as not to record what was going to be said, although Di-Aping made a point of turning his on, saying half-jokingly “they are probably listening anyway”.
He did not start his speech immediately. Instead he sat silently, tears rolling down his face. He put his head in his hands and said “We have been asked to sign a suicide pact.” The room was frozen into silence, shocked by the sight of a powerful negotiator, an African elder if you like, exhibiting such strong emotion. He apologised to the audience, but said that in his part of Sudan it was “better to stand and cry than to walk away.”
Once he had composed himself, Di-Aping launched into an eloquent and direct attack on the apparent subversion of the climate negotiation process by certain developing countries, the leaked so-called “Danish” agreement that has become the talk of the conference. Since I did not feel it appropriate to stand up and video the proceedings, I live-tweeted what I could (
Speaking in measured tones, Di-Aping first attacked the 2 degrees C warming maximum that most rich countries currently consider acceptable. Referring continuously to science, in particular parts of the latest IPCC report (which he referenced by page and section) he said that 2 degrees C globally meant 3.5 degrees C for much of Africa. He called global warming of 2 degrees C “certain death for Africa”, a type of “climate fascism” imposed on Africa by high carbon emitters. He said Africa was being asked to sign on to an agreement that would allow this warming in exchange for $10 billion, and that Africa was also being asked to “celebrate” this deal.
He then went on to forthrightly address the weakness of many African negotiating delegations, noting that many were unprepared and that some members were either lazy or had been “bought off” by the industrialised nations. He singled out South Africa, saying that some members of that delegation had actively sought to disrupt the unity of the bloc. He said that civil society needed to hold its negotiators to account, but warned of a long and difficult struggle for a fair climate deal (words to the effect of ‘you have no idea of the powers that are arrayed against you’, spoken in the tone of someone who has spent years interacting with these powers.)
He said that people all over the world had to be made aware of what a bad climate deal means for Africa (“I am absolutely convinced that what Western governments are doing is NOT acceptable to Western civil society”).
He explained that, by wanting to subvert the established post-Kyoto process, the industrialised nations were effectively wanting to ignore historical emissions, and by locking in deals that would allow each citizen of those countries to carry on emitting a far greater amount of carbon per year than each citizen in poor countries, would prevent many African countries from lifting their people out of poverty. This was nothing less than a colonisation of the sky, he said. “$10 billion is not enough to buy us coffins”.
Obama, he said, would probably be brought to Copenhagen to ’sanctify’ this deal. “What is Obama going to tell his daughters? That their [Kenyan] relatives’ lives are not worth anything? It is unfortunate that after 500 years-plus of interaction with the West we [Africans] are still considered ‘disposables’ “. “My good friends… we’ve got to get together and fight the fight.”
Di-Aping accused a group of US industrialists behind an organisation called the Climate Works Foundation of being behind the efforts to sideline the process and African countries, noting that rich governments did not want to pay the true cost of climate change or confront their own citizens with the urgent need to change their lifestyles.
Calling the current deal that was being proposed “worse than no deal”, he called on Africans to reject it — “I would rather die with my dignity than sign a deal that will channel my people into a furnace.” Africans had to make clear demands of their leaders not to sign on. He suggested a couple of slogans: “One Africa, one degree” and “Two degrees is suicide”
Di-Aping’s speech crystallised the room into action. A demonstration was immediately planned, and a few minutes after its end the people in the room converged on a central point in the Bella Center and began chanting and shouting — attracting a storm of media interest. (Di-Aping later addressed a formal press conference where he repeated some the points made in the African meeting, apparently no less eloquently but far less emotionally.)
Some commentators have suggested that the leak of the so-called “Danish” proposal will not significantly affect the progress of the talks here. After witnessing Di-Aping speaking to the African group, I am not so sure. It’s becoming increasingly clear that many rich countries are seeking a deal that falls well short of what the vast majority of current science indicates we need to do to avoid extremely damaging climate change, and that representatives of people in poor countries are becoming increasingly fed up at their ongoing marginalisation by the rich governments. The divide between the civil servants and NGO managers lazily discussing career options on the train across Copenhagen and those that have grasped the urgency of climate change is becoming more apparent.
With clear, credible voices like Di-Aping’s articulating the frustration of so many, are we seeing a fracturing of the Copenhagen process? Is this conference, which seems to be trying so hard to be just another ‘normal’ conference, with ordered meeting halls, name tags and too many glossy brochures floating around, going to turn into something really historic and interesting?
A note: Di-Aping mentioned in his speech that he was named after the famous Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, even though he was Sudanese (“My parents were Lumumbist”). Patrice Lumumba was of course murdered after asserting himself too strongly against western powers, and replaced by the famously corrupt but US- and Belgian-friendly Mobutu Sese Seko.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Where Did We Miss the Mark: Female Misogynism Vs Male Chauvinism?

I have been so much interested if not fascinated in the different opinions one is getting when you start talking about the sixteen days of activism against gender based violence (GBV), human Rights and the egalitarian movement. But I have this to highlight...

I know that some of my readers will brand it ‘absurd’ when I say that licentiousness in our age and time have been introduced by the crave in mankind to be the real ‘God’ in an unreal dynasty. A dynasty encroached by lawlessness, and irresponsibility of the highest order.

Africa still accounts for so much of such irresponsibility going by the name of Women battering. But what goes even unmentioned in the escalating rates of men battering – to which a number of human rights advocates have turned their backs on for decades.

The Ancient Faith
Traditionally, the majority believed in the creation account that we find in Genesis 2:21. But as days progressed we came to the age and the emergence of the evolution theory – the Bing Bang and so many other ideologies that mobilised a lot of support for Darwinism.

The ancient faith said that, “Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." 

A number of you out there know what Darwinism and all those who subscribe to the evolution theory talk on issues of creation. Many of us today do not read the Bible as it is rated as a myth and an old and should-be-forgotten history book passed with time.

Men and Chauvinism
When we look at the order set above and look at what is happening among us – humankind today; an age when men (masculine) think of themselves superior than any other human being in the face of the earth. All the men are mistaken and disillusioned! On the other hand a number of women as the result of the treatment they have long received from the chauvinists. On the other hand, a minority of men are reacting to the activities carried on them by female misogynists who do not look into issues with a balanced views but with the eye of, ‘we-have-been-tormented-long’ it is now payback time.

We forget the real meaning of the creation ordinance that was set before us as the created rational beings. I am enraged a lot of times when people want to reduce us to a single cell theory leaving that truth which sets us above all created things in the universe, be it on earth, under the waters, on top of the highest mountains and in the skies.

Against Male Chauvinism and Female Misogynism
Our world today (as I said before) is filled with massive bias against sexes. Of course we only have two prominent sexes – males and females. A number of incidences have been recorded the world over on the many forms people are fighting the equality in the universal society.

In my search for a balanced or something close to a balanced view on gender equality, I came across this: “That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” (Matthew Henry)

To depict just one point from what I have just turned your attention above, that a woman – according to the Bible was created “...but out of his (the man’s) side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved” made Adam – the first man ever created break out in JOY and unmistaken assurance when he said, This is now bone of my bone!” in other words, he proclaimed to himself and the world that “Now I have what I wanted, and which all the creatures could not furnish me with.”

The Great Deviation
In my view and from my reflections on the words I have just quoted above and what I see around me; I now believe that we have deviated far, so far away from the truth. With the theories that deny the creation order, we have made the alternatives that never work but make us irresponsible and cling to all sorts of rights that have created far too much confusion in our society.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Peoples’ Interests Must be Priority in National Development - JCTR advises

THIS IS LIFE IN DOWN TOWN LUSAKA: These senior Citizens of the land make way home after a day's work at the Soweto market in Lusaka Central Business Division. Poverty is relative in other parts of the World but NOT in a number of Natural Resource rich countries. PHOTO/ER

“Government needs to become more committed to infrasructure development and re-align its priorities and policies towards national needs if it has to deliver on its promise of poverty reduction,” says Mr. Andrew Banda, Programme Assistant for Debt, Aid and Trade Program at the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection (JCTR).

In the same vain Privilege Haangandu,  Program Officer – Debt Policy says that with the current trend of continued non-implementation and postponement of development  programmes, the Vision 2030 and National Development Plans will barely be met. This comes in view of the  the Zambian Government signing a US$ 6 million loan in 2007 with the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) to co-fund the project to rehabilitate forty feeder roads on the Copperbelt, and it’s continued delay in implementation.

“It is imperative  that Government streamlines implementation of developmental programmes especially when dealing with debt resources as this has serious fiscal consequences”, observes Mr. Banda. “Socio-economic injustice will continue to be perpetuated among the poor if basic infrastructure is not developed. We saw this when we monitored the BADEA loan contracted by government for feeder roads in Copperbelt Province. This is  also a trend evident in the JCTR monthly Basic Needs Basket which reveals that the cost of living is always closely related to the availability and state of infrastructure facilities,” he further adds.

JCTR in conjunction with Jubilee Ndola challenges the Government to hasten the implementation of various infrastructure development projects which will enable the country meet Vision 2030. The organisation reminds Government that a good starting point is the development of infrastructure which will act as an anchor to the development of industries and help in alleviating poverty levels in the country. The JCTR urges Government that if transparency and accountability have to be ensured, participation of local communities has to be encouraged. This is in order to ensure that resources allocated for development benefit the intended recipients.

“Delaying infrastructure development must not be an option because of the many pressing needs of the country. Government needs to place more commitment on timely implementation process and fulfill its pledge and promise of poverty reduction through equitable economic growth”, concludes Mr. Banda.

This is why the JCTR in collaboration with Jubilee Ndola took the initiative to share the findings of the $6 million BADEA loan for feeder roads in the Copperbelt Province at a Public Forum in the Mulungushi International Conference Centre on Thursday, November 26, 2009.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Unsung Heroes: Need Resources to Fight Gender Violence

I NEED HELP: Women in a number of communities carry the same plight the lady (pictured right name withheld) -  expressed when we met. Surely there is so much we can do to bring this inhuman attitude down. PHOTO/ER

As we commemorate 16 Days of Activism, along with highlighting how extensive the problem still is, we also need to pause a moment to thank the people who work tirelessly 365 days a year to help and support survivors. Perpetual Sichikwenkwe who writes from Zambia takes us down the reflective path so that together we think of how to deal with this evil in our midst. let's read on... 

Iriss Phiri, whose home in Lusaka's Chilulu residential area is a haven for women fleeing violence, is one such person. Phiri and her family very often find themselves sharing their home, food, and money to assist women in the area. For Phiri, helping women and girls has been a longtime commitment.

“Helping women, especially those who are victims of violence, started years back when I was employed as a matron at the Lusaka's Evelyn Hone College,” she recalls. “As a matron for a co-education college, I used to handle a lot of cases of female students beaten by their boyfriends. They would rush to my house for help, since as I was the nearest parent figure they could seek refuge from.” Phiri, who worked for the college from 1985-2007, says that this experience inspired her to take action. “One thing I thought was causing a lot of conflicts in relations was lack of counselling among women and men; and in 1997, while I was still working for the college, I started my own organisation known as the Alangizi National Association of Zambia.” 

According to Phiri, the problem of gender violence is rising. She recalls women coming to her after their husbands decide to take another wife or girlfriend, and even bring these women into the matrimonial bed. When a woman complains, the husband would beat and chase the woman from her home. She found that most of such cases were from high density areas, which was one of the reasons she chose to build a house in a highly populated residential area - so she could be in constant touch with such women and children. 

“Sometimes, I would be enjoying the evening with my family when we just hear a loud knock on the gate of our house. We would rush there only to find a truck full offloading in my yard,” recounts Phiri. “Before I even ask what is happening and where the things are going, I see a miserable woman and her children who have been chased and sometimes beaten by the husband, and they have no where to go.” However, despite her passion and commitment, helping others takes a personal toll on Phiri, who receives little support for the work she does. “It is not always easy to provide food and other necessities, but since I have nowhere to send them, especially in the night, they have to live with us,” she says. 

Most of the women who leave the home with nothing. Phiri recalls a case of one women, whose husband took her best friend as a second wife. When the women complained, the man stopped providing for her and her children. The woman was left with little hope until Phiri counseled her about how to get help. According to Phiri, she refers most of the cases to organisations such as Women in Law in Southern Africa, Women in Law and Development, the police, or the YWCA. However, sometimes the YWCA shelters are full. This leaves her with no option but keep some victims in her house. Phiri credits such organisations with helping to guide her in her activities. 

Phiri says most women who seek assistance from her are homemakers who are poor and uneducated. “At least every week I receive reports where women are beaten, divorced and they have to beg for food and money from their own husbands even to take their children to school. Because of poverty, they can not leave their abusive husbands.” Phiri tries to empower women through skills such as making beads, but the resources available are too limited to cater for all those in need. Her limited resources also take an emotional toll on her. “I feel very bad to see children who even stop school because their parents have broken up and their mothers have no money to take them to school. Because of the same, I ended up opening a community school (from nursery to grade 7), but the resources are not enough to cater for teachers' salaries and other needs”. 

According to Phiri, despite several and numerous efforts that are being put in place to fight gender violence, she feels the scourge is still rife in places like Chilulu because efforts often do not reach isolated communities. She has hope though, saying that it is not too late to win the fight against violence, “because today the fight is a step further than it was yesterday.” People like Iriss Phiri show that indeed, one person can make a difference. And they can make an even bigger difference, if they get the resources and support they need. 

*This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service series for 
the 16 Days of Activism. 


One cannot tell what happens with governments when it comes to issues that pursue justice. CIDA, Canada's development agency is reported to cut support to KAIROS (as stated below) the main question that remains unanswered is; why has CIDA taken this move...


Attention:     Religion, Foreign, Social and Human Rights Journalists

For Immediate Release                                    Wednesday, 02 December 2009

(Toronto)  The Canadian government’s decision to cut funding to KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives will have a devastating impact on KAIROS’ overseas partners and the thousands of marginalized people in local communities they support, KAIROS announced today. 
KAIROS, a church based non-governmental organization that represents seven of Canada’s largest denominations, works on a range of social justice issues, including human rights in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. 
An official from CIDA called KAIROS executive director Mary Corkery on Monday afternoon, November 30th, to inform her that CIDA would no longer fund KAIROS. Corkery was told that KAIROS no longer fits CIDA priorities.  No other explanation or information was provided.
KAIROS’ current contract with CIDA expired in September, but it had received an extension until November 30th, the day it was informed of the cuts. 
“We are disheartened that this longstanding relationship and decades of support by the Canadian government has been ended,” says Corkery.  “KAIROS and the millions of Canadians we represent through our member churches and organizations do not understand why these cuts have been made.”
In a message to Bev Oda, Minister for International Cooperation, requesting an explanation, Corkery writes, “I know of no precedent for the Canadian International Development Agency ending a decades-long funding relationship with a major Canadian organization without notice in writing, with no reason and no transition plan”.
The CIDA-funded overseas program received matching financial support from KAIROS’ member churches, church-related organizations and other donors.  Since 1973, KAIROS, and the church coalitions from which it was formed eight years ago, had received funding from CIDA to support partners working in regions experiencing some of the world’s most egregious human rights violations. 
KAIROS’ work is highly regarded in Canada and overseas.  As the November 30th deadline approached, KAIROS member churches, its partners and other organizations had been writing Minister Oda to request that she approve the KAIROS contract which has been sitting on her desk since July awaiting her signature.
One of those letters came from a Colombian group, the Organización Femenina Popular (the Popular Women’s Group), which has been awaiting CIDA funding through KAIROS.
As you know, we work in regions in Colombia where armed conflict has resulted in the denial of women’s basic rights. The economic support from KAIROS and CIDA permits us to implement programs which include legal and health services, community kitchens, and other humanitarian assistance that have saved many lives and given possibilities and opportunities to hundreds of women, mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and entire families,” Yolanda Becerra Vega, OFP Director General wrote to Bev Oda on Monday.
“In addition to the impact overseas, these cuts are a loss for Canadians,” says Corkery. “KAIROS educates Canadians across the country about Canada’s work for international development. Our work in Canada and overseas expresses Canadian values in upholding human rights, and is informed by excellent analysis of our partners in the Global South.”
The KAIROS contract that just expired received a positive audit and excellent CIDA evaluation this year.  KAIROS submitted its new program proposal for 2009-2013 to CIDA in March 2009.  It went through a lengthy approval process within CIDA up until the Minister’s level and has been waiting for approval from the Minister since July 2009. 
The government’s decision comes a week after 57 people were massacred in politically motivated killings in the Philippines, including two lawyers from a human rights organization supported by KAIROS, and just days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to China.

- 30 -

Final Briefing Notes: KAIROS 2009-2013 Proposal

December 2, 2009

Request: That CIDA fund the 2009-2013 KAIROS proposal for international development and public engagement on human rights and ecological sustainability.  


KAIROS submitted a 4-year program proposal to CIDA on human rights and ecological sustainability.  The total program cost of the proposal is $9,211,483 over four years (CIDA contributes just over $7 million of that amount).  This is consistent with previous levels of CIDA funding to KAIROS.

  •  On November 30, we received a call from the Government of Canada informing us that our 2009-2013 program proposal had been rejected and that KAIROS would no longer be receiving funding from CIDA.  We asked for an explanation and were informed that our program did not fit the Government of Canada’s priorities. This was the last day of an extension to our current proposal.  No written explanation has been provided. 
  • This decision, if not reversed, would cut funds to 21 ecumenical and citizen’s organizations in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and cut educational work that helps Canadians across the country to develop skills and knowledge in the exercise of their global citizenship.  


  • KAIROS, and its precursor organizations, have been funded by CIDA since 1973.  That is over 35 years of positive collaboration between the churches (working ecumenically through KAIROS) and CIDA on international development and public engagement.
  • The KAIROS 2006-2009 proposal received a positive audit report and an excellent evaluation.  The CIDA evaluator described  “positive and measureable progress toward the achievement of the results at the output, outcome and impact levels.”  The evaluator commented that “experience and good judgment is one of the important reasons for their success in achieving results...”.
·     KAIROS staff worked closely with global partners to develop the 2009-2013 program proposal which focused on human rights and ecological justice.  It was submitted to CIDA in March 2009 and went fairly quickly through all levels of approval and arrived on the desk of Bev Oda, the Minister of International Cooperation, in July 2009.  It remained on the Minister’s desk for five months.  Any adjustments to the program requested by our program officer in the approvals phase were made.
  • In September 2009, when our agreement had still not been signed, we were granted a two- month extension on our previous contribution agreement.  During this time we received no communication from the Minister’s office.  On November 30, the last day of this extension, we received the phone call from CIDA informing us that KAIROS would not be funded. 
CIDA priorities and human rights
  • With the full support of CIDA staff, and in collaboration with our partners, our proposal was developed within two priority sectors of CIDA: promoting good governance (human rights) and advancing ecological sustainability (reducing the impact of climate change and addressing land degradation).   Our proposal was deemed by CIDA staff to be within CIDA criteria and priorities throughout the approval process. 
  • Our proposal places a strong priority on advancing human rights.  States are obliged to protect, respect and ensure fulfillment of human rights.  Canada is expected to collaborate to fulfill these rights, including providing international assistance for these efforts.  Our proposal is one way in which the government can demonstrate that it is providing support to the fulfillment of rights around the globe.
  • Our focus human rights, is completely consistent with the ODA Accountability Act which came into affect in June of 2008.  The act requires all Official Development Assistance “to be consistent with international human rights standards”.  

Impact of the decision

  • This decision, if it is not reversed, will have a devastating impact on the work and well-being of our partners overseas, the hundreds of marginalized communities and thousands of the people who have benefited from their programs.  Furthermore, it will decimate our education program in Canada, which enhances Canadian’s commitment to international cooperation. 
  • KAIROS supports partners in countries such Sudan, the Congo, the Philippines, and Colombia who face an extreme human rights and humanitarian crises as well as political repression. Many of our overseas partners risk their lives for the work that they do.  KAIROS’ accompaniment, advocacy and education work with partners has saved lives.
  • In the Congo, KAIROS funding means a women’s legal clinic to address rampant gender-based violence will be established.  Loss of this funding to our critical human rights partner, Héritiers de la Justice, compromises this critical work to fight rape as a weapon of war.
·         In Sudan, KAIROS is working with Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and its members to mobilize greater action for democratic peace.  The full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan is essential to ensuring basic humanitarian, food security, livelihood needs of women and children and their communities will be met.  Without KAIROS funding, the SCC will not be able to adequately pressure parties to implement this peace agreement.  In a country with very weak civil society networks, SCC has been an essential voice in negotiating and implementing peace.
  • In Indonesia, KAIROS, through CIDA, supports KONTRAS: The Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence.  KONTRAS is highly recognized as a credible human rights organization in Indonesia and internationally, working specifically on human rights monitoring, documentation and advocacy.    KONTRAS plays a lead role in ensuring the Indonesian government investigates past military abuses and compensates victims (and the families of victims) of human rights violations and military atrocities.  Without KAIROS funding, KONTRAS will lose ground on the achievements made over the years in widening democratic space in Indonesia and will be unable to hold the Indonesian government accountable for national and international human rights covenants.
  • In Colombia, KAIROS supports a grassroots women’s human rights organization, Organizacion Femenina Popular (OFP), in Magdela Medio, a region that has experienced some of the worst human rights abuses in Colombia.   The OFP now has a membership of 5,000 women in the region of Magdalena Medio and runs 22 women’s centers, offering programs which include integrated community development, human rights of women, health and legal services, and education.  In a recent letter the OFP appealed to Minister Oda to continue funding to KAIROS, “so that our sons and daughters grow up without being recruited by armed groups, kidnapped or assassinated - so that they have the right to a dignified life.”  

Call to action

KAIROS and partners call on the networks and supporters of KAIROS to meet with their MPs to discuss this critical matter.  Please, respectfully and politely,  
-speak about your own positive involvement with KAIROS;
-express grave concern about this decision;
-state KAIROS’ desire to restore our long standing relationship with CIDA;
-emphasize the impacts of this decision on global partners and our work in Canada;
-ask them to call on the Government of Canada to reverse this decision.

Please also write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Bev Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, and Margaret Biggs, President of CIDA , requesting a reversal of the decision.  Please copy your letters to KAIROS at

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Conflict Minerals: A cover for U.S. allies and Western mining interests?

The caption for this photo, illustrating a story headlined “African advocates say Canada owes Congo” on the Vancouver, Canada-based Straight-com, reads, “Women are in constant danger in Eastern Congo, where most of the recent fighting has taken place and rape is widespread.” The story, quoting two Congolese now in Canada, attributes the violence not to tribal conflict but to “a war of resources … a war of cellphones” but is divided over whether Canada should intervene militarily. – Photo: Dominic Nahr, MSF

“African advocates say Canada owes Congo” on the Vancouver, Canada-based Straight-com, reads, “Women are in constant danger in Eastern Congo, where most of the recent fighting has taken place and rape is widespread.” The story, quoting two Congolese now in Canada, attributes the violence not to tribal conflict but to “a war of resources … a war of cellphones” but is divided over whether Canada should intervene militarily. 
Photo: Dominic Nahr, MSF

By Kambale Musavuli and Bodia Macharia
As global awareness grows around the Congo and the silence is finally being broken on the current and historic exploitation of Black people in the heart of Africa, a myriad of Western based “prescriptions” are being proffered. Most of these prescriptions are devoid of social, political, economic and historical context and are marked by remarkable omissions. The conflict mineral approach or efforts emanating from the United States and Europe are no exception to this symptomatic approach which serves more to perpetuate the root causes of Congo’s challenges than to resolve them. 

The conflict mineral approach has an obsessive focus on the FDLR and other rebel groups while scant attention is paid to Uganda, which has an International Court of Justice ruling against it for looting and crimes against humanity in the Congo, and Rwanda, whose role in the perpetuation of the conflict and looting of Congo is well documented by U.N. reports and international arrest warrants for its top officials.

Rwanda is the main transit point for minerals stolen from the Congo irrespective of the rebel group – FDLR, CNDP or others – transporting the minerals. According to Dow Jones, Rwanda’s mining sector output grew 20 percent in 2008 from the year earlier due to increased export volumes of tungsten, cassiterite and coltan, the country’s three leading minerals with which Rwanda is not well endowed.

In fact, should Rwanda continue to pilfer Congo’s minerals, its annual mineral export revenues are expected to reach $200 million by 2010. Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen says it best when he notes, “(H)aving controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.” As long as the West continues to give the Kagame regime carte blanche, the conflict and instability will endure.

According to Global Witness’ 2009 report, “Faced With a Gun What Can You Do,” Congolese government statistics and reports by the Group of Experts and NGOs, Rwanda is one of the main conduits for illicit minerals leaving the Congo. It is amazing that proponents of the conflict mineral approach shout loudly about making sure that the trade in minerals does not benefit armed groups, yet the biggest armed beneficiary of Congo’s minerals is the Rwandan regime headed by Paul Kagame. Nonetheless, the conflict mineral approach is remarkably silent about Rwanda’s complicity in the fueling of the conflict in the Congo and the fleecing of Congo’s riches.

When this Gecamines open pit copper mine in Katanga, one of the world’s largest, and others like it shut down during Congo’s civil war, Congolese continued mining for their own benefit. The miners rebelled when the company tried to expel them. State-owned Gecamines was until recently headed by Canadian Paul Fortin. – Photo: David Lewis, Reuters
Advocates of the conflict mineral approach would be far more credible if they had ever called for any kind of pressure whatsoever on mining companies that are directly involved in either fueling the conflict or exploiting the Congolese people. The United Nations, the Congolese Parliament, the Carter Center, Southern Africa Resource Watch and several other NGOs have documented corporations that have pilfered Congo’s wealth and contributed to the perpetuation of the conflict. These companies include but are not limited to Traxys, OM Group, Blattner Elwyn Group, Freeport McMoran, Eagle Wings/Trinitech, Lundin, Kemet, Banro, AngloGold Ashanti, Anvil Mining, and First Quantum

The conflict mineral approach, like the Blood Diamond campaign from which it draws its inspiration, is silent on the question of resource sovereignty which has been a central question in the geo-strategic battle for Congo’s mineral wealth. It was over this question of resource sovereignty that the West assassinated Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, and stifled the democratic aspirations of the Congolese people for over three decades by installing and backing the dictator Joseph Mobutu.

In addition, the United States also backed the 1996 and 1998 invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda instead of supporting the non-violent, pro-democracy forces inside the Congo. Unfortunately and to the chagrin of the Congolese people, some of the strongest advocates of the conflict mineral approach are former Clinton administration officials who supported the invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda. This may in part explain the militaristic underbelly of the conflict mineral approach, which has as its so-called second step a comprehensive counterinsurgency.

The focus on the East of Congo falls in line with the long-held obsession by some advocates in Washington who incessantly push for the balkanization of the Congo. Their focus on “Eastern Congo” is inadequate and does not fully take into account the nature and scope of the dynamics in the entire country. Political decisions in Kinshasa, the capital in the West, have a direct impact on the events that unfold in the East of Congo and are central to any durable solutions.
The central claim of the conflict mineral approach is to bring an end to the conflict; however, the conflict can plausibly be brought to an end much quicker through diplomatic and political means. The so-called blood mineral route is not the quickest way to end the conflict.
We have already seen how quickly world pressure can work with the sidelining of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and the demobilization and/or rearranging of his CNDP rebel group in January 2009, as a result of global pressure placed on the CNDP’s sponsor, Paul Kagame of Rwanda. More pressure needs to be placed on leaders such as Kagame and Uganda’s Museveni, who have been at the root of the conflict since 1996.

The FDLR can readily be pressured as well, especially with most of their political leadership residing in the West; however, this should be done within a political framework, which brings all the players to the table, as opposed to the current militaristic, dichotomous, good-guy-bad-guy approach, where the West sees Kagame and Museveni as the “good guys” and everyone else as bad. The picture is far greyer than Black and White.
  1. A robust political approach by the global community would entail the following prescriptions: Join Sweden and Netherlands in pressuring Rwanda to be a partner for peace and a stabilizing presence in the region. The United States and Great Britain in particular should apply more pressure on their allies Rwanda and Uganda to the point of withholding aid if necessary
  2. Hold to account companies and individuals through sanctions on trafficking in minerals whether with rebel groups or neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda and Uganda. Canada has chimed in as well but has been deadly silent on the exploitative practices of its mining companies in the Congo. Canada must do more to hold its mining companies accountable as is called for in Bill C-300.
  3. Encourage world leaders to be more engaged diplomatically and place a higher priority on what is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II.
  4. Reject the militarization of the Great Lakes region represented by AFRICOM, which has already resulted in the suffering of civilian population; the strengthening of authoritarian figures such as Uganda’s Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, and Rwanda’s Kagame, who won the 2003 “elections” with 95 percent of the vote; and the restriction of political space in their countries.
  5. Demand that the Obama administration engage differently from its current military-laden approach and take the lead in pursuing an aggressive diplomatic path with an emphasis on pursuing a regional political framework that can lead to lasting peace and stability.

To learn more about the current crisis in the Congo, visit and join the global movement in support of the people of the Congo at

Kambale Musavuli is spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo. He can be reached at Bodia Macharia is the president of Friends of the Congo/ Canada. She can be reached at