Thursday, 30 June 2016

Why Congo miners fear President Kabila's guards

Why Congo miners fear President Kabila's guards


The Democratic Republic of Congo may be one of the richest countries in the world in terms of mineral wealth but eight out of 10 Congolese people live in extreme poverty.
Fighting over huge mineral deposits in the eastern region have led to ongoing conflict in the area, perpetrated by both Congolese and foreign militia.
The BBC's Maud Jullien went to the south-eastern province of Katanga, where artisanal miners are complaining of forced expulsions at the hands of the presidential guards.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Révélation choc !vital Kamerhe est l'oeil du pouvoir dans l'opposition...

Stop massacres in eastern Congo and bring perpetrators to justice, urge MEPs

Stop massacres in eastern Congo and bring perpetrators to justice, urge MEPs


Northern Kivu: On 24 December 2015, discovery of 8 
headless bodies in Beni

MEPs urge all parties fighting in north-eastern Congo to put an “end to the violence, lay down their arms, release all children from their ranks and promote dialogue” towards a peaceful solution, in a resolution voted on Thursday, after a debate on Wednesday. "There can be no impunity for perpetrators", they add.

Concerned at the "escalation of violence and the alarming and deteriorating humanitarian situation" in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where "dozens of armed groups remain active, recruiting and using children, with numerous reports of massacres", MEPs call on all parties to the conflict to end it. They also denounce the "indifference from the international community and the media silence", in a resolution passed by show of hands.

"Impunity needs to be fought" and "perpetrators brought to justice", MEPs urged in the plenary debate. The international community should launch "as a matter of urgency a thorough, independent and transparent investigation into the massacres" and organise "an emergency meeting of the Team of International Envoys and Representatives for the Great Lakes region of Africa on elections in the DRC" to progress in this direction, they add.

MEPs also urge the EU to "translate the recently agreed European understanding concerning mandatory due diligence checks on suppliers of conflict minerals into ambitious legislation to be adopted swiftly" and to ensure "coherence between its policies, including in arms trade and raw materials trade".

At the 31st ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly session on 13-15 June, MEPs and MPs from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries unanimously approved a resolution which condemns all acts of political violence and calls for a "successful and timely holding of elections, which will be crucial to the long-term stability and development of the country and the entire region".

In both texts, MEPs highlighted that President Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, is required to step down on 20 December 2016 as the mandate of the President of the DRC is limited under the Congolese Constitution to only two terms. By not yet having declared that he will do so, he is exacerbating political tensions in the country.

European Parliament news
PLENARY SESSION Press release - External relations
REF. : 20160622IPR33209

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Congo's Kabila Problem

Congo's Kabila Problem

How Washington Can Get the President to Step Down


 The Democratic Republic of Congo's President 
Joseph Kabila.

In July of last year, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a landmark speech at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, criticizing leaders who undemocratically change their constitutions to stay in power and emphasizing that the United States would call out such behavior. He pointed to Burundi where a few months earlier, President Pierre Nkurunziza pressured the courts to change the constitution’s term limits so that he could run for a third time. Obama warned that such a tactic could trigger “instability and strife,” as well as hamper “Africa’s democratic progress.” But his words seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
A few months later, in October 2015, President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) held a referendum for extending the presidential term limits. Apparently over 92 percent of those who voted agreed. Two months later, Rwanda also called for a vote on term limits, resulting in a similar outcome. And in February 2016, Uganda’s election was marked by wide irregularities, multiple arrests of the leading opposition candidate, and social media blackouts, all of which helped President Yoweri Museveni extend his 30-year hold on power. In the most worrying case, Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila not only tried to remove term limits and undermine the country’s constitution, but also violently suppressed the demonstrations that followed. He has sought to delay elections scheduled for later this year and silence the opposition—issuing an arrest warrant for his main rival and hiring troublemakers to disrupt peaceful demonstrations. Another round of protests and repression could lead to the kind of violence that Burkina Faso experienced in the run up to its election last year.
But the greater risk with Congo is that any instability could trigger regional turmoil—Congo borders nine other countries. Africa’s “World War,” a messy conflict that erupted in 1998 along the Congo–Rwandan border, ended up engulfing the Great Lakes region and involving the armies of eight African countries. An estimated 5.4 million people died during the conflict, mostly in eastern Congo.
So far, the United States has failed to put the right sort of pressure on Kabila for his destructive behavior. Words are not enough. Congo, dubbed a “looting machine,” is estimated to lose up to $4 billion per year from government manipulation of mining contracts and budgets. The immense gravy train that results from shady deals between Kabila’s administration and its commercial partners, as well as the diplomatic immunity that comes with being in office, makes it very difficult for leaders to relinquish power. To get Kabila to hold elections on time and adhere to Congo’s constitution by stepping down at the end of the year, the Obama administration—led by its able envoy Tom Perriello—should target a number of Kabila’s financial vulnerabilities.

 A demonstrator participates in a protest in Kinshasa, 
January 20, 2015.

For one, Kabila and his cronies operate in U.S. dollars and use the U.S. banking system to make illicit transactions. They, along with their families, frequently travel to Europe and the United States. As recent resolutions in the U.S. Congress have called for, the West should enact asset freezes, travel bans, and other targeted sanctions against Kabila and high-level officials responsible for undermining Congo’s constitution and authorizing the killing of peaceful protestors. The U.S. Treasury Department should also target the broader business networks owned by these individuals or those that support them. This would help strengthen the initial rounds of sanctions since it would require identifying such companies and then working with the intelligence community, banks, and others to quickly identify and freeze assets.
Currently, corrupt regime officials have relatively unimpeded access to the international financial system, including U.S. banks, to launder the money they’ve received through corruption. To close this gap, the Treasury Department needs to crack down on illicit transactions and accounts. The Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network could issue an advisory explaining these concerns to U.S. financial institutions operating in Congo. It could also use Section 311 of the Patriot Act to issue another advisory listing specific financial institutions used by key Congolese officials in order to impede their access to the Western and U.S. financial system as a whole.
The U.S. Justice Department, as well as law enforcement agencies with the appropriate jurisdictions, should begin criminal and civil investigations into possible crimes committed by Congo’s kleptocrats. They can use the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to bring cases against companies involved in corruption and the Torture Victim Protection Act to bring civil lawsuits against officials responsible for torture or extrajudicial killings.

The international community should also get involved. Since the Congo recently requested $500 million in direct budget support from the World Bank, Western nations should condition those funds upon Kabila’s holding of timely, free, and fair elections, adherence to the constitution, and end to the brutal repression of opposition and civil society elements. The International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda should begin a preliminary examination of misconduct and note that grave crimes committed by state or non-state actors will be punished.

A protestor holds a placard displaying "Kabila go away"
 in French, December 5, 2011.

Of course, getting a kleptocrat with violent tendencies to follow the rule of law should never be a stick-only approach. Incentives should also be a key part of the policy package. Here, Washington could convince China to put pressure on Kabila to hold free and fair elections in order to maintain stability. China may be amenable to this, as it now controls virtually all of Congo’s critical copper and cobalt sectors, which could be disrupted by protests in mining areas or disruptions to the supply routes. After all, Beijing played a constructive role in the peace processes in both Sudan and South Sudan where it has significant oil interests.

Washington and European countries should also recognize that it costs roughly $500 to $800 million to put together free and fair elections in countries of this size. They should therefore expect to help Congo finance an election if and when the Kabila government commits to holding one.

Finally, Kabila would need an exit strategy. An African elder statesman would be best positioned to offer Kabila a retirement package and initiate talks over a viable future after he steps down. Such a deal would inevitably raise questions about the tradeoffs between maintaining peace and pursing justice, but negotiations would involve finding an appropriate compromise. In the case of Liberia’s Charles Taylor, he received sanctuary in a third country, but was arrested and sent to The Hague when he violated the conditions of his immunity deal.

Beyond these pressures and incentives, U.S. and European donors should bolster their support for pro-democracy and transparency activists and journalists to help them weather the storm of repression. For now, the United Nations should expand its Congo mission to provide protection for human rights defenders. Support for the documentation of human rights abuses and grand corruption would also be timely because it would aid any future prosecution efforts and ICC investigations, adding another level of leverage over the regime.

Obama’s rhetoric from last year’s speech to the AU could still have its intended impact if it is accompanied by the right amount of pressure. Some of the key policy tools, such as financial monitoring, are traditionally reserved for terrorism and international crime, but should be applied to Kabila and authoritarian kleptocrats like him. Congo presents a real opportunity to build a legacy in support of human rights and democracy, but as things currently stand, a major source of leverage is gathering dust on the policy shelf.
By John Prendergast and Sasha Lezhnev
Foreign Affairs

Monday, 20 June 2016

Rebels, Army Profit From Gold in Congo Despite Controls, UN Says

Rebels, Army Profit From Gold in Congo Despite Controls, UN Says


  • Traders ignoring requirements to source from validated sites
  • Gold exports under-declared by at least $174 million in 2015

International regulations aimed at curbing the trade in so-called conflict minerals have failed to stop rebel groups and elements of the army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo profiting from gold mining in the region, according to a United Nations group of experts.
The lack of a functioning traceability system for gold is a “particular area of concern,” the panel, which monitor sanctions on the Congo, said in a report to the UN Security Council published June 16. “Gold from non-validated mining sites, and therefore possibly benefiting armed groups, is laundered into the legitimate supply chain and, subsequently, into the international market,” it said.
Gold production has increased exponentially in Congo from almost nothing in 2011 to 25.5 metric tons (820,000 ounces) last year, as commercial mines run by London-listed Randgold Resources Ltd. and Toronto-based Banro Corp. have started up. Officially, only 583 kilograms of gold was produced by artisanal and small-scale miners last year, much of which was sold in Dubai, the panel said, citing government statistics. The real figure is suspected to be much higher, it said.

Illegal Mining

Congo’s Chamber of Mines in February said that as much as 400 kilograms of illegal gold leaves the South Kivu province alone every month. Congolese exporters under-declared exports by as much as $174 million in 2015, depriving the state of tax revenue, the panel said in the report.
Since 2010, when the U.S. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act included a requirement for listed companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals -- tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold -- sourced from Congo and adjacent countries, significant efforts have been made to clean up mineral-supply chains in the region.
Due diligence and traceability programs for tin, tantalum and tungsten have reduced opportunities for armed groups, of which at least 60 continue to operate in eastern Congo, to profit from trade in the minerals. No comparable program has been introduced for gold, which is more transportable and more valuable, leading to an increase in illegal gold mining.

Rebels Profiting

The UN experts found that Congolese exporters are ignoring due diligence requirements to source gold from validated mining sites, aggregating metal sourced from multiple sites, some which are not validated, and under-declaring exports to national and provincial authorities. In doing so, exporters in the Congo are “enabling the laundering of illegitimate gold that is not conflict-free into the international supply chain,” according to the report.
In one example, five dredge owners operating on the Lubero River in North Kivu province told the UN experts that members of the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda were enforcing a tax of 5 grams (0.16 ounces) of gold a month, worth about $205 at current prices.
In South Kivu province, the UN experts said that members of the Congolese armed forces were controlling parts of the gold trade in the Misisi area. Soldiers operate an illegal barrier between mining and processing areas, collecting 500 Congolese francs ($0.52) from each digger entering the mine and 1,000 francs from those bringing product back out, the group said.
To address the problem, the military in March told the UN it would rotate all officials working in the area in the near future.
Congolese army spokesman Leon Richard Kasonga said by phone from Kindu that he hadn’t yet seen the UN report and couldn’t immediately comment.
By Thomas Wilson

UN Report:

Friday, 17 June 2016

China to build $660m hydroelectric plant in DR Congo

China to build $660m hydroelectric plant in DR Congo


China’s Sinohydro and China Railway Group will finance a $660m hydroelectric plant in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo to ease the electricity deficit in this key copper-mining region.

The 240-megawatt dam in the town of Busanga will power Sicomines, a nearby copper and cobalt mining joint venture between the Chinese companies and Congolese state miner Gecamines.
DR Congo is Africa’s largest miner of copper.
Sicomines is the mining side of a $6bn minerals-for-infrastructure deal signed in 2007, under which Sinohydro and China Railway Group pledged to build $3bn worth of infrastructure in return for a 68% stake in the mine.
According to Reuters, Moïse Ekanga, executive secretary of the Congolese government office in charge of the deal, said this week that Sicomines would require 170 MW from the Busanga dam to run at full capacity, while the remaining 70 MW would feed the national grid.
Congo’s southeastern mining region has an electricity deficit of about 900 MW, a government statement said.
“This agreement will help jumpstart energy development in the DRC after the recent slowdown due to falling commodity prices,” said Ekanga, adding Mauritian firm Mag Energy International will also be a partner in the project, reported Reuters.
The statement did not say how long construction would last. Sicomines officials have previously estimated that it would take four to five years.
Reuters reports that Sicomines, which began operations last November, is already DR Congo’s third largest producer of copper.
mage: Artist’s render of the Busanga Hydropower Station (Sinhydro)
By GCR Staff

U.N. early warning report sees Burundi scenario in Congo

U.N. early warning report sees Burundi scenario in Congo


Democratic Republic of Congo could descend into a cycle of electoral violence similar to that seen in Burundi and presidential and legislative polls due in November are likely to be delayed, the United Nations warned on Friday.
A group of senior U.N. experts put Burundi and Congo at the top of a list of risks to watch for in the next six months, along with Libya, the La Nina climate phenomenon, and drought in southern Africa.
"The most likely scenario remains delayed elections into 2017, a move which would likely trigger wide political unrest in a situation similar to that of post-electoral Burundi," they said in a semi-annual report.
With little freedom for democratic opposition and the heavy-handed use of security forces, the risk of violent clashes was high, especially in the capital and in Lubumbashi, home of Moise Katumbi, the leading opponent of President Joseph Kabila.
"The government is likely to limit or shut down mobile networks, restrict the opposition's rights through legal or violent means and increase intimidation and harassment," the report said. "Such an outcome would lead to displacement from the capital and translate into several hundred thousand people being affected."
Displaced opposition supporters were likely to flee into the Republic of Congo, "souring an already tense relationship between Brazzaville and Kinshasa", the report said.
In Burundi, which has collapsed into chaos since President Pierre Nkurunziza pursued and won a third term in office last year, a move his opponents say is unconstitutional, things may get worse, the U.N. report said.
It said a "cycle of high-profile tit-for-tat targeted killings" of top officials was widening a rift in the army that could produce a bigger conflict between pro- and anti-government forces, fueled by ethnic overtones in the political rhetoric.
Regional and inter-Burundian dialogues were at an impasse, which would further radicalize the opposition, "setting the stage for guerrilla warfare, notably in the provinces bordering Rwanda and DRC".
The U.N. report, which does not cover the biggest crises, such as Syria, Yemen or South Sudan, aims to alert aid agencies to potential shortfalls in upcoming emergencies.
Its worst fears are not always borne out: last November it warned of a potential coup in Burundi and possible Islamist advances in Mali, which did not come to pass.
The latest report refreshed its view of the risks in Libya, with a warning that the two main political camps could splinter, adding to rivalry between the rival armed groupings, the Misratan brigades and the Libyan National Army, and making a NATO intervention increasingly likely.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The political crisis in the DRC another test case for the AU's preventive diplomacy

The political crisis in the DRC another test case for the AU's preventive diplomacy

15 June 2016

According to the country’s constitution, President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) should step down when his second and last term expires at the end of 2016. However, a date for the presidential elections, which the constitution says have to be held before the end of 2016, is yet to be set.
The government has not said that it is postponing the elections, but it did indicate at the start of 2016 that updating the voter’s roll would take 18 months. This would put the elections off until at least June 2017. From the opposition’s point of view this is a move by Kabila to extend his rule.
Since last June, Kabila has unsuccessfully tried to convene a ‘national dialogue’ to address a variety of issues, including the elections. Most of the opposition parties and civil society organisations are refusing to participate in this event.
Meanwhile, tensions are rising in the country. Last year the leaders of seven parties formerly allied with Kabila broke ranks with him over the issue of the elections and the confusion over whether or not he intends to stand down. They formed the G7, which, along with other opposition platforms, calls for respect for the constitution.
Constitutional Court ruling strengthens Kabila’s case
Meanwhile, on May 11 2016 the Congolese Constitutional Court ruled that Kabila could stay in power until he was replaced by an elected successor. The court was seized on the matter by parliamentarians from the ruling alliance. The ruling gives Kabila the legal grounds to extend his mandate beyond December 2016, and will no doubt make it harder for the international community to address the election delay in the DRC, even though it neither explains nor justifies delaying the elections.
The international community is also concerned about the regular crackdowns on opposition leaders and civil society activists. Numerous opposition politicians have been harassed and detained, and political gatherings have been prohibited.
Moïse Katumbi, the former governor of Katanga and a former ally of Kabila, is a prominent example. Katumbi announced his intention to run in the presidential election in May. Shortly after this announcement he was charged with employing mercenaries. His court appearances in Lubumbashi have provoked sizeable street demonstrations by his supporters. 
Calls for the AU to get involved
In this context of growing instability, there have been repeated calls for the African Union (AU) to intervene in the situation and implement its tools for preventative action in the DRC.
In the past few months Africa has been rocked by contested elections and political instability due to leaders’ attempts, successful and otherwise, to prolong their mandates. So far, the AU’s early warnings in the region have fallen on deaf ears. Special envoys have had little success in diffusing the situation and AU election observers have rubber-stamped elections marred by violence.
From the opposition's point of view this is a move by Kabila to extend his rule
In Burundi the AU deployed an array of instruments to prevent a full-scale crisis following the decision of incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third term. The AU Commission warned in late 2014 of the likelihood of a crisis breaking out and sent special envoys – first former Organization of African Unity secretary general Edem Kodjo and then Senegalese mediator Ibrahima Fall. In June 2015 the PSC, at its summit of heads of state and government in Johannesburg, decided to send human rights observers and military experts to Burundi. Sanctions were adopted last October against stakeholders who constitute obstacles to peace. However, the AU’s bold approach did not prevent Burundi from organising elections in July 2015.

After Nkurunziza’s re-election for another five-year term the situation continued to deteriorate. The most recent intervention by the PSC to stop the crisis unravelling – sending a military force of 5 000 personnel – was reversed by the heads of state and government, who found it ‘premature’. More recently, a delegation of heads of state decided to double the number of human rights observers and military experts. Despite these efforts, the situation in Burundi remains volatile and marked by violence.
No intervention in the Republic of Congo
In the Republic of Congo, tensions persist after the presidential elections in March. When President Denis Sassou Nguesso organised a referendum in late 2015 to scrap presidential term and age limits in the constitution, the AU Commission chairperson ‘deplored the tensions generated by the differences among the Congolese political stakeholders on the constitutional referendum’.
However, the AU avoided taking a clear position on the referendum. Instead it urged role players ‘to seek, through dialogue, a solution to their differences, based on … particularly the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance’. After the constitutional changes were made, the government decided to convene early elections in March instead of July.
While the opposition denounced the hasty organisation of the poll, the AU sent 30 election observers. Their ability to perform their task was seriously constrained by the government’s decision to cut all telecommunications during the election period. The AU urged the government to re-establish telecommunications two days after the polls, when it had already published preliminary results pronouncing Sassou Nguesso the winner. Since then the AU has not officially reacted to the military operations launched by the government in the Pool region, an opposition stronghold. According to the government, these operations, which included bombardments by military helicopters, were aimed at the headquarters of opposition politician Pasteur Ntumi. It accuses Ntumi of attacking Brazzaville on 4 April, but very little information has filtered out about these attacks.
AU declares Chad elections free and fair
In Chad, where Idriss Deby, the current AU chair, was re-elected in April 2016 amid tensions between civil society and the government, the commission did not act either. The AU Commission also sent electoral observers, chaired by former Malian president Dioncounda Traoré. While the opposition rejected the results, the AU mission concluded that the elections were held in fair and free conditions, despite some flaws.
The AU's early warnings in the region have fallen on deaf ears
A possible explanation of this lack of results is the AU’s reluctance to openly engage governments that organise flawed electoral processes. The opposition, civil society and observers in both states had criticised the way the elections had been organised by the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI).
Despite having declared the elections free and fair, Traoré stated afterwards that ‘the tripartite composition of the CENI creates an opportunity for political interference and pressure due to its political rather than technical composition and because of a potential imbalance between its various components’.
In the Republic of Congo the composition of the electoral commission was also criticised, since it consisted mainly of members of the ruling party. In reaction, the opposition created its own electoral commission.
Both these situations contravene the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which calls upon governments ‘to establish and strengthen independent and impartial national electoral bodies responsible for the management of elections’. This issue was not addressed ahead of the elections by the AU due to its reluctance to infringe upon the sovereignty of the concerned states, which are currently members of the PSC.
The question can thus be asked whether the AU has learnt any lessons from its previous experiences in this part of the continent. 
Kodjo mediation merely déjà vu?
At first glance, the AU’s mediation in the DRC is no different from the way it has dealt with similar situations in Burundi and elsewhere in the region. The AU Commission chairperson appointed Kodjo, who is also a member of the AU Panel of the Wise, as the facilitator of the national dialogue after it received a request from the Congolese government to do so. The communiqué appointing the facilitator says it ‘aims at assisting in convening an all-inclusive dialogue in order to address issues related to the upcoming elections in that country’.
However, Kodjo has not succeeded in establishing the independence and neutrality of the process that he is supposed to shepherd. Instead he has stepped into a process initiated by the Congolese government that does not have the buy-in of the opposition, which views it as a waste of time with the ultimate objective to extend Kabila’s stay in power.
Kodjo has not succeeded in establishing the independence and neutrality of the process
It was only after the UN Security Council voted for Resolution 2277, calling for ‘peaceful, credible, inclusive, transparent and timely elections in the DRC, particularly presidential and legislative elections by November 2016, in accordance with the Constitution, while respecting the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance’, that the AU mediator called for respect for the constitution and constitutional deadlines.
So, whereas the Kodjo mediation has an immediate goal, its ultimate objective is not clear. Currently, the main obstacle to a national dialogue is the fact that the opposition does not want to participate in a dialogue that it sees as being stage-managed by the government and mediated by a figure it feels lacks neutrality.
However, the question is whether the AU can be neutral when its main instrument – the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance – is clearly being violated. The enduring conflict between the AU’s stated goal of promoting democracy and its reluctance to oppose incumbent governments certainly is an obstacle to successful mediation. 
AU’s efforts stifled by a lack of flexibility
There are two potential explanations for the AU’s seemingly lacklustre efforts in the DRC. The first one is its inflexibility. The chairperson’s appointment of Kodjo emanates from her discretionary powers in the area of peace and security, according to Article 10 of the PSC Protocol. However, since the PSC member states are its main decision makers, the lack of an explicit endorsement of the mediator limits its legitimacy. The AU Commission chairperson wishes to avoid an outbreak of violence but is not specific about how to achieve this. Interestingly, the first communiqué by the chairperson on the DRC ‘reaffirmed the determination of the African Union to support the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the path of political dialogue, in accordance with AU constitutive texts’. It did not mention either the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance or the respect for constitutional term limits that is at the root of the tension in the DRC.
This lack of a comprehensive framework creates a void that makes it difficult for the mediator to operate successfully. The fact that Kodjo continues to insist on the national dialogue illustrates his limited flexibility. Moreover, the fact that it was the Congolese government that had asked for an AU mediator also constitutes ade facto limitation on his actions in the DRC.
Regional mechanisms are silent
Another explanation for the AU’s lack of action is the role played by the regional mechanisms in solving the crisis. The DRC is a member of both the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), but neither has addressed the current political situation. This is a critical difference between the AU’s efforts in Burundi and Burkina Faso and its current involvement in the DRC.
Avoiding interference often means safeguarding the incumbent
In Burundi, which is a member of both the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the East African Community (EAC), the EAC plays an important role and is leading mediation efforts. However, so far it has not been successful in ending the crisis in Burundi.
In Burkina Faso, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also took the lead in solving the political crises at the end of 2014 and in September 2015. The decisions taken at the regional level steered the PSC’s position on these conflicts. In the DRC, neither SADC nor the ICGLR has taken any official position and is not expected to do so. 
Most of the DRC’s neighbouring states are ruled by presidents who have amended their constitutions to extend their stay in power, so a solution is not expected to come from them. The inertia of these regional mechanisms seems inevitable. Moreover, the past contentious relationship between the DRC and its neighbours, marked by their armed involvement on Congolese territory, is another factor hindering a regional solution to the current crisis.
Trading democratic values for the sake of peace accommodates sitting presidents 
The situation in the DRC illustrates the ambiguity of the AU’s mediation efforts. Does the AU want to implement its legal provisions on democracy and good governance, avoiding the violent deterioration of a crisis situation, or will it side with sovereignty even if domestic legal instruments have been manipulated? Avoiding interference often means safeguarding the incumbent. 
Sending a mediator looks like an attempt by the AU to avoid taking an explicit position in favour of continental values of democracy and good governance. Looking at its efforts – or the lack thereof – in Burundi, the Republic of Congo and currently in the DRC, a  pattern has emerged of its avoiding confrontation with incumbent leaders, despite the fact that this strategy has proven to be largely unsuccessful.  
To this day, the apparent preference of the heads of state of the PSC for negotiations and dialogue behind closed doors does not achieve any substantial result for the promotion of democracy and good governance on the continent. On the contrary, the organisation’s timid approach, and member states’ apparent willingness to sacrifice the AU's values for shortsighted and short-term continuity, have instead contributed to maintaining the status quo. From this perspective, the developments in the Republic of Congo and similar situations in Central Africa call for a clarification of the AU’s mediation efforts. 
While the AU embraces democratic values in most of its legal provisions, their implementation is still limited. Especially in cases where there is not yet any open crisis, the AU is often suspected of interfering in the internal affairs of countries. From a conflict prevention perspective, various observers remark that it remains difficult for the PSC to proactively address governance issues before crises erupt. While the AU Commission may be bold in warning about potential crises and urging for early action, member states – the ultimate decision makers – tend to curb these efforts for the sake of sovereignty.
This state of affairs clearly affects the AU’s mediation in political crises, which is based on a compromise between the normative ambitions of the organisation and the inertia resulting from the lack of consensus among PSC member states on effectively addressing governance flaws in order to avert full-blown crises.
By ISS Africa

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Fighting For Coffee In The Congo At Saveur du Kivu

Fighting For Coffee In The Congo At Saveur du Kivu


There is a beautiful story being told about Congolese coffees. The millions of dollars in development funding, the celebrity support, and the success of fantastic coffee being sold at a premium price and roasted by top brands: all of it presents an image of a thriving coffee sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This is the easy story—but as it so often happens, the real story behind the scenes is much more complicated, evolving, and at times dire. While it is true that coffee has unparalleled potential for creating impact in the country, it’s also true that the vast majority of DRC’s coffee farmers still struggle to survive. This is a complicated place plagued by extreme poverty, corruption, and violence, yet possessing an incredible level of resilience and undeveloped potential.
Straddled between these two conflicting narratives—deep strife and growing success—the 2nd Annual Saveur du Kivu was held on May 19-21 in Bukavu, DRC, on the shores of beautiful Lake Kivu. Part cupping competition, part buying trip, part conference, the three-day “experiential exercise” was driven by a small group of committed buyers, roasters, producers, and other organizations who came together to collaborate in support of learning and empowerment in the revitalization of the DRC specialty coffee industry.
Chris Treter, founder of the event and owner of Higher Grounds Trading Co., is a man who sincerely cares for coffee in the Congo. His passion for the people and the coffee of the country inspired him last year, during the first event, to lead a team of women who ran seven marathons in seven days across the dangerous and less than hospitable terrain, all for the sake of raising awareness for the event and promoting gender equality in DRC.
“When I arrived two weeks before Saveur du Kivu last year it was still unclear if the events would even take place,” says Treter. “The cupping lab at the ONC [the DRC government’s National Coffee Office] had not yet been completed, the director of the ONC did not see the value in bringing buyers from around the world to taste coffees from throughout the country on the same table for the first time. We had to convince him to hold the cupping competition in the lab, and the morning after he agreed he was found dead under mysterious circumstances in his home.”

The reality for coffee in DRC

Stories like this are not uncommon in the DRC, a country emerging from decades of violence and conflict that nearly destroyed the coffee sector. Although the level of conflict in DRC has improved drastically in recent years, violence persists. Unlike the country’s coffees, violence here receives little international attention.
In Beni, a coffee growing area along the Eastern border with Uganda, more than 600 people have been killed in daily violence since late 2014. One cooperative leader from Beni shared his experience of being attacked in his own home with his family, held for several hours, and the trauma it continues to cause them. Somehow, he and his fellow producers have established a thriving cooperative amidst the ongoing violence.
The combination of violence and poor government policies drove down official DRC coffee exports from a high of more than 130,000 metric tons in the mid-80s to around 8,000 in 2012/2013. While Congolese coffee production remained fairly constant, almost all coffee was smuggled across the border to Uganda and Rwanda due to the lack of a viable market in DRC. In fact, thousands of farmers are estimated to have died making the unsafe journey across Lake Kivu to sell their coffee in Rwanda, often for a fraction of its worth.
While reforms in the tax law and the re-emergence of international exporters have improved market access for DRC’s farmers, they still face other challenges. Endemic levels of corruption persist, and coffee producers are subject to fake taxation, bribery, and other barriers to doing business in the country. Also, after years of neglect, coffee fields and equipment are old and the population has little experience in proper coffee growing techniques.

Building the future of DRC’s coffee

Despite these socio-political complexities, the coffee in DRC is attracting international attention.
“Rich organic volcanic soil, ideal elevation and climate, and an increasing sophistication to best process quality coffees are proving eastern Congo to be capable of producing some of the finest coffees on the planet,” Treter tells me. “It’s a relatively unknown origin that is quickly being discovered by the most innovative cutting edge specialty buyers around the world.”
Treter’s not alone. Coffees from the DRC are roasted and served around the world at leading coffee brands like Counter Culture CoffeeSquare Mile CoffeeBlue Bottle Coffee, andStarbucks, to name just a few. But simply buying coffee might not be enough here. “There is great coffee and a great story, but how do you figure out how to get it out so it benefits the most people?” asks Anne Costello of Peace Coffee in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
For Costello and many others who made the trip to Saveur du Kivu, knowledge and capacity building is key to building the sector. Costello and others participated in what was perhaps the most important element of the Saveur du Kivu event: the cupping training and competition. For two days, she and her colleagues conducted training in quality for representatives from government and producers organizations, as well as cupped the 22 coffee samples alongside the trainees, seeking to identify and build talent in the Congolese coffee industry. Costello says of the training, “It was the next generation that can understand the quality of the coffee their country can produce.”
Linda Mugaroka is one of the next generation Costello describes. One of the younger women who took part in the training, she demonstrated such cupping talent that she ended up on the tasting jury, despite having only previously cupped coffee twice. She is optimistic about her future as a woman in the DRC coffee sector and tells me, “With the training we have here, in 20 years, the Congo will be a country rich in coffee.”

The development community’s investment

It was with that kind of optimism and hope for the future that most coffee producers arrived at the Saveur du Kivu in search of market access, capacity building and most importantly, a chance to have their coffee compete in the cupping competition.
While the Saveur du Kivu offered producers all of these things, there was also a strange disconnect between the average producer group and the large donor/NGO-funded projects who dominated the event. The high profile projects spent so much time highlighting the quality of their coffee, their world class washing stations, and the public private partnerships developed by their high-profile programs, that there was little time to address the real economic and agricultural concerns felt by the vast majority of producers.
“As one of the last frontiers of specialty coffee on earth, we see a race for access to funding in the NGO sector,” explains Treter. “That too often results in the industry being developed with self-serving strategies by NGOs working to meet funder requirements as their sole objective, rather than also being guided by cohesive overarching strategies to construct an industry that meets the demands of the ideal buying partner for highest return for growers.”
Interestingly, the highest scoring coffees in the cupping competition were all produced by groups supported by an international NGO or large-scale development program. These coffees show the potential this region has for producing beautiful cups, but also raise important questions about the number of resources and support needed in order to produce this quality of specialty coffee in the DRC, as well as the sustainability of these producer groups when the large-scale development funding ends.

But is it sustainable?

One-off trainings, NGO-funded cooperatives, and high-price purchases of a few containers of coffee will not be enough to ensure the sustainability of the DRC coffee sector.
Luckily, there is incredible progress being made by others in the sector that is less visible, but no less impressive. Exporters who had been forced to leave the country in the past few decades are returning and investing heavily in the country, and new talent is seeing coffee as an industry with a bright future.
The country has all of the natural resources needed to produce an amazing coffee, but lacks the long-term market-based commitment that will elevate Congolese coffee from a project to an industry. As one Congolese exporter said, “We need buyers more interested in investing in the future of the country than in paying a premium for a few incredible coffees that will do little to lift DRC’s farmers out of poverty.”
So perhaps what the sector needs now is consistent commitment. Chris Treter’s vision for the next Saveur du Kivu is an event that is more focused on adding value for DRC’s farmers and the private sector. Next year, the Saveur du Kivu team plans to further develop the infrastructure to provide training and the collection of samples from a complete network of all organizations and washing stations that meet the SCAA cupping standards. This will also include creating a database and map of farming organizations, as well as a best practices and buyer info database. The 2017 event will also feature a conference and cupping event, but additionally will add a closing concert by Congolese musicians.
To be sure, the upcoming year will be a critical one for DRC. Elections are scheduled to be held in December, and violent election-related protests have already started. At the same time, USAID is expected to fund a coffee value chain program worth 25 to 50 million USD. With so much potential, yet so much fragility, one must wonder what kind of Congo the organizers of Saveur du Kivu will find when they return for next year’s event.
By Sara Mason
Sara Mason is founder of SHIFT Social Impact Solutions, and a freelance writer based in Barcelona.