congo is not a country

Recent research and commentary on atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have fueled reference to a “Congo” that seems to include only one country, but “the Congo” is a large, resource rich region made up of many countries.

Traditionally “the Congo” refers to the region of Middle Africa (referred to as “Central Africa” by the UN) comprised of parts of ten (10) different countries, including: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, Burundi and Rwanda.

The Congo is best understood as a geographic region, with lush tropical rainforests and a wealth of mineral deposits, that benefits from the drainage of the Congo River. As a result, interest in the Congo region has caused violence and atrocities arguably since its “discovery” by Henry Morton Stanley in the name of King Leopold II of Belgium. The King wanted to spread Western civilization and religion to the region, which has led to continually destabilization and conflict.

The geographic region known to us as “the Congo” was home to one of the advanced African civilizations as well as the Baka people (often referred to as pygmies). The Kingdom of the Kongo included parts of the DRC, Republic of Congo and Angola. As recorded by Europeans the Kingdom of Kongo was highly developed with a extensive trading network. As “explorers” and colonizers penetrated further into the interior of the African continent, the Kingdom of Kongo became a major source of slaves. As a result of political in-fighting, resource grabbing, and European invasion, the Congo region’s factions remained in civil war for almost forty years (1700).

Since European arrival, the Congo region has been in a regular flux of conflict either between political factions, against colonizers, or now among local militias fighting for control of areas of resource wealth.

Much like our misunderstandings of various aspects of the African continent, its history, and people fuel monolithic interpretations of Africa, so too do our misunderstandings of the Congo region’s governments, resources, and cultures.

Maybe our misunderstandings and myths of “the Congo” are driven by the Heart of Darkness (supposedly inspired by Henry Morton Stanley) narrative set on the Congo River that details atrocities committed against native peoples? Maybe history shows Western violence has created a culture of violence in the quest for control and resources? Either way Congo is not a country, but a vast region with deep history and amazing possibilities.

the week in african health


“No weapons” MSF in Nasir, Upper Nile State, South Sudan

A Tale of Two Refrigerators
Fighting has renewed in southern Sudan, but its not just between militant groups – aid groups fall victim to needless fighting as well. Diane Bennet writes on William Easterly’s Aid Watch blog about the 2001 peace in Sudan and how it was a ripe time to treat disease and build health infrastructure. Unfortunately internal bureaucracy and politics became the largest hurdle.

Sudan: Darfur – Thousands Flee to African Union Safety
More recently, South Darfur has become the seen of violent clashes between government forces and militants. It is important to never forget the impacts that conflict has on health services.

Africa: Public Health Care Must Lead

Oxfam International has released a report [access here] “challenging the myths about private health care in developing countries.” The report emphasizes the role that private health care can play in developing countries, but reminds us that there is no way a scale-up of private health services will reach poor people in need. Key recommendations are to increase funding for free universal health care infrastructure, rejecting ineffective practices of the past, and combining efforts to fuel effective initiatives – sounds a lot like SCOUT BANANA

Global Health: Mobile Phones to Boost Healthcare

Revolutionizing access to health knowledge, the efforts of the Mobile Health Alliance (mHealth), supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the UN Foundation, and Vodafone Foundation are making a mark across the African continent boasting 51 existing or to-be-implemented programs in 26 countries around the world. Harnessing the potential of growing technology in ‘developing’ countries for the purpose of health can only signal a major shift in access to health care across Africa.

Getting the Continent on Obama’s Agenda

It appears that Obama’s administration is stacked in the favor of Africa and in favor of better international development practices all around. With Susan Rice serving as Ambassador to the UN action against genocide may be bolstered, Gayle Smith more likely than not will be tapped as USAID Director, she was a major proponent of the HELP Commission creating a cabinet level position for foreign aid, and a well known name among insiders and outsiders in African affairs, Johnnie Carson, is expected to be named head of the Bureau of African Affairs of the State Department. The future of US relations in Africa has incredible potential and hope to change.

Zimbabwe: Staff Return to Hospitals, But Not to Work

As a massive cholera outbreak tears across the country, medical staff have returned to their posts, but the nature of their strike, that began in 2008 over poor working conditions and wages, is now “more like a sit-in.” In a country so crippled by Western exploitation and resulting politics, a strike of the health workers in the face of a rampant disease outbreak does not bode well for a vulnerable population.
Too Much Cholera, Too Little Food
Over 80,000 Zimbabweans Infected with Cholera

Africa: U.S. Naval Engagement Offers Health Dividends

Imagine the potential of the US’ military might if it was dedicated to coordinating naval and health care workers from 13 countries to bring aid and health services to communities in need. This becomes a reality with the African Partnership Station Initiative and Project Handclasp. I can only dream of a day where initiatives like this are more a norm than a surprising gesture of good will.

Mali: Raising Money and Hygiene Standards

One of the most innovative programs that I have read most recently is the work the Dutch based Gender and Water Alliance which is employing women to make soap as well educate and use it to increase hygiene and combat preventable diseases. Health benefits, a source of income and empowering women!

Food Crisis Over, Say Experts

Supposedly the global food crisis of last year is over! Agricultural experts from Africa and Asia are saying that we are no longer in a food crisis and that there needs to be an increased production of rice in Africa in order to keep the food crisis at bay. In my opinion, as long as we continue our unsustainable and capitalist practices that commodify a basic human need, we will remain in a global food crisis affecting both the US and Africa.
Rwanda: Food Production Up, Thanks to Green Revolution
Thankfully the increase is not due to the ‘Green Revolution,’ but instead to increase in practices that are focused on protecting the environment.

South Africa: Treasury Blamed for Shortage in Aids Drugs

Years of controversy seem to have brought the blame down on the South African Treasury. With an extensive bureaucracy, it is no wonder that the ARV roll-out program has taken much longer than it should – as many die without the proper medications. While the numbers of people enrolled in the ARV program has increased significantly there still exists a problematic policy of access. Access hinges on wealth, CD4 count, and location. To access the government’s ARV program your CD4 count has to be less than 300, which is at a point where you are already very vulnerable. This creates an issue of sustained treatment because it forces an irregular regimen. If your CD4 count is above 300, you will have to pay. Many cannot pay and if you live far from a government hospital access is just that much more difficult because of taxi fare and time sacrificed for travel. It seems the health and wellbeing of its citizens is not a high budget priority of the South African government.
Rapid HIV evolution avoids attacks
Much like the flu virus, HIV mutates and evolves in response to treatments. This really exposes the South African ARV program as highly ineffective.
Duncan discusses HIV/AIDS in Morocco
Little known to the world, the HIV/AIDS crisis grows in Morocco.

Originally posted on the SCOUT BANANA blog. 

the growth of rwanda by way of multinational corporations

Multinational corporations would benefit from an international agreement on foreign direct investment, but not all people and states would benefit from such an agreement. There are many preconceived notions about Multinational Corporations (MNC), which Balaam and Veseth work tirelessly to argue against. These notions are shared by many and in some ways cannot be overlooked in the grand scheme of MNC sot Transnational Corporations (TNC) as Balaam and Veseth define. MNCs bring a lot in the way of foreign direct investment and this brings up the age old question of exploitation and domination of a less economically developed country (LEDC). MNCs and TNCs are seen as huge companies originating in the economically developed countries that are very influential and hold sway in the international Political economy (IPE).

Do MNCs exploit and actually harm countries with foreign direct investment (FDI)? We first have to look at the positive side. FDI from MNCs in economically developed countries brings in much needed cash flow, jobs, and they create economic development. Many countries seek to draw in MNCs for this very purpose. This is all well and good until Balaam and Veseth turn their argument to include the Washington Consensus. In the 1990s the world saw an increase in FDI flows and these reflected the growing transnational markets, regional and global. Balaam and Veseth note that many ‘less developed countries’ (LDC) have adopted the Washington Consensus policies. They say that these policies create an environment more conducive to TNCs investment, but is that what is best for a LEDC? The effectiveness of the Washington Consensus is underscored by its failure to understand the many conditions of a LEDC and its governance. When a LEDC adopts the Washington Consensus it opens its, often, unstable economy and government to the world. There is very often a problem of foreign debt and the policies of the Washington Consensus require LEDC to focus capital on building pointless infrastructures while its people are dying because of lack of healthcare or are in need of an education system. Among the many policies outlined in the Washington Consensus one is the liberalization of FDI. Beyond the controversy of FDI many countries now actively seek it to grow their economic situations.

Earlier this month the Foreign Policy magazine claimed that the “next great place for multinational corporations to invest” may be Rwanda. The landlocked African country just might be the place as Rwandan President, Kagame, seeks to create a new view of the country as a business friendly venue. This is an instance where FDI by MNC very well may be benefiting both the state and the people. Kagame recently visited the US and met with the CEO of Starbucks and Costco to discuss specialty coffees. Other Rwandan officials have met with executives from Alltel, Bechtel, and Columbia Sportswear. Google has also been a part of Rwanda’s development by providing ad-free and free-of-charge web-based software to government ministries, each ministry gets its own domain name. This is an instance where the development of government may also lead to the advancement of the Rwandan people. However we need to be sure to look at the potential impact of FDI. Specialty coffees may increase the workforce, new corporations invested will also grow the workforce, but Rwanda needs to be sure that its people are not exploited for their labor. MNCs/ TNCs are often toted as companies that exploit LEDCs for cheap labor. This is most likely not the case.

Another great example of FDI by MNCs in Rwanda is the work of an American millionaire, Greg Wyler. Wyler and his company want to make Rwanda completely wireless to make Rwanda the most modern wireless, developing country. The Rwandan government hopes this project will make the country a rival to the high-tech Indian city of Bangalore. Wyler believes that with making the country wireless it will create so many opportunities for economic development and unrestricted entrepreneurship. This is an FDI by MNCs that I have to argee with skeptics in that if you have an economically developing country that has a starving population, then what good will free internet access provide? Nevertheless this increase in FDI in Rwanda is a prime example of how FDI by MNCs has the potential to change peoples lives and benefit both the state and those it serves.

Today MNCs/ TNCs are motivated not from monopoly power , but by investment abroad in the new competitive environment that is found in transnational markets. This environment where MNCs work best is brought about by a liberalization of trade and investment policy. The Washington Consensus pushes these changes and many countries are now working to adopt them to increase their FDI. This is where countries should take a warning and remember that they cannot forget the people that they serve. Economic advancement is important if a country is to grow in standard of living, but it has to be done where people are not left behind. Change in policy to facilitate MNCs investment has the great potential to bring positives for LEDCs.

Balaam and Veseth. Introduction to International Political Economy. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc, 2005.

‘Web Access for All Rwandans.’ Spiegel Online International. . (date accessed 17 April 2007)

‘We wish to inform you that Rwanda is open for business.’ Foreign Policy Passport Blog. . (date accessed 17 April 2007)

the real weapons of mass destruction are in the congo

The conflict in the DRC is nothing new to the region. I would argue that the conflict began well before the assassination of the democratically elected leader, Lumumba, in 1961 and has only grown from there. After Lumumba was assassinated Mobutu Sese Seko gained power and ruled terribly for the next 32 years. He was overthrown by rebellion in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, who leader of the prominent rebel group. Unable to bring peace, Kabila faced his own rebel opposition until he was assassinated in 2001. Intense turmoil resumed in the DRC following Kabila’s assassination, sparking a six country war including Rwanda and Uganda. In 2002 a peace deal was signed to officially end the DRC conflict, 17,000 UN troops were deployed and yet the conflict continues. In 2006 Laurent’s son Joseph Kabila was elected in a tense, yet democratic and free election. Joseph Kabila faces opposition from his father’s rule (as well as support from his father’s popularity), calls that he is not Congolese – that his mother was Rwandan and he is not from the DRC, along with calls of corruption in his administration. When Joseph was born in Eastern Congo he was sent to live in hiding pretending to be part of a Tanzanian ethnic group. Later he recieved military training in China, which helps in the exploitation of the DRC’s vast resources. J. Kabila has been able to broker a written peace, but how well can he create peace in reality?

It is reported that 370,000 people have been displaced in a conflict that has more facets than a cut stone. Roughly 6000 Rwandan Hutu militiamen are hiding in the DRC hoping one day to invade Rwanda and retake control after the genocide they spurred. In an attempt to drive out the Hutu militias General Nkundu’s troops have torn through the region displacing thousands. He is estimated to control 8000 militiamen. Some claim that he is fighting a proxy war for the Rwandan government to keep the Hutu militias away from the Rwandan border. For this reason many local militias have formed to fight General Nkundu’s troops and stop them from wreaking havoc in the region.

The Eastern Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not seen peace in a long time and now there is an increase in violence against women. In September of this year, in an interview with the BBC, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women said that in the South Kivu province, sexual violence was the worst she has seen and warned that it was becoming something normal. Violence becoming normal? Sexual assault becoming normal? Rape becoming normal? In September the UN reported that there had already been 4000 incidents of sexual violence against women just in the Southern Kivu province.

It is interesting that Kabila is not doing more for the women of his home region and the region where he had the most political support. Why does he let the women of Eastern DRC be sexually abused? Rape has become so prevalent as a tool of war that women have stopped going to the fields. Girls as young as three, men, and boys have been raped too. Sadly even if the perpetrators are caught the court system refuses to hear cases on rape, witnesses are frightened away, and military leaders refuse to help. This year V-Day and UNICEF have partnered to raise awareness and bring aid to women affected by the weapon of mass destruction that is rape.

Since 1996, sexual violence against women and children in the eastern part of the DRC has been used to torture and humiliate women and girls and destroy families. UNICEF estimates that hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped since the conflict began in DRC. In addition to the severe psychological impact, sexual violence leaves many survivors with genital lesions, traumatic fistulae and other physical wounds, as well as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

All of the military forces have used rape as a weapon of war, even UN personnel have been implicated in cases of rape in the DRC. The victims of rape experience more than just the physical impacts of the act – from ostracism to physcological effects to a lack of justice through the local and formal courts. I cannot even begin to write everything of importance here and would highly recommend the V-Day site to read the full story and access a great set of resources to learn more.

the ‘third’ congolese war

From: !Enough: the project to abolish genocide + mass atrocities

Dissident Congolese Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda’s more than 3,000 loyal forces have carved out control of parts of North Kivu Province. The Congolese government has responded by realigning itself with the FDLR — a militia composed of more than 6,000 Rwandan Hutu rebels, many with links to the 1994 genocide in their home country — to fight Nkunda’s more effective force. This threatens to draw Rwanda back into Congo’s conflict, which would lead to rapid escalation and potentially plunge Congo back into regional war.

In recent weeks, fighting between the two sides has intensified, with increasing numbers of troops being deployed to the front line and more being forcibly recruited. Civilians inevitably are caught in the crossfire, and the prevailing climate of impunity allows all sides — Nkunda, the FDLR, the Congolese army and local militias — to exploit the local population without fear of consequences.

Not many people know that there is even a conflict happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Not many people have even heard of the DRC or the frightening linkages between the conflicts in Rwanda, Uganda, Darfur and the DRC. People flee from southern Sudan into Uganda, rebels chase them into Uganda intensifying the northern Ugandan conflict. Some then flee to the DRC. During the First and Second Congolese Wars, Rwanda and Uganda intervened to try to bring stability to the region. Rwanda had an interest in intervening because Mobutu, leader during the Second Congolese War, was in support of the Hutu rebel militia, which was responsible for the genocide in 1994. Theseinterlocked conflicts have fueled the continued conflict in the DRC. There are now many competing militias in the DRC and they are all looking to gain the upperhand. A relative peace had fallen over the region, but the ceasefire between the rebel forces and government forces has been abandoned. Rebel forces resumed fighting just this month saying that it was in response to government attacks.

As the intense fighting waged on, China jumped into the turmoil to grab up the riches of the DRC. Because of the extended conflict the infrastrucutre of the DRC is extremely poor and nearly non-existant. China is investing a large sum to help the DRC build infrastructure in exchange for access to the mineral wealth of the country. The BBC writes about a recent study that concluded that China’s main interest in Africa is to guarantee its supply of raw materials. No study is necessary to conclude, just read the news. China’s work in the DRC is its largest loan out to any African country. There are plans to build a road from Kisangani to the Zambian border and a major railway to connect the mineral rich provice of Katanga to the port city of Matadi. Other funds are set aside to rebuild the deteriorating mining infrastructure. But where is this loan money going, who is recieving the money to build the roads and buildings and railways? Answer: China. As well as being the biggest loan supplier, China also has the largest building company, China Road and Bridge Construction, owned by the Chinese government, with 29 projects in Africa (many financed by the World Bank or other lenders) and offices in 22 African countries. Chinese money for big projects is going back to Chinese government. China is losing nothing in the deal while African countries lose everything. When there is no longer raw materials and resources an infrastructure is irrelevent.

Chinese trade and investment has galvanised mineral production from South Africa (manganese) to Niger (uranium), and from Sudan to Angola (oil). Much of that activity reflects an intense appetite for the African resources needed to fuel China’s manufacturing sector, but big Chinese companies have quickly become formidable competitors in other sectors as well, particularly for big-ticket public works contracts, like the ones now proposed for DR Congo. Chinese workers are engaged in dozens of African road-building projects. China is building major new railroad lines in Nigeria and Angola, large dams in Sudan, airports in several countries, and new roads almost everywhere.

The DRC is a lush, beautiful green land, full of extended unprotected forests. Minerals may be a hot commodity, but timber is what may become the DRC’s biggest challenge. A BBC reporter called the forest a “sea of broccoli.” The Congo forest stretches across six countries, but in the DRC it is disappearing at an alarming rate – more likely than not, due to the country’s instability. A recent report showed that the majority of the timber is headed to China, 90% illegally. Logging companies set up in the DRC in what appears to be far off forest wonderlands. These wonderlands are inhabited by groups of people who traditionally lived on the land being cleared by logging. Much of the land has traditional and religious importance to the people. In an article written for the BBC, the story of one traditional village is told with a overtone of hope. The logging company is working with the people to make maps and document which sites are of significance and should not be disturbed. They use handheld satelitte machines to mark sacred spots and the people could not be happier. In a country where logging companies overrun traditional peoples and sacred lands without any regard, this is an instance of positive development.

everyone wants to keep their power, don’t you?

As I sat at the conference table waiting for the theorists to arrive, I tried to understand the causes for the Rwandan intervention into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1998. After some time passed I realized that no theorist was coming to confer their knowledge upon me, so I decided to seek them out myself. But before analyzing theories and dissecting Rwanda’s intervention in the DRC in 1998 (Second Congolese War), one must note that there were preceding events during the 1996 intervention that triggered the second intervention. Rwanda intervened in the DRC in 1996 because it’s newly empowered Tutsi regime realized that the DRC’s leader, Mobutu Sese Seko, was in support of the Hutu refugees and ex-FAR/Interhamwe, groups who had perpetrated the 1994 genocide of Rwandan Tutsis (Curtis 3). With Mobutu’s support and the foreign aid flowing into the Hutu refugee camps (from aid agencies and bureaucracies) located in the DRC the ex-FAR/ Interhamwe was regaining strength and re-organizing. The ex-FAR/ Interhamwe, with the encouragement of Mobutu and the Hutu government began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Congolese Tutsi. The Rwandan forces then intervened in 1996 in support of the rebel Congolese Tutsi units. The Rwandan forces had many victories and eventually the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo/DRC (ADFL) was formed with the Rwandan forces, Congolese Tutsis, and anti-Mobutu groups in the DRC.

However this relationship between Rwanda and the DRC’s liberation forces did not last. The alliance with Laurent Kabila, who was leading the ADFL forces, had been an alliance of convenience rather than a uniting of ideologies. The alliance was based on overthrowing Mobutu and not on achieving a greater security for the region. Kabila began distancing himself from his Rwandan supporters and began creating divisions within the forces of the ‘alliance.’ Kabila soon called for all foreign troops to be out of the DRC, which threatened Rwanda’s ability to eliminate the remaining Hutu militants. Rwanda, being interested in keeping hold of its regional political-military influence it had gained from the First Congolese War (intervention 1996) along with the growing threat from Hutu militants, decided that a second intervention would be necessary to keep its regional power and security. The Rwandan forces experienced a surprising amount of success and it looked almost to be a repeat of the 1996 intervention, but later it was evident that the Rwandan forces would fail (5). Another factor that led to Rwanda’s failure was the creation of the RCD (Congolese Rally for Democracy), which became the new political face of the movement to oust Mobutu. With Rwanda and Uganda’s involvement in Congolese affairs in the past years the RCD was condemned as an “instrument for neighboring countries to serve their interests” (6). To that same effect Kabila’s forces were successful in stirring anti-Tutsi sentiment before the war, which made it difficult to garner indigenous support to move the rebellion forward (6). Ugandan forces pulled out and opened their own anti-Kabila front, but continued to send moral and military assistance also Kabila’s regional allies: Angola, Chad, Namibia, and Zambia all contributed troops and support that eventually led to Rwanda’s defeat in its second intervention (6). These foreign allies all contributed to a score of strategic victories that saved Kabila from a sure defeat by Rwandan forces and shifted the focus of the Second Congolese War (7). The new Rwandan government found itself isolated in the region and in much the same situation as Mobutu’s regime, which they defeated just two years earlier.

The underlying causes of the Second Congolese War (Rwandan intervention in DRC, 1998) are based in a division of regional ethnic groups and the tensions of ideas between those militarized forces. Both Rwandan interventions were militarily launched to provide support for indigenous (Tutsi) rebellions (4). The national security for Rwanda was just as immediate as it was during the first intervention in 1996. The Hutu insurgency amounted to what some call a “virtual civil war” – which increased Rwanda’s sense of being vulnerable and reinforced the ‘siege’ mentality which had fueled the regime’s view of national security since it came to power after the 1994 genocide (5).

The international relations theory that best sheds light on the causes and reasons for the Second Congolese War and Rwandan intervention in 1998 is realism. Hobbes says that the classical realists would argue that the weakest has the strength enough to kill the strongest (Schecter, Sept. 7, 2006) – and therefore the newly in power Tutsis in Rwanda would still be under threat from the fleeing Hutu militant factions. The two groups: new Tutsi government and the defeated Hutu militants and government, both desired the control of the Rwandan state and because of that, could only become enemies and conflict is inevitable. Hobbes tells us there that will always be conflict when two men desire the same thing (Sept. 7, 2006). The classical realist, Rousseau, continues the argument noting that the Rwandan rational was to provide for their own self-interest and not depend on others (Sept. 7, 2006). When Kabila decided he was going to dismiss his Rwandan backers, the Rwandan government decided to end that convenient alliance and serve its self-interest to then move against Kabila. Rwandan again rationalized its alliance with Kabila being that it was set up previously to oust Mobutu and to continue rooting out the Hutu insurgency, and not necessarily in support of Kabila’s movement to liberate the Congo. Thucydides would argue that every country seeks more power, because with more power comes more security (Baylis & Smith 167). All states suffer from the security dilemma where self-help is the only cure in which a state needs more power and opposing states will also seek power in response (Schecter, Sept. 7, 2006). Rwanda had an underlying motive to keep its borders free from Hutu insurgent attacks and a probable Hutu invasion after the 1994 genocide. Rwanda had gained a significant amount of regional power after the First Congolese War and wanted to be sure to keep a hold of that power in order to ensure its own security.

This moves us on to the contemporary realist argument. The Rwandan intervention in the DRC of 1998 was a near repeat of its intervention in the DRC in 1996. History very nearly repeated itself, the governments did not learn from their mistakes. However it is debatable if there were any mistakes to learn from. The new Rwandan Tutsi regime had its security in mind when it saw the growing attacks from the strengthening former Hutu armies and militias. Is it a mistake to act on an attack and threat from an opposing force outside a nation’s borders? The Second Congolese War is a good example of the classical realist argument that there is no international order or law only power and force. The UN or other International Organizations did not intervene and Rwanda was forced to take the conflict into its own hands. Could a continuation of the 1994 genocide and thousands more deaths have been avoided by an international intervention? The classical theorists would argue not, since there is no international order or law except for power and force. Morgenthau, a contemporary realist, argues that the international order of power is a means and also an end – security. Rwanda used its power as a means to remain powerful in the region and ensure its national security in regards to its borders. Power of force was used as a means to a greater end of power in security (Baylis & Smith 167). The contemporary realists would also argue that peace can only be achieved by a balance of power, which is why Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Chad intervened on behalf of the DRC government because Rwanda was too powerful in the region. The argument continues with the point being made that the political sphere is autonomous therefore military power is critical. Rwanda could not depend on any political force to come to its aid, it had to depend solely on its military power. Waltz, as a defensive realist, reminded me that countries continuously pursue power without regard to regime type, or people (Baylis & Smith 163). In this case Rwanda was not concerned with the type of regime in the DRC. It only wanted to see the Hutu insurgency put down.

With all this realist theory being tossed around I felt sure that there is was also an element of social constructivism. Onuf argues that a social constructivist theorist would be sure to add to the argument by telling us that power is not only materialist, such as military or economic, but also that power involves ideas (256). In this particular case, the conflict is purely of ideas. The Rwandan government has the idea that the Hutus need to be stopped. The Hutus hold the idea that they need to fight against the Tutsis to regain control of the Rwandan government. Kabila believes that be needs to liberate the DRC and oust Mobutu. The conflict is purely of opposing constructed ideas of ethnic division and dislike. The socially constructed identities of the cultures in conflict are based on the non-state actors of the Hutu former FAR/ Interhamwe, the Rwandan Tutsi army, the ADFL in the DRC, and other various factors in support or opposition to the current government leaders of Rwanda and the DRC. The one hope in this conflict is that the ideas and institutions are not always path dependent, change is still possible because the state’s interests are not a given.

This is where a semi-Idealist approach enters the scene. These socially constructed ideas of dislike for an ethnic group can be changed in the idealist’s view. The Hutu and Tutsi factions can learn from their mistakes and conflicts and can work to create peace in the region. Kant informs us that an idealist theorist would argue that when these militant groups start thinking about the good of the state and not of themselves then there can be a peaceful end to the conflict (188). But herein lies the problem. How can one push out a constructed history of violence and hate? How can one throw out a deep past of conflict and dislike? How can a state ask its people to forgive and forget and move towards peace with such atrocities committed? The Idealists believe this ‘peace’ is a possibility when governments move towards a more democratic rule. Idealism doesn’t have as easily applied and proven theory for conflict, yet it does present a solution instead of a look into the reasons for a conflict. Therefore I believe the realist argument neatly describes how and why this war happened, the social constructivist argument gives a wonderful insight as to where the reasons come from and how to move forward, and the idealist argument provides a possibility for a future security and harmony between state and non-state actors.

The theories that do not present a clear insight into the conflict are Economic, Political, and Institutional Liberalism. In this case there was no economic conflict, it was a conflict based on security. Therefore Smith argued with me that if each actor pursued its own economic self-interest there would be a natural harmony holds no water. The ‘free’ trade in minerals (diamonds) between Rwanda and the DRC is definitely questionable and lends nothing to the argument for the war’s cause being that free trade and economic interdependence is supposed to equal up to no war. Political liberalist theorists’ argument that democratic governments do not fight one another is thrown out since neither Rwanda nor the DRC can be said to have a secure democratic government. The fact that no international laws or organizations took action also defeats the Liberalist approach to understanding the Second Congolese War. Institutional Liberalists are pushed aside when it become evident that neither Rwanda nor the DRC was interested in making sacrifices for the other and were only concerned with creating temporary alliances to serve self-interest. To that same effect the only instance of interdependence is with regard to the security of the region with which neither actor was concerned. The institutional liberals theory is also thrown out by the fact that none of the international institutions, such as the UN or European Union, came to help resolve the conflict. The First and Second Congolese Wars were fought without any interference from international institutions maybe because the states who hold membership in such institutions had no ‘mutual interest’ in the DRC or Rwanda. For many reasons the UN (or other institution) should have aided being that liberal institutions are concerned with keeping regional security and promoting cooperation between states. This is one of the many unanswered questions that always seems to break down to question the motives of people in power.

What is most interesting in applying the theories of international relations to the Second Congolese War and Rwandan intervention in the DRC in 1998 is that most international theorists that I called upon are not concerned with the ‘third’ world or developing world, yet here I am using their theories to explain a conflict that resides in this passed over ‘third’ world orbiting somewhere in the realm of the neglected. I now understood why I would be sitting at the conference table by myself. No theorist was on his way to consider a ‘third’ world conflict. Applying the international theories to a conflict in Africa is somewhat of an irony in that the politicians and government officials that apply these theories did not give a second glance as to why the Second Congolese War occurred and would not care for the reasons Rwanda intervened.

Works Cited:
Curtis, Marcus. ‘Raison d’Etat Unleashed: Understanding Rwanda’s Foreign Policy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Strategic Insights’. Vol. IV, Issue 7 (July 2005). . Date accessed: October 5, 2006.
Baylis and Smith. The Globalization of World Politics. Third Edition. Oxford University Press, New York: 2001, reprint 2005, 2006.
Schecter, Michael. MC220 World Politics and Security Class Lecture.
‘Realism and Idealism’ September 7, 2006. ‘Liberalism’ September 12, 2006. ‘Social Constructivism’ September 21, 2006. (citations only used when certain examples from lectures were not present in the Baylis & Smith book)

Research paper written in October of 2006 for an International Relations and Security Course. Look for more on the current DRC conflict soon.

what does genocide mean to you?

We are back again to the age old debate of language and the way it is used – this time however the consequences are much greater. Genocide, how do you define it? In a Slate News, Senator Obama’s comments are noted when referring to genocide. The article, titled “Getting comfy with genocide”, gets deep into the definition of genocide and the consequences of our current use of the term.

Lemkin’s definition, which was finally adopted in 1948 by the U.N. General Assembly, classified as genocide ‘acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.’ It is a definition that has lasted nearly six decades, and it is important to remember that it refers not merely to war between nations or war within nations, however terrible. It is not about the death of soldiers in armed combat or in foreign or civil strife. It is about the mass murder of defenseless civilians—men, women, and children—because they belong to a certain kind of group. And it’s not just a matter of words. The United Nations convention on the prevention of genocide, signed by 138 nations, holds genocide to be a special category of crime that justifies “action appropriate for the prevention and suppression of genocide.” The convention does not exclude abrogation of the sovereignty of a nation engaged in genocide in order to effect a humanitarian military intervention. The problem is that while it’s going on, when it can still be stopped, it’s often not evident just how grave a crime is being committed or whether it will eventually result in genocide if it’s allowed to go unchecked. At what point, for instance, does “ethnic cleansing” become genocide? “Ethnic cleansing” can refer to the forced transfer of populations—bad enough—rather than the indiscriminate murder of them. “Ethnic cleansing,” that hideous euphemism, becomes genocide when it involves mass murder with the intent to exterminate. Genocide is about annihilation.

In the debate candidates were asked how they would handle the genocide in Darfur. Slate News says the real question should have been:

“What would you do if you saw another Rwanda developing? In other words, a genocide that has little to do with previous U.S. intervention and is not our fault in any direct way, but one we could prevent—at a cost: U.S. troops, U.S. lives. President Clinton has apologized for his failure to intervene in Rwanda. Do you agree that the United States should commit itself to preventing genocide anywhere it threatens to occur?”

We have come to talking about the genocide in Darfur in a ‘feel good’ way. We cover it in debates, make up solutions that are not so feasible, and attempt to show how much we care. Is it possible to get comfortable with genocide? I covered that idea that it is very difficult for our minds to fathom the extent of genocide and the amount of mass killing that it entails, but is this the reason that it is so easy for us to be comfortable? This could be part of the argument, but I think it may also lie in the political framing that the world loves to use.

At any rate, it is pointless to argue the fine points of language; the definition of genocide – and actual work to stop genocide. This can be done in the same ‘feel good’ manner, but it can also include actions that everyone can take at home. Currently, Michigan’s congress is working on bills of divestment from corporations that operate and support the government of Sudan. This would cut off a great deal of funding to the government of Sudan and hinder the country’s ability to further the killing of their own people. The bill has passed the Michigan House of Representatives and is not working to pass the Senate. This bill is expected to be much harder to pass in the Senate, so if you live in Michigan call your senator and ask them to support this bill. There are numerous advocacy groups around the world. Michigan State University’s campus has one such group associated with a national organization STAND: Students Taking Action Now Darfur. Check out what the MSU STAND: Spartans Taking Action Now Darfur chapter is doing and learn more about the genocide in Darfur. We can say “genocide is bad” as much as we want to, but it is still there looming, killing, waiting for us to completely forget – don’t allow yourself to forget.

african economic growth and oil

The UN has reported that Africa’s economic growth is increasing, slow and steady, but frail. They are predicting that the continent’s economies will grow almost 6% in 2007. However the report states that if African countries are to continue to grow they will need to diversify their economic output and invest more in infrastructure. The top growing econmies include: Mauritania (19.8%), Angola (17.6%), and Mozambique (7.6%). The report points out that the economic growth rests on a very fragile base and there are still conflicts to face. The HIV/AIDS crisis has killed much of Africa’s workforce. Countries need to open their borders to trade, invest in their infrastructure, and insulate themselves against external shocks. If these predicted growth percentage’s come true in 2007 this will be the continent’s fourth year of growth. Zimbabwe was the only economy to contract in the last year by 4.4%.

The Foreign Policy blog notes that the landlocked Rwanda will be the prime spot for multinational corporations to invest. The article states: ‘Kagame, who has been president since 2000, is viewed as an honest, business-savvy man opposed to corruption, unlike many other African leaders. Consequently, American businessman Dan Cooper, who has been pitching Rwanda to U.S. corporations, describes the Maryland-sized country as “the most undervalued ‘stock’ on the continent and maybe in the world’.” However Freedom House listed as not free, the hope is that this economic upswing will benefit the citizens.

Africa is gaining economically even as Zimbabwe’s inflation reaches 1,600% and Angola calls off talks with the IMF. China continues to invest in countries regardless of political or human rights standings. Africa’s countries have a lot to deal with if they are to continue their strong economic upswing. The recent signing of many bilateral trade agreements will hurt these economically developing countries. Many countries still have conflicts to clean up before more growth can happen. Rwanda is recovering from genocide, but seems to be gaining a foorhold in the economic system. Oil, don’t forget about oil. It is my belief that oil will be the greatest hope for African countries to become economically stable and advanced, as long as the resource is used wisely. Africa’s hope is growing, but so is the resource lust of emerging economic giants.

helping hands of the US

Why is it that the simplest methods and the unheard of people do the most good in the world of the poor and oppressed? Why is it that individuals with a cause are the tool for the greatest change in the world? Why is it that you and I can make more of a difference than foundations and governments? How can people be so much more powerful than the institutions and structures? The basic fact and truth is that because we are simply people who care with passion that we are most motivated and connected to the causes and issues for which we fight.

In a recent blog written by Allison Fine of the Socialedge my sentiments are reflected. She writes about the power of individual activists. “[…] the catalyst for significant social change in the Connected Age will continue to be individual activists. Foundation grants are a perfect vehicle for seeding, supporting, and encouraging these efforts.” Allison is also reflecting the idea that it will be the searchers and not the big planners who will create the most significat social change. This idea I covered more fully in a previous blog.

Being that the simplest methods and most unheard of people make the most significant social changes for people I will attempt to highlight a few of them. Last month there was an <a href="
“>article on CNN which covered the death of an elderly woman, Rosmand Carr, who had made it possible for 300-400 orphans in Rwanda to receive education, medicines, and the support they needed. Without any children of her own these children received a new mother who was extremely dedicated to their care. At the age of 81 she decided to open an orphanage in the country she had called home for most of her life until evacuating when the 1994 genocide broke out. A month after the fighting stopped she returned to Rwanda to begin fixing up an old farm building to house orphans from the nearby Kibumba refugee camp where almost 200,000 people had fled. By the age of 94 Carr’s had aided 300-400 with the orhpanage she founded, Imbabazi Orphange. Imbabazi translates from Kinyarwandan to mean “a place where you will find all the love a mother would give.” When Carr died the children were very very upset and it was as if they had lost their mother. Carr would not leave Rwanda, even in death. Her grave lies in the garden of her farm, beneath the Virunga volcanoes, Africa’s heart.

Another example of a ‘typical’ person making a differnce I found on the Foreign Policy magazine online. FP covered the story of a 29 year-old new mother from the Midwest, Jill Youse. Before starting the International Breast Milk Project, Youse had been “in pharmaceuticals and medical device sales. I was just a typical American consumer of daytime television and People magazine, embarrassingly ordinary. I’d studied communications and played soccer in college. I had never been to Africa. In fact, I’ve only been out of the country once in my life, to Argentina for two weeks when I was in high school.” Youse said that with her excess of breast milk and influenced by the work of Bono, Angelina Jolie, and Oprah she began to search ways to help. Although the methods of celebrities is controversial and somewhat naive, this is a case that shows a ‘typical’ person can be inspired by their actions and find the ways to effectively make a difference. Youse’s organization works through already established groups to get the breast milk to the people who need it. “Many newborns throughout the developing world are undernourished because they are not breastfed during their first few months of life. Often their mothers have passed away or are HIV-positive.” You do not have to be a celebrity to make a difference. Maybe it is best that you are not a blinded celebrity trying to change the world with your vast funds. I encourage you all to read the entire interview.

Now I feel it is extremely important to note that this is not the work of governments, they don’t have a care one way or another, it is the people – empassioned and active who are creating the social change! Politicians run on a mindset of short-term, just long enough for them to take a stand to get re-elected. This is a failure when in reality the long-term is the key. In the long-term (and short-term) is where lives will be saved and lasting, sustainable social change will take place, but that all needs to be set-up and supported in the short-term. Everything hinges on the present choice and action. This is where I also become dismayed. Just today I read an article about former President Carter. Carter is now on an 11 country Africa tour. The Carter Center has done some great work in Africa, but there is a large problem here when Carter promotes the idea that Africa depends on the West to get help. Yes, the West is a great helper, but the West needs to adopt better methods to effectively help besides just throwing money at problems – that is when the money’s effectiveness is lost. Currently in Ethiopia, the Carter Center will be purchasing three million mosquito nets to distribute. The ‘Third World’ needs the West? I blogged about this issue in a post here.

We are the social changers, but we are not imposers. We work with the people who need help to most effectively get them that help. S.C.O.U.T. B.A.N.A.N.A. is an organization of individual activists taking up their causes for access to basic healthcare by working through students in the West to provide aid to African communities. Check us out at:

Individuals with a cause will be the ‘catalyst for social change’, individuals who care about the world and the people in it, ‘typical’ individuals who become inspired in a day’s time to take action on the world’s problems, individuals with $5 to donate to a cause – these will be the people who save lives and make a difference in the world as we know it. The age of the large organizations and foundations is still here, but who will be left to make the change – the individuals!