TagDRC

‘Blood Beer’ or Brewing Benefits? The Paradox of Heineken in the Congo, A guest post by Jason Miklian and Peer Schouten

As the sun goes down in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sound of tropical birds and insects is slowly overtaken by the groaning hums of an army of small Chinese-made generators. They each light up a few light bulbs and a transistor, creating the much-valued ambiance for which Congo is well-known—an ambiance that is consistently lubricated with fair amounts of Congo’s finest beer, the eternal leader Primus. Sweet-voiced Lingala phrases and guitar riffs from the blown speakers pay playful homage to the bliss that the beer has brought the country; as the melodies bounce off the faintly illuminated hand-painted Primus ads all over the country, they form a pleasant multisensory immersion into Congo’s soul. Just like you can get a Coca-Cola everywhere in the world, so you can get a Primus everywhere in Congo. In addition to its contracts with celebrity singers, the brewery has exclusive deals with 68.857 bars in Congo, which carry Primus-branded tables, chairs, and ashtrays. Hand-painted signs for Primus seem to paper every surface in the DRC, making Bralima’s slogan Toujours Leader! (‘Always the Leader!’) into the most-read phrase in the country.
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Rape Claims and article 15: Reflections on Researching Sexual Violence in the Armed Conflict of Eastern DRC, by Charlotte Mertens

September 2012. My Congolese friend Marie-Noël, who runs a small, community-based NGO, welcomes us in Ruzizi, a border town between Rwanda and the DRC. We hop in her jeep and head for Bukavu. Five minutes later, the car is stopped. Two men have barricaded the road with a large tree branch. Fidel, our driver, refuses to pay the money they ask for. He shouts at them to let us pass. The men give in, open the barrier and exclaim ‘c’est pour la sécurité régionale!/ it is for our regional security!’, which is met with a roar of laughter on the street. Marie-Noël laughs too. She explains fictional article 15 of the former Zaïrean constitution which means ‘débrouillez-vous/fend for yourself’. Article 15, also known as ‘système D’, came into existence under Mobutu’s dictatorship. It allows the ‘petit prédateur’/little predator (Devisch, 1998) a social space of power ‘in a context where the difference between legality and illegality makes no more sense’ (Jourdan in Vlassenroot & Raeymaekers, 2004). Institutionalised in all levels of society, article 15 allows every civilian to grab whatever his predicament can afford for his daily survival. In the wartorn Kivus, ‘système D’ has become the rule for individual behaviour. I think about the women who claim they have been raped to get access to medical care and wonder whether this occurrence of would-be victims can be considered as a normal expression of  ‘système D’ or ‘survival maximising behaviour’.

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Anatomy of a feeble analysis: a critical reading of Crisis Group’s latest report on the DR Congo by Judith Verweijen

Last week, the International Crisis Group (ICG) published a new report on the eastern DRC in which it zooms in on a conflict over customary power in the Ruzizi Plain (Uvira territory, South Kivu).  Apparently, ICG no longer tries to weigh in on broader diplomatic, political and military developments in the DRC, like the recently signed Framework Agreement and the current army restructuring process, but has decided to focus uniquely on conflict dynamics at the micro level. This choice reflects ICG’s understanding of the “root causes” of violence in the eastern DRC, which it describes as “local competition between communities for land and economic opportunities” (p.i).  As the report concludes: “far from the national and regional preoccupations of the national government and the United Nations, ethnic spaces are being redrawn by violence” (p.24). In order to prove this point, the report subsequently presents an “anatomy” of the conflict around the customary chiefdom of the Ruzizi Plain, portraying it as primarily resulting from ethnic tensions between the (“immigrant”) Barundi and the (“autochthon”) Bafuliro that have existed since the colonial era.

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The (LRA) conflict: Beyond the LRA lobby & the hunt for Kony… and towards civilian protection – By Kristof Titeca

On the 28th of February this year, an unfortunate incident happened in Garamba National Park, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)-affected area in North-Eastern Congo. A group of Congolese soldiers went on patrol, in order to track LRA-elements; while at the same time a group of (armed) park rangers was patrolling the park. In an area where civilians were present, both groups noticed each other, and both groups considered the other group to be the LRA. The shooting between the two groups, left one Congolese soldier and one civilian dead, and three soldiers and one civilian wounded. The following day, the park rangers were actually attacked by the LRA in the same area, but managed to push them away after heavy fighting. A park ranger later died of his injuries.  At least, all of this was the official version of the events, which was communicated by the Congolese soldiers involved.  Reports from local civil society groups and international military actors revealed that the above group of soldiers was poaching in the park: they had killed 2 hippopotamus, and had asked civilians to help them cutting and transporting the animals. The park rangers had noticed them, and fighting erupted, which resulted in the above injuries and killings. In retaliation, the soldiers had attacked the park rangers the next day. They also threatened to attack any park ranger leaving the park, or passing through their area. This tense situation also had a strong effect on civilian life: not only were civilians wounded through the above attacks; civil society actors complained that markets could no longer take place, as civilians feared more violence and attacks by the soldiers, who were blaming civilians for the park rangers’ attacks.

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The (LRA) conflict: Beyond the LRA lobby & the hunt for Kony… and towards civilian protection – By Kristof Titeca

On the 28th of February this year, an unfortunate incident happened in Garamba National Park, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)-affected area in North-Eastern Congo. A group of Congolese soldiers went on patrol, in order to track LRA-elements; while at the same time a group of (armed) park rangers was patrolling the park. In an area where civilians were present, both groups noticed each other, and both groups considered the other group to be the LRA. The shooting between the two groups, left one Congolese soldier and one civilian dead, and three soldiers and one civilian wounded. The following day, the park rangers were actually attacked by the LRA in the same area, but managed to push them away after heavy fighting. A park ranger later died of his injuries.  At least, all of this was the official version of the events, which was communicated by the Congolese soldiers involved.  Reports from local civil society groups and international military actors revealed that the above group of soldiers was poaching in the park: they had killed 2 hippopotamus, and had asked civilians to help them cutting and transporting the animals. The park rangers had noticed them, and fighting erupted, which resulted in the above injuries and killings. In retaliation, the soldiers had attacked the park rangers the next day. They also threatened to attack any park ranger leaving the park, or passing through their area. This tense situation also had a strong effect on civilian life: not only were civilians wounded through the above attacks; civil society actors complained that markets could no longer take place, as civilians feared more violence and attacks by the soldiers, who were blaming civilians for the park rangers’ attacks.

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Will UN “rape ultimatums” end abuses by the Congolese army? by Maria Eriksson Baaz, Maria Stern, Judith Verweijen

Last week the headlines of various international media, including the BBC, Reuters and Jeune Afrique, featured the story of an ultimatum issued by the UN peace keeping force in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) over allegations of mass rape committed by the Congolese army (FARDC) in the town of Minova in November 2012. The alleged rapes were committed by fleeing/retreating FARDC troops in the wake of the M23 rebel advance and take-over of Goma. Unless “swift legal action” is taken by the end of March, MONUSCO says, it will stop working with the two battalions identified as harboring the perpetrators of rape.

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Why History Repeats Itself in Eastern DR Congo (guest post by Timothy Raeymaekers)

Observers often agree that ‘history repeats itself’[1] in Eastern Congo – from the slavery conditions imposed by Belgian King Leopold over Mobutu’s predatory state, to today’s armed militias. The reason why these ghosts come haunting Congo’s present is primarily related to unending competition over the ‘right to protect’ unfree populations; under the circumstances, this protection rather refers to a double-edged commodity that means extortion for most and a negotiated form of peace for some. The existence of such regionalized markets for protection in Congo’s eastern borderlands results in a situation whereby violent accumulation often outlives ideal statehood: soldiers, armed rebels, police and ‘non-state’ authorities fight for the right to exploit local communities and accumulate capital through extra-economic means. One the one hand, this pushes people further into poverty and undermines their efforts to earn a living; on the other, it leads to more stationary forms of predation as a result of post-war integration of such protection rackets into national state government.

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Congo crisis shows bankruptcy international military policies (guest post by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Judith Verweijen)

There is undoubtedly a need for a political solution to the ongoing Congo crisis, which recently reached new depths with the fall of Goma. Yet viable solutions to intricate, multi-layered conflict dynamics are difficult to reach when one party, in this case the Congolese Government, is brought to its knees following humiliating military defeats. The probability of a sustainable compromise that will reduce violence in the Kivus is difficult to envisage in the face of an insurgency led by skilled military entrepreneurs, with crucial military and diplomatic backing from neighbouring countries.  Certainly, the M23 has advanced some legitimate claims that are shared by both the Tutsi minority they claim to represent and wider layers of the population tired of the Kabila’s Government’s inept governance. However, it is unlikely that its leaders, given their current military advantage, will accept any deal which does not reward their ambitions. In sum, the rebel take-over of Goma has decreased the possibility to break with a vicious cycle  in which insurgent violence is time and again politically rewarded. Continue reading

Harvesting the rotten fruits of repeated rebel military integration: some reflections on the new rebellion in eastern DRC. Guest post by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Judith Verweijen

In recent months, we have seen renewed large-scale fighting and a new wave of displaced in the Kivu provinces of eastern DRC. The current upheaval started in April, when an important faction of the former CNDP rebel group, who had integrated into the Congolese military (FARDC) in 2009, deserted and launched a new rebellion in North Kivu. This group took the name of “M23” after the peace accord between the CNDP and the DR Government signed on March 23 2009. In various offensives over the last months, the M23 have occupied substantial parts of Rutshuru territory, revealing once more the operational weaknesses of the military from which they defected. Continue reading

Harvesting the rotten fruits of repeated rebel military integration: some reflections on the new rebellion in eastern DRC. Guest post by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Judith Verweijen

In recent months, we have seen renewed large-scale fighting and a new wave of displaced in the Kivu provinces of eastern DRC. The current upheaval started in April, when an important faction of the former CNDP rebel group, who had integrated into the Congolese military (FARDC) in 2009, deserted and launched a new rebellion in North Kivu. This group took the name of “M23” after the peace accord between the CNDP and the DR Government signed on March 23 2009. In various offensives over the last months, the M23 have occupied substantial parts of Rutshuru territory, revealing once more the operational weaknesses of the military from which they defected. Continue reading

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