There's been a lot going on in the Great Lakes lately:
- Rwanda's government is so mad about all the bad press it's been getting of late that the Friends of Rwanda hired a London-based consultancy to run a fact-check site for them. Too bad the "facts" are all government press releases and New Times articles.
- Speaking of facts, KigaliWire has a nice analysis of the breathtakingly naive Michael Fairbanks HuffPo piece, in which Fairbanks seems to accuse anyone who criticizes Rwanda's government of being racist.
- Speaking of naivite, the New Times ran an op-ed entitled, "Accuracy is Fundamental to Journalism," apparently without intending to be ironic.
- Nkunda's lawyer accuses Kigali of stalling his client's case. Ya think?
- Andrew Mwenda considers the prospects for a Kagame retirement in 2017.
- Reporters without Borders named Rwanda to its list of predators of freedom. State newspaper The New Times will not stand for this kind of fact-based judgment calling.
- The New York Times ran a big set of stories on Rwanda's prison/reeducation camp at Iwawa Island. Two things to say about this: 1) I give Gettleman a lot of grief for his exoticization of Africa and Africans, but he did a great job on this piece, including by getting video and photos of the pitiful conditions. 2) I haven't commented on this because I've spent the last two weeks trying to figure out why on earth the RPF let a New York Times reporter on to the island. Do they really believe they've done nothing wrong by summarily arresting homeless and poor people and rounding them up on an island without choice? Did they think he wouldn't find out about the minors who are housed alongside petty criminals? Or were they looking for a reason to ban Gettleman from coming back to cover the August 9 elections? Stay tuned.
- The whole Iwawa incident prompted letters to the editor, one from Rwanda's Minister of Youth, who said, "It's all good" and another from an expert on the country who replied, "No, it isn't."
- Meanwhile, a prosecutor in Rwanda said that two FDLR members confessed to terrorism and confirmed the existence of a connection between the FDLR and opposition leader Victoire Ingabire. Ingabire denies it. There's almost no independent information with which to validate this claims, so there you have it.
- In some good news, Rwandan coffee is now widely available in the states, which is great for local producers in the country. In fact, I'm enjoying a cup as I type this at a coffeehouse overlooking the Chattahoochee River.
- Moving on to the DRC, Human Rights Watch senior researcher Anneke van Woudenberg (who knows more than anyone - including most Congolese - about the atrocities committed in the country) calls for a new approach to MONUC's peacekeeping, one that focuses on keeping troops in rural areas as well as the cities. I could not agree more.
- A Congolese court handed down a death sentence to three people convicted in the murder of Radio Okapi journalist Didace Namujimbo.
- The leader of the rebellion in Equateur province was captured last week. It remains to be seen if this will help to stabilize the situation.
- Want to help victims of violence in the DRC? Jina Moore recommends sending cash to Heal Africa, which will give that cash to women who are leaving their facilities to start their lives again. I second that. Heal Africa is a fantastic, community-based organization that will ensure your donations are spent as you intend.
- Even Papa Wemba is openly criticizing Kabila. I would say this doesn't bode well for Kabila's re-election prospects next year, but the lack of a credible opposition candidate who could draw even enough of the vote to force it to a runoff means that Kabila's likely to hold on to power for another five years.
- Rachel Strohm ponders the social norms of bribery in the DRC. One important point: people consider some of those payments "bribes" and others "taxes." Outrage arises over bribes, but everyone understands that the government employees who don't get paid salaries by the state have to earn money somehow.