GLPF - UN DRC Mapping Report
Last week it was my pleasure to be part of a Great Lakes Policy Forum/SAIS panel on the UN Mapping Report on DRC. GLPF events are not for attribution, so I'll just summarize several themes that emerged from the discussion:
- Security sector reform (SSR) is by far the most important issue in the DRC right now.
- The atrocities documented in the report are well-documented and it is not possible for any rational individual to deny that they happened and expect to maintain credibility.
- Justice for the victims of atrocities in the DRC will be difficult, but not impossible to come by.
- A much greater understanding of the context in terms of domestic politics and economics within the DRC is needed. The conflict in the east has regional dimensions, but these play out in the national context.
- The international community needs to address local land rights, justice, and ethnicity issues.
At about the same time, the UN mapping report on Congo was being flogged again in a malicious attempt to prove it is still alive. Some organization calling itself the Great Lakes Policy Forum, bringing together such organizations like Amnesty International and the like organized a one-day conference at John Hopkins University on the theme: Congo: UN mapping report and the responsibility to justice.Recognizing that facts are not the New Times' specialty, I'll just point out a few in response:
The conference brought together western "scholars and researchers" on the region, notable more for their activism than scholarship, for their open biases than academic objectivity.
It was also remarkable for the absence of anyone from the region, people with intimate knowledge of the issues, or those affected by events there. No one with a real stake in the region was invited.
Instead there were people like Carina Tersakian - yes, the same one - talking about "the next steps towards justice".
You can be sure she read a long and angry list of indictments against Rwanda, cheered on by fellow conferees. You would not be wrong to think that the whole discussion must have been a huge exercise in imagination (fantasy, really. Imagination is too positive a word) about supposed culprits and weapons used to commit the untold crimes.
They will have gone away feeling good about themselves, having presented papers to their peers and anticipating good reviews. They will be excited about having bashed the "evil doers" and thinking they had exorcised the demons within.
And of course they did not talk about the hordes of armed groups marauding in Eastern Congo, killing, pillaging and raping and wreaking all manner of havoc.
Any guess why all these worthies usually get it wrong on Congo, and worse, why the misery there will not end soon?
- The Great Lakes Policy Forum is not "some organization," but rather is a well-established forum for debate that's been around since 1995. The fact that diplomats from each Great Lakes country regularly attend the forum's event suggests that it is quite reputable indeed. The fact that last week's was the 159th edition of the forum - and that we spoke to a packed house - also attests to the forum's reputation and the strength of the organizations behind it.
- The event on December 2 was not a conference, it was a panel discussion. There were two panels, actually.
- As such, there were no papers. Panelists were asked to give a ten-minute summary of their views of specific issues (either justice or foreign policy) relating to the mapping report, then we moved into an extended question-and-answer period.
- We did, in fact, talk about the ongoing atrocities in the east, which is why the need for security sector reform was a key issue in the discussion.
Thanks to everyone who had a part in making this discussion happen, and thanks to the many blog readers who stopped by to say hello - it was great to meet you all!