"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


this week

I'm moderating this week's Great Lakes Policy Forum, Thursday morning at 9:30 at USIP. Here's the announcement:

2011 is a year of high stakes in the DRC. MONUSCO is due for renewal by the end of June and elections are due to be held before the end of the year. Meanwhile, a new report has documented sexual violence in the DRC is occurring at much higher rates than previously reported and is less concentrated in the Kivus and other conflict affected areas. With human security at such low levels and elections preparations so far behind, recent reports state that the Congo could face renewed political crisis. What are the underlying reasons for these problems and how should the United States and the international community respond to such high stakes in the DRC?


Joshua Marks
Central Africa Program Officer, National Endowment for Democracy

Tia Palermo
Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University

These are fantastic speakers and it should be a great event - hope to see you there!


Is rape in the Congo a weapon of war?

I have a new piece on rape in the Congo up over at the Atlantic. In the piece, I discuss new pieces of research that challenge some of the prevailing narratives about rape and war in the DRC.


Darfur & incomplete understanding

This is the second in a series of posts for Fighting for Darfur author Rebecca Hamilton, who is working on a discussion guide for the book. Weight in with your answer below.
A mass movement approach to atrocity prevention must, by definition, bring in people who do not have a background with the history of the country for whose people they are being encouraged to advocate for. In Fighting for Darfur, advocacy movement leader, Sam Bell says “Looking back, I wish ‘2005 Sam’ had been more inquisitive about all of Sudan’s challenges, and not just the ones labeled ‘genocide’.” How did the lack of understanding about all of Sudan’s challenges impact the way the Darfur activists framed the crisis and the solutions they advocated for? How might this apply to other situations beyond Sudan that citizens are getting involved with?


let's meet!

I'm going to be in DC and New York in the next couple of months and would love to meet Texas in Africa readers there. To that ends, we've organized two tweetups. Please RSVP at the links below so we know how many to expect


why rape?

Howard French asks why we are more fascinated and moved to action by rape in the Congo than by the deaths of millions:


combatting sexual violence

Two very interesting efforts to combat the sexual violence problem in the eastern DRC. One is public and military education efforts from Search for Common Ground, profiled in this short film:

Another effort worth mentioning is the Open Society Justice Initiative, which is one of the sponsors of a mobile court that tries sexual violence cases. Open Society Foundations just ran a fantastic series of posts about the court's work. These are not your usual cheerleading NGO press release posts; they chronicle the challenges and difficulties in pursuing justice for victims of sexual violence in all their gritty detail. They're well worth your time to read.


advocacy, policy, & misperceptions

Bec Hamilton, author of the fantastic book on Darfur advocacy, Fighting for Darfur, is in the process of creating a discussion guide for those wanting to use her book in the classroom. To that end, she's asked several bloggers (including UN Dispatch's Mark Leon Goldberg, Tom Murphy of A View from the Cave, and me) to host discussions on these questions.

I got to choose the questions to ask here, so I picked ones that have to do with the relationship between advocacy, policy, and perceptions since that's always a popular topic on Texas in Africa. Bec would love to get your feedback, both on the questions themselves (Are they useful to think about? Are they clear?) and through answers to the questions. Keep in mind that these are designed to be used in a university-level classroom with students who may or may not have prior familiarity with the Darfur crisis.
Darfur activists spent years trying to build a domestic political cost into the calculations of U.S. officials responsible for acting on Darfur. In Congress this enabled them to secure significant amounts of funding for Darfur, but inside the administration perverse incentives sometimes came into play. In Fighting for Darfur, U.S. special envoy Andrew Natsios expresses his frustration that the narrative of the conflict presented by activists did not fit with events on the ground but he warns the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, that trying to correct this misperceptions would be “politically dangerous.” What do you think of Natsios’ warning? To the extent Natsios was right, and advocates were out of touch with changes on the ground, what responsibility do policymakers have to correct those misperceptions? In a democratic system, how should they weigh that responsibility against any domestic political cost?
Can we help Bec out? What do you think? If you don't want to answer here, she's also collecting answers to this question on her blog here. You can view and answer all the questions discussed in the series here.


losing their livings

Reuters' Jonny Hogg on the impact of the Dodd-Frank legislation:
"It will be more difficult to implement in areas where the security situation badly needs traceability, especially the Kivus," [Carter Center mining governance analyst Elisabeth] Caesens said.

...President Joseph Kabila's decision to ban mining for six months in the region was meant to tackle the problem but analysts say Congo's army has simply replaced the rebels.

Even if the nascent traceability programme can be rolled out, it doesn't go far enough in tackling the problems of Congo's dysfunctional artisanal mining sector, Caesens added.

"Just putting a tag on a bag doesn't solve all the other problems, such as living conditions or who gets access to the minerals and what political and power networks are at play."

PACT's Hayes says due to logistical and financial problems it remains unclear when the programme will be rolled out in the east and in the meantime some could attempt to channel 'conflict minerals' through Katanga's certified mines.

Some $10 million more in funding was needed, she said.

In the meantime, the de facto embargo had removed the only source of income for many people in the east already living with the conflict, Hayes said.

"Before they were scrapping a living through mining, now they can't even do that."