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


in which prendergast and I are (maybe) going to debate

I'll be a panelist at the next Great Lakes Policy Forum on October 5-6, which is a special two day conference on Advocacy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As you'll see from the official announcement below, John Prendergast and I are scheduled to be on the same panel (pending his acceptance of the invitation), discussing who speaks for the Congolese along with Mvemba Dizolele and . If Prendergast doesn't come, we'll likely have someone else from the Enough Project in his place, which should make for an interesting discussion.

If you're in the DC area, I hope you'll be able to make it; both of the panels are going to be very provocative and fascinating. I'm particularly excited that the GLPF is able to include so many voices from Congolese civil society at this event. Register to attend here.

Advocacy in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Stakeholders Conference
October 5th and 6th, 2011
9:30-11:30 am

Day one: How the Story of Congo Gets Told
Rome Auditorium, Rome Building 1619 Massachusetts Ave
Panel Discussion: 9:30-11:30am

In the past several years, voices from the United States have dominated the conversation on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), creating a tension between the complex situations on the ground in the DRC and the simple messaging that works for advocacy movements in support of the DRC in the US. Additionally, there are questions about who is a legitimate voice in Washington, DC on the behalf of the Congolese. Financial and language barriers often prevent Congolese citizens from speaking on their own behalf in Washington, although members of the Diaspora, US based advocacy organizations, academics, and NGOs attempt to fill this void with their own expertise and opinions. Often these opinions do not fully convey the divergent and complicated feelings of the large and multifaceted population of the DRC. As the DRC is discussed in sound bites, a few dominant narratives emerge. How does the narrative of the Congo get told in Washington? Who gets to speak for Congo?

Laura Seay, Morehouse College and Texas in Africa
Mvemba Dizolele, Stanford University
John Prendergast, The Enough Project (invited)
Kambale Musavuli, Friends of Congo

Day two: Advocacy and the Way Forward
Kenny Auditorium, Nitze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Ave
Panel Discussion: 9:30-11:30am

The DRC presents a complex situation with as many angles as there are stakeholders. In the absence of Congolese voices, stories of the DRC are told by advocacy organizations, NGOs, academics, and the Diaspora. These stories cannot represent the whole, multifaceted reality on the ground, yet they are the basis on which policy makers must rely when deciding on priorities and legislation. Perspectives on the DRC, as they are seen in Washington have had numerous effects in the DRC, both good and bad. Controversial legislation on conflict minerals in Eastern Congo has been said to make living conditions for many people worse while others insist that it has improved the situation for most. The constant focus on rape as a weapon of war in Eastern Congo has dramatically increased services available to survivors but has perverted incentives and prevented women from receiving holistic care. The overall focus on the East has done a great deal to make the DRC into a policy priority, but ignored the failures of Congolese governance that are the root of many of the DRC’s problems. What is the way forward? How can advocacy organizations and all stakeholders work for the best outcomes and avoid unintended negative consequences? Should there be a “Do no harm” policy for advocates on behalf of the DRC?

Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International
Rick Goss, Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC)
Eric Kajemba, Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix (OGP)
Claudine Tsongo, Dynamique de Femmes Juristes


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The stalking of Prendergast continues then Lol. Not sure if he should take you out on a date or just take a restraining order out!

Come clean why the obsession?

No doubt the panel will be set up to give him a hard time http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mvemba-dizolele/conflict-minerals-congo-dodd-frank_b_933078.html

(Additionally, there are questions about who is a legitimate voice in Washington, DC on the behalf of the Congolese). How obvious can you be? Whole thing will just quickly degenerate into you leading a attack on Prendagast and how he is not a legitimate voice.

Think people can just save themselves the trip and read your old posts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 5:09:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Nell, I suspect this is you, and if it is, I continue to be perplexed as to why you read a blog that you hate so much.

At any rate, I am not the convener of this conference; I am an invited panelist. I didn't write the descriptions, nor did I invite the panelists. So it's hard to see how this could be considered a set-up. And I think Prendergast is more than capable of holding his own in a panel debate.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 8:54:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not Nell whoever that is and it is a joke that the panel has three people on it with a track record of attacking Enough then asks John Prendergast to join.

Whole question set up as a stick to beat Enough and Prendagast.

Not even the most important question to ask in this area.
If it was a honest set up it would be an exercise in academic navel gazing.

A more relevant and constructive question would have been how to get ordinary people worldwide interested in what’s is happening in the DRC.

When that is a much bigger problem and if solved would promote more unbiased discussion of the role of the western NGO's and the like anyway.

Whole question slanted to suggest conclusions and assumes everyone agrees that ...voices from the united states have dominated the conversion..creating tension...that there are questions about a who is a legitimate voice...(cannot you have more than one voice?)...that the DRC is largely discussed in sound-bites...that even people from the DRC need people to speak for them as not enough speak English!

Farcical that a debate that supposed to be examining the lack of voice of the ordinary citizens from the DRC has the usual suspects on it anyway.

A set of western based talking heads moaning that the ordinary Congolese voice is being drowned out.

How does the narrative of the Congo get told in Washington? Who gets to speak for Congo? Think you have answered you own question!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 11:51:00 AM

Blogger Rachel Strohm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 4:05:00 PM

Anonymous Rachel Strohm said...

The above commentator is confusing me

But, I will (unsurprisingly) be there! Are you thinking of doing another tweet-up around this?

(Previous comment deleted because I hadn't realized I was signed in with a defunct Blogger profile.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 4:07:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Rachel, I find it's best to just ignore the crazy. Shouldn't have even bothered replying.

Laurenist et al are talking about a tweet up. Will let you know what gets planned.

Thursday, September 22, 2011 12:02:00 PM

Blogger Alex Engwete said...

I'm baffled by the following sentence in "Day two: Advocacy and the Way Forward" of the event: "In the absence of Congolese voices, stories of the DRC are told by advocacy organizations, NGOs, academics, and the Diaspora" (my highlight).

Are Congolese from the "diaspora" not stakeholders in what transpires in their country? This preposterous notion ignores the fact that Congolese expats inject close to $3b into their country's economy through remittances (maybe these people could check with Western Union and European money transfer agencies). Besides, most Congolese expats go back to the country at the very least once a year. I personally live half of the year in Kinshasa, where I own a house. In fact, on June 22, I returned from a one-year stint in the Congo.

If one were to follow this line of wrong reasoning, Dr. Oscar Kashala, a US resident, wouldn't be running for president in the DRC!

Congolese get the feeling that all the failed academics and activist kooks of this world have carved out their niche in the DRC where they stampede--a lab, as it were, in which all kinds of ideas and actions could be experimented by trial and error.

Friday, September 23, 2011 2:24:00 AM

Anonymous D Djeli said...

A light in the American wilderness Mr Engwete I give thanks and praise for your voice. You are so right about niche carving........

The salaries of some of the advocacy brigade would probably be sufficient to extend the tarmac from Kinshasa to Walikale - now there's a thought.

Friday, September 23, 2011 7:52:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Alex, I think that's a good point. However, there's no question that your experiences (and those of most members of the Diaspora) are not the norm for Congolese citizens, not least because you can leave.

Friday, September 23, 2011 4:31:00 PM

Anonymous Mélanie said...

Just to add my two cents, there are MANY excellent Congolese journalists or activists who have VERY interesting things to say about their own country. Maybe they speak out mainly in French, maybe Americans are not the solutions to Congo. I speak both languages fluently often despair that the discussions are so divided by the language, but both are interesting and important, if only because American foreign policy still has huge impact on Congo and the world.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 1:27:00 PM

Blogger Colored Opinions said...

The language barrier but also the anglosaxon- francophone political fault line has had a lot of impact on how Americans, Europeans and Congolese understand "the complex situations on the ground". It created the proverbial Babylonian confusion of tongues. Engaging the Congolese diaspora can help bridge these barriers and lead to a more humble and realistic approach. As Roger Meece says "all is not lost". Kamerhe's "elephant" will get back on it's feet.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011 4:42:00 AM


<< Home