So. Things have been busy, both in Africa and here at TiA HQ. First there was the Great Lakes Policy Forum on advocacy and the DRC, then President Obama up and sent American forces to Uganda to fight the LRA, the SEC had a round table on conflict minerals, and, just to keep things interesting, Kenya invaded Somalia. A few brief thoughts on each:
- Conflict Minerals: The GLPF was very interesting, and, like the SEC round table, revealed that there are wide gulfs in ideas from advocates, Congolese citizens, the Congolese Diaspora, and industry as to what needs to happen moving forward with the implementation of Dodd-Frank section 1502. I particularly appreciated Search for Common Ground's efforts to bring together these diverse perspectives in closed sessions on the afternoons of the GLPF conference. However, there is a huge amount of disagreement on things like a timeline for implementation, what to do about the huge number of now-unemployed miners (which Congolese civil society leaders familiar with the artisanal mining sector estimate to be in the 1-2 million range), and what the rules should be for issues as varied as recycled materials, gold, and companies that have tens of thousands of suppliers.
- The LRA. I'm with Wronging Rights on this one; it passes the Love Actually Test and isn't likely to do harm. Contrary to what many Ugandans and others in the region think, the commitment of 100 Special Forces troops in an advisory capacity to track down a really bad guy is not a front for getting Uganda's oil. (Those contracts are almost certainly already for sale to the highest bidder.) Despite divisions within the LRA ranks, this is one of the few instances in which taking out the leader of a movement will largely destroy the organization. It poses a minimal risk to US forces and has the potential to do a lot of good. That said, I think it will still be very difficult to get Joseph Kony, and we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that elite American troops will ultimately be able to get him. Kony has a number of tactical advantages and he knows the terrain incredibly well. Satellite surveillance, drones, and the like won't work as he often tends to hang out in areas with triple-canopy tree coverage. It won't be easy, but I don't think this will hurt.
- Kenya/Somalia. It was bound to happen sooner or later, what with the increasingly intolerable massive security threat just over the border. But Kenya's decision to invade in support of Somalia's TFG was somewhat surprising, to put it mildly. But it makes sense; somebody had to take decisive action in Somalia, and with the boots-on-the-ground support they're getting from Ethiopia and the US/French air support (nobody really knows), it might succeed in wiping out a good bit of al Shabaab. That won't lead to a functioning state in Somalia, but it might open the door to thinking about alternative forms of governance for the territory. Plus, a war might have seemed like a useful way to distract Kenyan voters from the government and opposition's ICC problem. However, if terrorist attacks keep happening in Nairobi, there's no telling how Kenyans will react at the ballot box next year. For now, most are scared and hoping for peace.