Radioactive Backslide

Radioactive Backslide

The Dodd-Frank Act is our victory!
The Dodd-Frank Act is our victory!
Did you get that new iPhone? How’s your Sony stock doing? Did you realize you might have just killed a few kids in The Congo?

The rapid deterioration in the peace of the eastern Congo is because western powers – especially the United States – are withdrawing their involvement and letting giant digital multinationals once again fund The Congo War.

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How To Start a War

How To Start a War

congo_peacekeepersCourts may have socked him, Congress may have dumped him, but the Trump administration is hardly down and out. This week it signaled its intention to blow up the fragile peace in one of the most beautiful and precious areas of the world, the eastern Congo.

Friday, the UN’s peacekeeping mandate in The Congo expires, and the Trump administration has signaled it has no intention of continuing it at is.

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Better Not Pout!

Better Not Pout!

betterwatchoutAfrica’s a bit unsettled. Europe’s more unsettled than ever.

The world is connected by a million strings. They’re best seen from afar, because up close they’re indistinguishable from the humdrum of everyday life. The ones I watch are in Africa:

Growing protests turn really violent in the DR-Congo. The Gambian president who conceded defeat in an election now says only God can tell him to step down. The Ugandan military is flexing its arms like it did under Amin.

What’s happening and is it coming to America?

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A Horrible Choice

A Horrible Choice

congotravailsThroughout most of the continent today, Africans confront a horrible choice: Peace & Prosperity… or Freedom & Democracy. Seventeen demonstrators dead overnight in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, is today’s best example.

Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC are located in the Lake Victoria area, and each one sits on lots of precious natural materials like rare earths and gold amounting to enormous wealth. But only Rwanda has fully exploited this. Why?

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The Largest Panda of All

The Largest Panda of All

wwfvsbakaPeople with deep faith in the good work that they do sometimes develop blinders that become destructive. This may be happening today with the world’s largest and most revered wildlife organization.

We all know – or think we do – the World Wildlife Fund. In fact it’s actual name isn’t the World Wildlife Fund, but the “World Fund for Nature.” The name morphed over time and when the organization adopted its URL,

It’is the largest wildlife conservation organization in the world, with a balance sheet of just under a half billion dollars. Remarkably its liquid assets of $337 million are derived by less than 10% through fund raising, reflecting an “organization” that is mostly an endowment and grant sponge.

Too big too fail comes to mind.

WWF has enormous power throughout the world. In the Cameroon it implemented without much oversight what looked like good ecological programs mostly to protect the forests of the Congo Basin, but with little oversight by the Cameroon government the WWF programs may in fact be destroying the indigenous pygmies, the Baka people who live there.

In February a competing NGO, Survival International, filed a formal complaint against WWF with the OECD in Paris. According to the Guardian newspaper, “The complaint contains eye-witness accounts of alleged brutality, video testimonies, and reports from the Cameroonian press accusing the eco guards of violent actions against the pygmy groups.”

I was skeptical. Accusation is not evidence. But the evidence is now coming in, and it’s damning.

WWF’s strategy to protect the Congo Basin forests is deeply mired in partnerships with commercial enterprises like logging companies. At first this doesn’t seem so unusual: private/public partnerships is the tagline for much progressive public policy today.

The idea, of course, is that good public advocates will curtail the otherwise ungoverned exploitation of commercial interest, and that if well done, sustainable commerce can be achieved.

In logging, for example, historical partnerships between logging companies and government and private conservation entities have actually created long-term renewable forests in the U.S.

But in pursuing its private/public partnership in the Cameroon WWF embraced a French logging company, Rougier that had a long and troubled history with indigenous forest peoples. WWF had little choice who to partner with as it was the Cameroon government’s choice.

But there are now credible reports that Rougier has displaced Baka pygmies – who have claimed the forest as their home for millennia – without compensation and in violation of its own agreement with the Cameroon government.

There are even reports that many Baka have been tortured, and further claims that WWF trained anti-poaching units have been involved.

WWF portrays it otherwise insisting the issue is one of poaching, not displacement. Too many videos and eye-witness accounts have proved WWF’s defense is empty of reality.

Moreover, WWF has done everything to keep this out of the English media.

When pressed by a Belgian advocacy group for Cameroon, WWF responded (in French) that its partnership was sound and ethical, that Rougier was acting in accordance with ecological agreements, and that the logging was mostly taking place in an area soon to be flooded by a dam.

WWF aggressively defended its partnership with Rougier until April, 2015.

March and April, 2015, was when Stephen Cory, Survival International’s Director, demanded documents from WWF-International’s director, Marco Lambertini, regarding the accusations.

Shortly thereafter WWF stopped issuing press reports or field science monographs in English from the area. WWF assigned the Head of its “Issues Management” department, Phil Dickie, to respond. Dickie took several months, finally sending an email to Survival that read in part:

“Apologies for the delays… This is a personal note…. I would prefer to operate on the basis that our organisations both have the interests of the Baka and other indigenous people at heart….If you want to explore the possibilities, let me know.”
12 May 2015 15:37

It strikes me that WWF is in deep do-do, holding hands with a French logging company whose behavior is probably criminal. Like the leaders of our own Republican Party, WWF may have lost control but finds itself unable to extract itself into any original moral position nor to unentangle itself from its own perhaps unintentional involvement in displacing indigenous people.

It’s the disease of the Too Big, Too Powerful. In my view organizations and institutions this large can only function in a moral way when they are accountable to the people who support them and who they serve.

10% fund raising doesn’t reach that level.

All’s Well That Ends

All’s Well That Ends

happyfromgomaHere’s something profoundly light and happy. Contradiction? Try it out for your Friday. This is what happens when a generation of war ends.

With all the turmoil going on today in the Mideast to Iraq and Ukraine, it may be hard to fast forward your interest to when it’s all over. But I think that’s what’s happening today in The Congo.

Take a listen.

The brains behind this and many other similar good feeling videos is a diminuitive if shy Congolese, Kelvin Batumike. With help from UN agencies and the Congolese diaspora, he persists in the belief the eastern Congo is becoming peaceful.

I think Batumike is right. Peace is coming, although slowly. Less than a hundred miles north of Goma, still a part of the giant Kivu province, warlords still effect daily lives, although they do seem to be fading further into the jungle and becoming weaker.

A little bit further north towards the troubled Sudan, warlords are still fully in control. Yesterday they announced the execution of three priests who refused to convert to Islam.

The horrible conflict in central east African which includes The Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, western Uganda and little parts of both The Sudan and South Sudan, is incredibly complex. Nearly a century of horrible Belgium rule and exploitation ended when extremely rich rare earth resources were discovered here.

The end of the colonial era, which I believe came far too early and prematurely, turned over all its unfinished business to the greed, terror and rightist ideologies of The Cold War.

Strong Congolese ethnic groups pitted against one another in colonial times were let loose with new found wealth that was quickly transformed into weapons.

When the Cold War ended this part of Africa was in such a mess that the newly empowered West and the newly subdued East just walked away from it. One of the typical results was the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

A century of exploitation included the following gifts to the developed world: the (tires on your) automobile, the cell phone, the xBox and personal computers. None of these items would exist without the resources first found then exploited from this troubled region.

Do you feel guilty? You should.

The half century of serious fighting in the eastern Congo began with the assassination of its first democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, on January 17, 1961. Even today the complex details of the 1960 coup against Lumumba by Moshe Tsombe and the terrible despot Sesi-Seko Mobutu, who subsequently ruled The Congo for almost 40 years, remain uncertain.

But the apology ultimately given and the reparations ultimately paid by the Belgian government to The Congo admitted that the coup, and the assassination, were not only planned but actually carried out by the secret services of Belgium and the United States.

The U.S. has never joined Belgium in the admission, but neither has it denied it.

That likely horrific act by America and Belgium was because Lumumba was an avowed socialist with policies of nationalization which attracted the support of the electorate. Of all the elections that have followed in Africa since 1960, this one was probably the freest, fairest and most democratic.

But 1960 was frozen in the Cold War. The world was seen in simple contrasts, then. Socialist was communist was the Soviet Union.

If only … There are so many “if onlys” in Africa. As one of my favorite clients says, “All’s well that ends.”

Plant the Corn

Plant the Corn

what now my childDon’t turn away from the DRC-Congo just because NPR says peace is imminent. There’s much more to the story.

I, myself, predicted a type of peace would come to the DRC-Congo just about a month ago. And this morning on NPR’s Morning Edition, former Senator Russ Feingold in his capacity as Obama’s special envoy to the region, said fighting was ending.

Good. We’re all glad, and the story behind why this decades-old fighting might, in fact, be ending is an extraordinary one that goes all the way back to when Belgium and the US colluded to disrupt the first democratically elected government of the newly independent Congo in 1961. I called that “Where Terror Was Born.”

The many fascinating chapters of barbarism and war that have followed have included X-Boxes and your cell phone.

To understand the current “peace” it would be helpful to understand all the foregoing but that’s challenging. Let me try to simplify it not too much.

The decades-long fighting in the eastern Kivu province of the DRC-Congo is very much unlike anything in the rest of Africa. The rest of Africa’s wars (excluding those that involved South Africa) are mostly guerila-based, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram jungle and mountain fighters, characterized by suicide bombings and village terrorism.

Traditional military action is pretty new for modern Africa. Obama started it when he came to the presidency and it became apparent to all the world when Kenya invaded Somalia in October, 2011.

Kenya, armed anew by America, trained by America, advised by America, we even saw American soldiers, was America’s proxy. And they “did well.” The Kenyan Army effectively disrupted and ultimately dislodged al-Shabaab from Somalia.

But prior to that 2011 action, organized military action of the sort undertaken by the OAU and UN in such places as Somalia, Rwanda, Angola and so forth, either suffered from a total lack of training (the soliders just didn’t know how to fight, didn’t want to, or just didn’t), or there was no good equipment.

That changed with Kenya’s action in Somalia and it radically continued this year when the UN Security Council approved an aggressive military unit to enter the DRC-Congo, the first ever for the UN in Africa.

And that unit was immediately joined by crack and very well trained and equipped South African troops.

And that’s what defeated the main military group in Kivu, the M23. On Monday they announced a cease-fire and on Tuesday they surrendered.

That’s good, as Feingold said. But it’s hardly the end of the story.

There are many rebel groups in the area, although the dominant one was definitely M23, and I don’t mean to minimize the good news this is. But keep in mind that M23’s leaders have all escaped.

The respectable Think Africa Press said today that M23’s “senior command has dispersed to Uganda and Rwanda,” while many of the expert soldiers of M23 have “gone into hiding, whether fleeing out of the DRC or dispersing into the Virunga forests.”

NPR’s foolish question about accountability, whether the M23 leaders will be tried for crimes against humanity, begs the question whether they will be first captured.

And even if they are, the OAU has already ordered all member states to cease cooperating with the ICC in The Hague, and Kenya’s two leaders on trial there have both been given extraordinary passes from attending their own proceedings: The ICC is falling apart and Africa is instrumental in bringing Humpty Dumpty’s walls down.

Rwanda is furious. Rwanda is ruled by a minority ethnic Tutsi dictator who came to power after the genocide that tried to wipe out his people by the opposing Hutu majority in 1993/94. M23 was formed by Tutsis fleeing Rwanda at that time.

So Rwanda has been supporting the rebellion in The Congo led by M23 for some time. It has facilitated not only an increased clamp on its own oppressed Hutu minority, but an extremely profitable rare earth mining industry overseen by M23 commanders in Kivu.

Here’s what will determine the next stage:

If the UN reaffirms its unusual aggressive mission, peace will be maintained. That itself is so unusual for this area that I wonder what exactly will then happen. Consider that there have been three generations of Congolese in Kivu who have known nothing but warlords.

Peace means fewer people will be killed. That means more people need to eat, have jobs, become somehow productive in a society that has not existed for 53 years.

And that’s where current global and western society fails so miserably. Once the field is cleared of tanks, no one plants the corn.

We Need Shrinks not Generals

We Need Shrinks not Generals

CongoMarchUnder the noise of Snowden, dysfunction of Congress, frantic media and lackluster personality of Obama, the War Against Terrorism is being massively ratcheted up in Africa.

The French Foreign Legion was dispatched last week to the remote deserts of Mali, to support a freely elected government that is being newly challenged by rebel groups in its most outlying cities.

Crack South African troops added to increased United Nations peacekeeping forces and ruthless Congolese government troops newly armed by the west, have been crushing the last of the known rebel groups in the eastern Congo, an area of conflict for nearly a half century.

How’s it going?

Hard. The unspoken but terribly obvious Hollande/Obama alliance to make Africa the last great military battleground against organized terrorism began five years ago in Somalia. American advisers were everywhere in northern Kenya and the port of Mombasa, and French warships were just off the coast of Somalia.

Drones were added and the war begun. Kenya was enlisted as the visible front army and Somalia was “liberated.” Its al-Qaeda affiliates were scattered and what was left of anything organized raced through Uganda into the center of the continent.

The world watched 90 U.S. soldiers chase them across the Uganda.

But Hollande and Obama miscalculated the arsenal of weapons that liberated Libya would make available, and scattered groups in Mali benefited enormously. France’s end-game mission to America’s chasing of the rebels into the center of the continent was to crush them in the Central African Republic (CAR).

But instead, it had to focus on Mali, far northwest of the CAR. So today the CAR is essentially anarchistic. A report published this morning by Amnesty International describes the CAR in the most horrific, barbaric terms. Every civilized person seems to have abandoned the country, making it ripe for organized terrorist control.

Hardly two years ago the focus of visible battles between the west and its proxies, and al-Qaeda and its proxies was in Somalia. Only a few months ago it reemerged in Mali where it persists. And the riffraff, disparate, heavily armed leftovers of a dozen so-called al-Qaeda affiliates or older rebel groups (like the LRA) are now duking it out like barbarians in the CAR.

You cannot eliminate terrorism, Mr. & Monsieur President.

You cannot eliminate unless you had global gun control the likes of which evades my most fanciful dreams. Where there are weapons and the materials for making them, there will be terrorism.

The question is, Are We Safer Now?

Before I give you my opinion, don’t you think it’s important to also ask, Is Africa Safer Now? What right does the west presume in order to use Africa as the backforty into which the wolves are chased and kept at bay?

If the world ever runs out of weapons, we’ll be forced to deal with conflicting ideologies, as well as crazy terrorists, in ways we should develop, now.

Modern force is so omnipresent, as easily mastered by an internet keyboard, that it can’t possibly end conflict, today. It will only interrupt or delay it.

Consider this, first. The conflict in the DRC’s Kivu Province is a half century old. It’s based largely on the same ethnic divisions that caused the Rwandan genocide. Those divisions are festering. The calm in Rwanda is the calm of a benevolent strongman. Once his biceps snap, all hell is going to break loose.

Consider this, second. Organized terrorism is fanatical. Unlike ethnic conflict, terrorism may have no other explanation except the obsession to rule and control.

Both turn men into beasts eager to die – to kill themselves – for reasons they don’t wholly understand. Hypnotic or simply psychotic.

You can’t get them all. We don’t need any more generals. We need shrinks.

Terese & Goliath

Terese & Goliath

The widely publicized elephant poaching is mostly gross exaggeration when compared to the corporate poaching that nearly extirpated them in the 1980s but nonetheless a terrifying example of how mens’ wars exploit the natural world.

I’ve written before how the current elephant poaching is being sensationalized by the media as something much larger than it really is. Elephant populations in almost every part of Africa continue to increase, even though poaching is also increasing.

This dynamic is quite different than in the 1980s. And the reason is simply that the scale of poaching then was exponential compared to now.

The near extirpation of the species then led to the world-wide CITES treaty which was instrumental in stopping, and reversing, the poaching.

Today’s poaching is different, but no less terrifying: Until recently, anyway, it was confined to individual bands of men – not corporately organized mobile slaughter houses. It was motivated by individuals’ survival, not market driven or as an OPEC hedge.

One or two tusks were hauled to local markets, not tons lifted by helicopters to Yemen. And the poachers are generally individuals who pocket the loot and disappear, not by organizations that return again and again to better their last bottom line.

But the increase in poaching – however slight compared to the 1980s – has been enough to stimulate the black market. And small-band, individual crime that characterizes the majority of elephant poaching today is transforming into something much worse in certain areas.

I only hope the telling of this story will not fuel the hype. Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times first reported the situation last September. Unfortunately the wider media took the sensitive report and exaggerated it, presuming what was happening in the jungles of The Congo was the same that was happening in Tanzania’s national parks.

It is the lazy inability by buzz-word, snapshot media to separate the two phenomenon that so disturbs me. And I continue to presume that the former situation described so well by Gettleman does not represent a significantly new threat to the species. And certainly the one-off poaching by ad hoc bans of survivalists doesn’t, either.

Nevertheless, a report we received this weekend from the famous primate researcher, Terese Hart from the depths of The Congo, suggests what Gettleman reported in September is increasing and spreading.

Hart describes with the courage of an MGM lion and in near legalistic detail how a convicted war criminal escaped poor detention and has organized a serious elephant poaching band in the depths of The Congo’s jungle where she works.

Everyone should read her blow-by-blow account: Click here.

The story illustrates the unsung courage of many local Africans wholly dedicated to conservation, of the potential effectiveness of The Congo government’s military (a story in itself), and how the wanton neglect of the developed world dumped weaponry into the hands of thugs.

Hart is a renowned researcher. She’s become now nothing less than a crusader, and many of us worry for her safety.

The sad fact of Hart’s story is that nothing is going to change unless major powers like the United States take ownership of their wanton neglect and aggressively begin cleaning up the loose weaponry of the world.

Simultaneously with powers like China aggressively stopping the trade in illegal ivory.

And until that action formula reaches The Congo, elephant may not be in as much danger as Terese Hart.

No More Grains of Rice

No More Grains of Rice

Susan Rice’s performance on the Sunday Talk Shows incorrectly explaining the Benghazi attacks is a perfect example of how she has historically allowed political considerations to trump more important foreign policy or human rights considerations in Africa.

She’s been acting like this for years. She seems incapable of intricate analysis and quiet diplomacy. She’s no engineer of foreign policy. She’s a cheerleader. Africans don’t like it. I don’t like it. Americans should not make her the Secretary of State.

Her list of failures in Africa is impressive: Blackhawk Down followed by the Rwandan genocide followed by the East African embassy bombings followed by the escalating instability of Darfur followed by the poorly created South Sudan and most recently, the mishandling of the growing violence in Kivu and Goma.

There are more, but these are the main ones.

Contrary to the Huffington Post that I usually love, there were plenty of warnings that the Kenyan embassy was going to be attacked in 1998.

An Egyptian agent, or double agent initially set up by the FBI gave warnings of the attack on East African embassies about nine months before it happened. The details were published long ago by the New York Times.

After years of further investigations, Frontline organized all the evidence in a way that was resounding proof that plenty of warning had been given, warning that had been ignored. At the time, Susan Rice was advising President Clinton on African affairs and had to have been involved in the decision (or lack of decision) to do something about the intelligence.

Today in Nairobi the “August 7 Memorial Park” stands as America’s remembrance of the bombing and in particular remembrance of the 238 Kenyans who were killed. I’ve visited the memorial often and it includes a short movie that also describes a workman who came into the embassy hours before the bombing and tried to warn everyone to leave, but who was ignored.

The memorial has had a website for years: The URL is confirmed by Google. But the website no longer works… for some reason.

I was in Nairobi and heard the bomb go off. It is a day I will never forget, and I will never forget what I’ve learned about it, even if websites die.

But worse than the 1998 bombing was the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The U.S. and France are specifically responsible for having allowed the genocide to happen by their actions blocking the Security Council from sending in more peace-keeping troops as desperately requested by the Canadian General at the time.

France refused to increase peace-keeping because of a complex historical feud with Belgium and France’s blind support of the Hutu who at the time were plotting the genocide but had been seriously repressed by the existing Rwandan regime.

Clinton backed France because of his being burned by BlackHawk Down. It was a cowardly response, and one for which he has since apologized.

There is a wealth of literature on this. The two best are the movie “Hotel Rwanda“ and the book, “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families.”

According to a former President of GenocideWatch, Dr. Gregory Stanton of Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars:

“The U.S. government was forewarned of the impending genocide. Communications were sent by cable, e-mail, and secure telephone… [But] Policy makers in Washington, D.C., especially Anthony Lake, Dick Clarke and Susan Rice at the National Security Council… did not want the U.S. to get involved in another African “civil war.”

The decision to “not get involved” hooked America into a mind-boggling expensive refugee and human rights initiative, followed by billions for Rwanda aid that continues today. But beyond the expense, we’re talking of at least a million lives lost.

The guilt of supporting Rwanda is something Susan Rice knows deeply and is deeply entrenched in. As the DRC Congo/Goma crisis deepened this fall, she specifically in her capacity as UN ambassador engineered multiple softenings of European led initiatives to impose sanctions on Rwanda to restrain its wanton support of the turbulence there.

A few weeks ago, America began reversing this overly cautious policy. It was terribly wrong in the beginning and has certainly led to more violence than was necessary.

Perhaps the best example of Rice’s inability to perform more than a political role was her performance in The Sudan, including Darfur and the creation of South Sudan.

The secession of South Sudan from the greater Sudan is overall a diplomatic victory for the world and most certainly a good move for the citizens there. It took more than 20 years and involved a serious civil war that the U.S. was deeply involved in.

But the creation of the new state was poorly done. Two years after independence, South Sudan is still mired in military difficulties with the north in a modern way, and with several ethnic groups in ways reminiscent of William of Orange. The untold oil wealth is not being mined because of this instability and a refugee problem within the country has grown severe.

Rice must shoulder much of the blame. She consistently created PR moments, sound bites and veneers of western institutions neglecting the much more difficult and intricate process of creating social institutions.

At a critical juncture in the negotiations that were leading to the two-country solution in The Sudan, Rice actually organized a rally of blurry-eye Juba citizens hurriedly rounded up for something more akin to an American political rally.

As reported by Matthew Russell Lee of InterCity Press who was traveling with Rice at the time:

“‘Are you ready to protect your country?’ [Rice shouted to the small crowd.]
‘Are you ready for independence?’
Yes! … Another diplomat … would later call it a “political rally” and deem Susan Rice’s organization of the Juba leg as inappropriate.”

Rice has never displayed the insight or vision of a Hillary Clinton. She is schooled in American bureaucracy where she has percolated through the ranks and become one of its best soldiers.

One of Obama’s most serious failings is his inability to freshen up government. Rice like Geithner and others in his close circle, are old boys/girls who have rarely lived on the outside. While you might say the same of Hillary Clinton, it could be that rising to the top as fast as she did insulated Hillary from the strictures of soldiering Rice has not liberated herself from.

I’ve come to believe that Obama chooses people like Rice and Geithner not completely from a lack of his own personal courage, but because he very deeply believes in the American government status quo. He eloquently describes government’s ups and downs, but he sees overall America as on the right path.

I’m more radical. I’d like a visionary who shakes up government and doesn’t rely exclusively on old people with old ideas to join him at the helm. Africa has changed so quickly and so radically in my lifetime, I don’t think someone schooled and processed through American bureaucracy for her entire life is how we as Americans should be represented to Africa.

“Susan Rice’s chances of succeeding Clinton as secretary of state look slim,” writes a respected South African analyst.

And he, and I, think that’s just the way it should be.

Goma Solution

Goma Solution

Starve Rwandan and Ugandan dictators of any aid, significantly beef up the UN peace-keepers in Goma, allow the “Arab Spring” to develop and let the chips fall where they may.

That’s my solution for the Goma catastrophe.

It surprised me that Goma has stayed in the news. I’m not sure why, as the current crisis is probably less severe than multiple other ones in the past.

But suddenly there are Congressmen, movie celebrities and evening nightly news casts all talking about the catastrophe of Goma. Yesterday morning NPR featured a story and that was followed by an excellent hour of OnPoint featuring a Goma resident as panelist who writes the blog I have closely followed for several years.

This is so surprising but too overwhelming to explain. Anyway, we’ve got the attention that has been lacking for nearly 20 years.

Goma in particular and the Kivu province in eastern Congo of which it is the only large city has been an ungovernable cauldron of unspeakable violence, bubbling with untold natural resource riches, for more than two decades. The question is – and always has been – how to achieve the peace to release its mind-boggling riches.

While technically a part of the country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), not since the ruthless and crazed dictator Mobutu has the DRC effectively governed, there. The city and the province are controlled alternatively by thugs, crazies on drugs, and ruthless militias all competing for the vast wealth under its soil.

The UN has had a peace-keeping force in Goma almost continuously since the Rwandan genocide. It’s had some success, but as demonstrated last week when a tiny militia of only 1500 rolled into Goma, the UN force is too weak to provide real security.

There are three players in Goma’s world, each with their own story:

Susan Rice is an important component in “what to do with Goma” and it’s not good news for her. I’ve never liked Susan Rice. My feelings probably originate with the fact she was Clinton’s closest adviser on African affairs, and she shares blame for much of what is happening, now.

Clinton could have prevented, at least for a time, the Rwandan genocide of 1994 but he specifically refused to do so. He has since apologized. Rice has been less forthcoming, although she was the person advising him. The presumption is that she concurred with if not crafted the decision.

The genocide and its aftermath resulted in more than a million Rwandan Hutus fleeing into Goma and Kivu. There they stayed, prospered as warlords and gangs that later became known as the Interahamwe soon posing a real threat to the Tutsi in control of the Rwandan government.

American guilt has never been so expensive. The amount of money the U.S. poured into Rwanda is absolutely mind-boggling. The stated mission was to provide security for Rwandans, especially from the Interahamwe, and to create a life style that has proved truly the envy of any African anywhere in east or central Africa.

But all this has happened at extraordinary cost, and there is no strategic need for America to do this, and the result has been to create a western country-oasis in central Africa.

No other country in Africa has fiber optic cable laid to its most remote locales. No other has a satellite “Museum of Photographic Arts.” No other African country offers a completely free 12 years of primary and secondary education to virtually every child.

The quality of medical care in Kigali hospitals rivals South Africa. Every Rwandan family is guaranteed at least one cow. The government intends that every single school child get a free laptop, with 32000 having been distributed before this year.

This is not a typical African country. It is a construct of western guilt. And it has created a monster:

Paul Kagame as president has imprisoned and assassinated every whisper of opposition. To him Goma and Kivu become a threat to him if they grow stable, as they will most certainly be ruled mostly by Hutus and at the very least provide sanctuary and training for his enemies.

From Kagame’s point of view, the only alternative to promulgating instability in Kivu is to give it to him lock, stock and barrel.

Uganda is the thug in the triad. Uganda’s western border is much longer with Kivu than little Rwanda. The Mountains of the Moon separate the two, but they are hardly a buffer to the experienced militia of the area, in fact they provide sanctuary.

Uganda like Rwanda has benefitted from the black-marketeering of rare earths in Kivu, and the current ruthless dictator president, Museveni, is a Tutsi. It’s abhorrent to him that his neighbor be ruled even moderately by a Hutu. And even more abhorrent that he be cut out of such rich black market rewards.

American support of the Museveni regime is even more embarrassing and immoral than its support for the Rwandan regime. I’ve written tomes on the horrible history of American involvement in Uganda’s repressive regime.

It’s ironic that the legitimate governing authority is the least important of the triad. The DRC has become an incredibly corrupt country. The president stacked the last election’s ballot boxes in almost comic ways yet succeeded. But the world recognizes the DRC as the legitimate governing authority, and so anything the world does will have to include it.

The U.S. is adrift in the jungle, still guilt ridden and not acting properly. The worst of American history is repeating itself. We are creating colonial proxies for our incorrectly presumed interests, regardless of the legitimacy of those powers and their history of human rights abuses.

We are propping up Museveni in Uganda and Kagame in Rwanda the same way we propped up the Shah of Iran and the Contras of Nicaragua. Will we never learn?

And with regards to Goma it paints us into an untenable position of broker between dictators. The actual people of Kivu, the students of Goma, the radio stations and attempts at free press, have no faith in America.

It is time to let the chips fall where they may, but our responsibility to redeem our malevolent past means we must first reduce Rwanda and Uganda to a natural state, a state without American blood money.

I don’t doubt that in the 4-5 years this will take that the turbulence in Goma and Kivu will escalate, and that absent the paymaster, Rwanda could teeter on new genocide. We can counter the worst of this by putting all our own chips in the UN basket, by considerably beefing up the UN forces and giving them a more aggressive mandate to maintain peace.

But it’s time to stop trying to master puppets whose strings slip from our hands with our tears. We are so terribly terribly sorry.

So Terribly Terribly Sorry

So Terribly Terribly Sorry

The genie is out of the hell hole, again. Sorry to burden you with another war but Goma fell, today. Rwanda’s imperial strategy worked and a man indicted for Crimes Against Humanity is in control. We’re all so terribly terribly sorry.

Goma is the biggest city (300,000) in the eastern DRC Congo, where the countries of Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC converge. Since colonial times it’s been an important commercial center and crossroads for interior Africa.

And in modern times Goma found itself sitting upon some of the planet’s greatest and most precious treasures: tantalum, uranium, and other unpronounceable and growingly essential rare earth metals. Not to mention such chip-change resources as copper, oil and gas.

Movies have been made, books have been written about Goma. I’ve written unendingly about its importance. If there were peace in the area it would be one of the most important, richest cities on the continent.

As it is, it’s a desperate pauper’s slum for would-be soldiers collecting the world’s discarded weaponry. And there’s a lot of that.

The only reason Goma fell out of the control this time of its appointed government, the DRC Congo, is because neighboring Rwanda and Uganda wanted it to. Especially Rwanda: the country’s paranoid president, Paul Kagame, has become an iron-fisted dictator obsessed that his ethnic Tutsi tribe will never again fall from supreme power.

So the newest unimaginatively named militia, M23, is a remarkably small force (probably less than 1500) Tutsi celebrities. The commander is already a candidate for war crimes in The Hague.

The U.S., Germany, France and just yesterday the most knowledgeable western power, the former colonial master Belgium, have all severely reprimanded Rwanda, withdrawn aid, withdrawn diplomats and even now imposed sanctions. To little avail.

M23 has been nipping away at DRC Congo troops backed by 1500 UN Peace-Keeping soldiers, kilometer by kilometer. Today the prize of Goma fell; it is in the hands of M23.

The age-old ethnic feud between the Hutu and Tutsi is at the crux of the whole problem. For nearly a thousand a years, Tutsi has been the overlords of the much more numerous Hutu, who in medieval times were the farm workers and slaves.

And to a Tutsi overlord that’s quite alright. Because it keeps the peace. It’s the old American southern mentality that the slaves love their masters because the masters provide them with food, lodging and basic security.

They forget about freedom.

Hutu, on the other hand, become enraged, out-of-control predators when given the chance, and on multiple occasions just in my life time have gone on rampages massacring Tutsi, the latest being the now well documented 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

That happened precisely because Bill Clinton refused to increase American support for the pitifully 500-weak peacekeeping force from the U.N. Because he was so embarrassed having lost a dozen or so marines in the fall of Mogadishu, commonly known as Black Hawk Down. He has publicly since apologized for this mistake: And we’ve all been so terribly terribly sorry about what has happened to Somalia since.

Clinton found a willing ally in the French who always supported Hutu, the French who were encumbered by their historical enmity to the Belgians who supported the Tutsi from the earliest times as their own henchmen to keep the troublesome Hutu at bay.

After the genocide was over and the Tutsi with Kagame firmly in control of Rwanda all the great powers of the U.S. and France and even Belgium felt so terribly terribly sorry. They poured millions into the little tiny country of Rwanda. Kagame grew ruthless, jailing his opponents and stifling journalism of any kind. The terribly terribly sorry western powers kept pouring billions and billions into Rwanda: They built McDonalds and call centers and Stella Artois factories.

But Clinton and all the other terribly terribly sorry world leaders forgot about the million Hutu refugees growing mad in Goma and Kivu. So child soldiers were conscripted to machete to death their parents, more rapes occurred than births, drug kings became precious mineral kings. There were more militias with eastern European weapons as big as SAM missiles than teams in the NFL.

Since real trouble broke out in Kivu in 1998, more than 5.8 million people have been slaughtered.

You do realize, of course, that this is more than all the deaths of all America’s wars in my lifetime, the Balkans wars, the current Syrian wars, all the intifadas…

What it approaches is the period of Stalin through the holocaust. It’s a terribly terribly sorry situation.

Principally money from Sony, Intel and Apple that were desperate for the raw earth metals has funded this cesspool of militarism and terrorism. Rwanda was the eager broker, the place to launder the funds. It was always in Kagame’s interest to keep the Hutu in Kivu active.

Meanwhile, Rwanda grew to become one of the cleanest and most modern countries in Africa. And with the most heavily armed and best trained military in virtually all of sub-Saharan Africa north of the great South.

And then tinctures of peace appeared in The Congo in not small part because of the Dodd-Frank bill that restricted Sony, Intel and Apple’s billions. The UN had some success in teaching the Congolese left in Kivu how to grow corn instead of marijuana, and how to bring their buckets of Coltan to a government warehouse rather than into the blackmarket of Rwanda.

Kagame got worried. It was never in his plan that the Hutu would actually become civilized.

So he started funding militias he liked. He started stirring up trouble until he found in that cauldron of opportunity a nice tall Tutsi he could trust. Commander Bosco Ntaganda, dutifully indicted by The Hague for war crimes, was the perfect candidate.

Then, with little resistance from the terribly terribly sorry western powers, he maneuvered Rwanda onto a seat of the Security Council. All was in place. Today, Ntaganda governs Goma.

There is, of course, a historical explanation for this mess, and it rests squarely with Belgium.

The former colonial power’s king was a masterful scam artist. King Leopold wrecked the Congo and raped its treasures from the getgo. In order to accomplish what probably was the greatest colonial scam in history, he created the mega myth known as “the country of the Congo,” which should never have been created in the first place.

Between the eastern sliver of precious earth resources of which Goma is the center, and the principal commercial and the developed regions of the capital, Kinshasa, there is … well nothing but impenetrable jungle. For a 1000 miles. For the distance from New York to Des Moines there is nothing but tangled weeds, swamps, marshes, malaria, heat and pristine jungle.

The geographical imperative makes Kivu and Goma truly more a part of Rwanda or Uganda than a society whose nexus is divided by a thousand miles of impenetrable jungle.

So terribly terribly sorry Belgium formerly apologized to the Congo in 2002.

And today Goma sits as the center of a new … something or other. Succeeded section of the country? Mafia headquarters? Wars-Against-Humanity criminal sanctuary?

Or, new colony of Rwanda.

We’re all so terribly terribly sorry.

Better Science on a Better Horizon

Better Science on a Better Horizon

Two new monkeys discovered in Africa since 2003 suggest the continent is becoming more peaceful and interaction with scientists from the west has become healthier.

First seen in the jungles of The Congo in 2007, the lesula monkey (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) has now been studied enough to announce its discovery as a previously unknown species.

In 2003 in high forests of southern Tanzania, the kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji) was discovered, and the latest discovery before that was the sun-tailed monkey in Gabon in 1984.

Both of the most recent discoveries were in areas in Africa inaccessible until only recently. Ironically, they were not inaccessible five decades ago – quite to the contrary. But with the advent of The Congo wars and decreased western aid after the collapse of the Cold War, much of accessible Africa became inaccessible or too unstable for field science.

I think it significant that before these two most recent discoveries, the sun-tailed in Gabon was in 1984 just before the collapse of the Cold War.

The most recent discoveries provide science with much more than just another listing. The odd behavior of the kipunji and the very unusual forest floor niche occupied by the lesula add surprise to previous understandings of African monkey ecology. DNA analysis, particularly with the kipunji, has aided immensely with the determination of biological divergence with other primates including man.

The lesula was first seen in 2007, subsequently documented, and this month the discovery published by John Hart. John, who along with his wife Terese, are veteran African field scientists. They are best known for their work with okapi and more recently, bonobo. Most of their adult lives have been spent in The Congo, but their published work recently has accelerated.

Where they are, now, in The Congo is not exactly a tourist destination. But the agreement of not just the Kinshasa government but local authorities and militia commanders has allowed the Harts much greater security and access. They have recently been awarded global funds to create a new jungle national park.

This would have been unheard of ten years ago. The Congo is far from pacified, particularly areas just to the south of where the Harts are now working.

But compared to only a decade ago, you might be forgiven for tagging the Harts’ field a honeymoon destination. This because of intensified United Nations (Security Council) involvement in The Congo, proactive diplomacy by world powers, and particularly with regards to The Congo, the exceptional work of the Obama administration embodied in the Dodd-Frank act.

The concerted efforts of global authorities and the proactive involvement of the United States during the last 3-4 years in The Congo and Somalia in particular has brought back hope that these chaotic and violent places may yet regain their legacy as truly an African paradise.

Have we turned a corner in African peace and global sanity?

Ask me November 7.