Welcome to Katanga
January 11, 2009 5:35 PM   Subscribe

General Laurent Nkunda is a Tutsi warlord in Katanga who was recently interviewed by the Huffington Post. The BBC believe he is nothing more than your standard African rebel with a long list of atrocities to his name. An opinion supported by the UN and some human rights groups. The War Nerd has come to his defense, however, suggesting that he's just angered the UN by refusing to disarm and allow the Hutu "refugees" from the Rwandan Genocide to terrorize the lands under his control.

Previously on Metafilter.

The lack of information makes it difficult to decide which side I'd rather be cheering on but the concept of government control in any part of the Congo, especially Katanga, is nothing more than a bad joke and any foreign military aid that has ever been sent there was sent with the sole purpose of making sure that the mines stay operational. There is no reason to believe that the newly elected government (A Congolese election has also always been a bit of a joke) will provide any better management of the region.

The general could also be full of shit, though. If he brings the rule of law to the places he occupies, even if it's marshal law, it would be a welcome improvement to the anarchy that he replaces (military feudalism > Congolese Anarchy).
posted by Pseudology (8 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Laurent Kabila, during the civil war about 12 years ago in which he overthrew Mobutu and turned Zaire into the DRC, said that to lead a rebellion in Zaire, all you needed was $10,000 and a satellite phone. In that part of Africa, everyone is so poor that $10,000 is enough to hire a small army; the satellite phone is to call up CEOs to offer them resource extraction contracts in exchange for cash.

The DRC is extremely conflict-prone for many reasons; its the primary case study for "the conflict trap" in Paul Collier's (excellent) book The Botton Billion, which attempts to explain why the poorest countries get stuck in low-growth ruts. Some of the biggest are poverty, the presence of natural resources (most prominently coltan), previous civil wars that left the country with a surplus of weapons and, nowadays, proximity to Rwanda, which is governed by the successful but imperialist seeming President-for-life Paul Kagame.

If [Nkunda] brings the rule of law to the places he occupies, even if it's marshal law, it would be a welcome improvement to the anarchy that he replaces (military feudalism > Congolese Anarchy).

I disagree. In Africa, every successful rebellion increases the chance of additional rebellions further down the road. Congo needs to get through a decade or two without war, some time to maybe benefit from China's famous investments in Africa. That's actually what worries me about this situation; although I've seen no attempts to connect Nkunda to China in the media (on the contrary, the current president, Joseph Kabila, appears to be closer to them), I can see how they'd rather have a dictator than a democratically elected president in charge.
posted by gsteff at 7:49 PM on January 11, 2009

Was reading the IRC's report on the ongoing crisis in the DRC. The death-toll is horrifying - 45,000 people a month. I'd be sympathetic to the argument that any stability at all is better than the ongoing rapine and slaughter and a chaotic situation were even mere survival is a struggle, but gsteff's point is well seen too.
With the involvement of so many neighbours and the filth of the international arms-for-commodities players adding to the complexity, despite the UN mission you get the feeling everyone's thrown up their hands and turned away.
posted by Abiezer at 9:03 PM on January 11, 2009

A word to those just tuning in: the War Nerd's words should be taken with a grain of salt. Like many Exile contributors, he's in the habit of taking controversial stances for the sake of, um, controversy. This often leaves John Dolan the Nerd in the position of making untenable or circuitous arguments, in order to reach a conclusion that bucks the status quo.

Here's a quick rundown of the critique of the HuffPo piece, and East Congo coverage in general:
-Look ma, I'm siding with the bad guy! I'm being irreverent and ironic!
-The War Nerd feels the BBC, and presumably other news outlets, should give greater, and fair, air time to Banyamulenge factions. Fine.
-But the HuffPo article is giving air time to Nkunda. Hm. There has to be something wrong with it....
-Wait! The author is clearly a Belgian neo-imperialist; the "serious war nerd" can tell because of her name. French+Dutch=Belgian!
-[N.b., Per the feeling-lucky result, Georgianne Nienaber's home base is Pequot Lakes, MN. In terms of cultural allegiance, it looks like she favors Lucinda Williams and Rilo Kiley over, say, Soulwax and Front 242.]
-Just to recap: In the middle of accusing on-the-ground reporters of unfair coverage, the War Nerd tries to invalidate the work of a journalist by taking a stab at the ethnic derivation her name. Fails to perform a Google search.
-The UN and aid organizations are a bunch of namby-pamby wusses who just don't get the situation on the ground, even though the War Nerd figured it all out from home. (If only the Exile had somehow invoked the low-hanging fruit that is Bono, as a way of bringing the artice home.)

The Mark Ames school of journalism rests its case.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:21 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's a good review of the academic literature on state-building from the LSE's Crisis States Group - it emphasises the importance of the underlying political settlement on which the state is based (in the case of the DRC, the Sun Accords).

There's also an interesting set of recommendations put forward by the International Crisis Group (you may need to create an irritating account to access them).
posted by YouRebelScum at 3:21 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Katanga? Do you mean Kivu?
posted by ComfySofa at 3:55 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, Nkunda is in Nord-Kivu, not Katanga, which is on the other side of the country, for fuck's sake. Kivu is in the east, next to Rwanda, which is why there are Tutsis there. Katanga is in the south, next to Angola and Zambia; I would be surprised if there were any Tutsis in Katanga. If you're going to make cracks about "a bad joke" in your post, try not to perpetrate one yourself.
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on January 12, 2009

Y’ever notice Bond-type/action villians are always orderly suave bastards nested in civilization trying to take over the world or some such black and white thing?
There’s never this “WTF is going on? Is there even a side I can fight on in this shitstorm?” sort of human tragedy story.

...not that I’m against skiing down mountans with rockets being fired at me you understand.

But wtf is it with shiny rocks that they’ve got to cause all these damned problems?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:20 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

As languagehat and ComfySofa pointed out I clearly have very little knowledge of the region or the issues. Certainly less than I thought I did. I suppose I somehow assumed that Nord-Kivu was a region within Katanga. evidenceofabsence also makes a compelling argument that anything written by the war nerd should be considered bullshit.

I apologize for these errors but I was hoping to learn more by posting this and the links (and corrections) have been helpful.
posted by Pseudology at 4:57 PM on January 12, 2009

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