Monthly Archives: January 2009

Mama Africa: Land of Banjoes

Finally, there is a film where you can watch a Bubu draped Senegalese string player outdo a western-trained banjo virtuoso.

Bela Fleck recently traveled through East and West Africa tracking down rhythmic talent in his new film about bringing the banjo back to the mother-continent. He puts together an excellent movie with unbelievable jams and a historical narrative much less naïve than its title, Throw Down Your Heart:

You can now die happily.



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Are Margaritas Served at Undisclosed “Safe” Locations?

Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times reports:

There is a growing fear that General Nkunda’s arrest may end in an unsatisfying way and that Rwanda may not hand him over, partly because he knows too much. On Sunday, the Rwandan military acknowledged for the first time that General Nkunda was not being kept in jail but at an undisclosed “safe” location in Rwanda.

The Congolese are calling for Nkunda’s extradition to the International Criminal Court. Rwandese officials are unsure that is the right way to deal with an international war criminal.

That said, there is a growing fear among Kivutiens that Nkunda will make his way back to the front lines. If so, Nkunda’s biography should be titled “The Audacity of Rwanda. ”

Realistically though, now that Nkunda has become an internationally renowned rebel with ties to Kigali it is unlikely that Rwanda will send him back to the Kivus.  It is more likely than a new leader will emerge among the ranks of the CNDP or that the CNDP will be totally replaced by the Rwandan Army.  In the short term, it would be strategic for Rwanda to use Nkunda as media bate while they rebuild their front in the Eastern DRC. Afterwards,  Nkunda should lay low while basking in his undisclosed safe location, which possibly has a mountainview and a pool.

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Rebel Leader Gets Vacation in Kigali

Major news sources are reporting that Laurent Nkunda is taking an extended vacation. At 22:30 last night, Nkunda was arrested by a joint Congolese-Rwandan force in Bunagana and shipped off to a relaxing future in Kigali.

Congolese child befuddled by Nkunda's arrest, complements of WSJ Rwandan President Kagame is pissed at Nkunda and will frame him as a scapegoat for unrest in the DRC. Taking a radically different path from the past few years, Rwanda will probably try to squelch Congolese chaose now that Nkunda is out of the way.

History is already being rewritten to fit common tropes of African rebellion and violence. The New York Times article calls him a megalomaniac (i.e. every failed African leader) and claims that:

Although he never controlled more than a few small towns in the verdant east, he considered to be Congo’s No. 1 troublemaker.

Apparently sacking the capitals of both North and South Kivu as well as taking control over all resources export lines in the Eastern Congo just isn’t good enough. Nkunda, the New York Times is challenging you to take more than a few small towns.

But, what’s going to happen now that the question, Is Nkunda Out, answered?

No other rebel leaders appear to have the same military sway or savvy that Nkunda did and nobody has that awesome eagle-headed cane that Nkunda waved valiantly prior to massacring Congolese communities. Ntaganda and Kabarebe are weak leaders who are more interested in protecting themselves than leading an efficient and effective proxy army for Rwanda in the Kivus.

But wait, no more need for a proxy army for Rwanda in the Kivus. The real army has stepped in for their crumbling rebel group! Phew, nation-state led armies are so much more effective and efficient that squabbling rebel groups.

Congo, you just keep getting better and better.

(Picture: Congolese child befuddled by Nkunda’s arrest, complements of WSJ)

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In Malawi, They Have Radioclits…

Malawi-born rapper and DJ, Esau Mwamwaya, has a Radioclit.  In late 2008, New York City based Green Owl Records put out Mwamwaya’s new record, Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit are the Very Best. And, this is very true.

Esau Mwamwaya syncopates reggae rhythm, francophonic North African sounds, and British electronica with Chichewa lyrics and spunky Malwawi beats. He first hit the scene big with an amazing remix of MIA’s Paper Planes:

Pitchfork Review, known for their sardonic cruelty, gave Esau Mwamwaya’s recent record a 8.7/10, which is not because their reviewers have never heard an African produced album. His high-energy roller-coaster record would be a great soundtrack for any Saturday night.  In a show of complete awesomeness, his latest disc can be downloaded for free.


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Big Papers, Big Governments

According to an Op-Ed in the Rwandan newspaper the New Times, the incredibly dubious New York Times coverage of the situation in the DRC is being used as a tool of blackmail and revenge.

“The Western governments use them instead as a level for blackmail, a kind of leverage against African nations. See what the two European countries, Sweden and Netherlands recently did. They suspended aid to Rwanda to the tune of 14 million Euros, over mere allegations that the country collaborates with DR Congo rebels. If this is not blackmail, tell me what it is.”


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Fraud and Lists in a Small African Country

17 Rwandans are currently under investigation for alleged embezzlement into the Fund for Support of Genocide Survivors (FARG). Apparently, mismanaging and embezzling from government coordinated reparation funds for genocide survivors in Rwanda isn’t something new. In 2001 meeting with President Paul Kagame, FARG Executive Secretary Karenzi told Kagame:

“The institution has discovered numerous cases of connivance and personal interests in the process and that irregularities have been registered since 2001.”

In this 2007 meeting, Karenzi also explained that:

“A computerized database to verify genuine survivors eligible for the fund is under development and almost complete.”

However, in a country with a national project to erase and ignore ethnic identity forcefully, how do you keep a ‘computerized database’ of ethnically characterized genocide survivors? How do you verify that somebody legitimately belongs in the database or not. Possibly a role for a Czar of Ethnic Differentiation?

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217 is the Magic Number

The strictly confidential United Nations report, “Allegations of seun-peacekeepers1xual exploitation and abuse in the Ituri region of Bunia,” became not so strictly confidential yesterday.  The report describes the very real dilemma of peacekeeping presence in an already unstable landscape of sexual exploitation. The internal investigation of UN blue helmets in the Eastern DRC collected 217 accounts of sexual abuse in the Ituri region and:

From 17 January to 13 February, the following allegations were received by ID/OIOS:
Sexual exploitation and abuse allegations 217
Alleged victims 54
Babies fathered or girls impregnated 10
Peacekeepers alleged to have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse with local girls 75

Fortunately, the report defines sexual abuse widely and inclusively, including situations in which asymmetries in power or differences in education were taken advantage of. However, given that these incidents were self-reported, the majority by the perpetrators, there is definitely no under-reporting or selection bias. 217 might even be overshooting.

The report’s conclusion: sigh.

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