Monthly Archives: August 2009
In a recent development out of the Great Lakes, Socialites Without Borders Teach Rwandans How to Mingle:
KIGALI, RWANDA—In an effort to provide relief to a people devastated by civil war, genocide, and poverty, members of the humanitarian aid group Socialites Without Borders spent several hours this week teaching destitute Rwandans how to mingle.
Volunteers are hopeful future generations may one day know how to properly lift a champagne flute.
“These poor souls, there’s so much we can do to help to them,” said Tinsley Rothschild, an event planner for the non-profit organization, while surveying the country’s bleak and arid landscape. “Just look around, there’s nothing here: no hors d’oeuvres, no towering ice sculptures, nothing. Nobody should have to live like this.”
“I bet most of these people have never even seen a Bellini, let alone know how to sip one,” Rothschild continued. “Unless we do something fast, these men and women stand no chance of surviving a high-society dinner party.”
Arriving on private jets from their headquarters in Martha’s Vineyard, volunteers from Socialites Without Borders touched down in northern Rwanda early Sunday morning. Following an extravagant luncheon held in their honor, the charitable luminaries were driven by limousine to a nearby refugee camp, where they provided impoverished villagers with emergency lessons in everything from making small talk, to name-dropping, to drastically improving one’s life by marrying a wealthy steel magnate.
Hat-tip to @zvangelder
“The army last week received information about incursions into Burundi by FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebels … escaping from the military pressure resulting from the raids by the Congolese army and blue helmets”
But, wait! Just last week, the New York Times said that demobilized ex-combatants from Burundi were going into the DRC to join the FDLR:
According to United Nations and Burundian military officials, Private Mungu is just one of hundreds of former Burundian rebel soldiers who are blazing an illicit trail across rivers and borders to fight for their brethren here in eastern Congo, worsening an already devastating conflict.
So it seems like there might be some cross-border rebel partying going on in Burundi and the DRC, which could be pretty bad.
The completely ineffective military ramp up in the Kivus that tried to quash the FDLR and really just angered them, didn’t stop them or reduce FDLR capacity but instead spread them out in different directions; some towards Burundi. The disenfranchisement of recently demobilized ex-combatants in Burundi have also pushed opportunistic and excluded ones towards the DRC. And the ‘We’re-Hutu-Rebels’ identity of both the FDLR from the Congo and the FNL from Burundi create a common system of shared values for them to talk about around the camp fire at night.
With a lack of security or effective military, it’s kind of a perfect recipe for a cross-border explosion. That, or new forms of ecotourism in the Kibira Forests of Burundi.
Just last week, the United Nations and Government of Burundi marked the official ending of its Disarmament-Demobilization-Reintegration (DDR) Program with large celebrations of people erratically firing guns into the air. That, and the ceremonial reintegration of 576 – of a total 26,283 – FNL ex-combatants into mainstream poverty, land conflict and political instability. So, all is well and good in the land of Burundi that DDR is done and ex-combatants have given up their guns. Except for that whole post-DDR tumult. According to the International Crisis Group:
The government and local authorities must end the violence and political repression directed at the FNL, including arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention and inhumane treatment, and the government must instruct the state prosecutor’s office to investigate the recent assassinations of FNL members.
The FNL must immediately stop the levying of taxes and forced contributions, the mistreatment of civilians and violence against local officials, as well as interference and violence in the management of land conflicts.
So, it apparently still kind of sucks in post-DDR Burundi. The government continues to oppress and marginalize this faction of ethnic Hutus and this faction continues to operate by forcefully extracting money from civilians and intimidating local communities.
The demobilization of FNL in Burundi is definitely progress, however ICG’s report illustrates to the over-romanticization of DDR among donors. DDR is often fetishized as the post-conflict program. The Crisis Group briefing suggests that DDR might not do much if combatants give away their guns for cash, but rebel violence and government oppression continue. DDR can sadly operate as a facade for true peace-building since guns (momentarily) disappear that must be continuously monitored.
That said, this does mean there is a new tourist slogan for Burundi: land of demobilized combatants still pissed off and government officials who still dislike them finally coming together.
There is nothing better than getting back to blogging on World Humanitarian Day. World Humanitarian Day is a day where people all over the world join together for those who have lost their lives in disaster. It is a day where we solemnly honor the victims of armed conflict and those who have come to their aid. Most importantly, it is a day the UN is celebrating by starting flickr accounts filled with photos of extremely attractive UN staff sporting the latest blue-vest fashion helping the under-served.
For those of you unimpressed by the flickr account, just look towards the origins of World Humanitarian Day:
The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted in its Plenary Session on 11th December 2008, the Swedish sponsored Omnibus Resolution on “Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations”, that carried the historic decision by the world body, to designate the 19th August as World Humanitarian Day.
Making historic decisions, taking hold of the reigns of history, writing toothless policy that designates ceremonial days of commemoration – this is truly what the UN was created to do.
So get out there and celebrate by getting yourself a poster of African hands covered in climbing chalk grabbing each other in honor of the humanitarian cause.