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DRC one year later: rapes continue; perpetrators differ

James Martone's picture

Doctor Bienvenu Kayumba in Goma. Photo Credit: James Martone
It has been a year this week since my reporting trip to eastern Congo for WDR, so I called Doctor Bienvenu Kayumba in Goma to find out what was new.

He  was one of the physicians I’d met in North Kivu last year at Heal Africa- a hospital and health center where raped women can come for free treatment of their physical and psychological wounds.  

 “Frankly, it is increasing, not diminishing,” said Doctor Kayumba of the raping in Goma and surrounding areas. He was speaking on his cell phone after a long day at Heal Africa.

“But it is no longer the armed groups doing the raping, it is unarmed civilians.”
He said the latest rape case at Heal Africa was a ten year old girl who whispered to him she’d been raped by someone “unknown,” and was treated for third degree genital wounds.

Smart Lesson: Combatting the Resource Curse in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries


  

Control over natural resources often plays an important role in armed conflicts, either because warring factions fight over access to natural resources or because natural resources help finance one or several of the factions. Recent examples include the several wars fought, in part, over access to oil in the Middle East and wars fueled by “blood diamonds” in West Africa. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) facilitates public control over the wealth generated by these natural resources and limits corruption.

The EITI, launched in 2002 and endorsed by the World Bank in 2003, has provided tangible governance improvements in resource-rich conflict-affected countries. It works with multiple stakeholders—a coalition of governments, companies, investors, international organizations, and civil society organizations — to manage a process of publication and verification of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas, and mining.

South Sudan: the dangers within

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

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    Rational exuberance? Photo: RRS

With a large majority in favor of independence in South Sudan, according to preliminary results from the independent poll body in Juba, the threat of conflict with the North is receding. The main challenges the country faces going forward are likely to come from within.

As we have seen, from Timor-Leste to Liberia, it takes time, strong national leadership and appropriate international support to escape the kind of violent conflict South Sudan has known for more than half of the past 60 years.

We also know there are many false dawns. Fragile states are wracked by repeated cycles of violence that come in a dizzying array of forms—with civil war often coexisting with criminal or gang-related violence.

How to stop these cycles of violent conflict is the focus of the 2011 WDR. Its central thesis is that resilient institutions are the best available antidote to the economic, political and security stress factors that overwhelm fragile states and trap them in repetitive violence.

But before you can start bolstering institutions with any likelihood of success, you need to win public confidence. In most places this means instilling a sense that things will change for the better.

That’s hard when hopes have been dashed many times over. Finding the right narrative and taking actions that will persuade people to suspend their disbelief is a huge challenge for leaders trying to prevent further violence.

A new beginning for Southern Sudan?

Ian Bannon's picture

 

    A new beginning? Photo: Joseph Kiheri

This weekend we saw people lining up all across southern Sudan to vote in a referendum on whether they should remain part of Sudan or become Africa's newest nation. This vote was a key provision of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which created a framework for a new start after decades of conflict.

Whatever the outcome, the challenges in Southern Sudan are daunting. Some 51 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and more than half are under the age of eighteen. Only 27 percent of the adult population is literate. You can read more about Southern Sudan’s indicators here.

But as this month’s World Bank web story points out, there have been major accomplishments on the ground since the Bank reengaged in the country. There are now roads, schools, and health facilities where there were none before. Security has improved and government capacity has been built up. Yet much more needs to be done.

As we await the referendum results, the World Bank and other partners are committed to lending their support. We need to sustain progress so far and deepen cooperation in support of Southern Sudan’s own emerging development strategy—one which must aim for a future that is less dependent on oil, as our recent Country Economic Memorandum stressed.

This presents an opportunity to try out new ideas in an environment which is open to fresh thinking and new ways of doing business. The Bank's policies on assistance for fragile and conflict-affected states now provide greater room to innovate than in the past.

Whither Côte d’Ivoire?

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

    Don't assume anything.   Photo source FP.

The stand-off between Messrs Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara in Côte D’Ivoire highlights the new role of regional organizations in dealing with the challenges of irresponsible leadership in their own backyards.

In microeconomics we assume perfect information in the same way we often assume responsible leadership in fragile states. While the former is a convenient analytical artifice, the latter can be downright misleading.  

 

It is important to recognize this because our prescriptions for building public confidence and conflict-resistant institutions are predicated on a view of national leadership that may be the exception rather than the rule.

 

Leaders in violence-prone places are not necessarily thinking of some higher good when they choose a particular course of action. Many see their responsibility in narrow terms; an obligation that goes no further than serving their own self-interest and looking out for their friends.

 

These kinds of behaviors are hard to influence where politics is played as a zero sum game. To change them, the United Nations, the World Bank, and some bilateral agencies have supported programs to foster cooperative leadership and build coalitions. This takes a long time to show results and, of course, there’s no guarantee such a soft approach will work in a high stakes environment.   

 

Another way is to spell out the consequences of things turning sour. The diplomatic and development community tried this in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s by underlining the growing gap in social and economic outcomes between Zimbabwe and its neighbors.

 

Overcoming past traumas to build a stable future

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Skulls of Khmer Rouge victims. Photo by Adam Carr, February 2005.

If your child is murdered or your friend is tortured or someone tries to kill you, it is tough to forgive and forget.   Animosities that spring from these kinds of brutality run deep. Yet moving on emotionally and psychologically is an important part of rebuilding society after the trauma of conflict and violence.

 Different societies deal with these things in different ways. This week Hilary Clinton visited a former prison in Cambodia where thousands were held before being sent to their deaths in the killing fields. She urged the authorities to proceed with trials of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge so that the country can ‘confront its past’.

This followed the decision by Prime Minister Hun Sen that there would be no more prosecutions after the trials of four senior Khmer Rouge leaders already charged.  The prime minister says the country needs to bury the past. Ms. Clinton argues that a country that is unable to confront its past is a country that cannot overcome it.

 

The same day, there was another story describing how East Timor’s President Jose Ramos Horta plans to free Gastao Salsinha, the former rebel who shot and badly wounded him in 2008. The UN Secretary General, rights groups, and the opposition have reacted to the decision with dismay, saying it will undermine the rule of law.

 

For President Horta, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, it is about mercy and reconciliation. With internal tensions still strong in his impoverished Asian nation, he believes offering clemency is an opportunity to consolidate peace and stability which outweighs arguments for punitive justice.

 

Is there a right approach to this thorniest of post-conflict problems? Research for the WDR finds that over the last three decades almost 40 countries have implemented various measures to redress serious human rights abuses.

 

20 years after conflict: Mauritania

James Martone's picture

It’s almost time to stop work for the day in the village of Fass in southern Mauritania near that country’s border with Senegal.

38-year-old farmer Omar has been picking eggplant and hot-peppers since dawn in the hot sun. He says he makes enough to support his wife and six children, but that he’d hoped to do something different with his high school degree:

“What spoiled it for me is 1989,” he says, referring to the Mauritanian-Senegalese border conflict which sent tens of thousands of black Mauritanians like Omar fleeing into neighboring Senegal.

Photo: James Martone. Elders in the village of Fass in southern Mauritania say they will never forget the violent events of their country’s 1989-1991 conflict with neighboring Senegal.

Omar says that when he finally came back to Rosso in 1993, the area was destroyed and neither he nor his brothers could find jobs.

“We tried many different things, but we ended up in agriculture.”

 

In April 1989, a dispute between Senegal and Mauritania over grazing rights erupted into violence. In both nations, people thought to be linked to the other side were forced into exile. Violence in ethnically mixed Mauritania led about 70,000 black Mauritanians to flee to Senegal. When the conflict ended in 1991, many of those, like Omar, slowly trickled back.

 

Soulaymanou never left.

 

The black Mauritanian from the southern city of Rosso says he stayed in his hometown during the conflict 20 years ago, despite Arab lynch mobs and police attacks on blacks. He stopped going to high school, bought a gun and holed himself up with his family in their small house for three months.

 

Bob Geldof and the food riots in Mozambique

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Last Friday, Bob Geldof’s face gazed pensively from the front page of the FT’s business section over a story that he was seeking to raise a billion dollars for a venture capital fund for Africa.

The front page of the main paper, meanwhile, told of violence on the streets of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, where more than 20 people died in food riots after the price of bread went up by 25 percent.

Same day, same paper, same continent. But for me, the two stories were linked in another way. Let me explain.

Geldof’s transition from advocate for aid to fund manager, seeking to capitalize on resurgent economic growth, is not as surprising as it may sound.

Africa can certainly use more investment in agri-business, financial services and telecommunications that will be the focus of the new fund.

And these investments, if capably managed, should contribute to creating economic growth and opportunity.

But the scenes of violence in Maputo show that economic growth is not enough to ensure a peaceful future in a society that has known or is prone to violence. Rather, they indicate that even the most enduring transitions away from conflict and fragility can experience a violent tipping point.

Media freedom and violence prevention

Nicholas van Praag's picture
© Brooks Kraft/Sygma/Corbis
  
True believers in press freedom. 
© Brooks Kraft/Sygma/Corbis

How often it’s happened. Standing at the podium, almost finished with the press conference, when the question which I would love to ignore is shouted out from the gaggle of reporters.  As a communications professional, I wholeheartedly believe in press freedoms, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that there were times I wanted to muzzle an aggressive journalist with his "gotcha" question, or the reporter who quotes me out of context or misrepresents an issue I hold dear.   

In those moments, I can see how a politician or government official, with the ability to clamp-down on the media, might succumb to the urge.  The reality is that freedom of the press is a messy business.  But like Winston Churchill once said of democracy, it's the worst form of government, except for all those other forms.

The current debate over press freedom in South Africa, with the government considering legislation that would allow the state to keep secret any information, if it decided that disclosure would harm the “national interest”, has drawn fresh attention to the role of the media as societal watchdog.

Some people question whether media freedoms are appropriate or even relevant in fragile states where, they argue, the delicate political and social balance may be upset if people are allowed to write or broadcast exactly what they think about their government or their fellow citizens.

UPDATE: The rape of Congo

James Martone's picture

This week President Obama signed the Wall Street reform bill, which contains a key provision against conflict minerals from Congo. This guest post originally appeared on March 29, 2010.

War is officially over in eastern Congo, but the violence continues.  23 year old Amani can tell you.  She was raped last year in the forests of North-Kivu by men she refers to as “rebels,” and has since given birth to a baby girl.  Then there’s 15 year old Neema who was held and repeatedly raped for a week last July outside Goma by an “older man” after being lured to his house by a classmate.  She too will give birth soon. “I want him to be imprisoned for life,” said Neema of her rapist.  “He destroyed my life and I don’t study anymore.”

     Cameraman Justin Purefoy filming displaced Congolese in Eastern Congo. Pictures © James Martone.

I met Amani and Neema at the Heal Africa Hospital and other sites in Eastern Congo as part of a WDR 2011 research mission in February.  The team was looking into the causes and consequences of this conflict that has been going on for over 15 years and killed an estimated 3.5 million people.  I was there with cameraman Justin Purefoy to film people affected by the conflict and document their stories.  The effect of massive sexual violence and overall lack of security were two of the issues we were exploring on video. The films and interviews will be published as part of the Bank’s upcoming 2011 World Development Report.

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