The Democratic Republic of the Congo is not an obvious candidate to be Africa's turnaround story of the coming decade. This is a country that has been pillaged by outsiders for more than a century, cursed by its extraordinary natural resource base to unparalleled levels of death and destruction. With a seemingly intractable war in the east, one of the worst corruption-fighting records in the world, and some of the highest rates of sexual violence ever recorded, Congo does not, understandably, lend itself well to optimistic prognoses. But sometimes a situation deteriorates so badly that it catalyzes transformative responses. And things can actually change, no matter how entrenched the troubles. That opportunity for real progress is exactly what I found on my recent visit to Congo.
Congo's conflict, the world's deadliest since World War II, is not really a war -- it's a business based on violent extortion. There are numerous armed groups and commercial actors -- Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan -- that have positioned themselves for the spoils of a deliberately lawless, accountability-free, unstable, highly profitable mafia-style economy. Millions of dollars are made monthly in illegal taxation of mining operations, smuggling of minerals, and extortion rackets run by mafia bosses based primarily in Kinshasa, Kigali, and Kampala. The spoils are tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold, minerals that go into laptops, cell phones, MP3 players, and jewelry stores in the West. Armed groups use terrifying tactics such as mass rape and village burning to intimidate civilians into providing cheap labor for this elaborate extortion racket.
Nairobi — A campaign is growing in the United States to end wars and atrocities in eastern Congo by discouraging the export of what organisers describe as "conflict minerals."
The effort is inspired by the movement a few years ago that helped stop murderous conflicts in West Africa by successfully targeting the "blood diamonds" that were financing them.
The Congo initiative is also modelled on the influential US varsity-based campaign to halt mass killings in Darfur as well as on the earlier push against US corporate investment in apartheid South Africa.
Prof Herbert Weiss, a Congo expert at a Washington think tank, noted at a US university forum last week that an increasing number of Americans are at last paying attention to Congo.
The organiser of the conflict-minerals campaign John Prendergast told activists to rally behind proposals in the US Congress to create a global certification system for four valuable metals found in large quantities in Congo.
Monitoring would be put in place to ensure lawful control of these minerals, which are essential for the manufacture of telecommunications devices, Mr Prendergast said.
Early this year, the United Nations sent its favorite dictator-whisperer, Nigerian diplomat Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, to Sudan, hoping to nudge the country's leader and alleged war criminal, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, toward peace. Gambari, a veteran of U.N. missions from Zimbabwe to Myanmar, has developed his knack for counseling autocrats on the job -- by working for one, Sani Abacha, the notorious late strongman president of Nigeria, whom Gambari served as U.N. ambassador from 1990 to 1999.
Anywhere else, Gambari's Abacha connection might be a career breaker. But since joining the United Nations in 1999, Gambari has thrived, managing crises from Angola to Cyprus and raising money for Iraq's reconstruction. According to U.N. staffers, his old-school capabilities as a diplomat, coupled with his Muslim faith and eminent standing in Africa, make him a formidable mediator. The Sudan assignment provides an opportunity to test whether Gambari's experience and easy rapport with unsavory political players can translate into concrete progress on the main challenges of the day: a settlement in Darfur and resolution of the standoff over the South's quest for independence.
The Georgetown basketball team may have won against Duke on Jan. 30 in front of a capacity crowd that included President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, but students from both schools have put aside rivalry to become partners for a common cause -- Darfur refugees.
Through the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program, students from the two universities are raising money for two schools located among the 12 refugee camps in nearby eastern Chad.
“Access to education will give refugee kids the tools they need to move out of the camps and support themselves,” said Carolyn Shanahan (C’12), president of Georgetown STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur). “Many of the children have also expressed a desire to return to Sudan and rebuild the Darfur region. They need education in order to help stabilize their country.”
Sister’s a Father, Too
Nearly 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan. There are now 250,000 refugees from Darfur in eastern Chad. Children account for more than 60 percent of the population of Darfuri refugee camps and face major educational challenges from lack of infrastructure and funding.
Georgetown’s sister school, Aboutalib -- which means father of scholars in Arabic is located in the Goz Amer refugee camp; Duke is raising money for another refugee school.
“Duke and Georgetown are fierce rivals on the court, but they’ve decided to partner off the court to provide a quality education to kids from Darfur who otherwise would have no opportunities,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of Enough.
Enough, a Center for American Progress project to end genocide and crimes against humanity, joins students from Georgetown STAND and the Duke for Darfur Coalition, NBA stars Tracy McGrady and Dikembe Mutombo (I’91) and former Georgetown Law Center Dean Alexander Aleinikoff, in effort to assist the refugees of Darfur. Aleinikoff is the newly appointed United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees.
Georgetown and Duke students Daniel Solomon and Amber Henderson have penned an op-ed about Darfur that highlights the initiative their two schools have undertaken to help fund schools in the Darfur refugee camps. Although major rivals on the court, Duke and Georgetown alumni and students are coming together to raise money for the Darfur Dream Team's Sister Schools Program, which I started with NBA star Tracy McGrady and the UN High Commission for Refugees. The goal of the program is to provide a quality education for every refugee child from Darfur. The initiative which Daniel and Amber from Duke and Georgetown are spearheading is going to help fulfill that goal for thousands of Darfuri kids. Hard to imagine a more noble partnership than that.
According to a recent report published by The New York Times, the turmoil of the Darfur region in Sudan has largely quieted. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, who commands UNAMID -- the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur -- has described the security situation in Darfur as "calm ... but it remains unpredictable."
The conflict in Darfur -- which, according to Amnesty International has left in its wake 300,000 deaths, 250,000 refugees, and 2.6 million internally displaced persons -- has been a flashpoint for violence since it began in February 2003. The conflict originated when two rebel groups -- the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement -- challenged the authority of the Sudanese government in Darfur. The Sudanese government replied with an aggressive counterinsurgency campaign. It used janjaweed -- or horse-riding militias -- to carry out scorched-earth operations against civilian population centers in Darfur.
It quickly became clear that the Sudanese government's efforts were escalating from a heavy counterinsurgency to what many international activists and the United States have labeled genocide, as defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention.
Nyamyumba's comment indicates that the game has recently changed in Darfur. While the classification of the Darfur situation as post-genocidal is arguably apt, that of post-conflict is not. As Sean Brooks of the Save Darfur Coalition recently wrote, "Darfur...remains a human rights and humanitarian crisis of the first order." Though major hostilities between Sudanese government and janjaweed forces and the rebel groups may have de-escalated, the security situation for the people of Darfur remains unstable. Sexual violence is widespread, the Sudanese government restricts crucial access to humanitarian aid organizations in Darfur, the peace process has stalled and the refugee crisis remains acute. Last March, the International Criminal Court indicted current Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but a culture of impunity still underlines the Darfur conflict.
Sudan is again approaching a tipping point in its stability. The Sudanese government has scheduled elections for April 2010, but has not committed to the proper reforms required to ensure the electoral processes' credibility. Sporadic violence and the Sudanese military's significant presence in Darfur could potentially intimidate the electorate, and thereby pollute the polling process and enshrine Bashir's regime with false legitimacy.
Obama to attend Georgetown-Duke basketball game Saturday
January 29, 2010, 10:41 am by Christina Wilkie
President Barack Obama will attend Saturday's men's basketball game between the Georgetown University Hoyas and the Duke University Blue Devils, according to sources involved in the planning of the event.
Saturday's game at the MCI Center will raise money for educational programs in the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan, and other special guests include NBA star Tracy McGrady, Alexander Aleinikoff, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, and John Prendergast, Co-founder of Enough, the project to end genocide and crimes against humanity at the Center for American Progress.
Guest post: College Basketball Powerhouses Come Together for Darfur
By: Sameer Padania, Posted: Jan 28 10
This Saturday US college basketball powerhouses Georgetown and Duke will face off in one of the most anticipated games of the season. While the two teams battle on the court, students and alumni from both universities will put aside their rivalry and come together to support the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program, an initiative which links American middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities with sister schools in 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.
The Darfur Dream Team was conceptualized following NBA star Tracy McGrady’s trip to Darfuri refugee camps in Chad with John Prendergast and Omer Ismail of the Enough Project. Their journey is chronicled in the documentary film 3 Points: Peace, Protection and Punishment. McGrady and Prendergast will attend the upcoming game to unveil a video announcing the Darfur Dream Team’s partnership with Georgetown and Duke. Students and alumni from the two universities have pledged to raise funds to support two Darfuri refugee camp schools.
Posted By Josh Rogin Friday, January 29, 2010 - 11:11 AM
A meeting of top U.S. officials on Sudan last week was supposed to yield big recommendations on how to craft the right balance of incentives and pressures toward the Khartoum regime, which stands accused of fomenting genocide in Darfur and stirring instability in its autonomous southern region. Instead, the meeting seems to have left the Obama administration's Sudan policy in limbo, leading to angst among both Sudan insiders and observers, sources tell The Cable.
The meeting, hosted by the National Security Council and carried out at the deputies level, had been greatly anticipated by Sudan watchers as a watershed moment in their long struggle to turn Darfur into a top-tier policy issue. Expectations were so high that Sudan advocacy groups published an unorthodox ad in the Washington Post before the meeting calling out the deputies -- U.N. ambassador Susan Rice's No. 2 Erica Barks-Ruggles, NSC deputy Tom Donilon, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levy, and Michèle Flournoy, the under secretary of defense for policy -- by name.
Several members of the Sudan advocacy community said they were told that the quarterly deputies meetings would be tracking progress and making recommendations on specific "carrots and sticks" to use as leverage in Khartoum.
And they pointed to the October remarks of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said during the press conference announcing the administration's new Sudan policy: "Assessment of progress and decisions regarding incentives and disincentives will be based on verifiable changes in conditions on the ground. Backsliding by any party will be met with credible pressure in the form of disincentives leveraged by our government and our international partners."
But the deputies, who don't decide policy but make recommendations to their bosses, never got to outlining those incentives and pressures, instead only reviewing the various agencies' "assessments" of the situation in Sudan, one high-level participant confirmed to The Cable.
"This was an opportunity to hear the views of the representative, a number of challenges were outlined, and each of the assessments were in line," the participant said, referring to Sudan envoy J. Scott Gration. "I thought it was a very productive meeting," the participant said, arguing that the assessments were always meant to be the basis of the discussion.
One big problem, though, was that the briefing paper that was to have all the agencies' positions clearly spelled out was not prepared in advance, hurting the deputies' ability to iron out any differences.
According to one person familiar with the meeting, Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon scolded NSC Africa Director Michelle Gavin for a lack of preparation in front of all the other participants. A government source characterized Donilon's comments to Gavin as no different than comments he might make to any staffer at any meeting. Besides, this second source said, it wasn't Gavin's responsibility to prepare the document. The source declined to specify exactly who dropped the ball.
The first source also said that Steinberg, upon learning that the prep materials were absent, moved to leave the meeting in protest but was directed to stay by Donilon, which he did.
Steinberg denied that account. "I didn't move to walk out of the meeting," Steinberg told The Cable. "The meeting ran overtime and I had to leave to attend another meeting on a time-urgent subject that was happening at the same time and which I had previewed to Tom [Donilon]."
ADVISORY: Basketball Rivals Georgetown and Duke Team Up to Raise Money for Darfur Refugee Children
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Though rivals on the basketball court, Georgetown and Duke universities are collaborating off the court to raise money in order to provide quality education to Darfuri refugee children. During the January 30th Georgetown-Duke basketball game at the Verizon Center, students and alumni from the two universities will partner with the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program to fund the construction and rehabilitation of school buildings, and provide teacher training, school supplies and sports equipment in the refugee camps.
NBA star Tracy McGrady, John Prendergast, Co-founder of Enough, the project to end genocide and crimes against humanity at the Center for American Progress,and Alexander Aleinikoff, the newly appointed United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, will attend the game and unveil the new partnership with a special video announcement at half-time. Student groups from Georgetown and Duke, including STAND: the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition; the Student Organization for Legal Issues in the Middle East and North Africa or SOLIMENA; and the Duke Human Rights Coalition, will also attend the game and distribute information about the initiative.
“Duke and Georgetown are fierce rivals on the court, but they’ve decided to partner off the court to provide a quality education to kids from Darfur who otherwise would have no opportunities,” said John Prendergast, Co-founder of the Enough Project.
McGrady was inspired to travel to the Darfuri refugee camps with Prendergast after speaking about the crisis with NBA legend and Georgetown alumnus Dikembe Mutumbo. Upon their return, McGrady and Prendergast co-founded the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program, an initiative linking American middle schools, high schools, and universities with schools in 12 Darfuri refugee camps in eastern. More than 350 U.S. schools and universities have signed up for the program, and more than $400,000 in donations and pledges have been received since the program’s launch in March 2009.
NBA stars Baron Davis, Luol Deng, Derek Fisher, Etan Thomas, and Jermaine O’Neal have joined McGrady as Co-captains of the Darfur Dream Team. Additional partners include: USA for UNHCR, the Enough Project, Participant Media, the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, Facing History and Ourselves, and i-ACT.
WHAT: Darfur Dream Team Announcement at the Georgetown-Duke Game
WHEN: January 30, 2010, beginning at 1:00 pm, EST
WHERE: Verizon Center, 601 F Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20004
WHO:Tracy McGrady, NBA Basketball star Alexander Aleinikoff, Appointed United Nations Deputy High
Commissioner for Refugees
John Prendergast,Co-Founder of the Enough Project
The Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program links American middle schools, high schools, and universities with schools in the Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad. U.S sister schools will raise funds to improve the education of their Darfuri peers through the construction and rehabilitation of school buildings and by providing supplies, sports equipment, and teacher training. The program will also foster cross-cultural relationships and mutual understanding between U.S. and Darfuri refugee students through letter exchanges and video blogging. The Sister Schools Program is a dynamic partnership involving professional basketball stars Tracy McGrady, Derek Fisher, Baron Davis, Luol Deng, Etan Thomas, and Jermaine O'Neal; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);USA for UNHCR, the Enough Project; Participant Media; TakePart; Education Partnership for Children in Conflict, co-founded by Angelina Jolie and Gene Sperling; Facing History and Ourselves; and i-ACT. The partnership will expand to include additional professional basketball players. More than 100 U.S. schools have signed up to participate in the program. For more information about the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program, see www.darfurdreamteam.org or contact Stella Kenyi at email@example.com.
The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, Chad, eastern Congo, and the areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. To set up an interview, go to www.enoughproject.org, or contact Eileen White Read, 202-641-0779, firstname.lastname@example.org.