My good friend Doug Muir is in Congo, and as usual he has some interesting things to say. So I’ll post some links below. The fact that it never ever ever occurs to Doug to do likewise on either of the blogs that he regularly posts on, regarding either this blog or serious academic work, is not relevant.
Here is a brief discussion of Congo’s bizarre borders, or at least the poor country’s lack of an Atlantic coast. Congo is effectively land-locked, what with the eponymous river being impassable in its lower reaches. I am surprised to hear that the railroad from Mabadi still works at all. Doug tells you why the border was drawn so that Congo cuts the Cabinda enclave off from the rest of Angola, and how this weird geography sparked a long secessionist battle against Luanda.
The unmentioned wrinkle is that Cabinda rests on a sea of oil, first discovered in 1962, late in the colonial era. (It says something about the Portuguese desire to get the hell out of Africa that they didn’t set up Cabinda as a separate neocolonial enclave; it’s what Charles de Gaulle would have done.) Cabinda’s Block Zero produces about 22% of the country’s production. Block 14 produces another 3%, but it’s production is set to rise from 55,000 bdp to 340,000 by 2010. Onshore exploration in the portion of Cabinda labeled “CN” on the map is underway.
Currently the provincial government gets 10% of the oil revenues from its territory, which has done a lot to en ... uh ... lower the intensity of the insurgency. Or at least get it down to a level where government ministers can credibly declare an end to the organized rebellion. A Chinese company is supposedly developing a highway-bridge combo that will provide a direct link over Congo to the rest of Angola; I have my doubts, but it will be cool if it gets built. (Note: the article at the other end of the link was paid for by the government of Angola; it is not a real news report.)
Meanwhile, here and here are some of Doug’s early impressions of Kinshasa; the place seems to make Tegucigalpa seem lively, Caracas seem safe, Maputo feel orderly, and Jalalabad seem ... well, it is probably better than Jalalabad. Maybe. That secret police story creeps me out, more so since they don’t seem to be a very effective secret police at creating a, you know, police state. I eagerly await more reports. Even if the jerk never bothers to link to me.