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December 15, 2009


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I noticed that you mentioned Mozambique as an example of things going better, and that's particularly interesting...because you've written that the "resource curse" is overrated, and Mozambique's modern good luck is often held as an example by omission.

When Angola and Mozambique got their independence from Portugal, both immediately plunged into Cold War proxy civil wars. When the Cold War ended, both held peace talks. Mozambique's were successful, and Angola's weren't. A common explanation for this is that Mozambique's factions needed Cold War aid to keep going, but in Angola, the government had oil and the rebels had diamonds, so both sides knew they could keep on fighting if they didn't like the treaty. And they did.

It's possible that this is a horribly oversimplified reductionist argument used to justify the "resource curse," since there were other reasons (like personalities)that the talks went differently. But it makes me wonder if there's something to the curse after all.

I'd add that the Second Congo War was unquestionably kept going by resources -- if Rwanda and Uganda hadn't been making millions illegally mining Congolese gold, diamonds, coltan and tin, they would have stopped the war once it was clear they couldn't topple Kabila.

(Random factoid: Rwanda came very very close to winning that war in the first few weeks with their crazy-ass move against Congo's Atlantic coastline. Only Angolan intervention saved Kabila at the last possible moment. Now there's a what-if...)

Doug M.

Of course, if you ask the Rwandan government why they're keeping the war going, they'll tell you it has nothing to do with resources, and everything to do with keeping the Hutu militias in check.

Not that most foreign diplomats believe it.

It's not clear to me that the last sentence of the above comment is correct.

I think there's a case to be made that Kagame could crush the remaining Hutu militias more or less at will, but doesn't because there are political advantages to having a real (if weak) external enemy.

Doug M.

True, but ...

(1) A "case to be made" means that there is circumstantial evidence to believe that the argument might be true, and nothing immediately obvious to rule it out. That's less strong than "Not that most foreign diplomats believe it."

(2) Your explanation is quite different from "The Rwandan government or Rwandan politicians are extracting natural resource rents from Congo, and that extraction is dependent upon continuing military intervention across the border."

That's because both those causes have been present over the last dozen years, but with greatly varying intensity.

Frex, originally Rwanda got involved in Congo to crush the Hutu interahamwe. But then they discovered all the wealth that could be dug out of the ground and carted away. They beat the interahamwe, but then hung around for years getting rich because they could.

The "case can be made" language refers only to Kagame's presumed motives for not simply crushing the interahamwe once and for all, even though it's pretty clear he has the military power to do so.

IOW, there are three major reasons for Rwanda to be messing about in Congo --

1) Chasing Hutu militias
2) Installing a friendly / puppet government in Kinshasa
3) Stealing Congo's resources

-- and each has dominated at different times. Thus:

1996-7 Initial intervention -- done to crush interahamwe and bring Hutu refugees back.

1997-8 Expansion of initial intervention to depose Mobutu and install Kabila, then second intervention to depose Kabila (which almost succeeds but doesn't quite).

1998-2004 Occupation of NE Congo nominally as part of war against Kabila and/or remaining Hutu militias, but really for access to Congo's mineral wealth. This is the period where the "resource curse" argument is strongest; I submit that if Congo had no minerals, Kagame would have cut his losses and ended the war once it was clear he couldn't get rid of Kabila, i.e. by the end of 1999.

2004-present Rwandan withdrawal, resources become less important, no further interest in changing Congo's government (Kabila Junior being anyhow a much better neighbor than his father). However, Rwanda reserves the right to intervene across the border -- it did so earlier this year on quite a large scale, with Kabila Junior's consent -- and also still has interests in the mines (i.e. acting as middleman for smuggled diamonds) even if Rwandan troops are no longer occupying then and digging the stuff themselves.

Is that more clear?

Doug M.

Here's the thing about the resources: it's bloody hard to quantify --- even to demonstrate --- the channels by which Rwandans extracted wealth. (This doesn't apply to Angolan and Zimbabwean officers.) The Rwandan military is very well-disciplined, compared to others, and its hard to believe that the flow of mineral profits was significant compared to, say, the flow of foreign aid.

In fact, it isn't clear how much the Rwandans extracted at all.

Hmm. Maybe I'll throw together a post here.

I don't have statistics to prove that the Rwandans are making a profit, and for all I know, they aren't. That the Rwandans are making a profit is one of those assumptions that everybody in African Studies makes. Go to absolutely any academic conference on it and you'll see it's taken for granted, true or not. (And whether they are profiting or not, this may be like some of the old 19th Century colonies that were supposed to turn a profit but never did.)

"Foreign diplomats" was a phrase I maybe shouldn't have used, since diplomats can't say a lot of things and I don't know any on-the-record certain statements about it. But for Rwanda, the backlash has really set in; a lot of the sympathy over the genocide is gone, and you can hear off-the-record comments about the Rwandan government that you wouldn't have heard in 2000. (Honest-to-god Rwandan genocide denial has actually started to make a tiny impact in the Anglosphere, and I never thought I'd see it.)

Genocide denial? With the 1994 genocide's extensive documentation, how could that be? Or does the term refer to something else?

I'm guessing it's the same kind of denial as with the Armenian genocide in the past, relying on the time-honoured "yes, there were serious mass killings, but the numbers have been wildly inflated, and most of the killing was actually justifiable under the circumstances"-argument.

For those who don't know, the country that I'm living in is currently having its very first genocide trial, precisely on this issue. As you can see, there's always a link between Finland and Africa.


J. J.

you can see, there's always a link between Finland and Africa.

That's because the Finns are the secret masters of the world. If you don't believe me, read "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Pohjola". It's all spelled out there.

Jussi got it right. The deniers claim that while the murder of Tutsis was tragic, it was just a spontaneous outbreak of mob violence by people who were understandably angry that Tutsis had murdered Rwanda's President. And no matter how many Tutsis were killed, it is of course nothing in comparison to the genocide that the Kagame regime committed during their invasion -- or the genocide that the Kagame regime is committing against the Congolese right now, every day, as we speak.

I even found a website (can't remember the damn title or URL, of course) which said that Paul Rusesabagina of Hotel Rwanda fame is a lying, paid shill for the Kagame government, and that none of his claims ever happened. Of course, in reality, he's denounced the Kagame government and hasn't dared go back to Rwanda in years.

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