While the details are still hazy, some sources are reporting that M23 rebels have captured Goma, home to United Nations peacekeepers currently deployed in the DRC. With “the heaviest fighting in Eastern Congo” since a 2008 rebel offensive in the same region, the rapidly escalating violence has been lost amidst today’s coverage of the crisis in Gaza.
Jason Stearns, an expert on the Congo, author of the acclaimed Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, has been following the story full-time. On his highly recommended blog, Congo Siasa, he writes: “It would appear that we are heading toward the end of ceasefire,” noting the devolving agreement between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army.
The latest news from the ground has left many to speculate on the intentions (and consequences) of the latest rebel advance. Phil Moore, a photographer who works in the area, tweeted about the conditions on the ground after previous weeks of fighting:
A few civilians pick through Kanyarucinya, with M23 around. Collecting firewood from the frames of what were their houses yesterday.
More to come… if anyone is listening.
In keeping with the “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” argument, most countries have a non-engagement policy with pirates: paying a ransom is seen to incentivize the illegal activity — to give rise to a new wave of open-sea scoundrels eager to exploit the lucrative shadow world of transnational crime. But as the tactics used by the private sector are incompatible with the strategy taken by states, pirates are left to exploit the middle ground.
An interesting Atlantic piece published today analyzes the failure of then-British Foreign Secretary Selwyn Loyd to foresee the failings of British “empire” and the African independence movement throughout the 1960s and 70s. More important than the colloquial and racial undertones in Loyd’s analysis, is a lesson of punditry, political-prognostication and the bias of the present. In the words of the author:
“Within only a few years of this memo, both Britain and the Africa were dramatically changed, and the assumptions Loyd shared with the power structure around him had become obsolete. History can shock itself like this. Just a few years from now, the idea that China and India would become superpowers — or that multilateral institutions like NATO or the UN would maintain their primacy, or that most of Europe would remain pluralistic and democratic — could similarly read like quaint reminders of the arrogance or credulousness of an earlier age. And by 2060, they could seem like hopelessly deluded relics of a vanished world.”
More than two years ago, I spent six months studying piracy off the coast of Somalia. The problem then, as it is today, is that piracy is one of the most trying “tragedy of the commons” challenges facing the east coast of Africa’s horn and the Gulf of Aden.
This most trafficked shipping way has been the target of significant pirate activity over the past decade, growing steadily since the collapse of the Somali state in the early 1990s –most will know this only by reference to the US’ Blackhawk Down fiasco.
But as government order broke down and the international waterways were soon poached by hungry foreign fishing vessels, Somali fisherman became desperate. If their livelihoods were being erased by boats flying foreign flags, the Somalis would police the waters themselves–exacting tariffs and taxes from any boat they could.
This gave rise to the Somali Marines, a group now considered to be the first–and perhaps strongest– of the pirate gangs. Time has splintered this group further, and the influence of foreign military engagement in Somalia (Ethiopia in 2006, for example) has polarized a number of groups against other political factions and, in the case of Al Shabaab, towards an extremist ideology akin to Al Qaeda.
What becomes clearer, however, is that the scourge of piracy (and it’s continued growth) is not solely a consequence of politics and insecurity, but a function of economic collapse, opportunism, and recognition that the interest of states, local communities and the private sector (the companies whose staffs and stowage are targeted) might be to eliminate piracy, even when their proposed solutions often make the problem of piracy worse.
More to follow.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at the changing footprint of American forces in the Horn of Africa. The piece, hopefully completed by the end of the month, will tackle questions of Africom’s [Africa Command] future (a topic oft-ignored in the discussion of Obama’s drone warfare in a increasingly hostile Middle East) and how the fight against terrorist cells across North Africa and the Middle East has become the administration’s “catch-22” moment.
However, a story published on the front page of The New York Times today highlights the role private contractors —clandestinely— are playing in the Horn of Africa, and in particular the fight against piracy in the sea of Aden. While the reporting hints at the now-unveiled nefariousness of private security firm called Saracen, whose reputation is sullied further through ties to Blackwater-mogul Erik Prince, one of the more telling conclusions should be the lack of oversight —whether the actions undertaken are those of private contractors of governments alike.
A writer's integrity serves as both flak jacket and silver bullet. Without it, what's left?
It is this hopelessness of inequality —the acquiescence to classism— that debate ends all together