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Kagame Meets AU, UN Envoys over FDLR
September 5, 2014 | 0 Comments

President Kagame meeting AU and IN envoys at his office in Kigali, Rwanda on Thursday President Kagame meeting AU and IN envoys at his office in Kigali, Rwanda on Thursday[/caption] Rwanda President Paul Kagame has held talks with the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Amb. Smaїl Chergui and Amb. Said Djinnit, the new UNSG Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region over security in the region particularly the threat posed by FDLR to stability in the Great Lakes. According to the presidency, the Thursday discussions mainly focused on ways of dealing with FDLR, a major negative and genocidaire force that has terrorized the region for decades. Leaders from International Conference on the Great Lakes Region recently met in Angola to review the political and security situation in Eastern DRC regarding the continued repatriation to Rwanda of FDLR for those willing to disarm and return voluntarily; and engage urgently military action against those unwilling to disarm. While FDLR this year announced intentions to surrender, officials said it simply handed over sick and young combatants and outdated guns. Rwanda’s United Nations representative, Richard Gasana recently told the SecurityCouncil that the neutralization of the 1994 Genocidal Movement is “another area of extreme importance, which unfortunately has not seen progress.” Joint efforts Speaking to the press after meeting President Kagame, Amb. Djinnit said his core responsibility in the region would be to work together with regional organizations and countries including Rwanda especially in the implementation of the Peace andSecurity Framework. “There has been some significant progress over the last decade but there also some outstanding issues like the FDLR,” said the envoy. “I will be working in transparency and respect of all countries and will seek the goodwill and support of the stakeholders and demand that they take their obligations at all levels.” On the issue of the FDLR, said Djinnit, “we will be guided by the decisions of theSecurity Council and the region which have taken a very clear position on the issue.” The UN Envoy reiterated that the military option was still on the table, should FDLR fail to comply with the decisions of the UN Security Council and regional stakeholders. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louis Mushikiwabo said despite the progress in resolving issues of the region peacefully, there have been invisible hands that tend to frustrate these efforts. “We Rwandans need peace and we have worked for decades for peace and this will not stop. We will continue as a country to contribute to peace in the region and for ourselves,” said Mushikiwabo. The Minister pointed out that FDLR is not a difficult force to deal with, saying what is needed is political will. “And we are happy to receive Ambassador Djinnit who has taken over from the very able Mary Robinson and we are happy that he is a man who knows the region’s history and has been part of the African Union from the beginning,” said the Minister. The discussions also touched on the East African Standby Force (EASF) and the situation in the Central African Republic. East Africa Member States have committed 5,000 military and police forces. Burundi contributed an Infantry Battalion, Kenya a Mechanized Battalion while Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda contributed a Motorized Battalion each. Other Combat Support and Combat Support Services pledged include Two Level Two Hospitals, CIS, Combat Engineers and Special Forces. The Member States also pledged four Formed Up Police Units, Military Observers and Individual Police Officers. The Pledged Forces are to be on Standby to deploy in a period of 14 days whenever called upon to maintain peace and stability in the region.  The regional Ministers of Defence and Security in August signed an MOU of pledged Forces as directed by Assembly of Heads of State and Government. The FDLR have up to February 2, 2014 to surrender or face fire. The Angola meeting demanded “FDLR to fully surrender within a given timeframe and also making them aware of military consequences of failure to comply with the agreed timeframe.” *Source chimpreports]]>

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3,000 victims of sexual violence in two DRC provinces
August 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

[caption id="attachment_11198" align="alignleft" width="300"]Women take part in a campaign at the hospital 'Heal Africa' which advocates an end to sexual violence and rape against women in Goma on May 30, 2013 (AFP Photo/Junior D. Kannah) Women take part in a campaign at the hospital ‘Heal Africa’ which advocates an end to sexual violence and rape against women in Goma on May 30, 2013 (AFP Photo/Junior D. Kannah)[/caption]

Heal Africa, which works with victims, mostly women, in the North Kivu and Maniema provinces, said it had identified 2,829 survivors of sexual violence and had treated 1,573 of them since January.

The group, which runs a hospital in the North Kivu capital of Goma specialising in treating sexual assault victims, said many of the women had been raped and had come to them for medical care and treatment to prevent HIV infection.

The violence had been carried out both by “armed men and civilians,” Heal Africa said in a statement.

Spokesman Ferdinand Mugisho said the group had not been able to help all the women included in their figures because some lived “too far away, and others are prevented from coming by their families if their injuries are not too serious.”

North Kivu has long been a zone of intense conflict between rival armed groups, with fighting over its mineral resources and its proximity to an unstable border.

Heal Africa’s Dr Jonathan Kasereka Muhindo Lusi, who took part in a recent summit in London that sought to draw attention to the problem of sexual violence around the world, called for more to be done to bring those responsible to justice.

“Our legal system partners should increase their efforts in the fight against sexual violence as it is deplorable that out of 440 cases followed by our legal clinics, only 98 judgements were delivered in two provinces,” he said.

In the past, non-governmental organisations and the United Nations have accused Congolese rebels, foreign fighters and army soldiers of committing sex attacks on the local population.

At the end of April diplomats at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva said that while the DR Congo had made strides in ridding the country of rampant sexual violence, more needed to be done.

The London summit in June saw representatives from 123 countries and the Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie meet to discuss sexual violence in conflict zones around the world.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said it was time to banish sexual violence “to the dark ages and history books where it belongs”.

*Source AP/Yahoo]]>

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Israeli billionaire finds 3-bln-barrel oil reserve in Congo
August 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila DR Congo President Joseph Kabila[/caption] An oil company owned by Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler said on Thursday it had discovered reserves of around 3 billion barrels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Oil of DRCongo said in a statement that an analysis of seismic survey data “indicates around three billion barrels of oil in place”. The crude, which is on a similar scale to the proven reserves of oil producers Britain and South Sudan, was discovered around Lake Albert, on Congo’s eastern border with Uganda. The nearby Ugandan blocks are estimated to hold a similar amount of oil and are being developed by British company Tullow, France’s Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corp. “These are very positive results from our extensive seismic campaign,” said Giuseppe Ciccarelli, CEO of Oil of DRCongo. “We continue to believe the project has the potential to provide significant revenues and multiple other benefits to the people of (Congo).” Resource-rich Congo produces just 25,000 barrels of oil per day from onshore and offshore fields in western coastal areas and is seeking to increase production dramatically to boost growth and relieve poverty. Oil of DRCongo said production of just 50,000 barrels per day at Lake Albert would expand Congo’s economy by 25 percent. Oil made up just 1.7 percent of Congo’s GDP in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund. *Source Reuters]]>

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Congo's Kabila gave no assurances on two-term presidency-U.S. official
August 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

Stella Dawson* [caption id="attachment_10830" align="alignleft" width="604"]Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (L) and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) meet with Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila (C) on Capitol Hill in Washington, August 5, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (L) and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) meet with Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila (C) on Capitol Hill in Washington, August 5, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas[/caption] The Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila gave the United States no sign that he would stick to the country’s constitution and stand down from elections scheduled for 2016, a U.S. diplomat said on Tuesday. Former U.S. Senator Russell Feingold, now the U.S. Special Advisor for the Great Lakes Region and the DRC, said the issue of providing space for political opponents and the 2016 elections were discussed when President Kabila met on Monday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington. But Kabila provided no guarantees, he said. “I did not hear any assurances from them yesterday,” said Feingold when asked about Kabila’s position over a possible constitutional change to the presidential term. He added that the U.S. is “hopeful” that Kabila will respect the two-term limit. Speculation that Kabila could seek to alter the limit of two five-year terms as president has raised fears that political turmoil could return to the vast mineral-rich country and the Great Lakes region which has been engulfed in Africa’s longest running war. Hundreds of opposition supporters took to the streets of Kinshasa on Monday to demand no change to the DR Congo’s constitution after Evariste Boshab, general secretary of the pro-Kabila People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy, last week endorsed a change, if approved by referendum. An opposition leader who spoke at that rally, Jean Bertrand Ewanga, was arrested earlier on Tuesday. The United States regards the provision on presidential term limits as an irrevocable part of the constitution, Feingold said, and the 2016 elections as crucial to the peaceful evolution of the region. “Without a credible political system, it is unlikely that the Democratic Republic of Congo will achieve the stability and sovereignty in the region that is needed,” Feingold said at the briefing.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5vhQKWt-zCk#t=5 Lambert Mende, a government spokesman, bristled over Feingold raising political questions, saying that Congo’s president is in Washington to build commercial ties with the United States, not to answer questions about how Congolese institutions are organized. “We have not felt the need to give any assurances because this (constitutional revision) is a Congolese problem and this is not a Congolese meeting,” Mende told Reuters. Kabila first assumed power after his father’s assassination in 2001 and he went on to win Congo’s first democratic election in 2006. His second election, won by a narrow margin in 2011, was criticized by observers for voter intimidation and ballot stuffing. Feingold also repeated warnings that there would be no negotiations with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a rebel group in the region formed by the remnants of Hutu rebels from Rwanda. Commonly known as FDLR, the group was given six months from May 31 to surrender, but in the first week, only 185 soldiers had turned themselves in, he said. “There have to be significant surrenders in the near period or the military option will be exercised,” Feingold said. *Source Reuters/ trust.org]]>

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Congo launches agri-business park in move to revamp farming
July 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

The DRC government spent $83 million setting up the 75,000 ha Bukanga Lonzo park, where a South African consortium called Africom has been handed the management contract. The DRC government spent $83 million setting up the 75,000 ha Bukanga Lonzo park, where a South African consortium called Africom has been handed the management contract.[/caption] Democratic Republic of Congo has launched its first agricultural business park, the initial step in a plan to use its vast tracts of arable land to produce food, create jobs and wean the economy off its dependence on mining. Congo has 80 million hectares of arable land and some 70 percent of the population works in farming but most are involved in subsistence agriculture and the country spent $1.5 billion on food imports last year. – The program hinges on Congo overcoming its reputation for being one of the trickiest business environments and reversing the current trend for agriculture’s contribution to the economy declining as the mining sector expands. “This initiative has potential to create durable growth and limit the vulnerability of an economy that depends on natural resources and fluctuations of international markets,” Jean Chrysostome Vahamwiti, minister for agriculture and rural development, said on Tuesday at the launch of the 75,000 hectare Bukanga Lonzo park, 240 km (150 miles) east of Kinshasa. The government hopes foreign and local farmers there will produce a range of vegetables – including corn, beans and cassava – as well as meat and fish to be mainly sold in Kinshasa, which is home to some 10 million people. The government has spent $83 million setting up Bukanga Lonzo, where South African firm Mozfood & Energy carried out feasibility studies and a South African consortium called Africom has been handed the management contract. President Joseph Kabila has pledged to radically reform agriculture in his country, which is rich in minerals and fertile land but has endured decades of misrule and slipped into a series of conflicts since the 1990s. Kabila attended the launch, driving one of the tractors due to be used to work the land, but he did not make any comment. ROLL OUT Congo’s per capita agricultural production has been in decline since the 1960s and 70 percent of its population lives on under a dollar a day, according John Ulimwengu, senior adviser for agriculture and rural development in the prime minister’s office. “The objective here is to liberate ourselves from this dependence on imports,” he said, adding that some investors had expressed interest but no deals have been signed yet. Congo’s economy is due to grow by 8.7 percent this year, extending a post-war revival as investors tap into the potential of the Central African nation, but the expansion is largely fueled by the eastern-focused mining sector. Bukanga Lonzo, in the west, is meant to create 5,000 direct and 12-15,000 indirect jobs. Similar sites are due to be rolled out in each of the country’s 11 provinces. However, small farmers said the government should focus on helping those already in place rather than handing large swathes of land to foreign investors. “The problem is that the huge percentage of people who work the land must be supported,” said Victor Nzuzi, a farmer and activist. “We just need to give them the means. This initiative only serves the investors.” Ulimwengu said small scale farmers had a role to play, for example in selling produce to the business park, but Congo’s priority had to be to modernise the sector as a whole. *Source   Reuters/ farmlandgrab]]>

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Congolese: Returning home and building a dream
July 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Daisy Carrington and Dianne McCarthy* [caption id="attachment_10436" align="alignleft" width="300"]Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has found itself in the middle of a construction boom over the past decade. The economy has also been given a jolt by the entrepreneurial spirit of Congolese returning home from abroad. Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has found itself in the middle of a construction boom over the past decade. The economy has also been given a jolt by the entrepreneurial spirit of Congolese returning home from abroad.[/caption] Kinshasa hasn’t had an easy time of it. A decade ago, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo was a broken city, ravaged by years of war and infighting. Of late, however, Kinshasa has witnessed a resurgence, with many expatriated Congolese returning to build a new city. “When I came back, people thought I was crazy. “[They would ask], ‘why would you go into a country where there is war? Where nothing is working? Why not stay in the States and make your life?'” says Joss Ilunga Dijimba, who returned to Kinshasa in 1996 after studying in America. Today, Dijimba runs his own eponymous business, manufacturing plastic bottles for the pharmaceutical industry. “In the USA, everything has been done — everything. In Congo, there is still a way to make things right. I am a Congolese. If I’m not going to make it, who’s going to?” In agreement is Olivier Ndombasi, who always planned on building his fortune in his homeland. Like his elder brothers, he studied abroad in the hope of bringing back knowledge that could improve the family business: groceries. His father’s small store has now turned into a supermarket franchise called Peloustore, with four locations and more on the way. “It’s very exciting to be able to do things in a new environment, and do things you didn’t think you’d be able to do,” says Ndombasi. “The challenge is great, but it’s very exciting.” Many agree that there are obstacles, but returnees often cite the exhilaration of starting with a clean slate. “Come to Kinshasa, you unlearn what you thought you knew. You take your MBA book, your business plan, put it in your pocket and start from scratch,” says Alain Yav, who 12 years ago founded Pygma Group, a holding company that has interests in communication and construction. Pygma also produces one of the country’s most popular television shows: Beauty Queen. Though the journey has been long, and there are still large portions of the country’s population living below the poverty line (70.5% in 2011, according African Economic Outlook), Yav says Kinshasa is starting to reap economic benefits. “When you are working really hard, at some time, you stop believing. But I think we are lucky, because we are seeing it’s progressing. Not just us, not just our company, not just our industry, but we are seeing things move forward in every direction,” he says. [caption id="attachment_10437" align="alignright" width="300"]"As Congolese, we have to be the first people involved in our development," says Didier M'Pambia (far left), who set up Optimum, one of the larger PR firms in Kinshasa. “As Congolese, we have to be the first people involved in our development,” says Didier M’Pambia (far left), who set up Optimum, one of the larger PR firms in Kinshasa.[/caption] To prove the point, Kinshasa also seems to be experiencing a construction boom. Buildings are going up at a ferocious rate. One of the largest — and most controversial — projects is La Cite du Fleuve (River City), a floating-island complex that is expected to include thousands of flats, hotels and shopping centers. “Everywhere [you look], you can see new buildings and lots of construction,” says Didier M’Pambia, who set up Optimum, one of the larger PR firms in the city. M’Pambia also publishes Optimum Magazine, a glossy pan-African business quarterly aimed at giving the Congolese diaspora information about their home country. “It’s not a Congolese magazine; it’s a magazine at the same level of other magazines produced in the United States, Europe or South Africa,” says M’Pambia. “We don’t have to be ashamed that we are in Africa. You have to be proud to be Africa and to show your personality. As Congolese, we have to be the first people involved in our development,” he says. *Source CNN ]]>

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Water everywhere for DR Congo city yet scarcely a drop to drink
July 13, 2014 | 1 Comments

People fill jerrycans with water from Lake Kivu on the Himbi beach in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on August 11, 2013 (AFP Photo/Phil Moore) People fill jerrycans with water from Lake Kivu on the Himbi beach in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on August 11, 2013 (AFP Photo/Phil Moore)[/caption]

Goma (DR Congo) (AFP) – Goma, a city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, sits by one of the world’s largest freshwater reservoirs and has some of Africa’s heaviest annual rainfall, yet it is a thirsty place.

Most of the city’s one million residents, living close to the shores of Lake Kivu, have to struggle every day to fetch water home.

From daybreak, an endless stream of cyclists heads to the lake and back, filling battered containers with as much water as they can carry.

In a makeshift shelter, health worker Fedeline Kabuhu tries to ensure that no container leaves without a dose of chlorine, which she injects with a syringe to make sure the water residents collect is potable.

“The people drink this water. They do everything with it,” the 46-year-old French charity worker said.

A single cyclist can transport up to 120 litres (about 250 pints) to be sold on to private water stores. At a rate of 10 trips to the lake each day, the carriers can expect to earn up to $10 (seven euros) between dawn and dusk.

But by the end of one morning it started to rain and water collector Lambert Biriko decided to call it a day.

“Today is ruined,” he said, adding that residents would gather run-off rain water instead and “won’t buy anything from us”.

Located on the border with Rwanda, Goma is the capital of DR Congo’s North Kivu province, which has been wracked by bloody unrest for more than 20 years, displacing scores of thousands of people.

In those two decades, the city’s population has exploded, swelled by an influx of refugees from neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi as well as local Congolese seeking shelter from marauding armed bands.

A lack of seriousness’ –

At the Sports Circle roundabout in the centre of Goma, an old woman washed herself in a puddle next to a pump where lorries fill up with water before transporting it to other neighbourhoods.

[caption id="attachment_10419" align="alignright" width="300"]Men fill jerrycans with water from Lake Kivu on the Himbi beach in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on August 11, 2013 (AFP Photo/Phil Moore) Men fill jerrycans with water from Lake Kivu on the Himbi beach in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on August 11, 2013 (AFP Photo/Phil Moore)[/caption]

Fiston Mugisho, 20, is unemployed and spends the day washing the few motor-taxis that want to stop. He has to buy water from the cyclists each day or walk to another neighbourhood where houses hooked up to the main grid sell what comes out of their taps.

“But you don’t always find water,” Mugisho said. Even for those properties that do enjoy running water, the supply is frequently cut.

As in many other parts of DR Congo — the world’s least developed country according to the United Nations — the people of Goma have learned to fend for themselves after decades of government neglect.

The lack of basic infrastructure has given rise to the Lucha (Fight for Change) protest movement. A shortage of water, electricity and opportunities for work shows “a problem of governance” and “a lack of seriousness”, according to Micheline Mwendike, a member of the apolitical body.

Alongside other organisations, she said, Lucha gathered 3,500 signatures at the end of May for a petition demanding that provincial governor Julien Paluku commit to connecting Goma to the water supply and publish “a plan to bring water to the entire city”.

Backed by regional segments of the political opposition, Lucha is gaining momentum as it accuses authorities of using the insecurity as an excuse for inaction. – ‘Not normal’ – The movement stages regular protests and has harnessed the power of social media, using Facebook and the Twitter hashtag #GomaNeedsWater. Paluku did not respond to repeated requests for comment from AFP. Deogratias Kizibisha, the North Kivu director of public water distribution firm Regideso, said that 45 percent of Goma residents are connected to the central supply. Lucha claims the real rate is closer to 20 percent. Jean-Pierre Kambere is a nurse in Birere, Goma’s poorest slum.

“Adding chlorine is not enough” to make water gathered from Lake Kivu safe to drink, he said.

“Every week patients come to us with diarrhoea or fever” caused by drinking polluted water, Kambere added.

Not far from the health centre, Joelle, a frail woman of 20, crouched at a public tap, bent double under the weight of the container strapped to her back with a scarf.

“It’s not normal to live like this,” she said. “The authorities need to provide water to every home.”

*Yahoo]]>

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Offering to Disarm in Congo, After 20 Years of War
June 30, 2014 | 1 Comments

A Reversal by a Militia of Rwandan Hutus in Democratic Republic of Congo   By SOMINI SENGUPTA* [caption id="attachment_10175" align="alignleft" width="300"]Congolese national police officers in front of the 83 Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda guerrillas who surrendered in Kigogo. SARAH FLUCK FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES Congolese national police officers in front of the 83 Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda guerrillas who surrendered in Kigogo.
SARAH FLUCK FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES[/caption] KIGOGO, Democratic Republic of Congo — Shortly after midday in this village nestled in clouds, the progenitors of the long, dirty war across Central Africa came out of the jungle and laid down their guns. Not all the gunmen in their ranks: 83 guerrillas were present, along with their wives and children. And not all their guns: The cache included several ancient rifles, some rusty mortars and two Vietnam-era, American-made machine guns. But the gesture, wrapped in pomp and ceremony in the presence of foreign diplomats and United Nations officials, was a new twist in a war that has pitted tribes and nations against one another for 20 years and left a trail of rapes and massacres across a vast, mineral-rich section of the continent. The members of the militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda — composed of ethnic Hutus from Rwanda and known by its French initials, F.D.L.R. — said they were willing to give up their guns for good if they were allowed to go home and negotiate power with their archnemesis, the Rwandan government. The leaders shed their camouflage for ill-fitting black suits. A marching band played. The tableau presented a tricky political test for foreign powers trying to end the Democratic Republic of Congo’s long war. “We want to go back to Rwanda, but after dialogue with the Rwandan government so we can share in the prerogatives of the country,” the militia’s executive secretary, Wilson Irategeka, said in an interview, in a house tucked behind a banana grove, before the ceremony on June 9. The F.D.L.R. has been hiding in villages like Kigogo for two decades and terrorizing them, too. One of its leaders, Sylvestre Mudacumura, is wanted by the International Criminal Court because of his role in the 1994 genocide of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda. Five of its leaders are under arrest in Germany. Ten are on a United Nations sanctions list and barred from traveling. The week before, 105 troops disarmed north of here. “We want to show the international community we are serious, we are committed, we are ready to be part of the process for peace,” Mr. Irategeka said. He asked diplomats from the Southern African regional bloc to relay the group’s political demands to Rwandan officials. Few see this as realistic. United Nations officials are cautiously backing the effort, though one said the prospect of political talks was as likely as former Nazis joining Israel’s Legislature. The United States is opposed to negotiating with a group that has a history of committing atrocities. Rwanda has since accused the United Nations of trying “to sanitize F.D.L.R. genocidaires.” In a letter Thursday to the Security Council, Rwanda’s United Nations envoy, Eugène-Richard Gasana, chided it for trying to secure a travel ban exemption for an F.D.L.R. leader so that he could discuss the disarmament efforts with a senior envoy. “Any further delay in eliminating this group and its ideology would only serve to cause further harm and suffering to the region,” Mr. Gasana said. Even in this village, F.D.L.R. forces once burned houses and looted crops. Now, on a grassy field, they stood expressionless in five straight rows. Most wore tracksuits and knee-high rain boots. The few who agreed to talk to a reporter said they had left home 20 years ago, some as children, when a Tutsi-led guerrilla group swept into Rwanda to stop the genocide and then drove into eastern Congo in pursuit of the Hutu perpetrators. Clouds rolled in and out. A big unknown hovered: Was this just a delaying tactic by the F.D.L.R. to avoid being trounced by United Nations peacekeepers? Or was it a genuine offer from rebels worn out by fighting? Either way, it came at a pivotal moment for the United Nations mission here. Having recently quashed a Rwandan-backed guerrilla group called M23 and then taken on a radical Islamist group near the Ugandan border called the Allied Democratic Forces, United Nations peacekeepers are under immense international pressure, not least from Rwanda and its supporters, to stamp out the original combatants of this war, the F.D.L.R. The group’s offer of voluntary disarmament has compelled United Nations forces to defer military action while diplomats seek a negotiated settlement. [caption id="attachment_10176" align="alignright" width="300"]Boys in Kigogo, Democratic Republic of Congo, watched this month as Rwandan militants turned in their weapons. It was the biggest celebration many villagers had known. SARAH FLUCK FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES Boys in Kigogo, Democratic Republic of Congo, watched this month as Rwandan militants turned in their weapons. It was the biggest celebration many villagers had known.
SARAH FLUCK FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES[/caption] Tackling the F.D.L.R. is not a military matter alone, acknowledged the United Nations’ top military commander in Congo, Lt. Gen. Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz. It is also political. The militants live among civilians, General dos Santos Cruz said, and they should be given a chance to disarm. “It is a very special moment,” the general said. “If the process develops, you disarm people. You bring peace without war.” He took pains to add that he had not ruled out military force. He may not be able to wait forever. Russ Feingold, the United States special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa, urged United Nations forces to go after the fighters militarily if they, including their senior leaders, did not surrender completely in the coming weeks. “If this drags on through the summer, there’s no excuse not to take strong action against the F.D.L.R.,” he said. Mr. Feingold flatly dismissed the notion of negotiations. “People involved in genocide, who are included in this group, are not entitled to dialogue,” he said. For the ceremony in Kigogo, United Nations helicopters flew in, one after the other, with foreign dignitaries. Herds of children gathered. Under a tin roof sat a half-dozen ambassadors, listening intently, committing to nothing. “All those in the bush should come out,” said the Namibian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Wilbard Hellao. The United Nations estimates that there are fewer than 2,000 active F.D.L.R. fighters left in Congo. In recent years, thousands have run away from their units and surrendered to peacekeepers, who have sent them back to Rwanda. The ones coming out of the bush now are being housed, fed and guarded by the United Nations in temporary camps. Congo has suggested sending them to the west of the country, far from the Rwandan border. Discussions are also underway to find a third country in which to resettle some former combatants. To listen to Mr. Irategeka’s rendition of the last 20 years is to hear a narrative that contrasts sharply with that of the Tutsi-led Rwandan government. The F.D.L.R. members see themselves as protecting Hutu minorities in Congo, in particular from Rwandan-backed guerrilla groups. This is not entirely unfounded. One such guerrilla group, M23, has plundered the mineral riches of eastern Congo and left a trail of terror in the countryside. A former M23 leader, Bosco Ntaganda, faces 18 counts of war crimes in the International Criminal Court. Mr. Irategeka cannot avoid the subject of war crimes committed by those in his own ranks. Asked whether those people should face trial, he offered something close to a commitment to the idea of justice. “There might be some people in our ranks like that,” he said vaguely. “We accept the I.C.C.” A rebel revue pounded on drums, sang and danced. “See,” said an F.D.L.R. major who called himself Adhonis, “we have lived in the forest 20 years, but we haven’t forgotten our culture.” Adhonis said he was not ready to disarm yet. He said he would return to the forest after the ceremony. Mr. Irategeka led the diplomats to his combatants. The sole woman, who identified herself as Sgt. Maj. Imanuelle, 35, marched up and told them she was ready to give up guns for politics. Later, she said she had no family left. Her parents had been killed. Her husband had disappeared in the fighting. Her children, ages 4 and 5, were both dead. Another disarmed rebel said he had come to Congo in 1994, when he was 12. His parents were dead. He did not know anyone in Rwanda. A third said he was 19 when he fled and had not spoken to relatives in Rwanda since then. What they would do if they returned home after 20 years in the bush remains unclear. Mr. Irategeka read to the end of his prepared remarks: “Long live international solidarity. Long live pacific coexistence between people and states. Long live peace in the Great Lakes region.” Boys climbed to the highest branches as the ceremony began. In this village of strife, this was the biggest celebration they had known. The sun burned hot by 1:30. Mr. Irategeka unveiled four paltry piles covered in tarpaulin. There lay perfect pyramids of guns. There were two American-made M16s, most likely sent to Congo in the years Mobutu Sese Seko was president. There were several AK-47s, one corroded mortar and assorted bullets. About 70 percent of the guns still worked, the United Nations concluded. Afterward, the F.D.L.R. leaders and the diplomats flew out of Kigogo on a United Nations chopper. Clouds rolled in once more. A woman named Kika Bulambo, 62, pointed to the velvety green hills before her. She said she had fled there when the F.D.L.R. swept through here years ago. “They burned houses,” she said. “They looted fields. They raped. They left us with no clothes.” And not just the F.D.L.R., Ms. Bulambo said. There were once rebels backed by the Congolese Army, and also ones backed by Rwanda. Now, only the banana groves were battered as the helicopters whirred over the village. *nytimes]]>

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Oil Firm Bows to Pressure, Ends Operations in Africa's Oldest Park
June 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

But the company may drill near the home of endangered mountain gorillas in the future.   By Jon Rosen* A ranger in Virunga National Park sits near two rare mountain gorillasIn the face of global pressure, the British oil and gas firm Soco International announced Wednesday that it will not drill for oil in Virunga National Park as long as the park remains fully protected under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

The announcement was part of a joint statement released by Soco and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one of several conservation groups that have challenged the legality of a 2010 contract signed by Soco and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The contract granted the company exploration rights to a concession that includes roughly 50 percent of Virunga, Africa’s oldest and most biodiverse national park and home to 200 rare mountain gorillas.

Soco’s announcement comes after a period of mediation between the company and the WWF, prompted by the WWF’s filing of a complaint with the British government last year that alleged Soco’s activities in Virunga had violated multiple provisions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

In the statement, Soco said that it “commits not to undertake or commission any exploratory or other drilling within Virunga National Park unless UNESCO and the DRC government agree that such activities are not incompatible with its World Heritage status.” The company reiterated its earlier pledge to “never seek to have operations in the Mountain Gorilla habitat, the Virunga Volcanoes or the Virunga equatorial rainforest.”

Soco’s statement also notes that it will complete the existing phase of its contract with the DRC government, which entails the completion of a seismic survey that it expects will conclude within 30 days.

Exploration halted

Virunga National Park stretches along the Albertine Rift in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and includes parts of Lake Edward’s shore. Almost two-thirds of the lake and about half of the park are within Block 5, an area where Soco International was licensed for oil and gas exploration in 2010.

Future Drilling Still Possible

Although the WWF has hailed Soco’s decision as a “victory for our planet,” the announcement falls short of ensuring the company won’t return to the park in the future.

According to Roger Cagle, Soco’s deputy CEO, the company may consider future drilling in Virunga should the DRC government and UNESCO negotiate changes to its status under the World Heritage Convention—either by altering the park’s boundaries to exclude potential oil drilling zones or removing it as a World Heritage site entirely. In 2012, as Cagle notes, UNESCO accepted a boundary change to Tanzania’s Selous National Park, also a World Heritage Site, which enabled the mining for uranium. That decision could be cited as a precedent.

In the past, the DRC’s Ministry of Environment has also suggested the possibility of “degazetting” Virunga as a national park, which would remove its protected status under domestic law, and potentially facilitate the removal of its World Heritage protection.

“For now, we are going to give the results of our seismic survey to the government, which fulfills our legal obligation,” Cagle told National Geographic, noting that it will take anywhere from six months to two years before the data collected will indicate whether future exploratory drilling may be warranted.

“We won’t return under the way things exist currently. But we hope the two main actors—the DRC government and UNESCO—can get together and find the best way forward for all parties concerned.”

Guarded Optimism

With such possibilities still in play, not all Virunga stakeholders have responded to the announcement with the optimism of the WWF.

“While we welcome any move by Soco International to leave Virunga National Park, the situation in the news as it stands leaves more questions than it answers,” said Joanna Natasegara, producer of the feature-length documentary Virunga, which is highly critical of Soco’s activities in the park. “This is certainly a conditional withdrawal.”

Isaac Mumbere, a DRC-based human rights activist and prominent critic of oil drilling in the park, told National Geographic that he is similarly guarded, suggesting that the DRC government could still downgrade the status of all or part of the park.

In addition, he warns that activists who have challenged the Soco contract may still face the risk of reprisals—including arrests and threats of violence that have been widely documented by local and international watchdog organizations.

One particularly damning report, published on June 4 by Human Rights Watch, contains detailed allegations from activists and park rangers who accuse Soco “representatives” and “security contractors” of offering bribes to “gain their support or to discourage them from speaking out against oil exploration in the park.”

The report also implicates Congolese government, military, and intelligence officials—including some that had allegedly received money from Soco—in a series of threats and attacks against human rights and environmental activists.

Although it stops short of assigning blame for the attempted assassination of Virunga chief warden Emmanuel de Merode, who survived an ambush by unknown gunmen in April, Human Rights Watch cites a series of threatening text messages received by local activists that insinuate the shooting may have been linked to his opposition to oil exploration in Virunga.

Cagle, who told National Geographic he was “appalled” by de Merode’s shooting, has responded to the report’s accusations. In a letter to Human Rights Watch, he wrote: “We have not been provided with sufficient information in order to fully investigate the allegations you have presented. However, from those investigations we have been able to conduct to date, we have not found the allegations raised to be substantiated or justified.”

Whatever the case, Mumbere and other activists say they are happy to see Soco go, but have refused to declare victory just yet.

“In short, today’s decision is a positive step,” Mumbere says, “but it’s not yet time to drink champagne.”

*Culled from National Geographical Jon Rosen is a freelance journalist based in Kigali, Rwanda.
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Troops gather at Congo-Rwanda border after clashes
June 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

  Soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arrive in tanks near the town of Kibumba at its border with Rwanda after fighting broke out in the Eastern Congo town June 11, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Kenny Katombe
Soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arrive in tanks near the town of Kibumba at its border with Rwanda after fighting broke out in the Eastern Congo town June 11, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Kenny Katombe[/caption] Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda sent extra troops to their shared border on Thursday after gunfire briefly broke out for the second day, ending months of relative calm in the volatile region. Congolese and Rwandan officials each accused the other’s armies of mounting cross-border raids on Wednesday that prompted heavy fire between the two forces. Gunfire was reported early on Thursday morning but had ceased by 0800 local time. U.N.-backed Congolese troops crushed an uprising last year in eastern Congo, a mineral-rich area plagued by years of war, which borders Rwanda. A Reuters reporter near the town of Kibumba in eastern Congo saw soldiers with heavy weapons gathering on both sides of the border throughout the morning. “There were some shots fired but very few. It has already finished,” Congo’s North Kivu governor, Julien Paluku, said. “The shots came from the Rwandan troops, our forces did not respond. They have clear instructions not to shoot unless the situation becomes very serious. We are not at war with Rwanda,” he told Reuters by telephone. Rwandan officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the clashes that first erupted near Kibumba. “I appeal for calm from both sides and urge them to take immediate steps to re-establish security in the border area,” Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. mission in Congo MONUSCO, said in a statement. France’s foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said he was “concerned” by the violence and called for an immediate halt to fighting. INVESTIGATION Kinshasa blamed Rwandan forces for provoking Wednesday’s clashes by seizing and later killing a Congolese soldier. Rwanda said its army killed five Congolese troops after they crossed the border and attacked Rwandan units, although Congo insists it lost only one soldier. A Reuters cameraman on the Rwandan side of the border on Thursday saw five bodies lying in a beanfield wearing uniforms with the Congolese flag. “They have surely taken some bodies, perhaps villagers, and put (Congolese army) uniforms on them,” said Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende. Residents said the Congolese soldiers were killed after they tried to steal cows, adding border incursions were frequent. A regional inspection team was visible on the Rwandan side of the frontier, surrounded by Rwandan troops, as part of an investigation into the cause of the flare-up. Rwandan troops have backed Congolese rebels during two wars in Congo since 1996 before Rwandan troops officially withdrew in 2003. Since then, Kinshasa and U.N. experts have repeatedly accused Kigali of backing Congolese rebels. Rwanda denies the charges and says Congo is harboring elements of the FDLR Hutu militia that took part in the 1994 genocide, killing at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. *Source Reuters]]>

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Black swan: DR Congo could be Africa’s richest nation by 2035
June 12, 2014 | 1 Comments

PERRY MUNZWEMBIRI

download (10)In 1967 Botswana had less than 5 kilometres of tarmacked roads and only three secondary schools! Today, it is a middle-income country. Why not DRC?

The good Africa stories keep coming, battling against “old” Africa with its civil wars and people threatened with famine.

Over the next 20 years, some estimates project that Africa will have at least two billion people. Of these, 1.2-billion people will be living in urban cities, and 300-million of that urban population potentially earning $20 a day. If these statistics become reality, Africa could be a $2-trillion market annually.

This paints a picture of a continent whose economic activity is on the rise. Six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies of the last decade have been in Africa, hence the “Africa rising” catchphrase that has dominated economic reporting and discussion about the continent.

While the economies of countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique have been growing like they were shot on steroids, with GDP growth rates averaging 7%, the question is they can they keep up this pace of economic growth for the next 20 years? What if another country bucked the trend and emerges as the continent’s richest country by 2035? Could it be far-fetched for a country currently considered a lost cause to turn the tables and emerge as Africa’s richest nation by 2035?

The commonly accepted measure of determining a country’s wealth is Gross Domestic Product Purchasing Power Parity (GDP PPP) per capita. This method looks at a country’s GDP, converts it to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates and finally divides purchasing power parity by population size. At nearly $10,218.95 basing on 2013 data, currently South Africa is the richest nation in Africa – though Nigeria might be the largest economy.

By 2035…
Enter the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is still recovering from the aftermath of years of brutal conflict that has internally displaced as many as 2.75-million people according to Oxfam. Inevitably, the Central African country`s economy has taken a beating over the years. Unemployment, high inflation and low human development indicators all point out to the effects decades of conflict and over 30 years of dictatorship by the corrupt Mobutu Sese Seko who was ousted in 1997, have had on DRC’s economy.

Be that as it may, could the DRC potentially rise to be the richest country on the continent by 2035? Consider the following:

With a population of nearly 70-million, it has the potential upside to grow driven by a large domestic market. The African Economic Outlook report recently released by the African Development Bank (AfDB) listed high domestic demand as the main catalyst for Africa’s current economic growth especially.  With an estimated 40% of the DRC’s relatively youthful population Living in urban areas, it is in good stead to achieve high growth rates in the future as urbanisation and the levels of affluence rise in line with continental trends.

Growth in low-income countries, including what may be considered fragile states, continues to outpace that of middle-income countries. AfDB data shows real GDP growth rates of African countries by analytical groupings such as low-income countries and countries in fragile states – a bill that the DRC fits – have seen strong performances in their GDP numbers.

For instance, looking at the low-income countries’ metric, African countries in that bracket registered an average real GDP growth rate of 6.2% from 2010 to 2013 whilst the DRC recorded an average growth rate of 7.1% over the same period. If these growth trends are sustained, then the country could very well likely emerge as a major economy on the continent.

Spared from debt

600x300Furthermore, the DRC has been spared from facing a debt burden it cannot manage.  In July 2010, the country became eligible for irrevocable debt relief assistance under the IMF and World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, as it became the 36th country to reach the completion point of the programme.  Under this initiative it will benefit from total debt service savings of around $12.3-billion. Consequently the DRC will not face debt-servicing  pressures on its revenue flows and foreign exchange resources in the future.

With this, social spending on critical drivers of growth and public debt management could be improved, thereby giving room for greater growth prospects for the country.

In addition, DRC has tremendous resources that, in the hands of a reformist and effective government, could work near-miracles. Its total mineral wealth is estimated to be worth a mind-boggling $24-trillion, more than the GDP of Europe and the US combined. It holds more than 70% of the world’s coltan, used to make vital components of mobile phones, 30% of the world’s diamond reserves and vast deposits of cobalt, copper and bauxite. Additionally, the DR Congo contains huge quantities of gold, platinum, oil, tin and uranium — indeed, of nearly every other precious mineral on the planet.

The planned Grand Inga Dam on the Congo River, delayed by incompetent and corrupt rule in Kinshasa and years of war, if implemented will not only be nearly seven times bigger than Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, it will be almost double the size of the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River in China, currently the world’s biggest hydroelectricity plant.

DR Congo’s Inga dam has the potential to supply Egypt, Ethiopia, and half of Africa.

Too optimistic?
Admittedly, all this seems too optimistic, and could even pass as being hopeless out of touch with foreseeable economic prospects. The DRC does not immediately come to mind when one thinks of rich nations today or in the future. After all, an estimated 70% of its people still live in poverty, and the country has large infrastructure deficits, an economic environment that is not favourable for investment, as well as a fragile political situation.

But is it really that hard to fathom? Earlier this year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released a 25-page report in which they predicted that there would almost be no poor countries left in the world by 2035, using today`s World Bank classification of low-income countries, even after adjusting for inflation.

Long-term projections into the future are never easy, as too many variables are at play. However, as history has shown, over a relatively longer period, economies can grow rapidly. Take Botswana for instance; in 1967, it had less than 5 kilometres of tarmacked roads and only three secondary schools! Today, after 47 years, it is a middle-income country.

Thought the DRC seems too dark a horse in the race for economic supremacy, if the necessary reforms are made in policy and the right crop of leadership emerges to guide the country on a path of growth and stability, then the nation could likely be one of the richest on the continent in the next 20 years. The jury is likely going to be out on this one for some time, but this black swan possibility for DRC is, well, a black swan.

•The author is a Finance student at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe. Twitter:PMunzwembiri

*m &g africa

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Black swan: DR Congo could be Africa's richest nation by 2035
June 12, 2014 | 1 Comments

PERRY MUNZWEMBIRI download (10)In 1967 Botswana had less than 5 kilometres of tarmacked roads and only three secondary schools! Today, it is a middle-income country. Why not DRC? The good Africa stories keep coming, battling against “old” Africa with its civil wars and people threatened with famine. Over the next 20 years, some estimates project that Africa will have at least two billion people. Of these, 1.2-billion people will be living in urban cities, and 300-million of that urban population potentially earning $20 a day. If these statistics become reality, Africa could be a $2-trillion market annually. This paints a picture of a continent whose economic activity is on the rise. Six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies of the last decade have been in Africa, hence the “Africa rising” catchphrase that has dominated economic reporting and discussion about the continent. While the economies of countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique have been growing like they were shot on steroids, with GDP growth rates averaging 7%, the question is they can they keep up this pace of economic growth for the next 20 years? What if another country bucked the trend and emerges as the continent’s richest country by 2035? Could it be far-fetched for a country currently considered a lost cause to turn the tables and emerge as Africa’s richest nation by 2035? The commonly accepted measure of determining a country’s wealth is Gross Domestic Product Purchasing Power Parity (GDP PPP) per capita. This method looks at a country’s GDP, converts it to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates and finally divides purchasing power parity by population size. At nearly $10,218.95 basing on 2013 data, currently South Africa is the richest nation in Africa – though Nigeria might be the largest economy. By 2035… Enter the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is still recovering from the aftermath of years of brutal conflict that has internally displaced as many as 2.75-million people according to Oxfam. Inevitably, the Central African country`s economy has taken a beating over the years. Unemployment, high inflation and low human development indicators all point out to the effects decades of conflict and over 30 years of dictatorship by the corrupt Mobutu Sese Seko who was ousted in 1997, have had on DRC’s economy. Be that as it may, could the DRC potentially rise to be the richest country on the continent by 2035? Consider the following: With a population of nearly 70-million, it has the potential upside to grow driven by a large domestic market. The African Economic Outlook report recently released by the African Development Bank (AfDB) listed high domestic demand as the main catalyst for Africa’s current economic growth especially.  With an estimated 40% of the DRC’s relatively youthful population Living in urban areas, it is in good stead to achieve high growth rates in the future as urbanisation and the levels of affluence rise in line with continental trends. Growth in low-income countries, including what may be considered fragile states, continues to outpace that of middle-income countries. AfDB data shows real GDP growth rates of African countries by analytical groupings such as low-income countries and countries in fragile states – a bill that the DRC fits – have seen strong performances in their GDP numbers. For instance, looking at the low-income countries’ metric, African countries in that bracket registered an average real GDP growth rate of 6.2% from 2010 to 2013 whilst the DRC recorded an average growth rate of 7.1% over the same period. If these growth trends are sustained, then the country could very well likely emerge as a major economy on the continent. Spared from debt 600x300Furthermore, the DRC has been spared from facing a debt burden it cannot manage.  In July 2010, the country became eligible for irrevocable debt relief assistance under the IMF and World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, as it became the 36th country to reach the completion point of the programme.  Under this initiative it will benefit from total debt service savings of around $12.3-billion. Consequently the DRC will not face debt-servicing  pressures on its revenue flows and foreign exchange resources in the future. With this, social spending on critical drivers of growth and public debt management could be improved, thereby giving room for greater growth prospects for the country. In addition, DRC has tremendous resources that, in the hands of a reformist and effective government, could work near-miracles. Its total mineral wealth is estimated to be worth a mind-boggling $24-trillion, more than the GDP of Europe and the US combined. It holds more than 70% of the world’s coltan, used to make vital components of mobile phones, 30% of the world’s diamond reserves and vast deposits of cobalt, copper and bauxite. Additionally, the DR Congo contains huge quantities of gold, platinum, oil, tin and uranium — indeed, of nearly every other precious mineral on the planet. The planned Grand Inga Dam on the Congo River, delayed by incompetent and corrupt rule in Kinshasa and years of war, if implemented will not only be nearly seven times bigger than Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, it will be almost double the size of the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River in China, currently the world’s biggest hydroelectricity plant. DR Congo’s Inga dam has the potential to supply Egypt, Ethiopia, and half of Africa. Too optimistic? Admittedly, all this seems too optimistic, and could even pass as being hopeless out of touch with foreseeable economic prospects. The DRC does not immediately come to mind when one thinks of rich nations today or in the future. After all, an estimated 70% of its people still live in poverty, and the country has large infrastructure deficits, an economic environment that is not favourable for investment, as well as a fragile political situation. But is it really that hard to fathom? Earlier this year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released a 25-page report in which they predicted that there would almost be no poor countries left in the world by 2035, using today`s World Bank classification of low-income countries, even after adjusting for inflation. Long-term projections into the future are never easy, as too many variables are at play. However, as history has shown, over a relatively longer period, economies can grow rapidly. Take Botswana for instance; in 1967, it had less than 5 kilometres of tarmacked roads and only three secondary schools! Today, after 47 years, it is a middle-income country. Thought the DRC seems too dark a horse in the race for economic supremacy, if the necessary reforms are made in policy and the right crop of leadership emerges to guide the country on a path of growth and stability, then the nation could likely be one of the richest on the continent in the next 20 years. The jury is likely going to be out on this one for some time, but this black swan possibility for DRC is, well, a black swan. •The author is a Finance student at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe. Twitter:PMunzwembiri *m &g africa]]>

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