Quick notes, thoughts, updates

Here is a collection of quick spur-of-the-moment notes, thoughts and updates that need to be said, but don’t have enough substance to qualify as proper posts (although some may evolve into posts at a later stage):

12 October 2010

Congo Week in Osaka

Congo Week begins this weekend! In a nutshell, it is one week of activities aimed at raising awareness about the world’s deadliest conflict, which(oddly)  almost invariably remains off the media radar. For details on Congo Week, see here. There are plenty of events worldwide, so try to join one wherever you happen to be. Here in Japan, Osaka is the sole host of Congo Week activities (but the activities are being supported from many outside of Osaka). For details on the activities in Osaka, see here. Information in Japanese is available here.     

9 August 2010

Naomi Campbell and Charles Taylor

A big thanks to Naomi Campbell for helping to briefly draw our attention to the issue of blood diamonds, Charles Taylor and conflict in West Africa. There’s nothing like a bit of celebrity scandal to grab the media’s attention for a few minutes, and if this can happen even for marginalized Africa, then that’s an achievement. Good work, Naomi – the media couldn’t have done it without you!

25 July 2010

Congo Week

Here’s a video promo for Congo Week (17-23 October 2010). Why not check out this site and get involved in breaking the silence.

24 July 2010

‘Remembering Afghanistan’

I recently received in the mail an appeal for funding by a Japanese aid organization so that they could continue their humanitarian activities in Afghanistan. The appeal, entitled ‘Remembering Afghanistan’ lamented that interest was fading, but that the needs were still great. I certainly sympathize with the cause, and it really brings home the fact that even chosen conflicts can very quickly become stealth conflicts (Afghanistan is not there yet, though). This is certainly relevant in a place like Japan where media coverage of the world is in horribly short supply. But what about the greater needs in Africa – those associated with conflicts that cannot be ‘remembered’ because they were never known to begin with? Sorry, but if my money is going to an aid organization, it will be going to one that is working in the DRC. 

18 July 2010

Stealth oil spills

Here’s an interesting article pointing out that while so much attention has been lavished on the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (and rightly so, one might add), there is almost no attention given to the frequent oil spills in the Niger Delta (Nigeria) that cause considerable environmental damage but evoke little indignation. Some good points, but the article neglects to mention the connection between the oil and the armed conflict in the Delta.

2 July 2010

Why some conflicts are ignored

Here’s a great article on the Global Politician by freelance  journalist Shane Leavy called ‘why some conflicts are ignored’. He ponders why people in Israel-Palestine get attention where many others, from the Congolese to the Uighurs, do not. It’s always great to see the issue of stealth conflicts getting some serious thought and analysis. How rare it is. I was interviewed for the article.

25 June 2010

Oil, money and politics in the DRC

Two oil blocks in Lake Albert (on the border between the DRC and Uganda)  have been sold to two companies owned by the nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma (see here for details). The involvement in these deals of Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler has also been reported (see here). Neither company has experience in oil drilling, and both are registered in the British Virgin Islands. All sounding very shady… 

16 June 2010

Who’s who in the DRC conflict

The world’s deadliest conflict is not chaotic, but it certainly is complex. Just keeping up with who the players are can be a task in itself. Groups splinter, and names of the groups and their alliances change to suit the players and the situation on the ground. The result is alphabet soup. IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks run the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA) has provided this list of the main armed groups currently active in the DRC.  

13 June 2010

Is that South Africa?

In a news item on the soccer World Cup, Chicago’s WGN news made this classic mistake – putting up a map of the South American continent with the label South Africa. We can’t be sure if they thought that the entire South American continent was South Africa, or if they mistook South America for Africa. In any case, pretty shocking stuff. A screen shot of the offending clip is here. A South African blogger apparently responded with this gem: “at least they got the hemisphere right”. 

29 April 2010

Celebrity recolonisation of Africa

Celebrities are carving up Africa, it seems. Mother Jones has set up an interactive map of Africa showing which celebrities are active where on the continent. Madonna’s publicist apparently let it be known that Madonna would be focusing on Malawi – “South Africa is Oprah’s territory”. Ben Affleck stated that he was focusing on the DRC because if he started working on Darfur he would be “a small log on a big fire” – other were already there. Interesting perspective… I’ve recently done a study on the issue of celebrities attempting to draw attention to conflict (awaiting publication), and I found that celebrities have had very moderate (little?) success  in drawing media attention to conflict that are already on the agenda, and even less success in putting stealth conflicts on the agenda. If the media is interested then it is, if not, it will take more than a celebrity to get it interested.

1 March 2010

Cabot also advertising

It would seem that pressure on corporations that are seen as facilitating the relationship between natural resources and conflicts is effective not only on end-users, but also on those a little more distant from the average individual consumer. Cabot, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tantalum (a rare metal derived from coltan used in electronic devices and that has been closely linked to conflict in the DRC), appears to be feeling the heat. It has been advertising on Google as follows:  “Cabot Position on Coltan: Cabot has not, and will not, mine tantalum in the Dem. Rep. of Congo.” The ad appears on pages with news on the DRC. Clicking on the link takes you to the Cabot homepage. Cabot has long denied that it handles coltan from the DRC, but it is interesting to see that it is going as far as taking its case to Google advertising. Cabot’s position on coltan can be found here.

13 November 2009

NATO advertising

I was just browsing a New York Times article on the internet, and noticed an ad on the right hand side of the page – for NATO! Under the slogan “Peace and Security: That’s Our Mission”, the ad goes on to display what looks like the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), NATO’s war in Kosovo (1999) and NATO’s war in Afghanistan (2009) followed by the words “Freedom to choose: we make that happen”. It should come as no surprise that militaries involved in conflict ‘work’ overtime, largely through the media,  to try to clean up their image (war is afterall a very dirty business, however it is conducted and for whatever reasons), and will try any trick in the book (how about this one) to do so. But directly advertising like this? Odd indeed. See here for an interesting take on the issue (the notion of using taxpayers’ money to promote government activities to the very same taxpayers…).

12 November 2009

Stratfor still MIA on the DRC

I haven’t updated this section in a long time and it is with sad amusement that I reflect on the final entry (below) I made in March. At the time, Stratfor had completely missed the tumultuous events taking place in the DRC since the end of 2008. It is my sad duty to report that they have continued to ignore the situation ever since. It is now going on one full year since the self-professed “world’s leading online publisher of geopolitical intelligence”  last wrote an analysis piece about the DRC (there was a fleeting reference to the DRC in a short analysis article on Uganda’s LRA on 5 November). Such an incredible lapse (failure to see the world in its entirity) is a sad reflection on how widespread and ingrained imbalances are about the ‘importance’ of certain issues in the world. Oddly enough, Stratfor does produce plenty of analysis  about Zimbabwe, whose primary ‘geopolitical’ value for the West is the nuisance value of President Mugabe. Stratfor continues to let ‘geopolitics’ take a backseat to the popular issues of the day…   

23 March 2009

Stratfor and Madagascar

I am still waiting for Stratfor to come up with an analysis of any kind of the recent tumultuous events in the Great Lakes region, directly affecting the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan (see this article). Regardless of all the geostrategic implications for the region and all the Western businesses associated with the minerals in the region (not to mention the fate of China’s huge deal with the DRC), not a single analysis article has come out since November last year. Interestingly, Stratfor seemed to take a keen interest in the recent events in Madagascar, putting out four analysis articles between 14 and 19 March. Madagascar has significant amounts of oil sands, and the events do have geostrategic significance, but so many concentrated articles on Madagascar (with nothing on the arguably more significant events in the Great Lakes region) suggest that Stratfor is following media interest, rather than objectively seeing world events based on their geostrategic value… To its credit, however, Stratfor’s recent series on Nigeria was a good one. They just need to wake up on the Great Lakes region!     

25 February 2009

An idea for a Stealth Conflict Fourm post

On 22 February, a French teenage girl was killed (many others were injured) by a bomb blast in Egpyt (see here). On the same day, 11 peacekeepers from Burundi  were killed (many others were injured) by a suicide car bomb in Somalia (see here). As both events happened on the same day, a look at the news coverage of the two events could make for a useful comparison – how much news coverage (in a newspaper or on the internet) each event received, and an analysis of the coverage. Stealth Conflicts Forum will welcome a post on this topic. Feel free to write and submit.

19 February 2009

Another copy of Stealth Conflicts available for review

There is another copy of the book now available for review from the Strategic Studies Quarterly. Here is the site: http://www.au.af.mil/au/ssq/books_review_3.pdf. As with the review copy available from Political Studies Review (see below), those who successfully complete the review get to keep the book at no charge. A good opportunity to get hold of this expensive (but certainly worth reading!) book. See here also: http://www.au.af.mil/au/ssq/review_guidelines.asp.

A cartoon

Here is a cartoon by Mark Fiore that I just stumbled on. It seems to be from 2003. Interesting…


15 February 2009 

Stealth Conflicts Forum now open

An open version of the Stealth Conflicts blog, Stealth Conflicts Forum, has just been set up. Those with an interest in the problem of conflicts that are ignored and marginalized (by policymakers, the media, the public and academia) are welcome to become contributors and write posts for the blog. Visit this new blog for more information on how to make submissions.

12 Feb 2009

“Civil war” in the DRC?

I had a look at the Lonely Planet book on Africa, and found in the chapter on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a section on the recent history of the country calling the period from 1996 a “civil war”. Sections of the press also like to characterize the DRC’s conflict as such. Is anyone else tired of the conflict being labeled a “civil war”? How can a conflict that has seen some 50,000 foreign troops from eight foreign countries fighting each other (together with local government and rebel forces), be called a “civil war”?! Does this characterization indicate simple ignorance, or is it that calling it that makes it seem less important for “international security”?

28 Jan 2009

Copy of Stealth Conflicts available for review

For anyone interested, it seems that there is a copy of the book Stealth Conflicts: How the World’s Worst Violence Is Ignored that is available for review at the journal, Political Studies Review.

25 Jan 2009

A journalistic gem by Voice of America

This article (Nkunda Arrest: Analyst Says Blame Game Over), with the help of an ‘analyst’, tells us that “the accusation that Rwanda was sponsoring the violence has been proved wrong”, because Nkunda was arrested by a joint Congolese-Rwandan force. The problem was simply “ethnic composition and distribution” (because Nkunda is equally Congolese and Rwandan).

Well thank you for clearing all that up, VOA! We can now all forget about that UN Report with all the evidence of links between Rwanda and the CNDP (and between the DRC government and the FDLR), including the CNDP rebels using razors to cut the Rwandan flags off their new uniforms. While we are at it, let’s forget about the crate posted to the CNDP rebels from Boston, USA that broke in transit revealing all those uniforms…

The article closes with a concern that the new leader of the rebel group was “still out there”. This completely misses the point – the new leader has obviously made a deal (which is why the Rwandan troops headed straight for the CNDP base upon entry), and this is the least of the concerns about what is to come. What we should be asking is what is really behind this alliance, and why MONUC and humanitarian agencies are being refused entry to the staging ground for joint military operations by these new-found friends…

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