Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Adultery and Leadership, why it matters

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to debate about this question with a dozen of great leaders from around the globe. It was in a the Decision theater of the McCain Institute head quarter in Washington DC, during a workshop on ethics, values and leadership, moderated by General Freakley (RT), assisted by Ambassador Polt.

Those supporting that there was a line to be respected between private and public lives argued that the betrayal in such circumstances was not collective and only the spouse (and eventually the family) was entitled to explanations. They also argued that unless the leader was a religious or spiritual leader, the impact of one’s infidelity would not affect the message. According to them, the fact that many great leaders who were not faithful managed to achieve great goals for the benefit of their organizations, their countries and even humanity is evidence that people do not care about their leader’s private misconducts. They concluded by saying that Media and political vultures often took advantage of these private issues to tarnish one’s reputation but faithfulness in a marriage, fidelity, had nothing to do with effective leadership. My position, and those I teamed with was that infidelity of a leader, or any person for that matter, had a direct impact on his/her leadership.

Before I give consequences of leaders’ unfaithfulness, let’s first talk about some of the attributes of leadership. What makes an effective leader? Why are some leaders followed, cheered by thousands and some others by only dozens, despite the obvious collective benefits of their actions? As many leadership expert have said, a leader needs to be a role model. A leader has to be transparent and integer. People need to know that he or she is a gentleman or a Lady who will honor his/her words.

Transparency means that leaders must live each day of their life having nothing to hide. I am not saying that life should be a cheap reality show. What I mean is that if questioned on anything, the leader should be able to respond honestly and to table the explanations in a way that do not compromise his or her trustworthiness. Integrity means that there must be oneness between what the leader says and what he or she does. Any fracture would mean there is no authenticity in what is preached and would result in mistrust from most of the followers.

These attribute are intrinsic to all effective leadership as they create and maintain the relationship between the leader and the people behind. Of course, leaders are not perfect, and when it happens that they breach one or another of these attribute, they must expect that the trust that cements their relationship to their followers will be impacted to a more or less level, depending on many factors. Breaking this cement comes with consequences.
Integrity, trustworthiness and faithfulness are not circumstantial. They are permanent attributes that need to be reflected in any aspect of the leader’s life. Leaders who mistreat their personnel cannot be expected to treat civil servant right. Those who do not separate recyclable garbage at home cannot pretend to have green policies at heart. In the same way, Leaders who do not honor the marriage oath they voluntarily took in their heart, in front of his God, the State, Family and friends, cannot be expected to respect the oath they takes swearing on the constitution.

Leadership does not materialize overnight. People are not born great leaders. They patiently build leadership skills, ability, mentality and charisma by scoring constant goals that align their speech to their world, that inspire trust. Breaking a solemn promise is a grave breach of integrity and trust, and this will definitely have an impact on the way people look at the leader, and on the weight they attach to his or her promises going forward. The more public and solemn the promise, the deeper the negative impact. And what greater promise than peoples’ promise to always respect their engagements to the people they hold most dearly in their life?

Another consequence of an unfaithful leader on his organization is the mismanagement of resources. Often such leaders would not hesitate to use the organization resources for their personal benefits. Because of the nature of the relationship, the time allocated will often be time that is supposed to be spent building the organization. The transport and accommodation means, the premises and even the secret partner will often be linked in a way or another to the organization (which in addition of being an abuse of power can be interpreted as sexual harassment).

A typical example of an unfaithful leader and the impact of his cheating on his career is the case of former US president Bill Clinton. Not only he was left with very few followers but he also tarnished the image of the party and the office he served.

“ In the wake of the Clinton scandals, independents warmed to Bush's promise to 'restore honor and dignity to the White House.' According to Voter News Service, the personal quality that mattered most to voters was 'honesty.' Voters who chose 'honesty' preferred Bush over Gore by over a margin of five to one. Forty Four percent of Americans said the Clinton scandals were important to their vote. Of these, Bush reeled in three out of every four”. Todd J. Weiner (May 15, 2004). "Blueprint for Victory". America's Future Foundation.

So if cheating leaders do not only cheat on their spouse, but they cheat on themselves and their followers by failing to be integer, trustworthy and honest; if they often spend the organization resources to cover up their shameful affairs, how is this private matter? Why should the media and their opponent restrain from exposing their true colors? It is about someone failing to comply with a set of values and ethics expected from any leader.
Infidelity is about breaching integrity, honesty, trustworthiness and delivering to one’s promise. These are not circumstantial; they are permanent qualities leaders should always have in order to keep their moral high ground; so yes, infidelity of a leader matters and should be discussed in public when evaluating the potential to lead.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Meet Georges, an innovative entrepreneur operating in the energy sector in the DRC

This entry was initially written for a blog meant to educate young Americans about the DRC. The link to the blog will be posted once the edited version is available (There is a specific format and language adapted to that blog).
I chose to interview Georges Bakaly Sembé for two reasons: (1)the topic of energy, especially green energy is very actual and (2)It is a field that is not often seen as a Congolese struggle. It is not part of the stereotype about the DRC and I wanted to challenge that.
Declaration of interest: Georges is a good friend and he has contracted me to conduct the Social Impact Assessment of one of his mining project in Katanga.

SAS: Hi Joe, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
GBS: Hi Soraya, so my full name is Georges Bakaly Sembé, I am 34 and I am a founder of WESD CAPITAL LTD registered company that develops projects in the DRC. Our focus is mainly environment, energy and mining. I went to high school in South Africa, studied agricultural engineering at Texas A&M University and dropped out in my senior year, I went back to school a year later at University College London where I got an LLB. I worked for a year as a commodity trader specialized in carbon credits for an American company called CantorCO2. After the 2006 elections in the DRC, I decided to go home and be part of the new Congo, I got a job as an advisor to the Governor of Kinshasa (I was in charge of Energy and Environment) from March 2007 to early 2008 when I was named as the Director in charge of Project and Development for the Régie d’Assainissement et des Travaux Publique de Kinshasa (RATPK) which basically is in charge of waste management and public works in Kinshasa, I quit after a year to create my own company (WESD) and here I am.

SAS: I am writing on Energy and sustainable business. So you are in the energy business? Can you tell us about what you do?
GBS: Basically I stumbled onto the energy sector. My initial business was carbon credits but there is an obvious link between green house gas emissions, which is the core of the carbon market, and energy. Moreover, I became very intrigued by the fact that despite the fact that 81% of our energy comes from biomass (wood) and only 1% came from hydro, Congolese energy policy focuses on the later (the ministry of Energy in the DRC is called Ministry of Hydraulic Resources and Electricity. So each year a city like Kinshasa consumes 4.000.000m3 of wood but there is no policy in place to renew that resource so we are in essence depleting a resource that could easily be sustained. So our focus has been to find solutions that (a) look at alternatives sources of energy (landfill gas to energy, solar, geothermal, etc); (b) reduces the amount of wood consumed (improved cook stoves) and (c) energy efficiency by decreasing the amount of wood used to produce wood charcoal which is the primary fuel in the country (modern charcoal kilns that increase production efficiency by 350%).

SAS: Let’s focus on energy now. The DRC offers a great potential to produce energy, yet less than 15% of Congolese have access to electricity. What is the problem?
GBS: First let me correct you, only 9.9% of Congolese have access to electricity. Now onto the potential, there is a lot of hype about Grand Inga (GI) which could yield as much as 44GW, which is big but not close to solving Africa’s electricity problems as one often hears, Assuming it would function at 100% of capacity 365 days a year GI would yield 385,440 giga watt hour (GWH) today South Africa alone consumes around 214,000 GWH, you are in the US, America’s consumption in 2011 was 4,325,500 GWH for an installed electricity generation capacity of 1,012 GW so GI would be 4% of America’s installed capacity, and would produce if it were 100% efficient (which is physically impossible) 9% of US demand. The US has a population of around 317Million and Africa has more than a billion. If that comparison doesn’t work for you, let’s look at China which has a population of 1.3 billion and consumes 4,940,000 GWH/year, China is still a developing country.

SAS: Does it mean that the Grand Inga and Inga III are not good news for the DRC and Africa?
GBS: It is good news, but it is important to understand the limitations and challenges that we might face because we need to debunk the myth that GI is a silver bullet for the DRC or even Africa’s energy problems. The past tells its own story, Inga I and Inga II ruined the DRC before. They were “White Elephant” and I fear Inga III (recently signed with South Africa) and Grand Inga could be the same. Inga I and II installed capacity was 1775MW (1.775GW), half of Inga II so 700MW only worked for 5 years instead of the more than 50 that a hydro is meant to function.
The Inga-Shaba or Inga-Kolwezi power line as it is called today was meant to transport 1000MW to Katanga. It only ever transported about 260MW. This is a project which made up a third of the DRC’s sovereign debt. It basically never worked and only made power accessible to less than 10% of the population. One doesn’t need to be an expert to understand that this money could have been spent in a wiser way.
When it was built, the DRC contracted a debt of $12billion to build Inga III with South Africa and the copper industry in Katanga as the principal off-takers. Inga I and II were built for the copper industry hence the 1000MW power line, at the time it was the longest power line in the world stretching for 1,700km. War in Angola (copper was exported out of Angola) and the fall of copper prices coupled with the technical difficulties highlighted above meant the project could never pay for itself, hence a generation of Congolese ended up paying. Until we were given debt relief a couple of years ago we were still paying.
Today we want to do exactly the same thing and people are clapping, what will happen if tomorrow copper price plunge (as they did in the 2008 financial crisis) or if there is a war in Angola, where the same person has been in power for more than 3 decades? In this case the issue will not be an exit route for the copper since it is going out through South Africa, but the electricity itself. How would one maintain power lines in Angola meant to transport the electricity to South Africa via Namibia? Such governance issues are what has plagued the DRC for so long. Decision makers seem to think that it is easier to produce electricity and sale it to either the mining industry or export it, while energy is not a project in itself. It must be part of a bigger national project, so the DRC must ask itself what it wants to become and then develop its energy sector accordingly.

SAS: So how would you advise the government acts then? What are the alternatives?
GBS: The Government must look at all its options and stop acting as if Inga which is at the western end of the DRC can fuel the entire country; As we speak, we are using wood for 81% of our energy need in an arcane manner, in the US wood fuelled power plants produce 9% of consumed electricity, which is exactly what a 100% efficient GI would yield. The advantage of wood and other biomass are many, first there could be an entire industry to produce the fuel (process wood, replant wood, biomass residue which will be good for agriculture, etc), power lines would not need to stretch for ever as the plant can be placed anywhere and the wood can be planted anywhere in the country, last but not least we are already using that fuel albeit in an inefficient and unsustainable way.
Today the Government’s answer has been to liberalize the sector, while this is likely to attract investment I doubt that this, if the Government doesn’t develop a National Energy Policy, is going to help the average Congolese, most of the existing projects are looking at providing mining companies with energy (refurbishment of Koni, N’Seke and Mwadingusha in Southern Katanga, my own refurbishment of Manono in Northern Katanga, Nzoro and Budana in Province Orientale) or exporting it Inga to Brazzaville or Inga to Cabinda (Angola).
The Government must incentivize entrepreneur willing to produce clean renewable energy for the domestic market. Unless this happens I don’t see things changing for the better. An example is the liberalization of the mining sector, today we produce more minerals than in our entire history however if you take our main export (copper) Government revenues are less than 20% of what they were in the 1970s. Private investors are not going to take a risk on customers who are poor in such a high risk environment unless the price of electricity is so high that they can’t afford to miss the opportunity. however that would mean that the average Congolese would not be able to afford it.

SAS: Talking about affordability, how do you, through WESD CAPITAL, help Congolese consumers access energy?
GBS: On a domestic level we are trying to increase energy efficiency with things like improved cook stoves (ICS) which by the save lives. Fumes from traditional stoves kill more than 2million people a year globally; it is the 4th cause of mortality in the world. In the DRC alone, 80,000 people die each year from diseases that could be prevented through the use of an ICS. Along with another Congolese entrepreneur, we are offering affordable solar solutions. We also have a landfill gas to energy project in a poor neighborhood of Kinshasa, where we are currently flaring biogas (with a 55% methane content) that can be used to produce electricity. This electricity would be affordable because (a) we get carbon credits (though prices are at an historical low) and (b) the European Union funds the landfill. Finally we have done feasibility studies with French consulting firm Ingerop on two hydro power plants one in Northern Katanga M’Piana Mwanga 48MW and another in Mbuji Mayi (Kasai Oriental) Lubilanji I 12 MW. We are now seeking funding for both. Last but not least we are in discussions with Bandundu and Equateur province in order to have a pilot project with a small wood powered generator.

SAS: This is not an easy task, and I can understand why there are not many Congolese embarked in this journey. What are the challenges you face?
GBS: Most of the challenges are manageable, I mean this is the life we chose the hardest thing is to find capital, either as seed capital (we fund all our initial studies ourselves) or as capex and opex. Simply because there are no financial markets in the DRC so equity funding is difficult, and looking at debt interest are high (typically 15-18%), tenure are short (maximum 6 years) in this sector you need more time.

SAS: What are your long term goals in the energy sector? And how can you encourage people to invest more in such a difficult environment?
GBS: In the long term I hope to create the leading renewable energy company in Africa, focusing on wood and biomass residue as a primary fuel, but also looking at geothermal gas, biogas, wind, solar and hydro. I am confident that that this would be a success because of my proven expertise and in dept knowledge of the sector, acquired through direct contact with consumers, Congolese who buy my ICS or photovoltaic panels, and talking with my father and his colleagues who worked for the SNEL the electricity company for more than 18 years.
Contrary to popular belief, the Congolese domestic energy market is lucrative, today most people in urban areas have a diesel generator, the wood charcoal market in Kinshasa is worth close to half a billion dollar a year, so there is money to be made. I would encourage my fellow Congolese businessmen and foreign investors to explore and invest in this sector.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Twelve weeks update

This article has been written for the McCain Institute blog. The original article can be accessed using this link:

The McCain Institute for International Leadership is an American center for research and action in US security and foreign policy. It seeks to promote leadership and decision-making, in the best American tradition of open inquiry, spirited discussion and practical action. Through its policy research, events, fellows programs, and other activities, the Institute aims to inform, convene, train and assist current and future leaders from the United States and abroad.
Each year, the McCain Institute selects up to 20 emerging leaders to be a part of its Next Generation Leaders Program (NGL). They are individuals from around the world, from every walk of life, who even in their early-to mid-careers have demonstrated extraordinary character, commitment to core human values, and capacity for future leadership. These are professionals who are ready to rise to the next level of leadership and change their world.

Senior leaders and experts from around the world (like me) are part of the NGL program. Those selected will be offered a unique program that blends professional development, exposure to top level policy makers, formal training in leadership and communications, and they will build reserves of personal capital and support networks that will last a lifetime.

Twelve Week Update

by Soraya Aziz on Tue, December 10, 2013

My name is Soraya, I am a Congolese Citizen (Herein after DRC) and I am a fellow in the Next Generation Leaders program. I am placed at Freeport McMoran’s headquarter in Phoenix, Arizona. I want to share a few updates about what has kept me busy during the last twelve weeks.

First, the city of Phoenix: When I told my American friends that I will be spending a year in Phoenix, most of them (especially those who have never been here) were sorry for me. I am happy to tell them that I am enjoying being in this city very much. Phoenix is a very dynamic area with many emerging neighbor cities competing to thrive. I had the opportunity to attend a conference on sustainable urban development where I realized that the greater Phoenix area faced challenges quite similar to those of big cities created in the 50's in Africa: transport infrastructures, expanding population, resources like water and electricity, job creation, community infrastructures, etc. Another similarity is the relatively young age average of the population and the great diversity that facilitates integration. The State of Arizona is also one of the states that face the challenge of border control, something familiar to the DRC (with our nine neighbors, we are one of the most neighbored country in the world!). In Phoenix there are so many seasonal activities that help me and my daughter enjoy the city, no matter the weather.

Second, the placement at Freeport McMoran: I couldn’t have imagined a better placement for me. I am a development specialist and for the last 7 years I have exclusively focused on the sustainable development of communities impacted by large industrial projects. Freeport McMoran being one of the top ten extractive companies in the world has several positive experiences from which I am learning, but they also face challenges that I can try to solve with their Sustainable Development team. They have a very young project in my Country (the project is called TFM) and my knowledge of the local context comes in very handy. I am currently preparing a 5 year sustainability plan for the TFM Social fund, a great charity organization that could change the life of at least a hundred thousand people.

Third, the NGL program: This is the best leadership program I have ever been to. The exposure in terms of professional connection is just amazing. Last week I met a group of 30 young potential leaders from Africa, on a four year scholarship at the Arizona State University through the MasterCard Foundation, and discussed about justice systems in our countries. I will have an inspirational talking session with them on African Leadership and citizen participation in a few days. Two weeks ago I had the honor to meet Mrs. McCain and Gov. Christie and hear them discuss about human trafficking, a problem that affects the DRC in particular. Earlier last month I met the Coordinator of “Mending the Soul," an NGO involved in the economic integration as well as psychological and spiritual healing of gender based violence in the US and in my country. All these people share my vision of a better world and can play a role in the materialization of my vision for the DRC. I also spend a lot of time with two other fellow of this program, Luciano Aimar and Norvic Chicchon, working respectively on food security and renewable energies, two problems faced by many countries today.

The last three months have passed very fast, and I have learned so much. Of course my presence in the DRC is missed by the team and the people I used to work with, but joining this program has been an opportunity for me to raise a little bit above the day to day activities of bringing change at a very local level and reflecting more strategically, connecting the problems faced by my country with other global parameters, and developing a network of like-minded leaders who could help make a difference.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Ten Congolese female leaders you should know about

For some (un)justified reasons, my country has often been portrayed as the worse place a woman could live in. Women from my country are often portrayed as poor victims who fail to mobilise and transform their misfortune. In this short article, I compile ten profiles of Congolese female leaders I am really proud of. There are so many more Congolese female leaders that should be portrayed, and this is a bigger project I am involved in. But for a start, let's meet these ten female Congolese leaders from the South Kivu, Kinshasa and the USA. The short bio as well as the pictures have been borrowed from online articles or from their own homepages. Some of these female leaders have foreign citizenship but their actions still focus on empowering men and women from the DRC.
The list is alphabetical:

- Patience Barandenge:
Responsible for entrepreneurs women’s market with a program for Small Businesses run by women in partnership with IFC (World Bank)
- My duties: Researching growth opportunities and contributing to the portfolio development of entrepreneurs women, regularly monitoring the accounts for credit purposes, increasing sales, organizing focus groups in order to identify and collect customers’ needs in terms of financial services and creating solutions (products) and conducting sales promotions of the program on national level (the entire bank’s network).

- Adolphine Byayuwa Muley: Minister of Environment and Agriculture within the South Kivu (RDC) government. As secretary-general of UEFA Adolphine Muley held various positions in national platforms for pygmies in DRC and forums of consultations between the Government and the civil society on issues of environmental organizations, forest issues and climate change. At the international level, she has participated in numerous meetings of indigenous peoples around the globe. In recent years she has also become increasingly active in international advocacy on climate change.

-Amini Kajunju, Democratic Republic of Congo. President & CEO, Africa-America Institute (Named Forbes’ 20 Young Power Women In Africa 2013).
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Amini Kajunju is the President & CEO of the Africa-America Institute, and the first African woman to serve at the helm of the oldest nonprofit organization of its kind in the United States. Kajunju joined the Africa-America Institute in October 2012 from the New York-based Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO) where she had served as Executive Director for 10 years. Under her leadership, Kajunju has bolstered the organization’s programming and served more entrepreneurs than any other institution of a similar size in New York City.

- Isabelle Katalayi Ebambi (dite Bambi): Financial Director of the National Employment Board (ONEM: Office National de l’Emploi). She also chairs a private entreprise called Congo Recrutement though which she helps Congolese youth define their career objectives and get competitive in the employment market of the DRC.

- Sarah M. Kazadi
A multimedia journalist based in New York City. What exactly does that mean, you ask? It means that I can independently craft a story from idea to publication for a print, broadcast or online audience. My work has been featured on various platforms, including Newsweek, the CBS Sports Network, and the Amsterdam News.
Though I’m comfortable working in print or online, I’m most passionate about video journalism. I’ve spent the last few years lugging my camera around the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Philadelphia and New York City as a video journalist and producer. In the summer of 2012, I directed, shot and edited a short documentary entitled “ELIKYA,” which was an official selection for the International Black Film Festival of Nashville.
I’m currently splitting my time between freelancing for local news organizations and producing at the CBS Sports Network. You can view and download my entire résumé by clicking on the “Résumé” tab in the top bar.

- Marie Ange Lukiana,
Former Minister of Gender and the Status of Women, During her time in office, she initiated several reforms for Congolese women. Before she joined the Government she was the deputy secretary of PPRD, the rulling party since 2005. And prior to that, she was a key leader of the Catholic-laic leadership sphere nation wide.

- Shana Mongwanga:
Shana trained at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts drama school (London) and Mountview Acadermy of Theatre arts (London) and was the recipient of Dance and drama Award, in London and winner of the "Scenes a Deux" National contest in Belgium.
She has a Master in Political Science and is a Bachelor in Law from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium and worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service with asylum seekers and refugees for many years.
-2005 she founded the AFRICA LIVES! PRODUCTIONS which has been making films for Charities and and Companies promoting Social Change.
-2009, the organisation included AFRICALIVES! THEATRE to pursue the work by Belgian based theatre "Compagnie Théatrale Ebene et Ivoire".
-2010 it included AFRICALIVES! ART to showcase and support artwork from emerging artists from African background who are often absent on the world stage, although their works and influence are undeniable.
-In 2012 the organisation launched AFRICALIVES! NETWORKS in response to the growing need to provide efficient network structure for policy and advocacy to various project development, communities and organisations.

- Matilde Muhindo, Mathilde Muhindo has dedicated her life to the fight against the discrimination of women and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is the director of the Olame Centre in the province of South Kivu, which has been promoting women´s rights and the empowerment of women for more than 50 years.

- Chouchou Namegabe Dubuisson:
Journalist, radio broadcast producer and co-founder of the South Kivu Women’s Media Association (“Association des Femmes des Médias de Sud Kivu,” or AFEM), which she currently heads, activist Chouchou Namegabe is fiercely dedicated to fighting violence against women. She focuses on eradicating sexual violence used as a weapon of war, an evil that has poisoned the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for more than a decade.

- Dr. Aziza Aziz Suleyman: Gender specialist and GBV expert. (link to publication here and to interview here).
Deputy Coordinator psychosocial program, Great Lakes Region, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of Switzerland in R.D.Congo,Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Prior to joining the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, She successfully coordinated the GBV program of the South Kivu through UNFPA and was decorated by the Malta Order for her innovative and creative way of maping/treating GBV victims.

For more about these inspiring leaders, please lick on the links or write to me.
Declaration of interest: I have personnal affiliation to Dr. Aziz, and I have directly benefited from Miss Mathilde's programs.

Monday, 9 December 2013

What should we expect from the use of drones in the DRC?

Drones are those little aerial “unmanned” devices that have seen their use increasing in the last ten years. They are used to capture aerial data for meteorological or agricultural purpose in Latin America, or intervene when it is too difficult / dangerous for normal aerial vehicles in military context, as in Pakistan. When mentioning the use of drones in warfare, many would cite the Pakistani example and the very negative role that drones have played in that country, killing more than 300 hundred civilians out of which possibly 200 children. Another controversy is about the transparency that the US government has applied in its usage of drones, or lack thereof to be precise.

Away from the use of drones to kill, the debate on the use of drones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is about its efficiency. For the first time in history, the UN has decided to use drones in military intelligence and the lucky Guinean pig for this experience is once again the DRC, as it was in the 60 when the UN sent its first peace keeping mission ever to secure the newly independent State of Congo, as it was in 99 when the UN send its largest observation mission ever of that time, and as it was just in August this year when the UN decided for the first time ever to move from peace keeping to Peace enforcing mandate, meaning getting engaged in the conflict. On all those occasions, as for the drones, the UN had decided to explore something new in solving the DRC conflict(s).

The Drones in the DRC have been assigned an ambiguous mandate as reported by a recent BBC interview of two key users of the drones’ data. According to the UN Peace Keeping peace Chief, Hervé Ladsou, who made the trip to personally attend the first launching of the drones, they will monitor the movement of rebels across the porous DRC-Rwandan and DRC-Ugandan borders where hundreds of foreign troops have reportedly been crossing to reinforce armed rebel groups operating in the DRC. This monitoring will provide the UN and the international community at large with enough evidence of the presence (or absence) of foreign direct involvement in the DRC conflict(s). On the other hand, for the DRC Congolese Defense Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo, the Drones will have the important task of mapping the rebel positions and communicating these key data to the Congolese Narional Army (FARDC) command in order to inform the FARDC timely and offensive/defensive operations.

Whatever the case, should we expect that these drones will make a difference in the DRC conflict? I am very doubtful, here is why:
As per my knowledge, the DRC conflict does not suffer from a lack of reliable documentation. Numerous national and international reports have already established why, how, where and when the rebel groups cross from Rwanda and Uganda in support of the rebel groups operating in the DRC. Also, from their violent and cruel modus operandi, the rebel armed groups positions are well known to the FARDC command. So how would the information relayed by the drones be news in such a context? Here are two considerations:

(1)For a long time, and despite all evidence Rwandan and Ugandan governments (especially Rwandan) have vehemently rejected all accusation of their involvement in the DRC conflict. Recently the US sanctioned its central African ally by suppressing part of its budget assistance (the military aid), but without enforcing its Public Law # 109-456, Section 105. On numerous occasions the “International Community” has warned all neighboring countries involved in the DRC conflict, without naming them, and with no reference to the UN and other international report that have establishing unequivocally the implication of Rwanda and Uganda in the deadly conflict. Would this change if the data provided came from drones and not the Congolese Civil Society, UN experts, Amnesty International or Human Right Watch, to name but a few observers?

(2)The error margin of drones in other areas where they were used (such as in Pakistan) also leaves a lot to desire and raises the question of civilian safety. How sure are we that the information relayed to the FARDC and FIB command will not be prejudicial to the local population and result in more collateral? The FARDC are unfortunately known for their violent retaliation on local population living in area they “liberate”. How efficient will the drones be in contextualizing the circumstances that may lead locals to cooperate with the rebels? The use of drones to inform the FARADC commands raises more questions than it can solve.

I am only moderately impressed by this new idea of the UN using drones in the DRC and would warn those speculating on the possible benefit of the use of drones in this conflict about the limitations and danger of this new technology. The problem is not collecting data, the problem is what we do with those data, and how national and international actors act on them. With or without drones, we need the FARDC to use the data in their possession to defend the DRC territorial integrity from attacks launched from outside or within, and we expect that the UN, the International Community and particularly the US will start enforcing their own rules and regulations in regard to the implication of Rwanda and Uganda in the DRC conflict, as stated in Section 105 of the United State Public Law # 109-456:
The Secretary of State is authorized to withhold assistance made available under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), other than humanitarian, peacekeeping, and counter-terrorism assistance, for a foreign country if the Secretary determines that the government of the foreign country is taking actions to destabilize the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Friday, 6 December 2013

Mandela's legacy

As we mourn this great global leader, I hear people saying that he is gone but his legacy will live on.
Mandela is one of those leaders who had time to prepare for a glorious excit and to tell people what he wanted to be remembered for. Far from the many things he himself underlined, I want to call the attention on this speech, delivered in johanesbourgh in honor of one of the Great Fathers of Africa, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere. In this speech, he reafirms his attachment and commitment to African Renaissance, a theme so dear to Nyerere and many African intellectuals.


Master of Ceremonies; Mwalimu Julius Nyerere; Mr Nicky Oppenheimer; Honoured guests;

It is a great pleasure to share in this occasion honouring one of Africa's great patriots.

It is a humbling experience to recall the contribution that Mwalimu Nyerere has made to the liberation of our continent, and to freedom in South Africa.

This is the freedom fighter who heard Chief Luthuli's appeal and joined Trevor Huddleston in launching the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain in 1959; a leader whose decisive intervention at the Commonwealth Conference after the Sharpeville Massacre led to the exclusion of apartheid South Africa.

I had the personal privilege of meeting him many years ago, in 1962, when I visited Tanzania seeking help as we embarked on the armed struggle. Then, as now, I was struck by his lucid thoughts; his burning desire for justice everywhere; and his commitment to Africa's interests.

After the independence of Tanzania, Mwalimu, as its head of state, continued to play an important role in the struggle for justice and democracy not only in Africa, but throughout the world.

The people of Tanzania gave unstinting support to the liberation of South Africa. They gave recognition of the most practical kind to the principle that our freedom and theirs were interdependent.

Today, as free nations we have joined hands in recognition of the interdependence of our countries, our region and our continent in the achievement of peace and prosperity.

It is in this spirit that we affirm our support for Julius and the people of Tanzania in the goals they have set for themselves.

The expansion of economic ties of trade and investment between Tanzania and South Africa, and indeed between all the countries of the region, is an objective to which South Africa is firmly committed.

When we promote foreign business interest and investment in South Africa it is not in any spirit of beggar thy neighbour. Indeed South African firms have seized the opportunities that abound in a liberated Southern Africa and we encourage them in this.

We do so on the understanding that such investment will be conducted as we expected foreign investors to do in our own country: to promote the transfer of skills and technology; to make a permanent and sustainable expansion in the productive capacity of the host country; and wherever possible in the form of joint ventures to promote the development of local business, especially amongst those previously excluded from such opportunities.

Such a development is in the interest of our entire region. In particular we would like to see an expansion of South African business involvement in Tanzania along such lines. Some of the companies represented here tonight have already shown their interest by taking part earlier this year in a delegation to Tanzania led by our Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry.

That delegation reflected the spirit of co-operation between government and business, within a broader partnership of all social sectors which is the hallmark of reconstruction and development in South Africa, in Tanzania and throughout our region.

Non-governmental organisations form an essential component of that broader partnership. The Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation whose establishment we are marking tonight is, I am confident, destined to make a significant contribution in that regard.

There would be reason enough to welcome its formation as a commemoration of a great person. But it is more than that. It is also a contribution to the future. It gives substance to the goal of creating African capacity to resolve African problems.

The ideals of peace, unity and people-centred development for which it stands are essential for our continent's economic and political revival. We can only applaud its intention to promote these goals by drawing on Africa's collective intellectual resources.

It is through the upliftment and empowerment of the people of Southern Africa, and indeed the entire continent, that we will achieve the African Renaissance we so strongly desire.

I thank you.


Issued by: Office of the President

Monday, 25 November 2013

Soraya and the McCain Institute: who I am and why I do what I do

in this series I will share some of my experience with the McCain Insitute of the Arizona State University where I am currently part of the Next Generation Leaders program that seeks to connect and empower principled and ethical leaders from around the globe.

The following is an extract of my application interview conducted in Feb 2013. I explain how I decided to stop suffering and become a Development actor.

I am from a little marginalised community, enclaved at the center of the African continent. My community has been tagged as a minority in the Congo with only 2500 adult individuals registered in the last census. People in this part of the world have suffered a little bit more of what other Congolese have experienced in the past century: Slave trades, brutal colonisation, dictatorship, wars, displacement, epidemics, extreme poverty etc.

I have lived some of these and have decided that more than a hundred years of suffering was enough and things must change. My goal for the next ten years is to participate in the economic and human development of people living not only in Ubwari but in the entire eastern region of the Congo.I went to the only private schools of the district, and in times of war, when most of my friends had to wait for peace to return I completed highschool in the private Congolese school run by the DRC embassy in Burundi. I later completed a law degree in the best University of the South Kivu Province but quickly realised that knowledge in law would not help me change things, but merely name the culprits and extend blames. By then the country was in the middle of the civil war that brought more than 11 countries in the Congolese soil. I went in Kenya for a MA in International Relation, conflict resolution.

I came back and started making an impact for people back home and was recognised as Miss Leadership DRC for 2011. This provided the opportunity for a British Chevening Scholarship which I seized. In 2012, Isuccessfully completed a MA in Development Studies at the University of Sussex and then came back to continue my development work. I am a very optimistic and pragmatic person who believes that change starts with one person who is able to communicate his vision, meet other person sharing the same aspiration and motivate his or her surrounding to shape their destinies in the best possible way for them and the future generations.