Fighting broke out yesterday near the eastern Congo city of Goma, just days in advance of the UN Secretary General's planned arrival. Agence France Presse reports:
The volatile mineral-rich region was rocked by hours of fierce fighting with mortars and rocket launchers in the first clashes involving M23 since December.
The rebels briefly occupied the regional capital of Goma in November.
The latest fighting comes a week after the first troops from a new UN intervention brigade arrived in the country with a strong mandate to attack rebel groups.
Congolese army (FARDC) spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli said troops had managed to "push back" the rebels by Monday afternoon and were carrying out search operations.
As this Reuters report makes clear, the military situation in eastern Congo is in significant flux as the M23 rebels attempt to overcome internal divisions and as the UN peacekeeping force absorbs new troops which are supposed to form an "intervention brigade" capable of confronting armed militia groups.
Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to arrive in Congo tomorrow, accompanied by World Bank president Jim Kim. According to the Bank, "[t]he visit will draw attention to the plight of fragile and conflict-affected countries struggling to meet the Millennium Development Goals and will highlight the commitment of the two international organizations to jointly tackle global conflict and poverty." The leaders had also planned on celebrating the agreement signed by eleven countries in February to advance peace and stability in Congo.
The Financial Times today reports on a hedge fund's move to hire a top International Monetary Fund economist:
Hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones has hired one of the International Monetary Fund’s most senior officials in a move highlighting the attraction of private sector careers for top public sector figures.
Lorenzo Giorgianni, the deputy head of the IMF’s policy department, will join Mr Jones’s Tudor Investment Corporation in October, according to people familiar with the matter....
Conny Lotze, a spokeswoman for the IMF, said that as soon as the fund was informed of the job move it took “immediate steps to ensure that [Mr Giorgianni] is no longer involved in any work that could give rise to a conflict of interest before his departure. This is fully in line with the fund’s ethics guidelines”.
The IMF's code of conduct for staff includes the following general provision:
You should avoid any situation involving a conflict, or the appearance of a conflict, between your personal interests and performance of your official duties. In dealings with member country authorities, suppliers, and other parties, you should act in the best interest of the IMF to the exclusion of any personal advantage. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, the IMF will seek to avoid assigning nationals to work on policy issues relating specifically to IMF relations with their home country, unless needed for linguistic or other reasons...If a potential conflict exists, you should make prompt and full disclosure to your supervisor and seek his or her views as to whether you should recuse yourself from the situation that is creating the conflict or the appearance of conflict.
The code also says this about post-IMF employment:
Staff members who separate from the IMF, or are on leave status, including leave without pay, are expected to observe the respective IMF rules on use or disclosure of confidential information. In particular, staff members who separate from the IMF should not use or disclose confidential information known to them by reason of their service with the IMF and should not contact former colleagues to obtain confidential information. IMF employees are prohibited from providing confidential information to former colleagues, who should be treated like any other outside party.
Support in Sweden for joining NATO has jumped:
Thirty-two percent of survey respondents stated that they were in favour of Sweden joining Nato. Two years ago, that number was 23 percent.
The proportion of Swedes who firmly want to stay out of Nato has gone down in the same period. The new poll showed that two in five Swedes say no to joining, down from 2011 when half of Swedes had the same attitude.
"It looks like Nato proponents have advanced their positions," political scientist Ulf Bjereld told SvD.
He said that debate in recent months about Sweden's military capacity had likely stirred Swedes' thoughts about Nato. The Armed Forces' ability to defend Sweden if it came under attack has been under scrutiny since Supreme Commander Sverker Göransson in January said Sweden could hold out for maximum one week.
As this piece makes clear, Sweden has been a more active NATO partner than several current members:
Since 2006, Sweden has had civilian and military professionals on the ground in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. It has played a leadership role in a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazir-e-Sharif and has 400 people on the ground helping to advance political and economic stability in the surrounding region. As it works on the transition to Afghan-led teams, Sweden will work with NATO Allies Norway and Latvia, as well as with NATO partner Finland. In doing so, Sweden not only advances democratic development abroad, but also gains a seat at the table in shaping Alliance policy directions.
But it was during NATO's Operation Unified Protector in Libya that Sweden reached a new level of partnership, which has no parallels among partner states.
The first notable aspect was how quickly Sweden responded to the 2011 Libyan crisis. After the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973 and NATO requested Swedish assistance to the operation, the Swedish parliament quickly authorised Sweden's participation in the mission, in a vote of 240 to 18 with 5 abstentions. Though public opinion polls across Europe varied, most Swedes strongly favoured of their country's engagement.
A senior U.S. State Department official made clear today that the United States -- the world's largest weapons exporter -- will sign the new Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman told an audience at the Atlantic Council that "we will sign in the very near future." After Iran, Syria, and North Korea blocked a consensus adoption of the treaty at a diplomatic conference, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the treaty text last month. The United States joined more than 150 other states in supporting the treaty. Only North Korea, Iran, and Syria voted against the treaty in the General Assembly, while 23 countries abstained. The treaty opens for signature on June 3.
Countryman said that a U.S. signature would set an important example and encourage broad adoption and enforcement. "The fact that Iran, North Korea, and Syria voted against it is reason enough to sign," he said. Countryman, who served as the lead U.S. negotiator, also insisted that the treaty requires no changes to U.S. law or regulations, which already include strict export controls, and poses no danger to U.S. constitutional rights. Instead, he insisted that the treaty will encourage "the rest of the world to behave more like we do." Countryman predicted that Russia, China, and other major exporters will eventually join the treaty.
Countryman would not commit the United States to being among the first signatories, however, and would not speculate about whether or when the treaty would be presented for ratification. The ATT faces tough opposition on Capitol Hill, and Sen. Rand Paul recently endorsed a campaign to prevent ratification.
Last week, I wrote about the hostile letter that Kenya's United Nations ambassador submitted to the U.N. Security Council. In sometimes rambling fashion, he attacked the court's investigations of 2007-2008 election violence, which include indictments against new President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. The ambassador warned that the court's work may threaten peace and stability and asked council members to use their influence to end the investigation once and for all.
A strange thing happened after the confidential letter became public, however: Several senior Kenyan officials, including Ruto himself, disavowed it:
Questions are now being raised as to who authorised a letter to the UN Security Council seeking to terminate ongoing criminal cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
This is after Ruto and Attorney General Githu Muigai disowned a letter by Kenya’s ambassador to the UN Kamau Macharia last Friday requesting the Security Council to ask the ICC to terminate proceedings against President Uhuru, Ruto and former Kass FM presenter Joshua arap Sang, on grounds that the cases were a threat to Kenya’s national security and undermined the country’s sovereignty.
“The official position of the Kenyan government is that it has cooperated fully with the ICC and intends to continue cooperating within the framework of the Rome Statute and International law,” AG Muiga said on Saturday.
The confusion has led some close observers to wonder whether the U.N. ambassador somehow went rogue. I'm inclined to a much more cynical interpretation: The Kenyan government is avoiding a direct confrontation with The Hague that would provoke international condemnation while also making clear that it views the court's investigation and the upcoming trials as a dire threat. Those mixed messages likely send a quite clear signal to Kenyans working with the court: Beware.
To complete the scheduled trials, the court needs continued cooperation from Kenyans inside and outside the government. As Kenyan officials know well, there are many gradations of cooperation. A formal declaration of cooperation is quite distinct from the real thing. According to Kenya's Capital FM, the ICC prosecutor is not at all pleased with the help she has been getting:
In her submissions to the Hague-based court, Bensouda says that she has encountered difficulties in securing full and timely cooperation from Kenya, despite assurances by government.
She says that although the Government of Kenya (GoK) had allowed investigative missions from the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) to Kenya, there were other areas in which the government had failed to cooperate.
“Contrary to the GoK’s claims to have acted in “full compliance” with its obligations under the Statute 24, the OTP continues to encounter considerable difficulties in securing full, effective and meaningful cooperation, which continues to deprive the chamber of evidence that may assist in adjudicating the Kenya cases,” she protested.
She says that the government has failed to execute requests for documentary evidence relating to among other things financial records of the accused in the two Kenyan cases.
There are some signs that the government may be successfully scuttling the cases without formally ending cooperation. Most alarming, some witnesses are reportedly reconsidering their participation.
Hurriyet reports that Turkey is clearing its debts to the International Monetary Fund:
All of the debt Turkey owes to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be paid tomorrow, as the debt, which rounded up to $23.5 billion, will be ended with the payment of last slice of $422.1 million.
Turkey’s last standby agreement with the fund was in 2005, and it expired in May 2008. The country has gradually reduced its debt from $23.5 billion in 2002.
In passing that milestone, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken several shots at the global lender:
Prime Minister Erdogan said to the audience at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Annual Meeting, "We have not signed a stand-by agreement with the IMF. Why is that? Because, they want other things from us, such as to teach us politics. I am a politician and I will only listen to or learn from politicians when it comes to politics. I will not be given a lesson on politics from a civil servant," stated Erdogan.
After the abduction of four peacekeepers by Syrian rebels, the foreign minister of the Philippines has recommended to the president that his country cease participation in the UN's Golan Heights mission. Via BBC:
The Philippines' foreign minister says he wants to pull its peacekeepers from the UN force in the Golan Heights after four were seized by Syrian rebels.
Albert del Rosario said the soldiers were being held as human shields and that peacekeepers' exposure was "beyond tolerable limits".
The UN peacekeepers patrol the line separating Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
A total of 342 are Filipinos - about a third of the UN contingent.
This is not the first time a large contributor to the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has raised the possibility of withdrawal. Last month, Austria, announced that it might remove its own large contingent if the security situation deterioriated further (Austria used that threat in part to pressure the European Union to maintain its arms embargo on Syria). In March, Syrian rebels detained and then released 21 UNDOF peacekeepers.
The Security Council authorized UNDOF in 1974 to maintain a ceasefire between Israeli and Syrian forces in the area. India is the other significant source of troops for the mission, which comprises about 1000 soldiers and several dozen civilians. According to the UN, the mission has suffered 43 fatalities in its nearly four decades of existence.
On Friday, Kenya's permanent representative to the United Nations submitted to the Security Council a wide-ranging attack on the International Criminal Court cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. The letter, provided by a reader, escalates significantly the long-standing tension between Kenya and the court. Some choice excerpts:
The Kenya case that was taken up by the Prosecutor of the ICC at his own behest, is falling apart in the face of a lack of evidence, withdrawal of witnesses and incompetent prosecution.… We are of the reasoned opinion that what is currently ongoing at the instant is an affront to the domestic policy and internal affairs of our sovereign Republic of Kenya. This inalienable right is being undermined and manipulated using different actors from within and without the territory of Kenya. As in the past, civil society bodies are currently being used by external dark forces to espouse their own policies using the Rome Statute as a conduit and the ICC as the manifestation of its interference.
The letter goes on to urge Security Council members to recognize the dangers of the ICC investigation for peace and security:
[It] is important and necessary that members of the UN Security Council not see themselves as disinterested observers of the ICC legal process, but rather recognize the danger that it poses to international peace and security in Eastern Africa to say nothing of the further damage to the credibility of the ICC.
The sometimes rambling missive pulls together a host of critiques of the ICC, including ones from the Indian government, John Bolton, and the Heritage Foundation.
There are a few conciliatory notes. The Kenyan ambassador denies any intent to actively interfere with the investigation or withdraw from the court:
This delegation wishes to reiterate that we are not in any way interfering with the conduct of the cases before the Court. To the contrary the Government of Kenya will continue cooperating with the Court and being a State Party to the Rome Statute [and] is cognizant of the obligations placed on it.
But the overall thrust of the letter suggests that the Kenyatta government may be moving into more direct confrontation with the court. This is not the first time the Kenyan authorities have implored the Security Council to intervene. In early 2011, Kenyan diplomats made a major push to secure a deferral of the investigation. That effort failed, in large part because the key Western governments on the council had no interest. The question now will be whether the prospect of an ugly confrontation between the court and a democratically elected government has changed the political landscape.
Update: A Kenyan newspaper is now reporting on the letter.
David Bosco reports on the new world order for The Multilateralist.