AfCON features European-based players and European managers, but it resolutely sticks to its awkward calendar, taking place every other January, unlike most international tournaments, which are fitted in between the seasons of the major European leagues. It always finds a way to overcome crises: when Morocco withdrew as host because of the Ebola epidemic, Equatorial Guinea stepped into the breach. AfCON also unites the African diaspora in a way that no other international football tournament can.
What price a mobile phone? Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, passed after the 2008 crash, the US Securities and Exchange Commission set 2 June 2014 as the deadline for mining companies to report the provenance of minerals they put on commodities markets, the aim being to flag ‘conflict minerals’ as such. Minerals dug in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces, including coltan (columbium tantalum) cassiterite and gold, are used in capacitors and other components for tablets, phones and computers. Various armed rebel groups in and around the Kivus vie for control of the mostly hand-worked mines.
Out over the Toison d’Or the old bastard glooms. Shovel-bearded, he sits astride his mount, his 1000-yard gaze intent on the main chance. The socle bears his name, his regnal dates, and the legend ‘PATRIA MEMOR’: a stern summons to remembrance. As usual, though, with such biddings, the true call is for selective forgetting. It calls Belgians to remember the patrimony bequeathed by King Leopold II with riches milked from the empire in the Congo. In fact, to label Leopold’s venture ‘imperialist’ is, if anything, flattering.
The Rwanda-backed M23 rebels – M23 for 23 March 2009, when a peace deal was signed with Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila – attacked the city of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on 17 November, trouncing the Congolese army in less than three days. Twelve days later they withdrew. But they have not melted back into the hills of Northern Kivu from where they launched the assault. They have put a ring around Goma and are staying put until the power-sharing agreement for which they’re named is renegotiated in their favour. Meanwhile, Goma, a border town of one million people, resembles Berlin in the Cold War, an island linked to the west by an air bridge.
Stephen W. Smith in the LRB, 17 March 2011: We are hypnotised by the 1994 genocide, and oblivious to the atrocities of a regime we regard as exemplary. Aid, we say, must be conditional on good governance – but post-genocide government is an exception. La Francophonie is at best ridiculous and at worst a vector of France’s influence, but the Commonwealth is honourable as it embraces a dictator who favours English over French. Democracy is a precondition of peace – but not in a post-genocidal state. Justice, truth and reconciliation heal – but not the wounds of exterminatory hatred. The invasion and plunder of eastern Congo are criminal – but not when they’re carried out by genocide survivors. Hutu power is bad, but Tutsi chauvinism is acceptable.
The Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels has been called ‘the last colonial museum in the world’. It’s not hard to see why: in the marble lobby a statue celebrates ‘Belgium bringing civilisation to the Congo’; the Memorial Room lists the names of the 1508 Belgians who died in Africa between 1876 and 1908 but doesn’t mention the millions of Africans who perished during King Leopold II’s brutal reign in the Congo Free State; the painted wooden carvings from Tintin in the Congo that decorate the restaurant are in dubious taste, to put it mildly.
Some courier jobs pay more than others. ‘Wait and returns’ are sometimes the best rewarded, especially if you can wangle a lot of waiting time. The vast majority of these jobs are embassy runs, collecting visa documents and waiting in line to have them processed and stamped. The new design for the American embassy in Nine Elms may look like ‘a non-turreted Norman keep’, but even with the addition of a moat it will be difficult to increase the fortress-like security of the current set-up in Grosvenor Square. Deliveries there have to be checked in by the client in advance. Queues are long and supervised by armed police, who don’t take kindly to anyone cycling on the bollarded road at the front of the building. Once you’re inside, a rigorous search ensures you’ll clock up plenty of waiting time. It’s all very different
I’m going to the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of the month to report on the music scene there. Getting the necessary papers turned out to be miles more complicated than I’d imagined. The DRC embassy in London has been handing out fake visas: embassy employees, genuine ones, with the uniforms and everything, have been selling the real visas on the black market (to whom, I dread to think) and palming off photocopied forgeries on innocent people like me trying to get to DRC via the proper channels. Dozens of travellers from the UK to DRC have been turned back from Kinshasa airport for having fake papers. The problem hasn’t been reported in the mainstream press – this is the scoop right here. Anyone planning an autumn break in Kinshasa beware.