Laura Seay is an assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College in Atlanta, USA. Her research addresses community responses to state fragility in central Africa and US foreign policy in central Africa. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and is completing a book, Substituting for the State, on the differences in the ways that civil society organizations respond to the state’s absence in social service provision in the Kivu provinces and Ituri district.
Seay spoke with PRAXIS editors Keren Yohannes and Casey Hogle on March 1, 2012 when she was attending a World Peace Foundation seminar.
PRAXIS: Can you outline some of the ways advocates have framed the conflict in the DRC? What impacts have these ways of framing had on Western policy responses to the conflict?
Laura Seay: You see two primary streams of advocacy. One has to do with the rape crisis and the other is about conflict minerals. The anti-conflict minerals advocates argue that the armed groups benefiting from the mineral trade are the same groups that engage in massive human rights abuses. A group called the FDLR once got about 75 percent of its revenues from the mineral trade. Another group called the CNDP, which has now reformed itself as the M23, was getting about 25 percent of its revenues from the mineral trade. Is that bad? Yes. But there are different sources of revenue, and these groups are quite adaptable.
The other stream of advocacy is focused on stopping rape. How do you do that? Do you go after the conflict minerals issue? Do you go after the broader problems of governance in the Congo? We know that the majority of rapes in Congo that are happening are civilian-perpetrated, so I believe you’ve got to do something within the civilian population. Continue reading →
Every week I would see white buses roll by on the road near my office in Mulliyawalai, Mullaitivu District. They did not stop – nothing happened there except business and rebuilding after three decades of civil war. The buses continued on to the district capital and, from there, further north. They were full of Sinhalese passengers, the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, and until three years ago, a group that could not have come to this region. Before then, the district was the seat of the extremist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers. To non-Tamils, it was like the throne room of the Great and Terrible Oz. Even three years after the end of the fighting, it remained extremely isolated, rural, and sparsely populated.
Mullaitivu District was ground zero for a contest of memory between Tamils and non-Tamils. It was here that the war ended in an assault that killed upwards of 40,000 Tamil civilians. Continue reading →
On Jan. 12, 2010, Jonathan Katz, the only full-time American news correspondent in Haiti, was sitting in his home, preparing to ship out in a few weeks time for his next assignment. Within seconds, the ground beneath him began to shake and everything changed.
In his new book, The Big Truck That Went By: How The World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, Katz lays out a hard-hitting critique of the rescue efforts that followed the quake and why good intentions were simply not good enough. The book forces us rethink aid and how the development enterprise shifted the balance of power from Haitians to Westerners during the response and subsequent reconstruction, only to exacerbate historical injustices.
With over $16.3 billion made in pledges to help Haiti recover after the quake, and very little ever transferred to the government, Katz investigates what went wrong in such a massive aid endeavor. He describes what a cruel twist of fate it was for Haiti to experience such a disastrous event, after so many years of extreme poverty, political corruption, dilapidated infrastructure, and foreign meddling – only to have such an uncoordinated humanitarian response, which often bypassed those that were most in need.
Situated in the far southwest of Ethiopia, on the border with South Sudan, is Gambella -one of the country’s four “emerging regions.” Unique in Ethiopia, Gambella is low and humid, encompassing several river basins and the country’s sole tropical mountain rainforest in Godere. Gambella’s unique climate has also produced some of the country’s best-suited land for large-scale commercial agriculture. The forest and the farmland are two of Gambella’s greatest resources, and efforts to best utilize them can sometimes be at odds. Yet as I learned on a trip through the Godere forest earlier this year, there is much to learn there about the challenges and opportunities for reconciling these competing demands.
A trip in the Gambella region almost always begins with a visit to Gambella town, the regional capital, the type of place where the majority of the vehicles on the road bear 3-letter acronyms (IOM, WFP, MSF, etc.) Continue reading →