Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bavinck's Organic Motif Confirms Buswell's Dooyeweerd Critique

I did not attend the conference on neo-calvinism and the French revolution in Paris last week. However, I argued in the blogpost Neo-Calvinism & the French Revolution: What is Sphere Sovereignty? that the conference focused on Dooyeweerd's philosophical concepts. Blogger Willem-Jan de Wit, who attended the conference made me aware of James Eglinton and his study of Bavinck's Organic Motif. In a bookreview of James Eglinton's book Trinity and Organism: Towards a New Reading of Herman Bavinck’s Organic Motif  Robert S. Covolo writes:
'It is difficult to overstate the importance of Eglinton’s work for Bavinck studies.' 
James Eglinton contests Jan Veenhof's narrative which is based on the'assumption that Bavinck’s frequent use of the organic motif represents little more than thinly veiled German Idealism foisted onto orthodox theology' (writes Robert S. Covolo). J. Oliver Buswell jr.'s critical bookreview of Herman Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Problems of Philosophic Thought : An Inquiry into the Transcendental Conditions of Philosophy comes to mind 
'the notion that human reason is not autonomous, in the sense that God has created it so, is, in this little book from Amsterdam, quite suggestive of a basically pantheistic attitude. In fact the denial of the autonomy of reason seems to imply that God has not created anything which is not actually a part, or an aspect, or an emanation of His own substance.'
when James Eglinton quotes Herman Bavinck 'writing against the cosmologies of idealist pantheism and Enlightenment mechanism':
'Scripture's worldview is radically different. From the beginning heaven and earth have been distinct. Everything was created with a nature of its own and rests in ordinances established by God.... The foundation of both diversity and unity  [point one, unity in diversity] is in God. It is he who created all things [point two, unity precedes diversity ] ... who continually upholds them in their distinctive natures, who guides and governs them in keeping with their own created energies and laws, and who, as the supreme good and ultimate goal of all things, is pursued and desired by all things in their measure and manner [ point three, the organism's members are driven by a common ideal]. Here is a unity that does not destroy but rather maintains diversity, and a diversity that does not come at the expense of unity, but rather unfolds its riches [point four, the organism's telos]. In virtue of this unity the world can, metaphorically, be called an organism, in which all the parts are connected with each other and influence each other reciprocally.'
When in 1949 J. Oliver Buswell told Herman Dooyeweerd 'that he had failed to build upon the four-square foundations of Bavinck and Kuyper's rugged consecrated scholarship', he was right. I suspect controversy over Dooyeweerd's ideas to be the central cause of much of the tensions in Dutch reformed churches during the twentieth century.We read in the excellent article by Eduardo J. Echeverria:
 "Indeed, as early as 1939, Dooyeweerd had rejected the moderate realism of Bavinck's philosophical thought as being in the "scholastic line" rather than the "reformational line" of Calvinism"
Now that the myths disseminated by the Dooyeweerd clan can be put to bed for good we can focus on interesting questions like for example how Bavinck's contemporary B.B. Warfield, who frequently consulted Bavinck's writings, understood this organic motif.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Michael Gerson making case for Compassionate Conservatism

In my last blogpost I briefly mentioned Michael Gerson as one of the policy makers who pushed Dooyeweerd's version of sphere sovereignty into mainstream US politics.

Michael Gerson, former ghostwriter for Charles Colson and speechwriter for President George W. Bush, went to highschool at Westminster Academy in St Louis. A highschool founded by covenant seminary Professor Dr. Knight III who studied at the Free University in Amsterdam.

Michael Gerson is today a policy fellow with the ONE campaign. He lays out his case for compassionate conservatism in this recent video (below). He mentions Rwanda, Ethiopia & Bono (the downside of the Bono sjibboleth was discussed by Shanda Tonme years ago) and points to David Cameron as an example. This compassionate conservative, Dooyeweerd-inspired, version of Christian politics has it's followers in the Netherlands (dominating both CDA & ChristenUnie), the UK and the US (Tony Blair & David Cameron).

In january he used the situation in eastern Congo to fight Ron Paul's views inside the Repubiclican party.

During the 2008 US elections the ONE campaign led a bipartisan group of politicians to Rwanda.
The interview during that trip with Tom Daschle illustrates how Paul Kagame was viewed through Michael Gerson's compassionate conservative glasses. Ron Paul's claim that big government Republicans are children of the French revolution obviously doesn't fit into this heroic conservative narrative. The ONE campaign has gone to great lengths in their support for Rwanda's current despotic leader.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Neo-Calvinism & the French Revolution: What Is Sphere Sovereignty?

This week's conference on neo-calvinism and the French revolution in Paris aims to contribute to a better understanding of the historical setting in which Abraham Kuyper formulated his ideas. The need for this was expressed in the article A Historian's Comment on the Use of Abraham Kuyper's Idea of Sphere Sovereignty by historian George Harinck back in 2002.

The concept of sphere sovereignty surfaced in US politics at the end of the twentieth century. In 1996 the center for public justice helped draft a law - based on Kuyper's idea of sphere sovereignty- to make it possible for organisations with a religious identity to receive money just like secular organisations. Bill Edgar, Westminster professor of apologetics & Francis Schaeffer Chair of Apologetics at the World Journalism Institute, writes on the website of the center for public justice about The Future of Kuyperian Answers:
'Kuyper’s vision of sphere sovereignty still has great traction'
Abraham Kuyper's use of the term in his speech Sphere Sovereignty at the opening of the Free University in 1880 differs from the philosophical concept of sphere sovereignty constructed by Herman Dooyeweerd in the twentieth century.

Let's reconstruct the background of this confusion which has had important consequences in many political debates. Blogger David Koyzis writes about a Dooyeweerd consultation in Baltimore in 2004:
'a conversation amongst academics and practitioners who are in some sense indebted to Herman Dooyeweerd's political and legal theory'
One of the participants was J.D. van der Vyver, the current I.T. Cohen Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Emory Law. Together with John Witte jr., his colleague at Emory Law, van der Vyver wrote the book Religious human rights in global perspective. He wrote in 2006 the article 'Abraham Kuyper and the right to self-determination of peoples' which starts with the claim:
'Sphere sovereignty as a principle that regulates the mutual relationships among different social institutions originated from the philosophy of John Althusius'
A statement that reminded me of the short introduction to John Althusius by John Witte jr. at Leuven University in may 2012 : 'A ‘Demonstrative Theory’ of Natural Law: Johannes Althusius and the Rise of Calvinist Jurisprudence'. (Althusius wrote the only systematic justification of the Dutch Revolt Politica which John Witte proposed as a precursor of the US constitution, John Witte wrote Natural Rights, Popular Sovereignty, and Covenant Politics: Johannes Althusius and the Dutch Revolt and Republic. )

In 2002 van der Vyver wrote the article 'The jurisprudential legacy of Abraham Kuyper and Leo XIII' in which he argues in similar fashion that the idea of 'sphere sovereignty' itself, however, 'preceded this descriptive phrase (by Groen van Prinsterer in 1862) by approximately three hundred years', quoting Herman Dooyeweerd:
'According to Herman Dooyeweerd, "the first modern formulation of the principle of internal sphere-sovereignty in the societal relationship" is to be found in a statement of the medieval Calvinistic jurist, Johannes Althusius (1557-1638).'
Let's listen again to George Harinck, professor of neocalvinist history at the Free University, responding to van der Vyver's paper:
 'Sphere sovereignty was one of the weapons of Kuyper the tactical general, of Kuyper, the outcast en route'.
He explains how Herman Dooyeweerd reconstructed 'sphere sovereignty' into 'the full-grown philosophical theory that we know so well today' and how it became a 'great subject for academic conferences' but 'did not function anymore as a crowbar in Dutch society'. In a clear reference to van der Vyver's work he concludes:
 'it's a tricky thing to take Kuyper's idea of sphere sovereignty as a well-defined doctrine and apply it to realities such as race, gender, ethnic groups, or the self-determination of peoples.'
Marvin Olasky, who is known as 'the godfather of compassionate conservatism', wrote in 2005:
'Who's the major figure behind the election and re-election of George W. Bush? On one level, the visionary Karl Rove. At a deeper level, a theologian most Americans have never heard of: Francis Schaeffer, who 50 years ago this month founded an evangelistic haven in Switzerland, L'Abri.'
Francis Schaeffer as the mascot of the Christian Right? How could this happen? Some say Francis Schaeffer was influenced by Dooyeweerdian thinking through Free University Art Historian Hans Rookmaaker. Westminster Professor of apologetics Bill Edgar said in 2005 that Schaeffer's first book, Escape from Reason, 'shows a decided influence from Herman Dooyeweerd'. Dr. Schaeffer was a member of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy.

But that's not the whole story. Schaeffer was first of all a student of J. Oliver Buswell, his apologetics Professor, who had this to say to Herman Dooyeweerd:
'With the background of Hodge and Warfield on this side of the Atlantic, we have learned much from Abraham Kuyper and Bavinck, the great Calvinists of your noble tradition. We prefer their straight-forward appeal to objective facts in the created world, and we regret that some of you younger scholars who have inherited great things from them, have failed to build upon the four-square foundations of their rugged, consecrated scholarship.'
'Early on in L'Abri, Francis Schaeffer gave a lecture called "Christian Apologetics" in which he sided with J. Oliver Buswel' writes Bill Edgar. Francis Schaeffer's book Escape from Reason was an attempt to reconcile Dooyeweerd and Buswell's views. To ignore the influence of J. Oliver Buswell gives the false impression Francis Schaeffer was the guy who sold Dooyeweerd's sphere sovereignty to unenlightened American evangelicals.

This is nonsense! American Presbyterian contacts with Dutch Reformed date back to the 19th century. Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck were read by Warfield, Machen and Buswell decades before Francis Schaeffer set foot on European soil.

Offcours Jim Skillen, Charles Colson, Michael Gerson (ghostwriter of Chuck Colson's culture-war book, “Kingdoms in Conflict” and George W. Bush's speechwriter), Marvin Olasky and Bill Edgar can take credit for selling Dooyeweerd's version of 'sphere sovereignty' to American evangelicals. I can also understand the temptation to use Francis Schaeffer to sell Dooyeweerd's concept of sphere sovereignty to Presbyterians. It still remains a tragedy how in the process J. Oliver Buswell's apologetics and Abraham Kuyper's functional use of sphere sovereignty have been completely obscured.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Todd Akin's Patriotic Pro-Life Argument

Noreen McCann pointing to Akin's 'commitment to defending American values' underlines and illustrates my point that the problem here is not Akin, but people like Marvin Olasky and their superficial nationalist brand of 'conservatism'. Todd Akin's comments today instantly became trending on the web, as Reid Epstein put it:
'Watching the Todd Akin quote cascade across the web is like standing on Illinois cornfield as thunderstorms roll in from the west.'

Todd Akin claims he heard from some scientist that a woman likely won't get pregnant if 'legitimately' raped. Excellent report in the NYT by John Eligon shows that Todd Akin's comments backfired:
'Mr. Akin quickly backtracked from his taped comments, saying he “misspoke.” and that he recognizes that abortion, particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue.'
Akin's absolutist pro-life position is clear, but his argument is counter productive as we can conclude from a hastely released statement by the Romney campaign:
'Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.'
Dennis Hopper could have explained to Todd Akin, as he did to Christopher Walken in this famous scene in the movie True Romance, why the 'natural abortion' argument won't work.

But I would like to focus on a more fundamental aspect of Todd Akin's brand of Christian politics in the US. In the interview today Todd Akin uses a heroic fireman who saved a handicapped from the WTC after the 9/11 attacks and a soldier who saved an Iraqi while serving to explain his pro-life views. Notice how, while Todd Akin's pro-life views are obviously aimed at the 'Evangelical vote', all three arguments are non-religious. After his backtracking we can take the first argument of the table. The two remaining arguments are an attempt to seduce the voter with a patriotic dream of the heroic American. Something J. Gresham Machen denounced in letters to his mother during the first world war :
"Princeton is a hot-bed of patriotic enthusiasm and military ardor, which makes me feel like a man without a country."
The tendency to pander using patriotic arguments is illustrative of the crowd following pied piper Marvin Olasky.  The use of non-religious arguments is illustrative of a broader problem among Evangelicals. The “new apologists”—D’Souza chief among them—is arguing that Christians cannot change the culture by condemning it from the outside, wrote Andrew Marantz  about the evangelical King's College in the basement of the Empire State Building.  Desillusion about Jerry Falwell and Oral Roberts failed attempt to 'shield students from the corrupting influence of modern culture', King's college is now instead turning to 'an elitist mission, which says that culture is formed from the top down', as King's College President Dinesh D’Souza, claimed in the article.

Todd Akin and D’Souza are merely symptoms of the unwillingness among Christian Republicans to learn from Abraham Kuyper and his peculiar use of sphere sovereignty. Kuyper did not choose between an elitists or a populist approach, instead he chose to emphasize his status as outcast in society, in academics and in the church.  His antithetical definition of sphere sovereignty functioned as crowbar in Dutch society.

Let's hope the conference on neo-calvinism in Paris next week will be an opportunity to explore the differences between Abraham Kuyper's approach and this (American) 'nationalist-elitist approach'. I suspect the Christian right will continue their deliberate attempt to ignore Abraham Kuyper. Instead they will prefer a more moderate version of 'sphere sovereignty' which was created by Herman Dooyeweerd decades later when Abraham Kuyper's free university and political party were allready firmly established in Dutch society. Many evangelicals today, in the US and Europe, would like to compliment the Dooyeweerdian version of 'sphere sovereignty' with the Roman Catholic 'subsidiarity'. A strategy that aims to unite Dooyeweerdian and catholic social thought into a 'compassionate conservative' approach. A good example here on the website of Dutch evangelical political party ChristenUnie. This offcourse takes the dynamite out of the meaning of sphere sovereignty as Kuyper defined it at the founding of the Free University in 1880.

Oliver Buswell, one of the founders of covenant seminary in St Louis, was a staunch opponent of Dooyeweerd's ideas. A fact people like Marvin Olasky (and maybe Todd Akin, who studied at covenant seminary) would love to forget or ignore.

Those attending the conference in Paris on neo-calvinism would do well to read this recent Christian Science Monitor article on evangelicals in France. And carefully read the sermon French pastor Vincent Bru (of the reformed church EREI) held in Sénégal: 'the strong and the weak or a view on Africa and the west' (in french). Some (American) hero showing compassion to the poor certainly isn't what neo-calvinism is about.

Egbert Brink, recently appointed Professor of Old Testament at the reformed theological university in Kampen (the Netherlands) says in a recent interview:
'This year a free university, similar to the ideas of Kuyper, starts in the north of Cameroon, focused on french speaking Africa'
Compassionate conservatism and Dooyeweerd's disciples can offcourse choose to ignore reality and facts (often for supposed strategic reasons to forge an alliance with roman catholics). But let me ask you, Todd Akin, as I close, were the many foreign students you studied with at covenant seminary somehow less heroic?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Victoire Ingabire and the crisis in D.R. Congo

Rwandan political prisoner Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, and
the Rwandan Diaspora protesting in Brussels for her release

In July 2010, Victoire Ingabire told Womens' International News Gathering Service that the warring that followed refugees from Rwanda into eastern Congo must be brought to an end with dialogue, not invasion:

"The stumbling block is the refugees issue. For the last 16 years or so, the current regime has attempted to settle this refugee problem through military invasion. It is this problem which poisoned the relation between Rwanda and Congo – DRC – and Uganda. And we have to resolve this problem, not militarily, but through dialogue." 

Is it any wonder she's been in Rwandan General Kagame's 1930 maximum security prison since October 2010?  Twelve years of UN investigations have proven that what Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front party have described, since 1996, as a hunt for the perpetrators of the Rwanda Genocide, who fled to eastern Congo, has been very profitable for General Kagame, and for Uganda's General Museveni, and their elite collaborators, nationally and internationally.  In 2001, the first of the UN Panel of Experts on Illegal Minerals Trade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported that militias allied with both Rwanda and Uganda were smuggling minerals across Congo's eastern borders, and that Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni were, "on the verge of becoming the godfathers of illegal resource exploitation and ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."  

Rwandan prosecutors asked that Victoire Ingabire be found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, but the verdict that was to be handed down on June 29th has been postponed to September 7th. 

On August 17th, Rwandans and Congolese will gather in the Hague to petition the International Criminal Court to indict Rwandan President Paul Kagame for violating arms embargoes and helping the M23 militia in Congo in violation of Security Council sanctions.

Kigali's Hunger Games In Virunga Park

If we assume Rwanda's goal in Kivu isn't to break up the DRC, what would  be Rwanda's goal of sending recruits to Congo? As Jason Stearns says in this recent discussion on Aljazeera @ 12:30:

'it's not entirely clear why Rwanda is really taking on a very large risk in providing support to the M23'.
Reading the account Ibrahim Nszanzimana gave of his adventure in the Virunga park and AP's Michelle Faul's added comments it occured to me how much his story reminds me of the movie Hunger Games:
'When I woke up the next morning, we were in the volcano area in Congo," he said, brought to fight a war led by the Tutsi tribe that he considers a mortal enemy of his Hutu people. Terrified that he was going to be killed, Nsanzimana fled into the forest and wandered for days before he was captured three weeks ago by Congolese soldiers.'
Cruel games organized to entertain the ruling elite in Kigali with clowns like Laurent Nkunda and 'The Terminator' and to keep the masses in a perpetual state of fear. What would Kinshasa be without it's musicians? Analogically we could say 'What would Kigali be without it's rebels in eastern Congo?' If Kinshasa can export Werrason to Cabinda, why can't Kigali organize it's hunger games in Virunga park, Right?

The scene at Amahora Stadium, recounted by Ibrahim Nszanzimana,walks right out of the first scene of Hunger Games where the fighters are chosen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bread & Olympic Games

Today the Washington Post posts the AP piece 'Rwandan genocide survivor and mountain biker Adrien Niyonshuti ready to make debut at Olympic' which makes the pompous clame:
'Adrien Niyonshuti doesn’t need an Olympic medal to turn these games into a victory for himself or his country.'
Great publicity for Rwanda, right.

Roman Satirist Juvenal coined the phrase panem et circenses which summarized his contempt for the declining heroism of the Romans.

It's also the definition of cynical manufactured  consent based not on thorough understanding  and approval by citizens of public policy but through diversion and distraction. Give them 'something to eat' instead of 'civil and political rights' claimed the Dutch Ambassador in the run up to the 2010 elections in Rwanda.

We should however give Philip Gourevitch credit for repackaging the old diversion tactic 'give them games' in his article 'Climbers'. This 2011 article about a group of Rwandan cyclists is built around the short quote 'Rwanda needs heroes'. The proposed solution to divisions of the past: a group of cyclists.

July 27th, the day the Olympic Games started, which also was the day the UK blocked aid to Rwanda, Gourevitch posted the article 'From Rwanda to London, with a Bicycle' on the New Yorker's website. An article that built on his 'Climbers' piece and which hammers in the same message:
“He’s here in London thinking about what he represents to the kids of Rwanda—as that figure, that image, that they can see and say, Yeah, if he can do that I do it, too, whatever it is. It’s not about getting a medal, it’s about being that person.”
Good groundwork for Rwanda's public relations campaign surrounding the Olympic Games and summarized by genocide survivor and mountainbiker Niyonshuti who carried the Rwandan flag in the opening ceremonie:
"Above all, I would like – as a result of these Olympic Games – that people think of my country in terms of sport and cycling in particular, even as simply a great nation. The first thing people think of at the moment is the genocide, but that was 18 years ago. I want people to concentrate on the positive aspects of my country"
In the fiction trilogy Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins the live-broadcasted games were used to distract the general populace of the capital city from becoming aware of the impoverished existence of the surrounding districts.

Rwanda's pr campaign surrounding the Olympic Games today aims to divert attention away from it's effort to destablize the Democratic Republic of Congo. An effort resulting in immense suffering for hundreds of thousands of Congolese citizens.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

KPFA News: Congo's swelling IDP camps

Lack of sanitation at this makeshift camp of internally displaced persons on the outskirts of Goma, in eastern Congo, caused a cholera outbreak at the beginning of August.
Stories of hunger and now a cholera outbreak in swelling refugee camps in eastern Congo are in the news now, but they could just as easily be the news of much of the last 16 years, since 1996, when Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi first invaded the Congo.

KPFA Radio News, 08.04.2012:

I Am A European Blogger

Since US President John F. Kennedy's famous speech in Berlin at the height of the Cold War the proudest boast in Europe has been 'I'm a migrant worker'. Today, in the age of search engines, the proudest boast is 'I am a European blogger'.

At the The Single Market Opportunity event in Brussels, last january, Google's Matt Brittin insisted that 'small and medium enterprises are the unsung heroes of the economy' and that the internet 'can give them a voice'. The emerging European citizen at the heart of a single market that guarantees free movement of goods, capital, services, and migrant workers!

I am convinced in today's world, in the midst of the Euro crisis, bloggers are not just thoughtleaders in business, they are the avant-garde of Europe's single market. These emerging European bloggers are increasingly seen as the ears and eyes of European policymakers as well. Who are these bloggers and what defines the European blogosphere?

The Hungarians made the first attempt to reach out to the European blogosphere during their 2011 EU Presidency. A few weeks ago the Cyprus EU

Presidency followed suit by organizing an even more ambitious rendez-vous with European bloggers in Brussels. I was there. I arrived early and happy to avoid the usual commuter traffic jams. I could even find myself a free parking space five minutes away from the headquarters of the European Council, the Justus Lipsius building. In Leeuwarden, my Dutch hometown, that would have been unthinkable!

At the check-in desk I chose to participate in the panel 'Europe, more relevant to its citizens, with solidarity and social cohesion'. This turned out to be a small but diverse on- and offline group of EU policy makers, (ACTA) activists, journalists and online entrepreneurs. Eric Bonse, who presided over this session, captured the passions, challenges, ideas and mood among the participants on his blog 'lost in europe'. The impact on policy making of sustained online campaigns was recognized as the most important lesson learned during the ACTA battle.

It reminded me of how my blogging adventure started in 2007 with the creation of a local radioprogram for and by migrants in Leeuwarden. Inspired by the role local radio had played in the organization of the million migrant marches in the US in 2006, I had decided to give it a try in my hometown. Radio Mercurius gave me the opportunity to explore the relationship between migration and development in a weekly radioshow. Together with my Congolese cohost I created a local platform for small diaspora NGO's for development, exotic musicians and European students. Radio 1812, a knowledge center for migrant workers in Brussels, discovered my initiative and invited me to share my experience with a crowd of seasoned migrant radio makers from all over Europe.

That's when it suddenly occurred to me that wherever we may live, online we are migrant workers. Since that day I take pride in the words 'I'm a European blogger.'

UK & Dutch Colonial Nostalgia

More then a year ago Polish prime-minister Donald Tusk accused western Europe's most powerful leaders of hypocrisy and myopia in the midst of what is being called the EU's worst crisis. He charged them with:
 'posing as European champions while pandering to a new form of Euroscepticism for personal political gain, and of using fears about immigration to curb freedom of travel in Europe.'
Donald Tusk did a great job in taking down the crap Jan-Peter Balkenende and Tony Blair served us for over a decade. However he failed to mention how both Tony Blair and 'golden age' Jan-Peter Balkenende pushed a narrative of Western superiority not just concerning immigration and integration, but on development as well!
Today, in an excellent essay in the Guardian, Pankaj Mishra, shines his light on this narcissist version of history to complement Donald Tusk's observations:
'Even before 9/11, Tony Blair was ready to tend, with military means if necessary, to, as he put it, "the starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant" around the world. His apparently more intellectual rival Gordon Brown urged his compatriots to be "proud" of their imperial past.'
The Weberian superiority complex is a constant temptation for Europe's ruling elites. It would be a mistake to think this only impacts domestic policy. It has just as much baring on the relationship with regimes across the world and particularly in Africa.

When Yoweri Museveni recently stated 'there still is soo much ignorance in Uganda' or when 'mapping report' Paul Kagame defended crushing the domestic opposition by saying 'Rwanda is not ready for the medecin of democracy' we can't but read these statements in the context of this colonial nostalgia pushed by mainstream politicians from Western Europe.

When Dutch Ambassador Frans Makken, much like a contemporary Pontius Pilate, helped rig Rwanda's 2010 election it's hard to not see this in the 'Weberian' context of neocolonial nostalgia. A constant temptation that probably plays a much larger role in donor policy decision making concerning Africa then most people might expect.

But then again understanding Europe isn't easy and donor diplomacy in central Africa is murky.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Anglican Churches Supporting Armed Insurgency Congo?

When sexual or other abuses are suspected most Churches today will start an indepedent investigation. At least that's what I understand from recent cases in the Netherlands, Belgium and the US.

The Anglican church in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda has links to England's Anglican Church through Paul Butler, who was installed as Bishop of Southwell and Nottingh since 2010 ( more then 300 church buildings ). We read about Paul Butler here:

'Bishop Paul has always been passionate about being part of the world church, with a particular interest in and commitment to Rwanda and Uganda. He served on the Council of the Rwanda Mission/Mid Africa Ministry from 1988-99 and 2000-1. In 2001 he became a Trustee of CMS and was appointed as an Honorary Canon of Byumba, Rwanda.'
Paul Butler is also the Chairman of the Trustees of 'the friends of Byumba'  in Rwanda. He recently visited Burundi, as described on his blog.
At the same time the Rwandan Anglican church has a strong link to several Anglican churches in the US. The nature of the relationship has changed somewhat since last year, as is clear from a letter by John Rucyahana from november 2011.

Bishop John Rucyahana and former Archbishop Kollini are mentioned in the United Nations Group of Experts Report on Congo as organisers of the M23 insurgency.(It's unfortunate this Church of England's newspaper article calls the war in Congo a 'civil war' while that's precisely what is disputed).

 Bishop John Rucyahana denies his involvement in the M23 insurgency on his own website. Former Rwandan Archbishop Kollini has not reacted to the allegations as of yet. Most likely because his name was misspelled in the UN expert report (and he still hopes to avoid the bad press).
In Reformed churches a pastor who retires retains the title of emeritus pastor. I suppose it's the same in the Anglican churches. It therefore makes no difference wether these bishops are retired or not. The extremely serious accusations, backed by several witnesses, deserve to be taken seriously and deserve to be thorougly investigated by an internal investigation of the Anglican church.
Bishop John Rucyahana's claim that he does not support armed insurgency in Congo contradicts his own writings on the RPF propaganda website 'The New Times' the same week. The article on the new times website is full of what Museveni would probably consider his 'ideology': 'africanism', nationalism and supposed patriotism (a misplaced pride based on accusations against the west, westerners, colonialism, etc etc). Does the Anglican church really want to be associated with this Museveni-style revolutionary rhetoric that clearly serves as figleaf for these bloodsoaked regimes?
I would think that Anglican churches in the UK and the US with links to Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi would have serious questions for this bishop John Rucyahana and the Rwandan Church that ordained him.

Emmanuel Kollini, former archbishop of Kigali, boycotted the Lambeth conference in 2008 because of difference of opinion on homosexuality (apparently supporting armed insurgency in a neighbouring country is less of a problem). A characteristic Museveni quote (remember 'africanism') in this weeks article by Godfrey Ntagungira in The New Times explains this apparent contradiction:
'Don’t fear; resist and do not compromise on that. It is a danger not only to the believers but to the whole of Africa. It is bad if our children become complacent and think that people who are not in order are alright.'
Below we can see John Rucyahana in action as propaganda master for the regime.

Donor Consistency Concerning East Africa & Congo

Ken Opalo claimed yesterday:
'Rwanda’s involvement is a symptom of, and not the cause of the mess that is eastern DRC.'
The basic assertion that informs his claim is this:
'As long as Kinshasa’s incompetence continues to provide a safe launching base for rebels aiming to depose Kagame, Kigali will have no option'
'I think the Huntingtonian view that degree of government matters trumps concerns over 
 the type of government. Eastern Congo needs order, period.'
The first claim suggests that Kigali has more right to launch destablising insurgencies then Kinshasa because of the relationship between FDLR and the Rwandan genocide. It seems based on a racist assumption that Hutus are more likely to commit genocide then other tribes in the region. A claim that is completely baseless. Apparently most people tend to forget the Burundi genocide in 1972 and the genocidal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of hutu refugees in the Congo at the end of the twentieth century (see mapping report).

Concerning the second, in some undemocratic states there has allways been lots of order, but longerm results were less fantastic. Hillary Clinton in her visit to Kampala and ICG's Louise Arbour in her open letter to the security council emphasized the importance of a political component in all policy debates concerning East Africa and Congo.

The pan-african narrative claims it liberated Congo from the ekakunya Mobutu, right? How can those same pan-africanists now come around and claim democracy is totally irrelevant? I don't get it? If the international community and the pan-africanists want to preserve even a little credibility they will have to demonstrate commitment to a hollistic solution with a strong political component. But maybe pan-africanism is just another definition for a fascist totalitarian state, right. Also a possibility.
A reasonable approach in both Congo and the East African Community would be to push for freedom of goods, services and people as a single market, just as Europe did since JFK's famous speech in Berlin about freedom.
In recent weeks many commentators have argued that there seems to be a policy change concerning Paul Kagame among western governments. But it could just as well be the logical next step in a longterm debate among western European and American donors. Pushing for freedom and democracy abroad is directly linked to domestic policies in EU memberstates and the US.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Diplomatieke Toneelstukjes In Centraal Afrika

Er komt een dag dat het vrede is in oost-Congo. Op die dag zal er een gedenksteen voor de bijdrage van donoren worden geplaats met het epigram van Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr:
 'plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose'
Op 27 juli verklaarde een anoniem diplomaat in Kigali dat hij het niet eens was met de beslissing van de Verenigde Staten om de geldkraan voor Rwanda een klein beetje dicht te draaien en Kagame zo publiekelijk een tik op de vingers te geven.

De achterliggende redenering van deze diplomaat is volgens het artikel in de Financial Times dat Kagame de enige is die de rebellen zou kunnen intomen en de inname van Goma zou kunnen verhinderen.
De diplomatieke rolverdeling tussen aan de ene kant harde kritiek en aan de andere kant zalvende leugens is niet nieuw. Ook toen Paul Kagame de oppositie uitschakelde en zichzelf tot President kroonde werd ons deze dis opgediend door de donoren.

Dat Rwanda bij zowel de planning als de logistiek achter de rebellenbeweging direkt betrokken is staat inmiddels voor iedereen als een paal boven water. Een aantal donoren stelden tot nu toe de reaktie van Kigali op het rapport van VN experts af te wachten om hun definitieve publieke oordeel te vellen over de betrokkenheid van Rwanda bij de M23 rebellen beweging in Congo.

De Verenigde Staten lijkt dat station inmiddels gepasseerd. De woordvoerder van het ministerie van buitenlandse zaken,Victoria Nuland, stelde vorige week klip en klaar dat de Verenigde Staten in het bezit is van bewijsmateriaal dat onomstotelijk Rwanda's betrokkenheid bij de rebellenbeweging in Congo bevestigt.

Gisteren stelde de Nederlandse Ambassadeur bij zijn aftreden echter doodleuk dat 'wij' tevreden zijn met de 'zeer sterke reaktie' van Rwanda op het VN rapport van de Groupe of Experts. Hij voegde daaraan toe dat Rwanda serieus en open geweest is over alles en graag meezoekt naar een oplossing en dat de dingen in de komend weken ten goede zullen keren.

En als het dan vrede is in Congo dan zal ook Frans Makken zijn aandeel in het toepassen, tot in het absurde, van de wet van het Droste effect mogen opeisen.

Zover is het echter nog niet.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pan-African Self-determinaton & Self-criticism

One blogger Joseph Powell claims Uganda’s journalist Andrew Mwenda adds ‘the other side’ to balance the ‘dangerous’ ‘one-sided Western press’ coverage of the M23 mutiny in the DRC.

Andrew Mwenda points to the war against Al-Qaeda since 9/11 and the western support of armed insurgencies in Libya and Syria since the arab spring to justify the application of a similar logic in the fight against hutu genocidaires. This argument is not new, President Paul Kagame, in a speech at West Point in march 2010 said:
'contrasting the response to the 9/11 attacks in New York and the genocide in Rwanda, President Kagame pointed to the need to enhance international response, solidarity and cooperation, so that international threats "carry the same weight and meaning to all countries irrespective of which interests are at stake" and not only when the interests of powerful nations are threatened.'
First of all, let’s not forget that this narrative has served as justification for his regime to assassinate politicians, critics and journalists at home and abroad (like the US did with Osama Bin Laden), crush political opposition and sustain support of armed insurgencies in Congo.Ugandan tweeter Lonah Kamugisha @LKAMUGI SHA summarizes the obvious paradox in Andrew Mwenda’s words when he tweets :
‘Andrew you seem to agree that Rwanda is in DRC to counter the threat, then at a point u suggest those are rumours that kagame is supporting M23? Major contradiction’
To this day western press and analysts have focused mostly on ‘western guilt over the 1994 Rwandan genocide’ and ‘access to valuable grazing land and mineral production’ in an  attempt to explain both the seemingly endless US patience and Rwanda’s multiple adventures  in Congo. But, as Shanda Tonme could have said, all those explanations ‘are not sufficient’. Anthony Gambino came close to a real answer when he argued "During the Cold War, US foreign policy globally had clear priorities. That clear lens, however, disappeared with the end of the Cold War in 1990"
It’s not just guilt over the 1994 genocide, but also guilt over colonialism, guilt over support to the apartheidsregime in South Africa and guilt over supporting Mobutu during the cold war that created a window of opportunity for Yoweri Museveni and the revolutionary insurgency headed by his cuban trained head of military intelligence, Paul Kagame. Last week the new Secretary General of the African Union, Dlamini-Zuma, summarized the underlying narrative that served as cover and justification for these endless wars :
'a vision to wrest the thrust of African politics from the interests of the West, and ensure instead that Africans themselves determined their own reactions to the continent’s challenges.'
The march 30th interview with Ebba Kalondo, deputy Head of France 24 /RFI Africa Service, underlines why we should not underestimate the role this ‘pan-african’ narrative still plays:And then there was Mobutu (Sese Seko) who to me was an ekakunya, a black foot soldier of the colonial power who was then made chief, but remained a foot soldier of the colonial power’.

An Anglican bishop could have written in Rwanda’s New Times how the genocide teaches us, once again, that ''Man Is Wolf to Man'' or that all wisdom starts with fear of God. Instead bishop John Rucyahana, one of the Rwandan organisers of the M23 insurgency in Kivu, served communist inspired revolutionary slogans:
'the African Union should redeem its dignity and shape Africa’s destiny and stop being manipulated and exploited by her former colonial exploiters.
In conclusion, Africa should condemn very strongly and reject the European effort to re-colonize Africa by use of International Courts and other means being used to threaten the Sovereignty of African leadership.’
Africa might need men and women like Janusz Baruch to wrest the thrust of African politics from the claws of manipulative elites that use 'pan-african' slogans to avoid self-criticism. In the meantime, while dissecting the underlying narratives and heuristics of every actor (policy makers, journalists, citizens) in the region and beyond, we should see great value in John Adams’ words:
‘Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.’