Rwanda: Rebels Living Large


March 13,2008: Rwanda claims that Rwandan Hutu rebels operating in Congo's North and South Kivu provinces have acquired "outside financing." Well, the accusation is more specific than that. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) controls several key mines. They also control road and river transportation routes for the minerals, and several key airfields. One of the more important mines is a gold mine in South Kivu (at Kilembwe). The FDLR is also "extracting taxes" from locals in Congo. The FDLR does this in several ways. There are "road taxes" (charged when people move goods on roads). The FDLR also controls several market towns and takes a cut of agricultural goods sales in the markets.

March 1, 2008: The Burduni Army claimed it killed 17 rebels belonging to a Forces for National Liberation (FNL) faction. One soldier died in a firefight with the rebels. The shootout occurred in operations following the February 26 slaying of two Burundi Army soldiers in Bujumbura. In the wake of that attack the government accused the FNL of intending to "resume the war" (ie, rekindle the civil war).

February 19, 2008: The US and Rwanda signed a bilateral investment treaty. This is a big deal for Rwanda and potentially a good deal for US investors. Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs is the acronym) provide legal protections for foreign investors, which is supposed to increase the likelihood they will invest in a developing country. The "legal protection" usually means an international arbitration panel (one beyond the reach of corrupt local officials). BITs, however, serve a political purpose for local leaders who want to promote "the rule of law" and combat corruption. BITs provide a small but potentially powerful means of demonstrating how the "rule of law" reinforces economic development and promotes wealth creation.


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