Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

DR Congo’s Road to 2016

All photos in this post are by Prince Balume and Achilles Balume, and are posted here with permission.

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In 2006, DR Congo passed a new constitution, which is similar to our (US) constitution in many ways. The right to vote, to assemble, and to free speech are guaranteed. Beyond our constitution, it guarantees strong parity between men and women. The issue today, though, is that it imposes tenure limits on the President.  

By law, President Joseph Kabila must step down and allow an open election in 2016. He began as a military dictator who led the country through a transitional government, and was then democratically elected President. His re-election met with some criticism, and he’s since been maneuvering to extend his tenure — recently by trying to amend the tenure law outright, and then by introducing requirements that would delay the election.

People in DR Congo are still learning about the law and starting to believe in their rights. If Kabila stays in power, it will set back the progress the people have made toward a Democratic DR Congo. John Kerry and the US State Department have been trying to get him to step down at the end of his term.

Last month, Kabila’s supporters in Parliament passed a census requirement for the next election. That law would delay the 2016 election indefinitely. The people of DR Congo organized a coordinated demonstration to protest the census requirement. The government cracked down on the protesters. Some were killed and others are not yet accounted for.

The great success was that Parliament eventually relented and removed the census requirement. It was a real step toward implementing democracy. It dearly cost people who demonstrated, though — some who paid with their lives.  

One more thing anti-vaccers don’t get…

I wasn’t going to jump into this conversation, but I want to add another dimension to the discussion of the benefits vs. dangers of vaccinating. I feel qualified by the fact that my first-born child had a severe reaction to her first DPT vaccination many years ago.

We got her first vaccination on time when she was two months old. Within ten minutes, she was screeching non-stop, like a threatened animal. We got sent home anyway, where she continued to screech for many hours until she had a seizure and went into a coma for three days. Happily, she woke up and seemed perfectly fine. She didn’t have any long term neurological damage.  

150 Years in Yosemite: Those Who Kill

As we celebrate 150 years of protecting Yosemite National Park, we have to look closer at how it became ours in the first place.

The name itself — Yosemite — is a slur. It is a Miwok word that means “Those Who Kill.” Sometimes it’s translated as “Some of Them Are Killers,” and it refers to the Ahwanhee people who’d lived in the valley for centuries before the US government ordered its evacuation and later created a national recreation area under the Yosemite Grant Act. But the people who lived there weren’t killers. They just lived in a valley that our government wanted to use for entertaining dignitaries.

That is the untold story of Yosemite National Park.  

America and the world

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Happy Solstice, everyone. At my house we celebrate this day with the mantra, “May you walk in peace and love.”

I work in non-profit. In short, I translate perspectives from people living in a war-addled country for a western ear. An American ear.

As I watch the media whip into a froth about Iraq, I can’t help but notice that our perceptions about nation building are similar to our more misguided ideas about humanitarian aid. They both start by thinking that “they” are a problem that “we” can solve. Or control.

Oil exploration in Virunga National Park

Crossposted from here…

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Guest lodge at Virunga National Park.

Virunga National Park is the jewel of the African rainforest. It is perhaps the most biologically and geographically diverse area on the planet. Its borders contain a vast array of species and lakes, as well as tropical forest, savannahs, and volcanoes. A UNESCO World Heritage Center, this park has come to represent the African forest that supports the planet.

And it’s in trouble.

Aside from the continuing African World War that is being fought inside its borders, a corrupt charcoal trade that is toppling its trees, and rampant poaching that’s endangered its unique species, Virunga National Park has another rival: SOCO International. This park — that is intended to be some of the most protected land on the planet — sits on top of a store of oil. And yes, SOCO set its sites on drilling there. They are exploring as we speak.

If you care about climate, you care about Congo.

What is Succeeding Together?

Crossposted from From Her Silence.

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There is a community-based movement taking place in Democratic Republic of the Congo, supported by a program called Succeeding Together. It is structured to help women help each other by providing education, training, and leadership skills for creating businesses, assisting with family health, and economic development. Now that the graduates are enjoying success, they need a little of your help to spread the word about their work. They want to tell the people of Congo about the positive changes they’ve made in their lives and communities — and want everyone in Congo to know that they can do it too.

Lasting, positive change in Congo has to come from the people of Congo. And it will.

Please help spread the word via social media, your friends, and your family.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda

KuangSi2Well, the start of the genocide, anyway. It lasted 100 days and took roughly 800,000 lives. What most of us in the west do not realize is that this was a particular instance of extreme violence that flairs up from time to time in a much larger scale war that is still playing out today.

This war goes by many names, and sometimes the names people use point to wars that supposedly ended some time ago. But make no mistake — this war is still going full throttle, and it’s currently most widely recognized as playing out inside the borders of Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But that isn’t what I am writing about today. War is one story that comes from that part of the world, no doubt. But it isn’t the only story. There is love and hope and community. There is a collective conscious that wants a different future, and there are brilliant people who know how to make it work.

But not with a gun.

And when I think of all the western people who lament that we didn’t do something different to help the people in Rwanda twenty years so, I wonder if they want to know that it still isn’t too late. We can still act in this world to make a difference in that conflict.

Women in Congo Succeeding Together

Some of you here know me and are familiar with my interest in development and gender equality in Democratic Republic of the Congo. You have extended kind comments and interest in diaries I’ve written about HEAL Africa in the past, and expressed interest in new projects I stumble across. Well, today I want to tell you about something new and wonderful. I also have an action item for you at the end.

First, I want you to meet Judy Anderson. Here, she is being interviewed at Clinton Global Initiative while she was director at the US based HEAL Africa, which she and her husband Dick founded:

Judy is a talented facilitator. She has been working with national leaders, vulnerable people, and communities to find real solutions so people in Congo can build a better life. She grew up in Congo, and has been focused on helping groups address health, leadership, gender equality, economic growth, and conflict resolution for most of her adult life. Her focus and commitment recently lead her and Dick to found a new non-profit organization called ACT for Congo.

ACT’s website is under construction and the tax status is still pending, but Judy is hard at work supporting real change. I think this organization is a genuine treasure. Following lessons learned by Robert Chambers (see Rural Development: Putting the Last First or Whose Reality Counts: Putting the First Last) and Paulo Freire, her goal is to find a way to support effective development projects in Congo that are run by proven Congolese community leaders and grassroots organizers. She partners with credible organizations who are doing effective work and demonstrating measurable, positive change in DRC communities.

International relief organizations have their role in helping countries ravaged by famine, upheaval, and war, but they execute temporary projects with finite goals. External relief does not often create any lasting positive change. Lasting change in Congo has to come from the people of Congo.  

Gothic Basin near Glacier Peak (photos)

The following pictures are from Gothic Basin yesterday. It’s a rough hike, in fact, a lot of it isn’t what most people would even call trail. It’s more like a rock garden. It’s steep and there are deathly sharp drops in a few places — drops that get pretty close to the trail. That said, there was an endless supply of ladies aged 60+ out there blowing everyone else’s doors off. You just have to be as tough as they are.

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Or maybe it’s the view. This is a look across a canyon on the trail up to the basin.