The legalisation of Pot in California

Sociological perspectives on the legalization of marijuana in California and other states

California has become (in January 2018) the 6th state in America to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use, following a 2016 referendum of Californian residents.

legalisation pot

This has clearly been a popular change in the law for some: In Berkeley, queues of people snaked around the block from 6 a.m. (odd time to be buying weed?) to late into the evening as one the first dispensaries to open struggled to cope with demand, suggesting that there are eventually going to be many licensed venues selling legal weed.

However, there are those that are opposed to the legalization of marijuana movement, the most powerful being the entire Trump administration, who are looking for ways to derail those 6 states which have legalized the drug.

Comments/m relevance to A level Sociology

This whole issue is a great example of how ‘crime is socially constructed‘ – you can quite literally hope over from California into the state of Arizona while smoking a joint and tada: you’re a criminal!

From a Functionalist point of view, it might be worth thinking about whether this is happening as a sort of ‘safety valve’ mechanism – there’s so much strain in America, and so many people already using drugs to cope with it, we may as well legalize it because it’s easier for the system to cope with it, and focus more on the ‘real criminals’.

 

 

 

Sociomaterial Perspectives on the self in digital networks

Sociomaterial perspectives hold that datafication via digital devices (both personal and public) are fundamentally  intertwined with the way we construct our identities and ‘practice selfhood’, so much so that it is more accurate to say that today we ‘live in media’ rather than ‘we live with media’.

The most obvious manifestation of the intertwining of digital technologies, datafication and selfhood is our extensive use of mobile phones, tablets and laptops: not only do we rely on these devices for information, we also use them (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) to continually upload information about ourselves to the net.

And even if we choose to reduce our use of such technologies, or live without them altogether, our sense of self will still be partially governed by digital technology because so much of public life and public space is informed by its use.

Sociomaterial perspectives on human action are strongly influenced by actor-network theory and take our extensive use of digital technologies into account by focussing on the way that humans interact with non-human material objects such as computers in heterogeneous and diverse networks.

This approach sees objects as agents within a network, able to exert influence on humans, and it is interested in how things and meanings interrelated. It also takes account of how factors such as class, gender and ethnicity influence the context of a relational network.

Sociomaterial perspectives also recognize that there is a complex ‘web’ of interaction which lies beyond (or behind) technologically mediated networks: programmers, marketers etc, and (importantly I think) that the technologies and software which governs action within a network are themselves the product of human interactions (and thus values).

This perspective offers a useful response to post-structuralism which focuses purely on discourses and meanings, which are largely seen as floating free from the material context of action.

More specifically the sociomaterial perspective on understanding selfhood in a digital age focuses on:

  • How people experience technologies
  • How technologies are incorporated into people’s senses of self, and how they extend their sense of self
  • How social relations are configured through such networks incorporating networks.

Assemblages

The concept of assemblage is often used in the sociomaterialism literature. An assemblage is configured when humans, nonhumans, practices, ideas and discourses come together in a complex system. With digital systems, an assemblage will consist of the following:

  • Computer software and hardware
  • Developers
  • Manufacturers and retailers
  • Software coders
  • algorithms
  • Computer servers and archives
  • The computing cloud
  • Platforms and social media

According to sociomaterial perspective, individuals are ‘entangled’ in such assemblages – and understanding these entanglements is a complex business, precisely because these assemblages are complex – there are lot of human, and non-human actors involved.

Within these assemblages, humans can iimbue objects (such as their phones) with biological meaning, and understanding these meanings is key to understanding human action, but humans are also changed by all of the above ‘objects’ (along with the other actual humans) which make up the assemblage in which an individual acts.

Turkle (2007) for example calls mobile devices ‘evocative objects’ because they are basically repositories of ourselves – we have so much information stored on them!

Kitchen and Dodge (2011) use the term code/space to denote the ways in which software and devices such as mobile phones and sensors are configuring concepts of space and identity – our devices may even govern our access to certain spaces (think etickets), and because our behaviour can be tracked through them, we can also be nudged, or disciplined into certain ways of acting via our technologies.

Sources and Notes

This is my summary of part one of chapter two of my current January 2018 read: 

Lupton, Deborah (2017) The Quantified Self, Polity

This kind of theory should hit A-level sociology about 2035, about 2 years before the cyborgs take over once and for all. 

What is Reliability?

Reliability is the consistency of a measure of a concept. There are three factors researchers generally use to assess reliability: stability, internal reliability and inter-rater reliability

Reliability refers to the consistency of a measure of a concept. There are three factors researchers generally use to assess whether a measure is reliable:

  • Stability (aka test-retest reliability) – is the measure stable over time, or do the results fluctuate?  If we administer a measure to a group and then re-administer it and there is little variation in the results changed over time, the measure can be staid to have ‘test-retest reliability.
  • Internal reliability – are the indicators which make up the scale or index of a measurement consistent ?If the score a respondents according to one indicator of a measure are consistently related to the scores they achieve according to other indicators for that same measure, then the measure can be said to have ‘internal reliability’.
  • Inter-rater reliability – how much agreement is there over which observed empirical phenomena fit into what indicator? If researchers have a high level of agreement over how observed behaviour ‘map onto’ the indicators of a measure, then we can say the measure has a high level of inter-rater reliability.

Three ways to assess reliability

Source

Bryman, Alan (2016) Social Research Methods

 

Explaining South Korea’s Development #1

Korea was a Japanese Colony from 1910 to 1945, providing food and fuel for the ‘motherland’.

Following the fall of the Japanese Empire at the end of World War II, Korea was divided along the 38th parallel into North and South Korea, North Korea controlled by communist Russia, and South Korea governed by the United States, pitching Communist and Capitalist modes of development against each other.

Following the brutal Korean War of 1950 to 1953 (which was the first war of the ‘cold war’ and was brutal enough to result in 4 million deaths) both North and South Korea lay decimated: plundered by 50 years of colonial rule and then a decade of fighting their infrastructures lay in ruins.

South Korea’s economy stagnated in the decade following the Korean war, but then grew rapidly, and today South Korea is one of the world’s leading economies, whereas North Korea stagnated under hard-line communist rule.

Given the fact that the two countries share common histories up until the end of WW2, and given that they share similar cultures and climates, these things cannot explain their divergent experiences in development since 1950 – and thus South Korea’s development (and North Korea’s lack of it) can only be explain by the social and economic development strategies (and their consequences) adopted by the South Korean government since the 1950s.

Following the war South Korea received some support for reconstruction from the US. As a percentage of gross national income South Korea received a very similar level of support to Kenya in the 1960s. But International Development Assistance was not the answer to Korean poverty. USAID reported that Korea was a ‘bottomless pit’ that could not be helped by development funding.

In 1961, when General Park Chung-Hee came to power in a military coup, South Korea’s yearly income was just $82 per person (for comparison Ghana’s was $179 at the time). In 1962 Park turned civilian and went on to win three elections before seizing the presidency for life. His rule was strict and South Korea was a highly disciplined society.

Park surrounded himself with able colleagues and made some astute political moves: During the Vietnam war, South Korea sent troops to support US efforts and was richly rewarded. In the mid 1960s, revenues from the Americans for Korean troops in Vietnam were the larges single source of foreign-exchange earnings.

Park was authoritarian and stifled liberties, but he put in place policies which effectively modernized South Korea.

Five year plans for economic development were at the heart of his strategy. Growth was steady during the 1960s as new factories producing basic goods were built, and in 1973 Park launched the ‘Heavy and Chemical industrialization programme’ which estalished the first steel mills and car manufacturing plants, which formed the backbone for industrial development and moved South Korea away from reliance on agricultural products.

As a result of Park’s economic policies, Per Capita income grew by more than 5 times between 1972 and 1979, reaching $1000 per capita by 1977, and all of this with very little reliance on aid.

Growth depended on Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI), which mean reducing dependence on imports and replacing them with domestically produced products. In practice this meant protecting basic goods such as clothing, hand tools and processed food.

Citizens were also heavily disciplined: they were mobilized like soldiers into factories and consumption was also tightly controlled: for example, foreign cigarettes were band, and citizens were encouraged to report anyone smoking imported tobacco products.

Every spare cent of foreign exchange earned from exports was used to import new machine imports to further industrialization and over many years South Korea’s manufacturing processes evolved to become more and more technologically sophisticated and eventually the nation transitioned to producing manufactured goods for export to foreign markets.

The history of the Samsung Corporation illustrates the successful development of the South Korean economy.

Samsung began selling dried fish, fruit and vegetables to China in 1938, before moving into flour milling and confectionery manufacturing, then textile weaving. In the early 1970s it invested in heavy, chemical and petrochemical industries and produced the first black and white television for domestic sale in South Korea in 1972. In the second half the 1970s Samsung moved into producing home electronics for export, and today is one of the world’s leading technology companies.

The result of all of this is that South Korea has seen one of the fastest rates of economic growth since WW2 – it’s GDP was over $28 000 in 2016.

However, South Korea’s development did come at a cost: political freedoms were limited (although Korea is now a democracy) working hours were very long, and gender inequality high. Today, South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and widespread alcohol dependency.

Sources:

Summarized from Brooks (2017) The End of Development.

 

 

 

ExxonMobil – The Worst Corporation in the World?

ExxonMobil is the world’s largest oil and gas corporation – its main ‘business lines’ involve producing a range of fuels for cars, planes and ships, as well the technologies surrounding the extraction and refining of these fuels.

Exxon Mobil.jpg

ExxonMobil: Key Facts and Stats

  • Registered in Texas, USA.
  • Assets (2016) – $330 billion
  • Revenue (2016) – $218 billion
  • 75 000 employees globally
  • The CEO from 2006 to 2016 was Rex Tillerson, until Donald Trump appointed him as the 69th Secretary of State, a position he formally took up in February 2017. Tillerson has a relatively modest Total Net Wealth of $245 million (although I simply CANNOT believe that’s an accurate figure.)
Oil and Money
Rex Tillerson: Putting Oil and Money First?

Criticisms of ExxonMobil

This video outlines a fairly basic criticism of Exxon’s dealings with the ruling family of Equatorial Guinea – which is the richest country in Africa in terms of GDP, but not in terms of social development, because although Exxon pump a lot of oil out of the country, pretty much all of the money from that oil revenue gets pumped into the hands of the ruling family. They’re so rich, that the Vice President (the president’s son) owns a $30 million dollar mansion in Malibu.

I posted about Equatorial Guinnea a while back – this post covers some of the figures surrounding oil extraction.

Teodorin Obiang
Teodorin Obiang – Total Net Wealth of $115 million

NB – Obiang is going on trial in Europe to investigate the obvious corruption that has led to his vast wealth, thanks to the French courts, no thanks to the TNC Exxon.

A second criticism of Exxon is that it could have effectively prevented climate change: its own internal memos show that the company proved the link between burning fossil fuels and global warming in the late 1970s, but then buried the research and instead funded climate change sceptics to spread doubt about man-made climate change, and cynically invested in areas such as the arctic which it thought global warming would open up for further oil extraction.

According to this Guardian article, Bill Mckibben argues that if only Exxon had been honest, we could have taken much early steps to avert global warming.

Further Sources of criticisms of Exxon…

http://www.cracked.com/article_24303_5-leaked-memos-that-prove-famous-companies-are-evil-as-hell.html

Related Posts/ how to use this material

The most obvious use of the above information is to use it to evaluate the role of Transnational Corporations in Development, summaries of which are provided here:

 

 

 

Glencore – The World’s Worst Transnational Corporation?

Glencore is one of the world’s largest commodities companies – it operates in 150 countries extracting natural resources such as iron and copper, but also has interests in  coal and oil, as well as numerous agricultural products.

Swiss commodities trader Glencore's logo is seen in front of its headquarters in Baar

Glencore – key facts and stats

  • It is registered in Switzerland
  • Has £128 billion in assets (2015)
  • Had a revenue in 2016 of $150 billion
  • Employs 150 000 people globally
  • The CEO is Ivan Glassenberg, who has a total net worth of around $5 billion.
Glencore revenue
Glencore’s total revenue over the last decade  = around $1.6 trillion

Criticisms of Glencore

Below are some arguments and evidence that Glencore is an example of a Transnational Company which is not really interested in promoting development in poor countries, but really just interested in extracting as much as it can for as cheaply as possible. 

Glencore commodities
Glencore – extracting commodities from 6 continents

Glencore has been widely criticized because it has made staggering profits by extracting huge volumes of natural resources out of poor countries. To put the size of Glencore in perspective, the annual revenue of the company is 10 times greater than the GDP of Zambia.

The 2013 video below documents how the company struck a deal with Zambia to mine its copper in which it extracts around $1 billion of copper per year but pays only 8% tax to the government, and gets free electricity for its mines into the bargain (paid for by the government).

This report from War on Want estimates that a combination of poor trade deals and tax avoidance costs the Zambian government $3 billion/ year, or 10% of its GPP. The report isn’t limited to just Glencore, it focuses on other mining companies such as Vedanta, none of these companies comes off as effectively promoting development in poor countries.

Glencore has also come under heavy criticisms for poor health and safety conditions in many of its mines, its record on environmental pollution and benefitting from child labour in the DRC.

Further Sources

Students might like to use these sources to assess the role of the TNC Glencore in promoting economic and social development in poor countries.

Glencore Wikipedia entry (useful for basic history/ stats)

Glencore’s ‘Supporting Development’ page – have a look at Zambia and the DRC.

Glencore paid £30 000 to compensate for a pollution related death – Guardian article

Criticisms of Glencore in Zambia by Facing Finance 

Glencore denies benefitting from child labour in DRC – Guardian article

 

 

 

Asking Questions about Theories and Concepts in Sociology

My weekly ‘Monday teaching and learning’ post: I’ve been thinking about questioning in A-level Sociology recently,* in particular I’ve been asking myself ‘what are the best quick-fire questions to ask students about theories and concepts’ and ‘what’s the best way to present these questions’?

By ‘best’ I mean what kinds of questioning style will most effectively develop knowledge recall, understanding and the skills of application, analysis and evaluation? And how can this be done quickly!

I’m only really interested here in questioning as a review activity (not the kinds of question you ask during a regular lesson), so this is meant for recapping previous lessons work, as part of a plenary, or as part of a revision lesson.

As I see it, the most effective way to ask questions is to do so in a hierarchical order, starting with basic recall, and moving up through application, analysis, and evaluation, and you could even tag on a conclusion type question at the end.

I tend to ask eight questions to recap any theory or concept… In the example below,  I used these questions on a PPT with the headings as titles and the prompts in the main body of each slide. This was a simple, verbal pair-work recap task (with the usual further development questions tagged on). There’s also nothing from stopping you dumping these questions onto Socrative.

Why poor countries poor

I also use prompts to speed things up, and you could of course make these prompts as cards and for each slide get students to do ranking/ sorting exercises.

Eight Questions About Dependency Theory

(which could be asked about any other theory or concept)

  1. (AO1) Explain why poor countries are poor according to Dependency Theory

HINT: Use the following concepts…

  • Marxism
  • Colonialism
  • Neocolonialism
  • Exploitation
  • Core-Satellite
  • Communism
  1. (A01) Give some examples which best illustrates Dependency Theory
  • Try to think of one ‘developed’ and one ‘less developed’ nation
  1. (AO2) Apply Dependency Theory to something else…
  • Use Dependency Theory to evaluate Modernisation Theory
  • What do you think the function of education in poor countries might be according to Dependency Theory?
  1. (A03) Analyse Dependency Theory: How does the theory/ concept relate to the following concepts below:
  • Marxist theory more generally
  • Inequality
  • Power
  • Capitalism
  1. (A03) Analyse Dependency Theory
  • Who developed it (where did it come from)?
  • If you could convince everyone it’s true, then whose interests does it serve?
  1. (AO3) Evaluate Dependency Theory using evidence
  • Identify as many pieces of supporting evidence as you can
  • Identify as many pieces of counter-evidence as you can…
  1. (A03) Evaluate using other theories
  • HINT: What would Modernization Theory say about this theory?
  1. (AO2) Interim Conclusion – How useful is Dependency Theory?
  • HINT: Where ’10’ is explains everything and 0 is explains nothing, what score would you give Dependency Theory out of 10 in explaining why rich countries and rich and poor countries poor?

Asking these eight questions in relation to other theories and concepts…

Other topics I’ve used this template with recently include (with different prompts) The Functionalist View of Education, The Correspondence Principle (focusing in more deeply on just one Marxist concept of education), The Neoliberal Theory of Economic Development and the concept of Gross National Income as an indicator of development (the kind of concepts this 8 question hierarchy works well for might actually surprise you).

Of course this won’t work for everything and will need tweeking, but to my mind, this is a nice general questioning structure that ticks my 20-80 rule – spend 20 mins prepping to get 80 mins of students doing – NOT the inverse!

 

*I’m fairly sure this is a big contributor to mental illness among teachers, it’s exhausting.

Is Britain Racist?

Just a round up of some relatively recent evidence of discrimination against ethnic minorities in the U.K. (and the odd stat from the USA!)

  1. 50% increase in unemployment for young ethnic minorities – have the coalition abandoned 16-24 year old black and Asian youth?
  2. Ethnic minorities face barriers to employment, despite having better qualifications (Guardian article 2014)
  3. The fake CV experiment – suggests UK employers are racist (Guardian summary of a field experiment)
  4. David is more likely he hired than Dante – Summaries of experiments which suggests racial bias is strong in the USA (YouTube video)
  5. Wave of Hate Crime following Brexit (Independent article – 2016)
  6. Black people are 17 times more likely than white people to be diagnosed with a mental illness. Furthermore, 56 percent of Black inpatients in mental health units have been sectioned, more than any other ethnic group, and they much less likely to receive talking treatment but higher doses of medication.

According to psychologist Malcolm Phillips this is because black people are more likely to be seen as a threat and thus given a more serious diagnosis, and thus more likely to be sectioned and forcibly medicated.

This issue is explored in more depth in the BBC3 documentary ‘Being Black, Going Crazy‘. (iplayer link – only available until February 2017)

 

What is the United Kingdom Census?

 

The UK National Census is one of the best known examples of government statistics.

 

 

The last UK census took place on 27 March 2011. Statistics from the UK censuses help paint a picture of the nation and how we live. They provide a detailed snapshot of the population and its characteristics, and underpin funding allocation to provide public services.

 

Every ten years the census gives us a complete picture of the nation. It allows us to compare different groups of people across the United Kingdom because the same questions are asked, and the information is recorded, in the same way throughout the United Kingdom.

 

The information in this section is about the personal characteristics of the usually resident population as estimated by the 2011 Census for England and Wales. It covers our general health, whether we had an illness or disability that limited our day to day activities, our religious beliefs, our ethnicity, our national identity, whether or not we were born in the UK and when we arrived, what passports we held and our language skills.

 

Key Facts from the 2011 Census Data

 

  • The resident population of England and Wales on 27 March 2011 was 56.1 million. One in six people were aged 65 or over (16 per cent, 9.2 million).
  • Four out of every five usual residents of England and Wales described themselves as in very good or good health (81 per cent, 45.5 million).
  • Fifty nine per cent (33.2 million) recorded their religion as Christian and 25 per cent (14.1 million) reported that they had no religious affiliation.
The UK census – and the problem of validity when asking questions about complex issues like religion

 

Many of the disadvantages above depend on the type of questions one is asking! In the UK census, for example, one question asks how many bedrooms there are in one’s house, which is hard to misinterpret, so the fact that there is no researcher present should not impact on the results. The census, however, also had a question about religious belief, to which 390 000 respondents replied that they were ‘Jedis’, clearly indicating that they were not taking this question seriously. Had a research been present in this case, she could have queried whether or not these were genuine responses.

 

 

 

  • Most residents of England and Wales belonged to the White ethnic group (86 per cent, 48.2 million) in 2011, and the majority of these belonged to the White British group (80 per cent of the total population, 45.1 million). In London in 2011, 45 per cent (3.7 million) out of 8.2 million usual residents were White British.
  • Ten per cent (5.8 million) of residents of England and Wales provided unpaid care for someone with an illness or disability. This was the same percentage as in 2001 (10 per cent, 5.2 million).

 

 

What happens to the UK Census Data?

 

The information you provided to us in the 2011 Census is confidential and protected by law.

 

The confidentiality of personal information is a top priority for the census. Your personal census information is not shared with any other government department, local councils or marketing companies.

 

Information collected in the 2011 Census will be used solely to produce statistics and for statistical research. These statistics will not reveal any personal information.

 

The paper questionnaires are scanned, then shredded, pulped and recycled. Census records are kept confidential for 100 years before being made available to the public. Census records remain closed while they are in the custody of the census offices.

 

The census provides information that government needs to develop policies, plan and run public services, and allocate funding.

Census Data Examples Used For
Census data showing how many people work in different occupations and industries. New jobs and training policies; investment decisions.
Information collected on travel to and from work, and on the availability of cars. Roads and public transport; these data also contribute to the understanding of pressures on transport systems.
Ethnic group data which Helps to identify the extent and nature of disadvantage in the UK.     Evaluating equal opportunities policies.

 

A Very Brief History of the Democratic Republic of Congo

This year I’m using the DRC as a major case study in underdevelopment (it is last on the UN’s HDI rankings after all) – Here’s my (mainly cut and paste from Wikipedia) very brief history of the DRC – I’ll add in video links, general links, pictures and extracts from numerous books later… 

The Stuff in italics below each heading are the ‘key historical reasons for underdevelopment’

Pre-Colonialism

It was quite nice, suggesting Western Nation States f***ed The Congo Up 

[Pre-Colonialism, tribes in the region were doing pretty well for themselves – Organised into the Kingdom of Luba, according to Wikipedia – Each of these kingdoms became very wealthy due mainly to the region’s mineral wealth, especially in ores. The civilization began to develop and implement iron and copper technology, in addition to trading in ivory and other goods. The Luba established a strong commercial demand for their metal technologies and were able to institute a long-range commercial net (the business connections extended over 1,500 kilometres (930 miles), all the way to the Indian Ocean). By the 16th century, the kingdom had an established strong central government based on chieftainship.’

The African Congo Free State (1877–1908) – Colonialism, Brutalisation and Extraction

History of Colonialism

King Leopold II of Belgium formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885 and made the land his private property and named it the Congo Free State.Leopold’s regime began various infrastructure projects, such as construction of the railway that ran from the coast to the capital of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). It took years to complete. Nearly all such projects were aimed at increasing the capital which Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony, leading to exploitation of Africans.

Rubber was the main export from the Congo Free State, used to make tyres for the growing automobile industry, and the sale of rubber made a fortune for Leopold.

Leopold’s colonization of the Congo was incredibly brutal. Thousands of Congolese were forced to work on Leopold’s Rubber plantations, and the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives as a means of enforcing rubber quotas was widespread. During the period of 1885–1908, millions of Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and disease. In some areas the population declined dramatically; it has been estimated that sleeping sickness and smallpox killed nearly half the population in the areas surrounding the lower Congo River.

The actions of the Free State’s administration sparked international protests led by British reporter Edmund Dene Morel and British diplomat/Irish rebel Roger Casement, whose 1904 report on the Congo condemned the practice. Famous writers such as Mark Twainand Arthur Conan Doyle also protested.

The Belgian Congo (1908–1960) – Colonialism, Condescension and More Extraction

In 1908, the Belgian parliament took over the Free State from the king. From then on, as a Belgian colony, it was called the Belgian Congo and was under the rule of the elected Belgian government. The governing of the Congo improved significantly and considerable economic and social progress was achieved. The white colonial rulers had, however, generally a condescending, patronizing attitude toward the indigenous peoples, which led to bitter resentment from both sides. During World War II, the Congolese army achieved several victories against the Italians in North Africa.

Independence and Political crisis (1960–1965) – Turmoil and Transition

The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name ‘The Democratic Republic of Congo’. Just previous to this, in May a growing nationalist movement, led by Patrice Lumumba, had won the parliamentary elections. The party appointed Lumumba as Prime Minister. Shortly after independence, most of the 100,000 Europeans who had remained behind after independence fled the country, opening the way for Congolese to replace the European military and administrative elite.

On 5 September 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu’s action unconstitutional and a crisis between the two leaders developed. Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army. Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create mutiny. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu paid his soldiers privately. Mobutu took power in 1965 and in 1971 changed the country’s name to the “Republic of Zaïre”.

Mobutu and Zaire (1965 – 1996) – Dictatorship (propped up by the United States), extreme corruption, yet more extraction and infrastructure deterioration

Corruption, Aid, The United States, Cold War

The new president had the support of the United States because of his staunch opposition to Communism. Western powers appeared to believe this would make him a roadblock to Communist schemes in Africa.

A one-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state. He periodically held elections in which he was the only candidate. Although relative peace and stability were achieved, Mobutu’s government was guilty of severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality and corruption. By 1984, Mobutu was said to have $4 billion (USD), an amount close to the country’s national debt, deposited in a personal Swiss bank account. International aid, most often in the form of loans, enriched Mobutu while he allowed national infrastructure such as roads to deteriorate to as little as one-quarter of what had existed in 1960.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Mobutu was invited to visit the United States on several occasions, meeting with U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In June 1989, Mobutu was the first African head of state invited for a state visit with newly elected President Bush. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, U.S. relations with Mobutu cooled, as he was no longer deemed necessary as a Cold War ally.

The first and second Congo Wars (1996 – 2003) – Rwanda’s Ethnic conflict heads west while neighbouring nations plough in and extract resources    

End of the Cold War, Ethnic Conflict, Rwanda, Resource Curse

By 1996, following the Rwandan Civil War and genocide and the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe) had fled to eastern Zaire and began refugees camps as a basis for incursion against Rwanda. These Hutu militia forces soon allied with the Zairian armed forces to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaire.

A coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies, led by Lawrence Kabila, then invaded Zaire to overthrow the government of Mobutu, launching the First Congo War. By May 1997, Kabila had made it to the capital Kinshasa, named himself president and changed the name of the country back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mobutu was forced to flee the country.

However, a few months later, President Kabila asked foreign military forces to return back to their countries because he was concerned that the Rwandan military officers who were running his army were plotting a coup against him. Consequently, Rwandan troops in DRC retreated to Goma and launched a new Tutsi led rebel military movement (the RCD) to fight against their former ally, President Kabila, while Uganda instigated the creation of another rebel movement called the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by the Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba. The two rebel movements, along with Rwandan and Ugandan troops, started the Second Congo War by attacking the DRC army in 1998. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia became involved militarily on the side of the government.

Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila, who organised multilateral peace talks which to the signing of a peace accord in which Kabila would share power with former rebels. By June 2003 all foreign armies except those of Rwanda had pulled out of Congo. On 30 July 2006 DRC held its first multi-party elections. Joseph Kabila took 45% of the votes and his opponent, Jean-Pierre Bemba took 20%. On 6 December 2006 Joseph Kabila was sworn in as President.

Contemporary Conflicts in the DRC (2003 – Present Day) – Numerous groups fighting over various things

Ethnic Conflict, Rwanda, learned violence.

There are a number of rebel groups still operating mostly in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is widely suspected that Rwanda is funding some of these rebel groups. A lot of the recent conflicts seem to go back to the Hutu-Tutsi conflict from Rwanda.

The FDLR -The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda- Consist almost entirely ethnic Hutus who wish to regain power in Rwanda. The FDLR contains some of the ‘original Hutu genociders’ who carried out the genocide in Rwanda and currently have about 7000 troops still in operation in the DRC. Some of the leaders of the FDLR are facing trial for crimes against humanity in the ICCJ

 

 The CNDP – In 2006, the Congolese military declared that it was stopping operations against the FDLR. This lead to some troops mutinying and the foundation of the CNDP, or  The National Congress for the Defence of the People,  mostly consisting of ethnic Tutsis, whose main aim continued to be the eradication of the Hutu FDLR. The CNDP consisted of approximately 8000 troops and was believed to be backed by Rwanda.

The M23 Rebels – In March 2009, The CNDP signed a peace treaty with the government, in which it agreed to become a political party and its soldiers integrated into the national army in exchange for the release of its imprisoned members. Its leader, Lawrence Nkunda was also arrested and is now facing trial at the United Nations Court for ‘Crimes against humanity’.

However (here we go again) in 2009 Bosco Ntaganda, and troops loyal to him mutinied from this new ‘integrated army’ and formed the rebel military March 23 Movement, claiming a violation of the treaty by the government. M23 claims that some CNDP troops have not received jobs in the military as promised by the government and also want some limited political reforms.

M23 is estimated to have around 1500 – 6000 troops and as recently as November 2012, M23 captured the city of Goma, with a population of over 1 million, and the provincial capital of the Kivu Province in Eastern DRC, with the aim of getting its political demands met.

Rwanda is widely suspected of funding this rebel group as well, although both Rwanda and M23 deny this.

Other Rebel Groups – In addition to the above there is on and off fighting amongst other rebel groups. For example, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army moved from their original bases in Uganda (where they have fought a 20-year rebellion) and South Sudan to DR Congo in 2005.