AFRICOM and the “Whale of Government” Approach? [Updated]

Ok, maybe it’s tilapia instead of whale, but I thought this blog post from AFRICOM public affairs was worth a look:

By Dace Mahanay, Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University graduate student

Note: Dace Mahanay is currently interning with the Borlaug Institute on an AFRICOM agriculture project in Kisangani, DRC. He is sending periodic blogs detailing the project’s progress.

At Camp Base, just outside of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture continues to work with Agriculture Company (AgCo), a company of Congolese soldiers (Forces Armes de la Republique Democratique du Congo, widely known as FARDC), in an effort to provide sustainable methods of food production for the training center and U.S.-trained light infantry battalion. From fish farming to the cultivation of cassava, the needs of soldiers are being met in a sustainable way that is positive for the future of Camp Base and the community of Kisangani as a whole.

The last few weeks have been an exciting time for the agricultural project. A fish farming expert from the U.S. visited the project and provided valuable recommendations for increased production of tilapia and African catfish. The first batch of harvestable tilapia will be ready in the next couple of months and will be an excellent source of protein for FARDC soldiers.

The President’s new development policy invokes a “whole of government” approach, and I did learn last week about some encouraging specifics in coordination, such as the fact that the MCC has, for the first time, executed an actual Memorandum of Understanding with USAID. Nonetheless, if AFRICOM as a military combatant command, is going to be leading agricultural projects in places where we are not openly militarily engaged except in “permanent” and ongoing training and related activities, what are the lines between civilian and military? Between defense/security/diplomacy and development/agriculture assistance?

It sounds like a great program from an agricultural standpoint. Also sounds like it gets into areas that could involve unintended consequences if all the local circumstances are not well understood.

Update: Here is a story raising the issue of reports of rape and murder by the Congolese army:

Government troops are raping, killing and robbing civilians in the same area of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where militias carried out mass rapes more than two months ago, a top United Nations envoy said.

Margot Wallstrom, who is responsible for UN efforts to combat sexual violence in conflict, told the Security Council that UN peacekeepers have received reports of rapes, killings and looting by government soldiers.

“The possibility that the same communities who were brutalised in July and August by FDLR and Mai Mai elements are now also suffering [at the hands of the army] is unimaginable and unacceptable,” she said, referring to the Rwandan-led rebels from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda.