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Tidbits from travels

I have been traveling over the past few weeks in London, Brussels and Nairobi. In the course of these travels I have been speaking with some interesting people. Here are some tidbits from these conversations, some of which I still have to confirm (readers welcome to chip in):

  • The Congolese government has postponed arbitration over key oil blocks in the Atlantic with the Angolan government until 2013. This follows heightened tensions over Blocks 14 & 15 that prompted speculation that Angola may be considering supporting an opponent to Kabila during the upcoming elections. By putting off arbitration the Congolese government has managed to firm up relations with their southern neighbor.
  • Butembo, the North Kivu town long known for its booming trade and business sector, has been losing its edge in the import-export business that brought it prosperity. This may be linked to two factors: first, traders from elsewhere in the Congo have begun to establish networks in Dubai and Guangzhou, so Butembo-based traders no longer have an advantage; secondly, the business arrangement between the Butembo business elite and local politicians has frayed – during the war, this relationship (with Mbusa Nyamwisi at the time) allowed businessmen to avoid the exobitant customs and taxes traders had to deal with elsewhere.
  • Several independent analysts from Kinshasa give Kabila good chances at winning the upcoming elections. The constitutional revision, coupled with the significant resources the government is already pouring into campaigning, as well as the fractured opposition, lead them to believe Kabila could win, even if he only gets 25% of the total vote.
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