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This Week in the Great Lakes: Ben Affleck explains why Congo is worth caring about

A roundup of this week's news from Africa's Great Lakes region: Rwanda offers shares in its only brewery, Burundi sends 850 more soldiers to Somalia, and Ben Affleck talks about Congo.

By Jina MooreCorrespondent / December 3, 2010

Actor Ben Affleck is pictured in a panel discussion on the Democratic Republic Congo at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 30, 2010.

Larry Downing/Reuters


Kigali, Rwanda

I took the American Thanksgiving holiday last Friday, so here's two weeks' worth of interesting bits from Africa's Great Lakes...

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Rwanda is selling a 25 percent stake in the nation's state-run (and only) brewery, Bralirwa. The sale would mark the country's first IPO, and banks are offering loan programs specifically for those interesting in purchasing shares in the brewery.

Some genocide prisoners convicted at the Arusha tribunal will spend their sentences in Senegal. Prosecutors get 30 more days to build a case against would-be politician Victoire Ingabire.

Rwanda returns two orphaned gorillas to Congo. More farmers get access to weather-based insurance programs. The national campaign against mud huts moves slowly. 700 hotels and restaurants are slated to get condom vending machines.

Congo's former vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, faces a trial by the International Criminal Court trial for crimes allegedly committed by Bemba's troops in the Central African Republic. Witnesses disguise their faces and voices.

The UN Group of Experts report comes out, naming top Congolese army officials involved in mineral trading and detailing black market activities. Congo denies the report's allegations that rebels are regrouping in the east. The Security Council slaps some rebel leaders with travel bans.

Oil exploration may begin in Lake Albert. UNESCO asks for oil exploration ban in Virunga National Park. Congolese apes are risk-averse.

Ben Affleck takes center stage for Congo again. One major media outlet ignores the substance of what he says and asks why such a pretty face cares about such a dark place. Others worry that "UN peacekeeping has lost Hollywood" – and that, we are warned, "is not a good sign." Congolese soldiers attack Indian peacekeepers.

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