The Official Blog of the

Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Highlighting the Need to Combat the Use of Rape as a Weapon of War

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on October 27, 2018 at 2:49 PM

By René Wadlow

The co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Denis Mukwege, has become an eloquent spokesperson for the effort to outlaw the use of rape as a weapon of war. Rape has often been considered as a nearly normal part of war. When an army took a city or town, the rape of women followed, a reward to brave soldiers. Military commanders turned a blind eye.

However, whatever may have been past practice, rape has now become a weapon of war, often an effort at genocide. Women’s reproductive organs are deliberately destroyed with the aim of preventing the reproduction of a group – one of the elements of genocide set out in the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Denis Mukwege has created a clinic near Bukavu in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo – a country that is democratic only in name. He and a number of younger doctors whom he was trained try to care for women who have undergone rape by multiple men, one after the other, often in public in front of family members and others who know the woman. Known rape, even by a single person, can be a cause of family breakup, lasting shame, and an inability to continue living in the same village. There are also negative attitudes toward children born of a rape. Multiple rape is often followed by deliberate destruction of the reproductive organs.

Denis_Mukwege_VOA_cropped

The eastern area of Congo is the scene of fighting at least since 1998 – in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the two Kivu states, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front now become the government of Rwanda. Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had led the killings of some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda. They continued to kill Tutsi living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.

The influx of a large number of Hutu led to a desire to control the wealth of the area – rich in gold, tropical timber and rare minerals such as those used in mobile telephones. In the Kivu, many problems arise from land tenure issues. With a large number of new people, others displaced, and villages destroyed, land tenure and land use patterns need to be reviewed and modified.

However, violence in the eastern Congo is not limited to fighting between Hutus and Tutsis. There are armed bands from neighboring countries – Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda – who have come on the scene attracted by possible wealth from timber and mines of rare minerals. In addition, local commanders of the Congolese Army, far from the control of the Central Government, have created their own armed groups, looting, raping, and burning village homes.

There is a United Nations (U. N.) peacekeeping force in the Congo, the U. N.’s largest peacekeeping mission. However, its capacity has reached its limit. Its operations are focused on areas with roads, leaving villages on small paths largely unguarded.

There has been a growing international awareness of the use of rape as a weapon of war. The issue was raised during the conflicts which followed the breakup of Yugoslavia as well as cases brought to the International Criminal Court. The Association of World Citizens has raised the issue in U. N. human rights bodies in Geneva.

Yet there is much yet to be done to make the outlawing of rape as a norm of humanitarian law and, especially, to prevent its practice. The Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege should be a strong step forward in this effort.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Advertisements

Kofi Annan (1938-2018): A way forward for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Human Development, Human Rights, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on August 21, 2018 at 8:34 PM

By René Wadlow

 

“Over the years we have come to realize that it is not enough to send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to engage in peace-building efforts after societies have been ravaged by conflicts. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we want enduring results. We need, in short, a culture of peace.”

Kofi Annan.

Kofi_Atta_Annan

The homage which World Citizens can give to the memory of Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), is to carry on his efforts for worldwide security and the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations with the presence of skilled mediators. As he wrote, “We must seek new common ground for our collective efforts.” World Citizens believe that UN Member States owe an obligation to each other to make good faith efforts to reach agreements consistent with the highest principles of world law. The UN was conceived to do more than to clear away the rubble of conflicts that it was unable to prevent.

Kofi Annan saw that the concept of a global society is growing piece by piece shaped by new possibilities of communication, transport, trade and finance. An effort must be made to find the aspirations of people to hold what they have in common and to express these world citizen values in ways that many can recognize and accept.

The relations between security, conflict resolution and respect for human rights have now assumed a more dynamic form than at any other time since the creation of the UN. Thus, there is a need for concerted attention and action of States and Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs).

Kofi Annan was always sensitive to the role that NGOs could play in building a culture of peace. In 1997, he said that the UN should be “a bridge between civil society and governments.” He stressed that the role of NGOs was becoming increasingly important. The UN’s peacekeeping mandate had changed in that armed conflicts are increasingly taking place within rather than between States. Thus, peacekeeping efforts can involve electoral assistance, humanitarian aid, administrative support, and the protection of human rights.

There are at least three areas in which NGOs can cooperate effectively with the UN:

1) Fact-finding and early warning. In preventive diplomacy, NGOs, because of their familiarity with local situations are well placed to play a part in early warning by drawing the attention of governments to budding and emerging conflicts. Yet more must be done to coordinate activities to stop violence before it spreads. Coalition building can have a multiplier effect on the ability to understand the complexities of conflict before violence happens. Consultative mechanisms should be developed to enable NGOs to provide early warning information and to receive information from the UN.

2) Lines of communication. Diplomacy to keep channels of communication open between opponents is a difficult yet necessary task. Often one side will break contact which is then difficult to reestablish. Given its importance, better ways must be developed to communicate and, if desired, to pass on communications from one side to another.

3) Training. There is a need to utilize the mobilizing power of NGOs both in terms of people (networking) and resources, especially money. There is a need to develop networks among university-based specialists, NGOs and the conflicting parties themselves.

Kofi Annan was a model of calm networking and keeping lines of communication open.

We need to continue in his spirit.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

International Decade of Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 10, 2018 at 7:50 AM

By René Wadlow

On March 22, World Water Day, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed “The International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028. The Decade seeks to forge new partnerships and to strengthen capacity to manage fresh water supplies and sustainable use. Ecologically-sound water use is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, N°6 “Ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” The aim of the Water Decade is to raise the profile of water in the global agenda of governments and nongovernmental organizations.

There have already been two UN-sponsored Water Decades: 1981-1990, and a second decade called UN Water for Life Decade, 2005-2015. Water and sanitation have been set out as human rights and the UN Human Rights Council has a Special Rapporteur for the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, most recently Mr. Leo Heller. However, real difficulties remain. Some 660 million people still draw water from an unimproved source. Urbanization, population growth, desertification, drought and climate change all put pressure on water supply and use.

We will look briefly at an aspect of the world-wide water challenge: desertification and at some of the steps which the UN along with non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the UN are taking to meet this challenge creatively.

water-861588_960_720

UN efforts began in 1977 with the United Nations Conference on Desertification held in Nairobi. The desertification conference was convened by the UN General Assembly in the midst of a series of catastrophic droughts in the Sudan-Sahelian region of Africa. The conference was designed to be the centerpiece of a massive world-wide attack to arrest the spread of deserts or desert-like conditions not only in Africa south of the Sahara but wherever such conditions encroached on the livelihood of those who lived in the desert or in its destructive path. The history of the conference is vividly recalled by James Wallis in his book Land, Men and Sand (New York: Macmillan, 1980)

At the conference, there was a call for the mobilization of human and financial resources to hold and then push back the advancing desert. “Attack” may have been the wrong word and “mobilization” too military a metaphor for the very inadequate measures taken after the conference in the Sudan-Sahelian area. Today, there are still real possibilities of famine in West and East Africa on the edges of the desert. Niger and Mali and parts of Senegal and Chad in the Sahel belt are facing the consequences of serious drought as are parts of northern Kenya and Somalia.

7458286624_c926d92f99_k

The most dramatic case is that of Darfur, Sudan which partakes of the Sahel drought but which also faces a war in which conflicts between pastoralists and settled agriculturalists have become politicized. It is estimated that over 300,000 people have been killed since the start of the war in late 2003. Some two and a half million people have been uprooted. The agricultural infrastructure of homes, barns and well have been deliberately destroyed. It will be difficult and costly to repair this destruction. The Darfur conflict highlights the need for a broader approach to the analysis and interpretation of active and potential armed conflicts in the Sahel region. This analysis needs to take into consideration the impact of environmental scarcity and climate variation in complex situations.

What are the causes of the desertification process? The destruction of land that was once productive does not stem from mysterious and remorseless forces of nature but from the action of humans. Desertification is a social phenomenon. Humans are both the despoiler and the victim of the process. Increasingly, populations are eking out a livelihood on a dwindling resource, hemmed in by encroaching plantations and sedentary agriculturalists, by towns and roads.

Desertification is a plague that upsets the traditional balance between people, their habitat, and the socio-economic system by which they live. Because desertification disturbs a region’s natural resource base, it promotes insecurity. Insecurity leads to strife. If allowed to degenerate, strife results in inter-clan feuding, cross-border raiding and military confrontation.

450px-Dripping_faucet_1

Only with a lessening of insecurity can pastoralists and cultivators living in or near deserts turn their attention to adapting traditional systems of compromise between the two. There can be no reversion to purely traditional systems. For insecurity to abate, a lengthy process of conciliation must begin and forms of conflict resolution must be strengthened. People must be encouraged to understand that diversity is a crucial element of ecologically-sound development. Judicious resource management breeds security and an improved quality of life for everyone. We can see what efforts can be made to encourage reforestation and to slow the unwanted advances of deserts.

Desertification needs to be seen in a broad way. If we see desertification only as aridity, we may miss areas of impact such as in the humid tropics. We need to consider the special problems of water-logging, salinity and alkalinity of irrigation systems that destroy land each year. We need to identify major clusters of problems, bringing the best minds to bear on them so as to have a scientific and social base on which common political will can be found and from which action will follow.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

To Snap Every Yoke: World Law to End Slavery in Libya

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, Modern slavery, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on November 29, 2017 at 4:25 PM

By René Wadlow

“Is not this what I require of you… to snap every yoke and set free those who have been crushed?” Isaiah, 58 v 6

There are many ways that an individual can be held in chains through his desires and emotions. These chains need to be broken by the development of the will and strong efforts of self-realization through mediation and therapy.

However, it is contemporary forms of slavery in its literal and not symbolic sense that must concern us today. The League of Nations on September 25, 1926 facilitated a Convention on Slavery which was a high-water mark in the world-wide consensus on the need to abolish slavery begun some 100 years before by small groups of anti-slavery activists in England, France and the USA. However as with many League of Nations conventions, there were no mechanisms written into the convention for monitoring, investigation and enforcement. Although the Slavery Convention outlawed slavery and associated practices, it not only failed to establish procedures for reviewing the incidences of slavery in States parties, but also neglected to create an international body which could evaluate and pursue allegations of violations.

1926ConventionContreEsclavageBNM11573.png

Within the United Nations (UN) system, there have been advances made, especially in investigation both making public through official UN documents the investigations of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and through the work of Special Rapporteurs of UN human rights bodies.

Thus, in a UN report on “Trafficking of Children and Prostitution in India” the authors write “Nepal appears to be the most significant, identifiable source of child prostitution for Indian brothels. Thousands of Nepalese females under the age of 20 have been identified in India by various studies. The average age of the Nepalese girl entering an Indian brothel is said to be 10-14 years, some 5,000-7,000 of them being trafficked between Nepal and India annually.”

Child_Labour_in_Brick_Kilns_of_Nepal

As Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, a former UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, has written, “Gender discrimination victimizes the girl child. Precisely because the girl child in seen in some communities as having lower priority, she is often denied access to such basic necessities as education which could ultimately protect her from exploitation. Another disquieting form of discrimination is based upon race and social origin, interwoven with issues of class and caste. It has become increasingly obvious that many children used in labor and sexual exploitation are lured from particular racial or social groups such as hill tribes, rather than the well-endowed groups in power.”

Today, it is the fate of migrants blocked in Libya, forced into forms of slavery one thought had disappeared, which rightly has focused UN and NGO concern. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Raad Al Hussein, has said that “the suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity.” His evaluation is based in part on the in-depth field investigation of UN teams which have highlighted that the majority of the 34 detention centers in Libya are concentration camps in which abuse, torture, forced work and all sorts of violence are everyday occurrences. Smugglers of people are often free to do as they please with the complicity of police officials at all levels. The risk of women being captured and raped is so high that some women and girls who are often fleeing from conflict conditions in their home countries take massage doses of birth control pills before entering Libya so that they can avoid getting pregnant. However, this can often cause irreversible injuries.

Capture d'écran 2017-11-29 17.20.08.png

There have been reports and filming of “slave auctions” especially in Sabba, the capital of the Fezzan province where routes from Sudan, Chad, and Niger meet and where roads leading north to the Mediterranean start. The UN also has reports from NGOs, especially humanitarian organizations, and from investigators of the International Criminal Court.

The issue which faces us now is what can be done. The League of Nations and the UN anti-slavery conventions are based on the idea that a State has a government. Unfortunately, Libya is a “failed State”. It has two rival governments, a host of armed groups, and more-or-less independent tribes.

The Association of World Citizens has proposed that there could be created a Libyan confederation with a good deal of regional autonomy but with a central government which would be responsible for living up to international treaties and UN standards. For the moment, there has been no progress in that direction or in the direction of any other constitutional system.

Slavery is a consequence of disorder. Without a minimum of legal structure, there will always be those who arise to make short-term gains including by the selling of people. The conscience of humanity of which the High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke must now speak out boldly to break the yoke of slavery. NGOs need to take a lead. Governments are likely to follow.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

As South Sudan Disintegrates, People Move

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on August 28, 2017 at 8:09 PM

By René Wadlow

In an August 17, 2017 call for urgent support, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated “Over the past 12 months, an average of 1,800 South Sudanese have been arriving in Uganda every day. In addition to the million in Uganda, a million or more South Sudanese are being hosted by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic. More than 85 per cent of the refugees who have arrived in Uganda are women and children, below age 18 years… Recent arrivals continue to speak of barbaric violence with armed groups reportedly burning down houses with civilians inside, people being killed in front of family members, sexual assaults of women and girls, and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription…Since December 2013, when South Sudan’s crisis erupted in Juba, more than two million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries while another two million people are estimated to be internally displaced.”

Working_with_UNHCR_to_help_refugees_in_South_Sudan_(6972528722)

With the disappearance of any form of government administration in South Sudan, the country finds itself in what can be called ‘anarchy without anarchists’. There are some school buildings without teachers or students, some medical buildings without personnel or medicine; there are some soldiers but who are not paid and so ‘live off the land’. There are armed bands more or less organized on a tribal basis, but tribal organization has long been weakened beyond repair. All that is left is hatred of other tribal groups. Different United Nations (UN) bodies are active in the country, including a large and costly ‘peacekeeping mission’ (MINUSS), but the UN has so far refused to create a ‘trusteeship’ to try to administer the country. Thus, there are basically only services of the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Program distributing food but very inadequate to meet the food needs, and UNICEF providing some services to woman and children. There is no UN administration of the country as a whole as there is a fiction that a government continues to exist. The same holds true for any form of ‘trusteeship’ by the African Union.

South Sudan has always been more anarchy than administration. During the British colonial period, the areas of South Sudan were administered from Uganda rather than from Khartoum as transportation from the North was always difficult. (1) The independence of Sudan and the start of the civil war came at the same time in 1956. There was a ten-year break in the civil, North-South, war 1972-1983, at which time the war took up again from 1983 to 2005. After 2005, a southern regional government was set up with, in theory, an administration which remained very thin or non-existent outside of the capital Juba and a few larger towns. The churches, mostly Protestant but also some Catholic, provided education and medical services.

South_Sudan_Independence

The bitterness of the civil war period was so great that it was felt by many that a unified Sudan was not possible. In 2011, a referendum was held in South Sudan on its future, and there was a massive vote for independence. The Association of World Citizens was one of the nongovernmental organizations invited by the Government of Sudan to monitor the referendum, and we had sent a five-person team. I thought that full independence rather than a form of con-federation was a mistake and that the future would be difficult. However, I did not foresee how difficult it would be.

Now it is difficult to see what can be done. There is only the fiction of a government and no over-all leadership of the armed bands. There are no recognized leaders to carry out negotiations. The churches are the only trans-tribal institutions, though the membership of local churches are usually drawn from a single tribal/ethnic group. There may be times, if one follows Aristotle’s cycle of types of government, when anarchy will give rise to demands for strong leadership, but there are no signs of it yet. For the moment, moving to another country seems like the best hope.

*******************************************

Note:

(1) See the two-volume history of the administration of Sudan:

M. W. Daly, Empire on the Nile: The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 1898-1934 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

M. W. Daly, Imperial Sudan: The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium 1934-1956 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

*******************************************

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Jammeh: Here’s Your Hat, The Plane is Waiting

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, The Search for Peace, World Law on January 23, 2017 at 10:59 AM

JAMMEH: HERE’S YOUR HAT, THE PLANE IS WAITING

By René Wadlow

An update to the article “Gambia: The Cry of the Imburi” by René Wadlow, published on January 21, 2017.

Yahya Jammeh, the former President of Gambia, chose the wiser course of action and left Gambia on Saturday, on January 20, 2017 at 9.15 PM local time with his wife Zineb and the President of Guinea, Alpha Condé, who had been negotiating the departure on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He was wearing his trademark white cap and said that only God would judge him.

Senegal troops, mandated by ECOWAS, had already crossed the frontier of Gambia, although they said that their aim was to protect the people and not to bring about political change. There was, nevertheless, a potential for violence either in opposition to the Senegalese troops or among supporters and opponents to Jammeh.

Managing Resource Wealth: Alpha Conde

Alpha Condé, President of Guinea, who helped broker a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Gambia.

It is likely that the situation will remain relatively calm as people await the return to Gambia of Adama Barrow, who had taken the oath of office of President in the Gambian Embassy in Dakar on Friday, January 19, 2017. Barrow had left Gambia fearing for his life as Jammeh has a reputation of “disappearing” his opponents during his 22 years of rule. With Barrow’s return, the real work of socio-economic development can start.

As noted in my earlier article, Gambia is a creation of colonial history, the English came up the Gambia River first for the slave trade. After 1807 when the slave trade was banned north of the equator, there was a shift to other forms of trade. In the late 1860s the English started to set up an administration while the French were doing the same thing in what is now Senegal. Thus Gambia is bounded on both sides by Senegal and the Gambian population of about one and a half million have ethnic links with groups in Senegal.

Gambia is heavily dependent on the Senegal, and a good number of Gambians work in Senegal. As Gambia has few resources beyond a subsistence agriculture and some export of peanuts, the country has become a transit area for drugs coming from Latin America destined for Europe. Gangs involved in the drug trade have also been involved in the arms trade. Since nothing in the small country escaped the eyes of Jammeh, it is most likely that he took his cut of the drug profits and placed his money outside of Gambia.

Press reports indicate that Jammeh and his wife quickly left Guinea for Equatorial Guinea, set between Cameroon and Gabon, also ruled by long-time and brutal dictator Obiang Nguema. Jammeh is in no danger of a trial.

1014050-market_in_abuko-the_gambia

In looking at the statistical tables of the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s Least Developed Countries Reports, the Gambian economy has been flat since Jammeh took power – the drug and arms trade are not part of the figures. In addition, the education and health sectors have been “weak” at best.

There have been since the independence of Senegal in 1960 proposals for the integration perhaps in the form of a confederation. For lack of a political will, such a con-federation has never been created. Rather we have a week integration of the Gambian economy into that of Senegal with no corresponding government structures.

It is too early to know what the future will hold. Armed violence is most probably avoided. But we must still keep an eye open to see if the new government is able to meet the new economic challenges.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Gambia: The Cry of the Imburi

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, World Law on January 22, 2017 at 10:25 AM

GAMBIA: THE CRY OF THE IMBURI
By René Wadlow

The Imburi are spirits that are said to inhabit the forests of Gabon in Equatorial Africa and who cry out for those who can hear them at times of impending violence or danger. Today, the Imburi are crying so that we will focus on the Gambia. The United Nations (UN) Security Council has heard the cry and has called for a transfer of authority to a new president, duly elected, Adama Barrow.

Adama Barrow took the oath of office of President on January 19, 2017 at the Embassy of Gambia in Dakar, Senegal as he is in exile for his safety in neighboring Senegal. The long-time President, Yahya Jammeh, who took power in 1994 in a military coup has been in office so long that he refuses to leave.

adama_barrow_2016

Adama Barrow, the new, democratically-elected President of Gambia.

Many have suggested that Jammeh could leave, especially to avoid local violence or foreign intervention. In his 22 years of service in a country where the trade of arms and drugs is the chief economic activity, he must have put his share of profits in foreign banks. There are suggestions that with funds collected to offer him a “golden parachute” he could leave peacefully. Nigeria has offered him a nice retirement home. But Jammeh insists that he will stay on and that the one December vote was somehow fixed against him and his alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction Party.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has strongly suggested that Jammeh leave power and has sent a number of high-level missions to the capital Banjul to urge a departure. To drive home their point, ECOWAS has stationed troops in Senegal on the frontier with Gambia. Some Senegalese troops, members of ECOWAS, have crossed the frontier into Gambia to prevent violence but said that they did not have a political mission. The current chair of ECOWAS is the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who knows first-hand what armed conflict and civil war can bring to a country.

There are those in Gambia who expect the worst. Some 45,000 have left the country for Senegal in the last few days. Many shops have closed, and food prices have climbed. There are real possibilities for violence. President Jammeh had a long-term policy of hate speech against minorities, especially the Mandinka whose traditional home is Senegal and against gays. Jammeh’s current supporters are stressing that “gays and their foreign supporters” are those who are creating instability.

yaya_jammeh

Yahya Jammeh, the former President of Gambia.

There is real danger that violence based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and political allegiance will break out.

Ministers in Jammeh’s government have resigned including the key ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Trade. Some ministers have left the country for Senegal fearing revenge violence. Certainly a quiet retirement in Nigeria would be a welcome end to Jammeh’s brutal and corrupt years of service. But the situation merits watching closely. The Imburi are worried.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

World Policy for Migrants and Refugees

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on October 4, 2016 at 7:26 PM

WORLD POLICY FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
By René Wadlow

«There is no doubt that Mankind is once more on the move. The very foundations have been shaken and loosened, and things are again fluid. The tents have been struck, and the great caravan of Humanity is once more on the march.»

Jan Christian Smuts at the end of the 1914-1918 World War.

On September 19, 2016, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held a one-day Summit on “Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants”, a complex of issues which have become important and emotional issues in many countries. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) published a report on international migration indicating that there are some 244 million migrants, some 76 million live in Europe, 75 million in Asia, 54 million in North America and others in the Middle East, Latin America and the Pacific, especially Australia and New Zealand. In addition, there are some 24 million refugees – people who have crossed State frontiers fleeing armed conflict and repression as well as some 40 million internally-displaced persons within their own country. Acute poverty, armed conflicts, population growth and high unemployment levels provide the incentives for people to move, while easier communications and transport are the means.

However, as we have seen with the many who have died in the Mediterranean Sea, people will take great risks to migrate. Thus, there is an urgent need to take away the monopoly of the life and death of refugees from the hands of mafias and traffickers and to create an effective world policy for migrants and refugees.

UNGA

This is the third time that the major governments of the world have tried to deal in an organized way with migration and refugees. The first was within the League of Nations in the 1920s. The 1914-1918 World War and the 1917 Russian Revolution had created a large number of refugees and “stateless” persons – citizens of the former Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires. These people had no passports or valid identity documents. The League of Nations created a League identity document – the Nansen Passport – which gave some relief to the “stateless” and brought international attention to their conditions. The Nansen Passport, however, became overshadowed in the mid-1930 when people – in particular Jews – fled from Germany-Austria and were refused resettlement.

nansenpassport

The second international effort was as a result of the experiences of the 1939-1945 Second World War and the large number of refugees and displaced. Under UN leadership was created the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. In addition, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, originally created as a temporary body, was made a permanent UN agency in recognition of the continuing nature of refugee issues.

The current third international effort is largely a result of the flow of refugees and migrants toward Europe during 2015-2016. The disorganized and very uneven response of European governments and the European Union to this flow has indicated that governments are unprepared to deal with such massive movements of people. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have not been able to deal adequately with this large number of persons despite many good-will efforts. Moreover, certain European political movements and political parties have used the refugee issue to promote narrow nationalist and sometimes racist policies. Even a much smaller flow of refugees to the USA has provoked very mixed reactions – few of them welcoming.

Distressed persons wave after being transferred to a Maltese patrol vessel.

The September 19 Summit is a first step toward creating a functioning world policy for migrants and refugees. The Summit is not an end in itself but follows a pattern of UN awareness-building conferences on the environment, population, food, urbanization and other world issues. The impact of UN conferences has been greatest when there are preexisting popular movements led by NGOs which have in part sensitized people to the issue. The two UN conferences which have had the most lasting consequences were the 1972 Stockholm conference on the environment and the 1975 International Year of Women and its Mexico conference. The environment conference was held at a time of growing popular concern with the harm to the environment symbolized by the widely-read book of Rachel Carson Silent Spring. The 1975 women’s conference came at a time when in Western Europe and the USA there was a strong “women’s lib” movement and active discussion on questions of equality and gender.

Migration and refugee issues do not have a well-organized NGO structure highlighting these issues. However human rights NGOs have stressed the fate of refugees and migrants as well as human rights violations in the countries from which they fled. There is also some cooperation among relief NGOs which provide direct help to refugees and migrants such as those from Syria and Iraq living in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and those going to Greece and Italy.

The Summit’s Declaration is very general, and some observers have been disappointed with the lack of specific measures. However, we can welcome the spirit of the Summit Declaration with its emphasis on cooperative action, a humane sense of sharing the responsibilities for refugees and migrants and on seeking root causes of migration and refugee flows. What is needed now are strong NGO efforts to remind constantly government authorities of the seriousness of the issues and the need for collective action. Refugees and migrants are not a temporary “emergency” but part of a continuing aspect of the emerging world society. Thus there is a need to develop a world policy and strong institutions for migrants and refugees.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Albert Schweitzer: Reverence for Life – A Universal Ethic

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, Solidarity on January 14, 2016 at 8:36 PM

ALBERT SCHWEITZER: REVERENCE FOR LIFE – A UNIVERSAL ETHIC

By René Wadlow

 

January 14 was the anniversary of the birth of Albert Schweitzer and was a special day at the hospital that he founded at Lambaréné, Gabon.  Alsatian wine would be served at lunch and conversations over lunch would last longer than usual before everyone had to return to his tasks.  In 1963, when I was working for the Ministry of Education of Gabon, and spending time at the Protestant secondary school some half-mile down river from the hospital, I was invited to lunch for the birthday celebration.  As the only non-hospital person there, I was placed next to Dr. Schweitzer, and we continued our discussions both on the events that had taken place along the Ogowe River and his more philosophical concerns.

We would often discuss his interest in the classic authors of Chinese philosophy. I had been an undergraduate research assistant of Professor Y. P. Mei at Princeton. Mei was the professor of Chinese philosophy in the Philosophy Department and in many ways a philosopher himself.  He had been president of a university in China during the Second World War and had moved to the USA after the end of the civil war in 1948.

Although the bulk of Albert Schweitzer’s philosophical reflection concerned the German philosophical tradition −Kant, Goethe, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche − he was drawn to the founders of Chinese Taoism − Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu and the champion of universalist ethics, Mo-tzu.

albert_schweitzer_lambarene.jpg

In Schweitzer’s writings he often contrasted Indian and Chinese philosophical thought − the two major traditions of Asia.  For Schweitzer, Indian thought was dualistic, there is on the one hand matter, and on the other spirit. He saw Indian thought a fundamentally pessimistic concerning the world and matter. In Indian thought, the spirit is both higher and in a sense more ‘real’ than matter.  The aim of an individual is to detach himself from matter and unite with the spirit. As he wrote, “Their world-view is pessimistic-ethical, and contains, therefore, incentives only to the inward civilization of the heart, not to outward civilization as well.

For Schweitzer, the Chinese view, in its Taoist form at least, was optimistic with the complete integration of spirit and matter.  The Tao, which is both the source of all things but also the motor of all action, is not separate from material creation but is fully embodied in the material world and within each individual.  Thus ethics are grounded in the nature of the universe as well as in the nature of humanity.  An element that attracted Schweitzer to Taoist thought was its ethical standards which encompass all persons. The Middle East religious systems which have spread worldwide started with Zarathustra who is the foundation of Middle East religious thought.  His approach was taken over by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  The Middle East philosophical approach divides people into the “saved” and the “unsaved”.  The saved are one’s brothers toward which there is an agreed upon ethical framework and the unsaved who are cast out, unclean and toward whom other ethical standards prevail.  This good-bad, light-darkness is incorporated into the structures of the universe where there is a constant struggle between the forces of light and those of darkness.

This division between the saved and the unsaved was eliminated by the Stoics, especially the later Roman Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius where the concept of a universal ethic for mankind comes into sight.  However, in the chaos of ideas in the late Roman Empire, Christianity emerges victorious with its idea individual redemption. Thus there is a return to the saved and the unsaved, between those who will live in the Kingdom of God and the others.

A Schweitzer.jpg

Only Chinese thought holds the seeds for a universal approach, but Chinese thought was clouded for a long time by the weak eco-political position of China.  China’s current rise is too recent and too mixed with different ideological positions to become a champion of the universal ethic of Taoist thought.  Moreover, the poetic formulation of much of Taoist writings makes its comprehension difficult for many.

Albert Schweitzer’s reverence for life which accepts that there is reciprocal relationship among all living things may be the closest to a Taoist philosophy easily understood worldwide, a philosophy needed for a deep ecology ethic.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

The Trial of Hissène Habré: An Advance for World Law

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on July 21, 2015 at 10:18 PM

THE TRIAL OF HISSENE HABRE: AN ADVANCE FOR WORLD LAW

By René Wadlow

The trial of Hissène Habré, former President of Chad, which opened in Dakar, Senegal, on July 20 marks a new step in transnational law. Habré will be tried in a specially constituted court created by a treaty between the African Union and the State of Senegal. The court is modeled on the statutes of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, but is to deal only with cases concerning Africans. It will be important to see if this new African court will be a one-time-only institution for the Habré trial or if it becomes a permanent institution of world law.

The ICC has been criticized by some African leaders as being overly focused on Africans. Arrests and arrest warrants have been issued nearly exclusively against Africans. What is not mentioned in polite company is that Africa is the only continent where state institutions have totally disappeared − Somalia, Central African Republic, Libya − or where vast areas of a State are not under the control of the central government: the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the northeast areas of Nigeria. In addition, there are a good number of African States where the court system is so under the control of the executive that “fair trials” are out of question.

Thus, if African leaders were reluctant to see the ICC take on new African cases, an “all-African” alternative had to be created, even if it is nearly identical in the types of crimes to be judged and the way that evidence is to be collected. The judges in Dakar have already interviewed some 2,500 persons even before the trial started.

Not even the fact that the current Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, is an African from the nation of Guinea could silence critics who claim the ICC has been exerting racial bias against suspects from Africa, a most unfounded charge in our view. (C) EPA/Evert-Jan Daniels dpa  +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Not even the fact that the current Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, is an African from the nation of Guinea could silence critics who claim the ICC has been exerting racial bias against suspects from Africa, a most unfounded charge in our view. (C) EPA/Evert-Jan Daniels – Bildfunk

Hissène Habré is a sad case of an intelligent man blinded by his quest for power and then for holding on to power. In this process he destroyed large segments of ethnic groups who he suspected of wanting power. He also had killed any potential rivals, even those who had shown no opposition. It is estimated that in his eight years of power, some 40,000 persons were killed, some in the military campaigns against ethnic groups, but also some 4,000 political figures killed individually in jails and specially-designed torture centers. In his very last days in power in December 1990 as the forces of his general Idriss Deby were moving to overthrow him, he had 300 persons in jail killed as a last gesture. His very last gesture, however, was to take all the money available in the Treasury with him into exile in Senegal − money which has allowed him to live well and to contribute to the well-being of Senegal political figures.

Hissène Habré is a member of the Toubou ethnic group in northwest Chad. His intelligence was spotted by his teachers, and at the independence of Chad in 1960, he was given an important post in the provincial government at age 18. After two years of administration, he was selected to go to France for university studies in law and development economics. He even has a diploma in federalist-decentralization studies so he had heard that there were ways of dealing with ethnic minorities other than by killing them. Habré spent 9 years in France, mostly in Paris, and has the equivalent of two Master’s degrees in law and development economics.

In 1972, he returned to Chad but rather than becoming a government administrator, he joined a militia band that was trying to overthrow the government, and then formed his own militia group. Habré had been deeply influenced by the example and writings of Che Guevara and saw power as coming from “the people in arms.” He first attracted international, especially French, attention by taking hostages. The most famous − if unclear case − is taking the woman anthropologist Francoise Claustre hostage from 1974 to 1977. What makes the case unclear is the Habré and Claustre knew each other as students in Paris, and there was some talk that the hostage-taking was a common plot to get money out of the French government. The French military officer sent to negotiate her release was murdered by Chadian government officials, but Claustre was later released.

By 1978, Habré and his troops had become powerful enough that he was named Prime Minister. He learned his way around the administration, and in June 1982 he overthrew the then President Goukouni Oueddei and became President. Habré abolished the post of Prime Minister. He wanted no rivals in sight and until December 1990 ruled ruthlessly, helped by his security organization: Direction de la Documentation et de la Sécurité (DDS). His repressive administrative practices were hardly secret. However his administration was heavily supported by the governments of France and the USA as a barrier to the expansion of Colonel Qaddafi’s Libya.

Hissène Habré, then President of Chad, and his French counterpart François Mitterrand on the doorsteps of the Elysée Palace in Paris, France on October 21, 1989. Habré was then an African head of state to be reckoned with; now he is a suspect in the dock of an African court and can no longer run away from his deeds. (C) Reuters/Christine Grunnet

Hissène Habré, then President of Chad, and his French counterpart François Mitterrand on the doorsteps of the Elysée Palace in Paris, France on October 21, 1989. Habré was then an African head of state to be reckoned with; now he is a suspect in the dock of an African court and can no longer run away from his crimes. (C) Reuters/Christine Grunnet

In 1973, Libya had claimed and then occupied a strip of land − the Aouzou Strip − on the frontier between the two countries. Modern State frontiers have little meaning to the nomadic tribes of that area and so the frontier had never been well delimited. However, there were fears that Qaddafi wanted to annex all of Chad and had expansionist aims toward other countries of the Sahel. Hissène Habré was willing to give a free hand to the CIA which tried to create an anti-Qaddafi military force from captured Libyan soldiers. Since the CIA was willing to pay large amounts of money to set up its training bases, Habré had no objection, especially as the area occupied by Libya was of no particular interest or support to him.

French aid was more obvious. French soldiers were sent as a mark of support to the Habré government. Each time that French troops were sent as security for the capital, Habré could use his own troops to attack minority areas. Thus in 1983 French troops, code named “Manta” landed, and in 1984 Habré’s troops attacked the Sara population of south Chad. In 1986, French troops, code named “Epervier” (“Sharp-shinned Hawk”) landed and in 1987 Habré’s troops attacked the Hadjarai tribes: this pattern went on through 1989 and the attacks against the Zaghawa tribes.

By 1990, one of Habré’s generals, Idriss Deby said “Why not me?” and with some troops loyal to him overthrew Hissène Habré. Deby is still President of Chad and his troops are the most battle-tested of African armies, now busy helping the Nigerian army against Boko Haram on the Nigeria-Chad frontier.

In 1987 Ronald Reagan, the then President of the United States, welcomed Hissène Habré to the White House during his official visit to America. (C) Jean-Louis Atlan/Sygma/Corbis

In 1987 Ronald Reagan, the then President of the United States, welcomed Hissène Habré to the White House during his official visit to America. As President of Chad, Habré was never short of powerful allies in the West; today, as he faces punishment for his deeds, he stands alone. (C) Jean-Louis Atlan/Sygma/Corbis

Since 1990, Habré has lived a comfortable but low profile life in Dakar. However victims and their families from his years of rule have cried for revenge (or at least justice). Different avenues to bring Habré to trial have been used, especially a universal jurisdiction law of Belgium which held that persons accused of certain crimes such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, systematic torture, no matter where committed, could be tried in a Belgium court. This Belgium law has since been revoked but not before evidence on the Chadian case could be presented to the Belgium judges.

Evidence concerning torture and the killing of potential opponents by Habré’s security forces was carefully collected under the driving energy of Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch. Habré had friends among the governing elite of then President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, who protected him so that no trial could take place. However, with the new President of Senegal, Macky Sall, in power and the accumulation of evidence, the African Union and Senegal felt that something had to be done. Thus, the creation of the special court and the start of the trial. It is unlikely that new facts will be uncovered. Habré’s government was fairly open in its repression. The degree of active support of France and the USA will probably be pushed under the rug. Yet the trial merits watching closely. There are still other African dictators, some retired, others still in power. What impact will the trial and the court have on the rule of world law?

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

%d bloggers like this: