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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.


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.”


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.”


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.


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.



(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


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.


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

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, 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.


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

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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.

Omar al-Bashir: As a Thief in the Night

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on June 19, 2015 at 9:39 PM


By René Wadlow

In what was almost a “Pinochet moment” in South Africa, a South African nongovernmental organization (NGO), Southern African Litigation Centre, requested a South African court to serve two International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants against President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. The South African Supreme Court issued an order that al-Bashir not leave South Africa until the Supreme Court had been able to decide on the validity of the request. Al-Bashir had been in Johannesburg, South Africa, to participate in the yearly Summit of the African Union (AU). Al-Bashir left by his governmental jet on June 13 before the Supreme Court was able to meet.

The ICC arrest warrants of 2009 issued by a panel of three judges contains seven charges including crimes against humanity, murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, rape, attacks against civilian populations and pillaging. The through examinations of the evidence presented by the then Chief Prosecutor of the ICC confirmed the statements which NGOs, including the Association of World Citizens (AWC), had been making to the United Nations (UN) human rights bodies in Geneva since early 2004.

The charges against al-Bashir concern the conflict in Darfur which began in 2003 and not the 1982-2005 civil war between north and south Sudan which led to the creation of a separate State of South Sudan in 2011. The 1982-2005 civil war was the second half of a civil war which had started in 1954 on the eve of the independence of Sudan which was granted in 1956. The 1954-1972 war was stopped when a ceasefire largely organized by the World Council of Churches came into force. Unfortunately, the ten years of “non-war” were not used to deal with the basic issues of the structure of the State and the need for regional autonomy in light of the cultural-ethnic differences within the State. Thus in 1982 the civil war started again during which there were many violations of the laws of war (now usually called humanitarian law). The north-south civil war violations are not part of the ICC charges which concern only the Darfur conflict.

It was Baltasar Garzon, a Spanish judge, who in 1998 urged the United Kingdom to arrest Chile’s former military ruler Augusto Pinochet while he was on British soil, hoping to make him accountable for his deeds as leader of the country’s brutal military dictatorship from 1973 to 1989. Although the British government eventually allowed Pinochet to return to Chile without being prosecuted, the case did set a precedent in international law against enduring impunity for human rights violators. (C) AFP

Darfur (the home of the Fur) was always marginal to the politics of modern Sudan. In the 19th century, Darfur, about the size of France, was an independent Sultanate loosely related to the Ottoman Empire. Darfur was on a major trade route from West Africa to Egypt and so populations from what is now northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Chad joined the older ethnic groups of the area: the Fur, Massalits, Zaghawa, and the Birgit.

France and England left Darfur as a buffer zone between the French colonial holdings − what is now Chad − and the Anglo-Egyptian controlled Sudan. French-English rivalry in West Africa had nearly led earlier in the 1880s to a war. Thus a desert buffer area was of more use than the low agricultural and livestock production would provide to either colonial power. It was only in 1916 during the First World War when French-English colonial rivalry in Africa paled in front of the common German enemy that the English annexed Darfur to the Sudan without asking anyone in Darfur or in the Sudan if such a ‘marriage’ was desirable.

Darfur continued its existence as an environmentally fragile area of Sudan. It was marginal in economics but largely self-sufficient. Once Sudan was granted its independence in 1956, Darfur became politically as well as economically marginal. Darfur’s people have received less education, less health care, less development assistance and fewer government posts than any other region.

In 2000, Darfur’s political leadership and intellectuals met to draw up a ‘Black Book’ which detailed the region’s systematic under-representation in the national government since independence. The ‘Black Book’ marked the start of a rapprochement between the Islamists and the secular radicals of Darfur which took form three years later with the rise of the more secular Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Islamist-leaning Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). However, at the level of the central government, the ‘Black Book’ led to no steps to increase the political and economic position of Darfur. This lack of reaction convinced some in Darfur that only violent action would bring about recognition and compromise as the war with the South had done.

Members of the Sudanese Liberation Army in Susuwa, north Darfur. (C) Candace Feit/Reuters

Members of the Sudanese Liberation Army in Susuwa, north Darfur. (C) Candace Feit/Reuters

The two Darfur groups, SLA and JEM, in 2002 started to structure themselves and to gather weapons and men. Their idea was to strike in a spectacular way which they hoped would lead the government to take notice and to start wealth-sharing negotiations. Not having read the ‘Little Red Book’ of Mao, they did not envisage a long drawn-out conflict of the countryside against the towns of Darfur. By February 2003, the two groups were prepared to act, and in one night attacked and destroyed many of Sudan’s military planes based at El Fasher. The Sudan military lost in one night more planes than it has lost in 20 years of war against the South.

However, the central government’s ‘security elite’ − battle hardened from the fight against the South but knowing that the regular army was over-extended and tired of fighting − decided to use against Darfur techniques that had been used with some success against the South: to arm and to give free reign to militias and other irregular forces.

Thus the government armed and directed existing popular defense forces and tribal militias. Especially the government also started pulling together a fluid and shadowy group, now called the Janjaweed (“the evildoers on horseback”). To the extent that the make-up of the Janjaweed is known, it seems to be a collection of bandits, of Chadians who had used Darfur as a safe haven for the long-lasting insurgencies in Chad and the remains of Libya’s Islamic Forces which had once been under the control of the Libyan government but left wandering when Libyan policy changed.

A member of the murderous, death-sowing Janjaweed militia of Sudan. (C) Sudan Tribune

A member of the murderous, death-sowing Janjaweed militia of Sudan. (C) Sudan Tribune

The Sudanese central government gave these groups guns, uniforms, equipment and indications where to attack by first bombing villages but no regular pay. Thus the Janjaweed militias had to pay themselves by looting houses, crops, livestock, by taking slaves and raping women and girls. Village after village was destroyed on the pretext that some of the villagers supported either the SLA or the JEM; crops were burned, water wells filled with sand. As many people as possible fled to Chad or to areas thought safer in Darfur. The current situation in 2015 in Darfur remains complex and will be described in a later article.

The crimes which the ICC investigated and issued the arrest warrants concern the earlier 2004-2005 period. Although the SLA and the JEM have now divided into numerous armed groups, the type of violations of the laws of war continue and are about the same. There is a certain irony that the crimes cited by the ICC were less the work of the Sudanese Army which is more or less under the command of al-Bashir than of the Janjaweed. However, al-Bashir as President is responsible for all activities in Sudan.

President al-Bashir of Sudan may have escaped arrest and prosecution in South Africa, but now he is warned: Whatever country he may visit in the near future, he is no longer guaranteed to freely fly back to Sudan afterward and avoid answering for his crimes back home.

President al-Bashir of Sudan may have escaped arrest and prosecution in South Africa, but now he is warned: Whatever country he may visit in the near future, he is no longer guaranteed to freely fly back to Sudan and avoid answering for his crimes back home.

For the moment, the ICC has dropped active involvement in the al-Bashir case due to the impossibility of an arrest and a trial. Al-Bashir proclaimed that the recent dropping of the case was the same as being declared “innocent” but it is not. He had no doubt checked with the South African government what its policy would be in practice if he went there for the AU Summit. He must have been told that all the police in South Africa have a blind eye and would not see him coming or going. The government did not expect an NGO action or the Supreme Court order. But the South African police all do have a blind eye, and as a thief in the night, al-Bashir returned to Sudan.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

Boko Haram: The Long Shadow of Usman dan Fodio

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Religious Freedom on February 13, 2015 at 9:58 PM


By René Wadlow

There has been growing concern with the activities of Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria and its spillover into northern Cameroon, Niger, and in the Lake Chad area. There has been a recent conference of the African Union on the issue, and military units from Chad, Cameroon and Niger are linking up with the Nigerian army to counter the growing power of the organization and its possible links with the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq-Syria. The practice of forced marriage, the slavery of women and girls, and arbitrary killing – including beheading – has led many to flee the area. This has resulted in a large number of displaced people, often living in difficult situations.

Boko Haram is not the first militant, anti-establishment Islamic movement in northern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. In the early 1980s, an Islamic sect, the Yan Tatsine unleashed an armed insurrection against the Nigerian security forces, especially in the Kano area. The revolts were led (or at least influenced by) a wandering preacher, Mohammed Marwa Maitatsine. Maitatsine was a nickname added to the family name of Marwa. The nickname originated from the Hausa word “tsini” meaning “to damn”. While preaching, he would name his enemies and their lifestyle and end with the phrase ‘Allah ta tsini” (May God damn you), thus the name “the one who damns”. Maitatsine, like Boko Haram, damned all those who enjoyed Western consumer goods, automobiles, radio, watches, and especially Western education, which was an avenue to these goods.

As with Boko Haram, there were ideological, economic and social aspects to the movement as well as reactions to the brutality of the Nigerian army’s efforts to weaken or destroy the movement. In the case of Mohammed Marwa, his control of territory was largely limited to the city of Kano, and he was killed by Nigerian security forces relatively quickly after the start of the armed attacks of his movement. However, the socio-economic conditions which led to the rise of his movement have continued and have produced smaller and less violent currents until the creation around 2002 of Boko Haram, first as a sect closed in on itself in an isolated area of Borno State in northeast Nigeria, and then for the last four years as an armed insurgency holding an ever-larger territory − or at least creating insecurity in ever larger areas.

For the current leader of Boko Haram, Abubaka Shekau, as well as for others in the movement, Usman dan Fodio (also written as Usuman) and his 1804-1808 jihad is the model to be followed. Although radically different in many ways, Boko Haram is part of the long shadow of Usman dan Fodio and the creation of the Sokoto Caliphate, the largest state in West Africa in the nineteenth century. Toyin Falola describes the background to the jihad:

“The background to the jihad was a crisis in the Hausa states and Islamic leaders’ resort to Islam to reform society. During the eighteenth century, Hausa society witnessed conflicts between one state and another, between Muslims and non-Muslims, between rich and poor. The states were heterogeneous and highly developed with established kingships, talented Islamic scholars and jurists. Succession disputes were endemic while ambition for political domination was common. Gofir state in the northwest emerged as a dominant power, but not without costly and ruthless wars. Merchants and kings grew wealthy, and their ostentatious living displeased the poor and devout Muslims. Methods of wealth accumulation involved corruption and unjust treatment of the poor. Taxes and levies could be excessive, demand for free labor ruinous, enslavement was common and conscription for military service was indiscriminate. The practice of Islam was not always strict: many were Muslims only in name, traditional religion was synthesized with Islam in a way that displeased devout preachers and only a small minority committed itself to spreading the religion”. (1)

Dan Fodio (1754-1817) was a Peul (plu. Fulani) and thus a member of a minority within the largely Hausa area. However, the Fulani are found throughout West Africa. Prior to 1800, there had been a gradual influx of Fulani into northern Nigeria, a migration which had spread over several centuries and which involved people who were ethnically and linguistically distinct from the Hausa. During the earlier migratory phases, they were largely pastoral herdsmen but increasingly they settled in Hausa towns.

As an educated Peul, dan Fodio felt excluded from political power as did other Fulani. The jihad and the distribution of power that followed led to the Sokoto Caliphate − a sort of unified theocracy. Old Hausa dynasties were replaced by new local leaders, mainly Fulani emirs. The caliphate was headed by a sultan, based in Sokoto, while local emirates were governed by an emir. The appointment of each emir had to be ratified by the sultan. Thus was created a Fulani-Hausa political area with elements still in place today.

Dan Fodio, often referred to as Shehu, was an educated preacher who gathered around him students who became the core of his jihad army. Dan Fodio knew the history of Islam and wanted to recreate the Muslim community of the time of the first four Caliphs, thought of as the ‘Golden Age of Islam’. He thus broke down the existing Hausa state system of some 15 separate states into a loosely organized Fulani-Hausa confederation of some 30 emirates with loyalty beyond the clan and the traditional ruler within the embrace of a common religion.

The Sokoto Caliphate, which spanned much of the northern halves of today's nations of Nigeria and Cameroon.

The Sokoto Caliphate, which spanned much of the northern halves of today’s nations of Nigeria and Cameroon.

Two features tended to characterize the emirate system. First, there was virtually no distinction between religious and political authority. The emir possessed both. Second, politics was conducted in an essentially despotic fashion. The common man was subservient to the emir and was dependent on his benevolence. The Fulani jihad fell short of establishing the just Islamic theocracy it had purported to create. Many saw the jihad as a road to power rather than to the purity of religious practice.

Boko Haram has kept the use of flags and flag bearers from Dan Fodio’s jihad as well as the arbitrary killing and indiscriminate marauding. In Boko Haram, there seem to be few Islamic scholars in their ranks, but there do seem to be some who have been to Islamic schools. The future from today is very uncertain. It is unlikely that there is a “military answer.”

Neither Boko Haram nor ISIS/Daesh should be confused with the Islamic faith. These two militant groups give Islam a bad name and do not speak for the world's Muslims.

Neither Boko Haram nor ISIS/Daesh should be confused with the Islamic faith in any way. These two militant groups do not speak for the world’s Muslims and only give Islam a bad name.

Changes in socio-economic conditions are likely to take a long time. From a distance, it is difficult to see how good faith negotiations can be carried out between governments and Boko Haram. Long shadows can last for centuries, but we must keep trying to see how negotiations can be carried out and if non-governmental organizations can play an intermediary role.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations, Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

(1) Toyin Falola.The History of Nigeria (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999, p. 35)


In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Religious Freedom, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights on February 10, 2015 at 12:10 AM

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --

L’Association of World Citizens




  1. L’esclavage est IMMORAL,
  2. L’esclavage est CONTRAIRE AU DROIT MONDIAL,
  3. L’esclavage doit être VAINCU SANS RECOURIR A LA GUERRE.

L’asservissement, la vente tel du bétail, et le mariage forcé de femmes et de jeunes filles par l’ « Etat islamique » (Daesh) dans les zones de l’Irak et de la Syrie qu’il a soumises par la barbarie, ainsi que par Boko Haram dans le nord-est du Nigéria, appellent une réaction concertée, notamment dans la mesure où cette pratique risque de s’étendre à d’autres zones telles que le nord du Cameroun et du Niger si l’influence de Boko Haram continue de croître.

C’est pourquoi l’Association of World Citizens appelle à un effort aussi vaste que possible en direction d’un Nouveau Mouvement Anti-Esclavagiste, rappelant à cette fin la devise du Libérateur (1831-1865) de William Lloyd Garrison, «Notre pays, c’est le Monde, et tous les êtres humains sont nos compatriotes».

Aux Etats-Unis, l’abolition de l’esclavage ne fut qu’un aspect de la sanglante Guerre de Sécession qui n’a produit que de l’amertume et n’a eu d’influence sur les relations interraciales que négative. En France, une première abolition de l’esclavage dans la fureur guerrière de la Révolution n’a abouti qu’à son rétablissement sous un Premier Empire qui s’est montré tout aussi guerrier, l’abolition définitive n’étant venue, avec Victor Schoelcher, que lorsque les canons se furent enfin tus. C’est pourquoi nous croyons fermement que l’esclavage tel que le pratiquent Daesh et Boko Haram doit être vaincu sans qu’il y ait pour cela recours à une guerre.

A travers les frappes aériennes en cours contre Daesh et l’action militaire kurde pour enrayer les atrocités de ce dernier, les tambours de la guerre se font pourtant d’ores et déjà entendre. Les troupes tchadiennes et camerounaises se sont jointes aux forces armées nigérianes pour empêcher Boko Haram de nuire plus avant, ce qui ne fera toutefois qu’ajouter encore au conflit armé déjà violent dans la région. Des armées peuvent vaincre d’autres armées, mais comme le rappelle l’Acte constitutif de l’UNESCO, «Les guerres prenant naissance dans l’esprit des hommes, c’est dans l’esprit des hommes que doivent être élevées les défenses de la paix».

Nous croyons donc que la réponse au problème doit venir d’un mouvement social et populaire issu des sociétés irakienne, syrienne et nigériane, qui reconnaissent toutes que l’esclavage est immoral et constitue une violation du droit mondial. La prohibition de l’esclavage est un élément crucial du droit mondial, au sein duquel elle s’est manifestée historiquement tant par les interdictions du trafic d’esclaves au dix-neuvième siècle, obtenues grâce au combat du Mouvement Anti-Esclavagiste de l’époque, que par celles édictées plus tard par la Société des Nations et enfin par l’action des Nations Unies depuis leur création en 1945.

Aujourd’hui, c’est d’un Nouveau Mouvement Anti-Esclavagiste que nous avons besoin, afin d’en appeler à toutes celles et tous ceux qui, au Moyen-Orient et en Afrique, peuvent et veulent nous rejoindre pour réaffirmer et renforcer le respect de la dignité humaine, en particulier des femmes et des jeunes filles, ainsi que le respect des droits des minorités religieuses quelles qu’elles soient.


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