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Ethiopia: The Cry of the Imburi

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on November 30, 2021 at 9:33 PM

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. The Imburi have been crying out over the increasing dangers of the conflict in Ethiopia which began on November 3, 2020. However, during the past year, the conflict has spread to other parts of Ethiopia and has impacted neighboring countries.

The fighting in Tigray becomes more complex each day as Ethiopian Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces and ethnic militias face Tigrayan forces. There is a buildup of Sudanese government forces on the Ethiopian-Sudan border where refugees flee into Sudan. The whole Horn of Africa, already fragile, is in danger of greater destabilization.

For the moment, all efforts for mediation proposed by the United Nations (UN), by the African Union or individual states such as the USA have been refused by the Ethiopian central government. Many of the former officials of the Tigray Province have fled to other countries. Thus, it is not clear who is in a position to negotiate for the Tigray factions were negotiations to be undertaken.

Isolated Children in Tigray (C) Rod Waddington

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has sent representatives to Ethiopia to collect information on human rights violations related to the conflict in Tigray. With great difficulty some information on massive human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law has been collected. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has spoken out on these violations involving mass killings, rapes, and the abduction of civilians when presenting the report on November 3, 2021 in Geneva. However, she stressed the difficulties of collecting information and the impossibility to visit certain areas where massive violations were said to have taken place. Amnesty International has also tried to collect information by telephone since its representatives were not allowed to enter the country.

On November 2, 2021, a state of emergency covering all of Ethiopia was declared by the federal government. Arrests of Tigrayans living in the capital Addis Ababa followed. Travel within the country is limited and heavily controlled by the police and the military. There is talk of a wide-spread roundup of Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa and other large cities and placing them in camps. There is an increase in local self-defense groups as fear grips the country.

There are few signs of compromise or a willingness to deal with the deep consequences of the armed conflict. There might be some possibilities for nongovernmental, Track II type efforts to see where some progress might be made. The Association of World Citizens, knowing the fragile nature of the confederation of provinces which make up the Ethiopian State had made a first appeal for a ceasefire and negotiations in good faith shortly after fighting had started in early November 2020. However, for the moment, possibilities for mediation either by governments or nongovernmental organizations have not been acted upon. A situation which needs to be follow carefully.

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

A Korean War Peace Treaty Proposal

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Korean Peninsula, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on November 19, 2021 at 8:59 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) warmly welcomes the statement to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on September 21, 2021 by President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea. “Today, I once again urge the community of nations to mobilize its strengths for the end-of-war declaration on the Korean Peninsula. When the parties involved in the Korean War stand together and proclaim an end to the war, I believe we can make irreversible progress in denuclearization and usher in an era to complete peace.”

On March 14, 2013, the AWC had sent a message to the then UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-moon, urging a UN-sponsored Korean-sponsored Korean Peace Settlement Conference now that all the States which participated in the 1950-1953 Korean War were UN member states. The 60th anniversary of the 1953 Armistice would be an appropriate occasion.

Such a Korean Peace Settlement Conference could build a framework for a broader, comprehensive approach to Northeast Asia security. The AWC stressed the need for strong diplomatic measures by concerned States such as China, Russia, the USA, and Japan. The World Citizens highlighted that in the past, there had been a series of dangerous but ultimately resolvable crisis concerning the two Korean States. However, there are always dangers of miscalculations and unnecessary escalation of threats.

The AWC noted in its message that there had been a number of Track II, nongovernmental efforts, on Korean issues and that the voices of civil society are legitimate and should be heard.

Today, the conditions for such a Korean Peace Settlement Conference seem more favorable than in 2013. The opportunities should be actively explored.

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

Current Searches for Appropriate Forms of Government

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law, Yemen on October 8, 2021 at 6:52 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) strives to respond to situations in this turbulent and frequently violent world by making proposals for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith and by making proposals for developing appropriate forms of government, often based on con-federalism, decentralization, and trans-frontier cooperation. A current focus is on the situations in Yemen (1) and Somalia. (2)

In March 2015, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia attacked Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, held by a rebel force, the Ansar Allah Movement, commonly called the Houthis. Since that date, the armed conflict has continued, destroying the fragile economy, displacing a large number of persons, creating a humanitarian tragedy. So far, all mediation efforts have failed. The situation becomes more complex each day due in part to the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The state of Yemen was the creation of two separate units. One was the southern part originally known as the Aden Colony and the Eastern and Western Aden Protectorates under British rule. The northern part of the country had been under Ottoman rule until the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. From 1918 until 1962, it was ruled by Imams. In 1962, there was a military coup organized by officers who had been trained in Egypt and were influenced by Nasser’s views on Arab nationalism. The coup was followed by an eight-year-long civil war between the military forces called “republicans” and the forces of the Imam Bader. The republicans won, but the government was weak and unstable.

The south of the country after the British left took the name of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. In 1990, the two segments of Yemen were united, and the Republic of Yemen was established. However, the euphoria which had existed at the start was short-lived. The people in the south had been promised that their lives would be bettered after unification. Life did not improve, and many in the south felt marginalized. Today, there is a strong sentiment in the south for separation and independence.

When the fighting in Yemen stops, the creation of appropriate forms of government will have to be found. The return to two separate states presents real difficulties as people have moved from their original home areas due to changing economic conditions and to the armed conflict. Yet a single centralized government also seems impossible. As Martin Dent points out, where there is strong identity politics, there must be forms of government that fill the gap between unity and independence. (3) There is a need for Track II efforts to discuss possible structures of government in Yemen.

In Somalia, we have very similar conditions. The two Somali colonial areas, one under the control of Britain and the other under that of Italy were combined into one state in 1961. There had been a period of United Nations (UN) trusteeship after the end of the Second World War when the area of Italian colonial status had ended and before the two colonial territories were united. The political culture of the two territories was different. This impact of the colonial legacy was an element leading to the current situation. In January 1991, the military government of Siyad Barre was overthrown, and now different parts of the country demand independence, in particular Somaliland and Puntland, though their boundary claims overlap.

In addition to regional demands for independence, there is an armed Islamist movement, Al-Shabaab, which poses regional and international security issues which continue. Mediation efforts by the UN have not progressed. Again, Track II efforts may be helpful to find governmental structures able to provide autonomy without dividing the Somalia state into three or more independent states. (4) The Association of World Citizens stresses the need for creative thinking on the structure of a state, on the need for regional cooperation and a willingness to negotiate in good faith.

Notes

(1) Helen Lackner, Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neo-Liberalism and the Disintegration of a State (London: Saqi Books, 2017, 330 pp.)

(2) Sarah G. Phillips, When There Was No Aid: War and Peace in Somaliland (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2020, 227 pp.)

(3) Martin J. Dent, Identity Politics: Filling the Gap Between Federalism and Independence (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004, 232 pp.)

(4) Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990, 503 pp.)

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

The AWC Reiterates its Appeal for Immediate Action to End the Fighting and Bring Relief to Populations at Risk in Ethiopia

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, NGOs, Solidarity, Sudan, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on September 14, 2021 at 8:46 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) now reiterates its Appeal to the parties in the armed conflict in Ethiopia for negotiations in good faith to end the fighting and to deal with the deep consequences of the conflict, especially the widespread hunger. Mark Lowcock, the United Nations (UN) Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has warned that nearly five million of the six million population of the Tigray Province needed food assistance and the number grows as fighting spreads to other regions.

Shortly after fighting began on November 3, 2020, the AWC, knowing the fragile nature of the confederation of provinces which make up the Ethiopian state, had made a first Appeal for negotiations in good faith, although information on the fighting was very limited. Journalists were prevented from going to Tigray as were most humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). However by February, enough information had been gathered from refugee sources for Amnesty International to present a first report on the extent of human rights violations, with multiple credible and widely corroborated reports of widespread atrocities involving mass killings, rapes and the abduction of civilians.

The fighting in Tigray becomes more complex each day as Ethiopian Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces and ethnic militias face Tigrayan forces. There is a buildup of Sudanese government forces on the Ethiopian-Sudan border and refugees flee into Sudan. The whole Horn of Africa already fragile is in danger of greater destabilization.

For the moment all efforts for mediation proposed by the UN or the African Union have been refused by the Ethiopian central government. The former officials of Tigray Province have fled and it is not clear who is in a position to negotiate for the Tigray factions were negotiations to be undertaken. There may be possibilities for non-governmental initiatives. Hence the reiteration of our AWC Appeal.

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

We Must Protect the Rights of the Hazara Population in Afghanistan

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on September 2, 2021 at 7:55 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) is strongly concerned by possible repression against the Hazara population in Afghanistan, repression of such an extent that it could be considered genocide. While it is still too early to know what the policies and practice of the Taliban toward minorities will be now, during the past Taliban rule (1996-2001) there was systematic discrimination against the Hazara and a number of massacres.

There are some three million Hazara whose home area is in the central mountainous core of Afghanistan, but a good number have migrated to Kabul, most holding unskilled labor positions in the city. The Hazara are largely Shi’a in religion but are considered as non-Muslim heretics or infidels by the Taliban as well as by members of the Islamic State in Khorasan (ISIS-K), now also an armed presence in Afghanistan.

In the past there was a genocidal period under the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan. During the 1891-1893 period, it is estimated that 60 percent of the Hazara were killed, and many others put into slavery-like conditions.

To understand fully the concern of the AWC for the Hazara, it is useful to recall Article II of the 1948 Convention against Genocide.

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:

* Killing members of the group;
* Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
* Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part;
* Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
* Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

There have been repeated appeals to make the 1948 Genocide Convention operative as world law. The then United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said in an address at UNESCO on December 8, 1998 “Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War – the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust – could not happen again. And yet they have. In Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, In Rwanda. Our time – this decade even – has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide – the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins – is now a word our out time too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance but be eternal.”

The 1948 Convention has an action article, Article VIII:

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide […]

Despite factual evidence of mass killings, some with the intent to destroy “in whole or in part”, no Contracting Party has ever called for any action under Article VIII. (1)

The criteria for mass killings to be considered genocide does not depend on the number of people killed or the percentage of the group destroyed but on the possibility of the destruction of the identity of a group. It is the identity of the Hazara and their religious base which is the key issue. Events need to be watched closely, and nongovernmental organizations must be prepared to take appropriate action.

Note
(1) For a detailed study of the 1948 Convention and subsequent normative development see: William A. Schabas, Genocide in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2000, 624 pp.)

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

Saber Rattling in the South China Sea

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, NGOs, The Search for Peace, United States, World Law on August 13, 2021 at 7:47 AM

By René Wadlow

Six days of Chinese naval maneuvers started on August 6, 2021 near southeast Hainan province in the South China Sea at the same time as warships of the USA, the United Kingdom, Australian Defense Forces ships and those of the Japan Self-Defense Forces are also training in the area. The South China Sea is fast becoming a theater of brinkmanship.

“We view with concern China’s unlawful claim to the entire South China Sea – directly and negatively impacting all the countries in the region from their livelihood, whether it be with fishing or access to natural resources.” said John Aquilino, commander of the U. S. Indo-Pacific Command at the Aspen Security Forum on August 4. The U. S. Commander added that he was concerned by China’s suppression in Hong Kong, human rights issues in Xinjiang, as well as China’s military actions on the border with India. “These are the things that lead me to believe that our execution of integrated deterrence has to occur now with a sense of urgency.”

The Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Yi quickly replied that “foreign powers” must stop extending “black hands” in the South China Sea and show “four respects – respect for historic truth, international law, the countries of the region and their agreements”.

China’s Global Times published a harsh editorial on the same lines warning to “follow the current international shipping lanes and stay at least 12 nautical miles away from the Chinese islands and reefs … Stopping such intrusive behavior that violates China’s territorial waters is a struggle China is destined to intensify … Under international law, warships, including those of the U. S. and its allies, have been able to pass through the South China Sea unimpeded. But if those ships want to exert geopolitical pressure and build a wall to contain China along those shipping lines, those warships will face a confrontation from China. And the intensity of the confrontation is bound to increase constantly.”

It is probable that the Cold War-like rhetoric in Washington has encouraged China’s siege mentality. While it is unlikely that there will be a deliberate use of violence by any party, there can be miscalculations and misinterpretations of actions. In addition to China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei all make claims to some of the islands in the South China Sea. Slowly but surely, Beijing has been expanding its strategic influence in the South China Sea. The South China Sea islands and surrounding waters are crucial as potential military platforms, plausible points of strategic surveillance, as well as sites of energy reserve.

It is in the interest of the world society that the tensions concerning the delimitations in the South China Sea be reduced. The current tensions could slip out of control.

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

Concerted Efforts Against Trafficking in Persons

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, Modern slavery, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on July 30, 2021 at 10:01 AM

By René Wadlow

On July 30, there should be a worldwide concerted effort against trafficking in persons. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly in Resolution A/RES/68/192 in 2012 set out July 30 as a day to review and reaffirm the need for action against the criminal global networks dealing in trafficking of persons. The trafficking of human beings reveals the hunger of the global economy for human labor and the disrespect for human dignity. Drugs, guns, illegal immigration are the nightmare avenues of how the poor world becomes integrated into the global economy. These are intricate networks and are intertwined with interests in business and politics.

A recent UN report presented to the Commission on the Status of Women highlighted that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries and one of the crucial human rights crises today.

From Himalayan villages to Eastern European cities – especially women and girls – are attracted by the prospects of a well-paid job as a domestic servant, waitress or factory worker. Traffickers recruit victims through fake advertisements, mail-order bride catalogues, casual acquaintances, and even family members. Children are trafficked to work in sweatshops, and men to work in the « three D jobs » – dirty, difficult and dangerous.

Despite clear international standards such as the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, there is poor implementation, limited governmental infrastructure dedicated to the issue. There is also a tendency to criminalize the victims.

Since 2002, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has collected information on trafficking in persons. The International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization – especially in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention – and the International Organization for Migration – all have anti-trafficking programs, but they have few «people on the ground» dealing directly with the issue.

Thus, real progress needs to be made through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Association of World Citizens which has raised the issue in human rights bodies in Geneva. There are three aspects to this anti-trafficking effort. The first is to help build political will by giving accurate information to political leaders and the press. The other two aspects depend on the efforts of NGOs themselves. Such efforts call for increased cooperation among NGOs and capacity building.

The second aspect is research into the areas from which persons – especially children and women – are trafficked. These are usually the poorest parts of a country and among marginalized populations. Socio-economic and development projects must be directed to these areas so that there are realistic avenues for advancement.

The third aspect is psychological healing. Very often persons who have been trafficked have had a disrupted or violent family life. They may have a poor idea of their self-worth. The victim’s psychological health is often ignored by governments. Victims can suffer a strong psychological shock that disrupts their psychological integrity. Thus, it is important to create opportunities for individual and group healing, to give a spiritual dimention through teaching meditation and yoga. There is a need to create adult education facilities so that persons may continue a broken educational cycle.

We must not underestimate the difficulties and dangers which exist in the struggle against trafficking in persons nor the hard efforts which are needed for the psychological healing of victims. July 30 can be a rededication for our efforts.

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

Letting the Soul of Europe Drown on the Shores of Libya

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on July 26, 2021 at 6:15 PM

By Bernard J. Henry

Was Libya ever a part of the 2011 Arab Spring? If the term defines solely the ouster of a dictator who had been there for decades, yes, it was. After 41 years of autocratic rule, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was irreversibly overthrown. If the Arab Spring also means the transformation of nonviolent protests into all-out armed conflict, then again, Libya qualifies as a people’s revolution, following the path successfully taken by Tunisia, that ended up as a civil war between the Jamahiriya, ruled from Tripoli by Gaddafi, and the Qatar-backed National Transitional Council based in Benghazi. Ultimately, if it means frustration at the outcome of the fight, then Libya was indeed a part of the 2011 Arab Spring, remembering how unbearably long it took the rival factions there to create a Government of National Unity, after years of competition between two, sometimes three, would-be national leaders.

Another way that Libya – tragically – qualifies as part of the 2011 Arab Spring is the ever-growing phenomenon of harraga. In Algerian Arabic, harrag means “the one who burns something”, and in Algeria where French is an unofficial second language, overlooking a red light while driving a car is “brûler un feu rouge”, literally “burning a red light”. When harrag thus refers to anyone breaching a legal restriction, its plural harraga has come to mean “those who burn the border” – migrants who leave the country without permission, either from their home government or the authorities of the country they are traveling to, in both cases risking their very lives.

One reason the West reacted sometimes coolly to the end of decades-long dictatorships in North Africa was that, while in power, Ben Ali, Gaddafi, and Mubarak enforced strict regulations on migration to the northern bank of the Mediterranean, keeping their respective peoples away from both personal freedom and European border posts altogether. The fall of each of the three regimes meant the end of a controlled emigration that used to suit European needs nicely, and ten years later, one of the three countries stands out as the most graphic and tragic embodiment of the harraga phenomenon – Libya.

Yet Libyans do not make up the bulk of those vowing to reach Europe at any cost. Those vowing to reach Europe from Libya are migrants and refugees from other countries in Africa, with some foreign residents who had lived in Libya for many years but are now feeling insecure and want to move on abroad. Others still, coming from Niger, Chad, Sudan, Egypt, and Tunisia, do want to settle down in Libya. But for those whose destination is Europe, when failure does not come by drowning into the Mediterranean, it means a fate some would deem even worse.

Inhumanity in the name of the European Union

According to a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), North Africa is now offering three routes for migration to Europe – the Western Route from Morocco into Spain, the Eastern Route from Turkey into Greece, and the Central Route from Libya into Italy. Unsurprisingly, the Central Route is the most active, preferred by many refugees and migrants. They come from West, East, and Central Africa, some of them fleeing extreme poverty back home and the others running from war and persecution. Although Europe has the oldest and best-functioning human rights court in the world, nostalgic as it is of its unenviable dictator friends in North Africa, it will not lift a finger to help these people yearning for the freedom and dignity that Europeans enjoy them every day.

In a newly released report entitled ‘No One Will Look for You’: Forcibly Returned from Sea to Abusive Detention in Libya, Amnesty International explains how “men, women and children intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean Sea and forcibly returned to detention centers in Libya” get subjected to an array of human rights violations in detention centers, such as “torture and other ill-treatment, cruel and inhuman detention conditions, extortion and forced labor” as well as “invasive, humiliating and violent strip-searches”, when not rape.

The organization sheds light on the role played since 2020 by the Libyan Government’s Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) in sexual abuses against women.

But, in the words of Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, “The report also highlights the ongoing complicity of European states that have shamefully continued to enable and assist Libyan coastguards in capturing people at sea and forcibly returning them to the hellscape of detention in Libya, despite knowing full well the horrors they will endure.” Consequently, Amnesty urges “European states to suspend cooperation on migration and border control with Libya”.

Blocking unauthorized migration from North Africa to Europe was one thing, when many in Western countries deemed Arab peoples unable to sustain democracy, thus supporting dictators who both reined in their constituents at home and deterred them from seeking a better life, let alone freedom, abroad. Ten years later, as a stifled democracy proves unable to protect Tunisia from a deadly wave of Covid-19 and Egypt appears locked in an absolute monarchy in all but name, Libya has set a course on the abandonment of all standards of human decency, not just in the treatment of prisoners but in knowingly punishing people just for seeking a new life on the other side of the Mediterranean.

The European ideal betrayed

It is no secret that European leaders, however progressive and opposed to extreme right populists they claim to be, have long renounced any form of firmness toward these. No more dismissing the far right by comparing it to pre-World War II fascist movements; its trademark xenophobic rhetoric has now become trendy. Leaders who once blasted the extreme right can now be heard calling for tighter border controls, making life harder for those immigrants who do get admitted, and demoting asylum from an internationally recognized right to a temporary commodity granted at the pleasure of the state.

Denmark, once hailed as a model Scandinavian social democracy with a liberal line of thought, is now considering sending Syrian refugees back to their war-torn homeland and “outsourcing” other asylum-seekers to Rwanda, a distant central African country with no geographical, historical, or other ties to Denmark whatsoever. In Britain, Home Secretary Priti Patel has proposed a host of nonsensical, dangerous measures to keep undocumented migrants and asylum seekers from reaching the country, such as the creation of an offshore processing center in … Rwanda. Not the finest tributes to the scores of Rwandans trying to flee the ongoing genocide back in 1994 one might think of.

Once conservative, moderate, liberal, or progressive democrats, the leaders of Europe have now joined the extreme right if only in its crusade to spread an insane fear of millions of Arab and African Muslim migrants taking over Europe, replacing the European Convention on Human Rights with the Sharia, imposing the Islamic veil on all women, and flogging to death anyone who swallows a drop of alcohol. So much for the European dream of Konrad Adenauer and Winston Churchill, Frenchmen Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, and Italians Alcide de Gasperi and Altiero Spinelli – the latter’s name being part also of the history of the World Citizen and World Federalist movements.

As the motto of the European Union (EU) shifts from “United in Diversity” to “Freedom within, Fortress without”, Libya stands out as the most graphic, horrendous illustration of EU duplicity in championing human values at home, especially when opposing a Donald Trump in the USA or brutal leaders in China and Nicaragua, while condoning the total loss of humanity in North Africa where Libyan government agents keep its borders safe from – imagined – hordes of invaders poised to feast on Europe’s riches and force an Al-Qaida- or ISIS-like reactionary vision of Islam on all Europeans. That too is a sign, possibly the most important one, that when it comes to migration, European leaders are now being guided by the extreme right’s ideology, pretending to use facts but being really based on fantasy.

Europe must continue to stand for hope

It is no fantasy that people are dying at sea while trying to reach Europe. It is no fantasy that others, also trying to reach Europe through the Mediterranean, are getting caught by the Libyan authorities and forcibly brought back to the country. It is no fantasy that, held in detention centers even though they have no crime to answer for, people are ill-treated, beaten, raped, all but killed, just because they tried to get to Europe. It is no fantasy that as many blatant violations of the European Convention on Human Rights are being committed while the EU, at best, turns a blind eye and, at worst, lends its support.

Regional integration as Europe has known it since World War II, including EU expansion after the end of the Warsaw Pact, cannot be allowed to result in such barbarity. Setting such a bad example will only be detrimental to the ongoing experiments toward regional integration in other parts of the world, obviously starting with Africa. Ultimately, the very idea of World Citizenship will be endangered too, should some raise the possibility of supranational integration, and accordingly global governance of any kind, leading to such brutal, inhuman conducts of that nature with literally nowhere to run.

Europe as we know it was born among the ruins of World War II. Neither its regional institutions nor its national governments, let alone its governmental partners overseas, can possibly let it drown on the shores of Libya, where its leaders from Rome up to Copenhagen are making the EU lose all honor, letting down both those in Libya hoping for a better future and their own citizens at home by nurturing them in fear when they should be taught pride, courage, and solidarity, both toward one another and with others in distress at the doorsteps of the Union.

Bernard J. Henry is the External Relations Officer of the Association of World Citizens.

Il faut sauver Le Kef, la ville au cœur de la Tunisie qu’on oublie

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Track II, United Nations on July 18, 2021 at 8:21 AM

Depuis un an et demi, la pandémie de Covid-19 ravage la terre entière. Le coronavirus ne connaît aucune frontière, il se moque des limites entre États-nations tracées par l’être humain, il frappe partout où il le peut, comme il veut, quand il veut. Dans nombre de pays, les mesures-barrières préconisées par l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé sont appliquées de manière stricte : port du masque, distanciation physique, lorsque ce ne sont pas confinement et couvre-feu. Dans d’autres pays, hélas, les dirigeants ont choisi, pour de pures raisons politiques, d’ignorer le danger, et dans de tels pays, le peuple l’a payé cher mais aussi, bien souvent, les chefs d’État eux-mêmes.

En Tunisie, la première vague du début d’année 2020, causée par la souche originelle de Wuhan, avait été gérée de manière raisonnable. Aujourd’hui, le variant Delta submerge le système de santé, dépourvu d’équipement et de personnel, jusqu’aux vaccins de tous types, créant ainsi une véritable catastrophe sanitaire nationale et offrant à la Tunisie le triste record du taux de mortalité lié à la Covid-19 sur tout le continent africain.

A travers le monde, Tunis a fait appel à sa diaspora. Celles du Canada, de Belgique et de France ont répondu présentes. Mais pour tout le soulagement que leur aide apporte au pays, leur seule intervention sera loin de suffire pour sauver la Tunisie de ce péril imminent.

Et quand bien même. Pour l’heure, l’aide apportée se concentre sur les grandes villes de la Tunisie, que ce soit Tunis la capitale ou Kairouan, Sousse, Hammamet, les grandes villes mais aussi celles que l’étranger connaît le mieux, celles que les touristes aimaient visiter avant la pandémie.

Le monde sait qu’il faut soigner la Tunisie qu’il connaît. C’est bien. A présent, il lui faut soigner aussi la Tunisie qu’on oublie.

Au premier rang des villes oubliées du secours, il y a Le Kef, cette ville de montagne adossée à l’Algérie. Déjà oubliée de Tunis depuis même l’ère Bourguiba, aujourd’hui, Le Kef se débat avec une situation sanitaire devenue intenable. Le seul hôpital de la ville est submergé de patients qu’il ne peut traiter, et face au variant Delta, les mesures de restriction devenues habituelles que sont confinement et couvre-feu ne suffiront pas.

Tant de la diaspora que des autorités sur place, une mobilisation en oxygène et en vaccins au moins égale à celle en faveur des grandes villes est indispensable au Kef. Recueillir de l’aide en masse est bien sûr essentiel, mais sans une répartition équitable, jamais cette aide ne sera suffisante. Ecarter une partie du pays de la solidarité internationale ne pourra qu’avoir des conséquences incalculables. Les blessures ainsi causées s’avéreront sans nul doute encore plus longues et difficiles à soigner que la pandémie. Déjà aux prises avec un héritage introuvable de la révolution de 2011, la Tunisie prend peut-être la direction d’un chaos qui aura raison y compris de la raison.

«Et quiconque sauve un seul homme, c’est comme s’il avait sauvé tous les hommes», dit le Coran. Les autorités politiques actuelles de la Tunisie sont venues au pouvoir en mettant l’Islam au cœur de leurs aspirations politiques. Pourquoi alors n’appliqueraient-elles pas ce principe ? Sauver tous les Tunisiens, n’est-ce pas d’abord sauver un seul Tunisien, quelle que soit la région du pays d’où il vient ?

Depuis le début de ce nouvel épisode de crise, les ambassades tunisiennes à travers le monde reçoivent et centralisent l’aide médicale et humanitaire. A présent, il appartient à leurs supérieurs à Tunis, à l’Etat dont ces diplomates tirent leurs ordres, de veiller à la bonne et due utilisation du soutien mondial à la Tunisie. Et ce soutien n’aura de valeur et d’efficacité que s’il n’oublie personne, notamment pas Le Kef, l’oubliée par excellence au cœur de sa montagne. S’il le chante avec ironie dans Noé, c’est au sens littéral que Tunis doit désormais entendre ces paroles de Julien Clerc :

«Il ne sauve rien,
Celui qui ne sauve pas tout»
.

* * *

Prof. René Wadlow
Président

Bernard J. Henry
Officier des Relations Extérieures

Cherifa Maaoui
Officier de Liaison,
Afrique du Nord & Moyen-Orient

En Colombie, la guerre contre la coca décime la terre et les espoirs de paix

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Environmental protection, Human Rights, Latin America, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on May 16, 2021 at 8:23 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

La Colombie vivra-t-elle un jour en paix ? Les événements actuels, la révolte sociale contre un projet de taxation du Président Ivan Duque qui l’a depuis abandonné, n’incitent qu’au pessimisme, dans un pays déjà longuement marqué par le conflit entre le Gouvernement et la rébellion des Forces Armées Révolutionnaires de Colombie – Armée du Peuple (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo ; FARC-EP) ainsi que par le narcoterrorisme des grands cartels de la drogue comme ceux de Cali et de Medellín. Aucune comparaison possible entre les trois, certes – mais seul le résultat compte.

Comme si déjà les affrontements entre êtres humains n’éprouvaient pas assez le pays, le Président Ivan Duque ouvre aujourd’hui un nouveau front, contre le dernier ennemi que devrait se donner quelque Etat que ce soit. Car la nouvelle ennemie de Bogota, c’est sa terre. Sa terre nourricière.

Coca veut-il toujours dire cocaïne ?

La déclaration de guerre, c’est le Décret 380, signé le 12 avril dernier par Ivan Duque et autorisant la reprise de la pulvérisation aérienne de glyphosate, herbicide produit au départ par la seule firme Monsanto sous la marque Roundup et dont le brevet appartient depuis 2000 au domaine public, pour l’éradication des cultures illicites. Sans surprise, c’est d’abord la coca qui est visée, et à travers elle, la culture de cocaïne. C’est oublier que cette plante, cultivée depuis plusieurs millénaires dans les Andes, représente bien davantage dans la culture locale.

Le mate de coca (C) Getty Images-iStockphoto

Jadis élément rituel des croyances incas de la Colombie jusqu’au Chili, toujours présentes dans les rites chamaniques, les feuilles de coca sont aujourd’hui consommées en infusion, le mate de coca. Elles sont riches en minéraux essentiels, en vitamines, en protéines et en fibres. Les âges leur ont aussi découvert des vertus médicinales contre le vertige, en anesthésiant, en analgésique ou en coagulant, leur taux élevé de calcium les ayant rendues tout aussi efficaces contre les fractures osseuses, parmi les nombreuses vertus que même la médecine moderne leur reconnaît.

C’est ainsi que la coca représentait, en 2012, 0,2% du Produit Intérieur Brut colombien. Mais de nos jours, pour Bogota, coca ne veut plus dire que cocaïne. Or, ce nom ne désigne pas forcément ce que l’on croit.

Sitôt le mot prononcé, «cocaïne» évoque une drogue dure. Or, ce n’est pas le sens premier du terme. La cocaïne est un alcaloïde, une substance parfaitement naturelle contenue dans les feuilles de coca. Elle est naturellement ingérée lorsque l’on consomme le mate ou, c’est son usage le plus courant, lorsque l’on en mâche les feuilles, comme le font les Andins depuis des milliers d’années. La coca agit ainsi comme un remède à la faim, la soif, la douleur ou la fatigue. Sous cette forme, elle ne crée aucune addiction.

Transformée en un produit stupéfiant, le chlorhydrate de cocaïne, puis «sniffée» en «rails», la cocaïne devient un psychotrope et crée une addiction particulièrement dangereuse sur le plan psychique. C’est là qu’elle devient une «culture illicite» car alimentant les économies des cartels mais aussi ceux de groupes paramilitaires, dont jadis les FARC-EP.

Le glyphosate de Monsanto, vendu sous la marque Roundup

Mais si la coca détient le problème, elle renferme aussi la solution. Pour les cocaïnomanes, la consommation des feuilles telles quelles, bénéfique et non addictive, offre un moyen de se désaccoutumer et guérir.

Bien que ne pouvant l’ignorer, pas plus qu’ignorer que de nombreuses communautés paysannes dépendent de la culture de la coca comme seul moyen d’existence, Bogota a décidé de l’éradiquer par la force, envoyant l’armée détruire cent trente mille hectares au risque même d’affamer sa population campesina et rallumer les feux mal éteints de la guerre civile.

Pour qui aurait cru que l’urgence sanitaire liée à la COVID-19, confinement compris comme dans tant d’autres pays du monde, aurait arrêté ou du moins suspendu les ambitions guerrières gouvernementales, comme la société civile colombienne qui demandait une suspension, peine perdue. Au moins sept départements colombiens ont vu l’armée mener pendant ce temps-là sa guerre à mort contre la coca. Une guerre d’autant plus inquiétante que le front en est proche, par trop proche, de celui de l’ancienne guerre contre les FARC-EP.

FARC-EP : Un accord de paix en danger

Dans les années 1980, dernière décennie de la Guerre Froide, donc du système international de Droits Humains antérieur à la Conférence de Vienne en 1993, plusieurs groupes d’opposition armés avaient été identifiés à travers le monde comme violateurs des Droits Humains au même titre que les gouvernements, parfois le gouvernement même qu’ils entendaient combattre. Parmi eux, les Khmers Rouges au Cambodge, le Parti des Travailleurs du Kurdistan (PKK) en Turquie, le Sentier Lumineux (Sendero Luminoso) au Pérou et, en Colombie, les FARC-EP.

L’emblème des FARC-EP

Pur produit de la Guerre Froide, apparues en 1964, les FARC-EP présentaient une idéologie marxiste-léniniste, prônant un système agrarien et anti-impérialiste en Colombie. Composées de plusieurs dizaines de milliers d’hommes et de femmes, les FARC-EP usaient de techniques militaires variées mais aussi du terrorisme, à l’image de l’ETA au Pays basque espagnol qui les soutenait ouvertement. Leur économie de guerre se fondait sur l’extraction minière illégale, le racket économique, l’enlèvement contre rançon – ainsi de la Sénatrice Ingrid Betancourt en 2002, qui demeura leur otage jusqu’en 2008 – et le trafic de stupéfiants.

En mars 2008, le décès du leader des FARC-EP Manuel Marulanda Vélez marqua un tournant dans l’histoire du groupe armé. Les désertions se multiplièrent et, bien que poursuivant leurs attaques terroristes contre la police, l’armée et le secteur de l’énergie, des FARC-EP jadis redoutables apparurent désormais craintives et fatiguées.

Un processus de paix fut lancé qui aboutit, en juin 2016, à la signature d’un cessez-le-feu entre le Président Juan Manuel Santos et les FARC-EP à La Havane. En août, Santos annonça un accord de paix formel, qu’il soumit à référendum en octobre mais qui fut rejeté de peu par l’électorat. Le mois suivant, un accord révisé fut signé puis finalement ratifié. Un an après le cessez-le-feu, en juin 2017, les FARC-EP prononcèrent leur dissolution en tant que groupe armé, remettant leur armement aux équipes des Nations Unies sur place et devenant, comme le prévoyait l’accord de paix, un parti politique.

Quelques milliers d’irréductibles poursuivirent la lutte armée et le trafic de drogue. En août 2019, plusieurs leaders des anciennes FARC-EP annoncèrent à leur tour y revenir, bientôt mis hors d’état de nuire par les troupes colombiennes. L’accord de paix perdura donc, dont les quatre premiers points montraient une volonté concrète de combattre à la fois le conflit et ses causes originelles – une réforme rurale exhaustive, la participation politique des membres des anciennes FARC-EP, une fin définitive des affrontements et, en Point 4, une «solution aux drogues illicites».

Un rapport parlementaire colombien rendu l’an dernier montrait que, si la culture du coca était en recul, non moins de quinze mille hectares ayant été perdus en un an, celle de cocaïne connaissait en revanche un regain de 15%. Peu surprenant dans la mesure où les solutions prévues par l’accord de paix, l’éradication manuelle et la mise en place de cultures de substitution, ont été largement ignorées par les autorités. Écarter ainsi les accords conclus et les solutions de bon sens qui les composent, c’était offrir un boulevard aux tenants du glyphosate, parmi lesquels le Ministre de la Défense Carlos Holmes Trujillo, qui ont donc fini par l’emporter.

Outre la santé, l’économie et l’écosystème des communautés campesinas, et malgré la victoire militaire sur la tentative de résurgence armée d’une partie des FARC-EP, le glyphosate met donc bel et bien en danger y compris l’accord de paix lui-même, au mépris de l’ancien groupe armé et de ses efforts vers la paix, mais aussi des décisions judiciaires et, rien de moins, des recommandations internationales.

La justice colombienne et l’ONU l’avaient dit

Une première fois pourtant, la Colombie avait mis fin à la pulvérisation aérienne. En 2015, l’impact avéré de cette pratique sur l’environnement et les Droits Humains, notamment le droit à la santé, avait amené Bogota à renoncer à en faire usage. Deux ans plus tard, c’était la Cour constitutionnelle (Corte Constitucional) qui se saisissait du sujet et se prononçait en son Arrêt T-236-17.

Pour la juridiction suprême, le glyphosate était indubitablement une substance toxique à même d’entraîner diverses maladies, dont le cancer. Elle ordonnait ainsi que la pulvérisation aérienne ne soit utilisée qu’en dernier ressort, après l’échec de toute substitution volontaire ou éradication manuelle. Et surtout, la Cour, sortant du pur plan agricole ou scientifique, investissait aussi le champ politique en appelant le Gouvernement à résoudre le problème en tenant compte du Point 4 des Accords de Paix avec les FARC-EP. Mais faute d’application crédible des programmes de substitution volontaire, bien que ceux-ci soient un pilier des accords de paix, il leur a été préféré l’éradication forcée.

L’ONU elle-même s’en est indignée et le 17 décembre dernier, dix de ses experts indépendants écrivaient à Ivan Duque en lui demandant de renoncer à la pulvérisation aérienne, porteuse « d’énormes risques » pour l’environnement mais aussi d’une possible atteinte aux engagements internationaux colombiens en matière de Droits Humains. Appel donc resté lettre morte.

La pulvérisation aérienne au glyphosate en action

Sans paix avec la terre, aucune paix pour l’avenir

Avec Carlos Holmes Trujillo, la «ligne dure», sans mauvais jeu de mots sur la cocaïne au demeurant, a gagné. Qu’importe si, à cause d’elle, des Colombiens vont se trouver démunis, et/ou malades, qu’importe si l’écosystème se trouve irrémédiablement endommagé, qu’importe si la terre devient stérile. Leur guerre totale contre d’anciens ennemis qu’ils veulent soumis plus que partenaires a dégénéré en guerre contre la terre colombienne elle-même, la Pachamama, «Terre-Mère» comme la désigne la cosmogonie andine depuis des temps anciens où, déjà, l’on mâchait la coca.

A l’instar d’autres organisations non-gouvernementales, l’Association of World Citizens (AWC) a pris attache avec le Gouvernement colombien en demandant que le Président Ivan Duque renonce à la pulvérisation aérienne de glyphosate, au profit des solutions préconisées par l’accord de paix avec les FARC-EP, éradication manuelle et substitution volontaire, telles que les demande aussi la Cour constitutionnelle.

«A moins d’étendre le cercle de sa compassion à tout ce qui vit, l’homme ne pourra lui-même trouver la paix», disait Albert Schweitzer, auteur du concept de Révérence envers la Vie et lui-même référence naturelle de l’AWC. Le drame colombien du glyphosate illustre on ne peut mieux cette pensée. Heureusement, il n’est pas trop tard.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

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