Thursday, 12 December 2013

DR-CONGO: Joseph Kabila-The man who doesnt know Human Rights.....

A new United Nations report stresses the importance on ensuring accountability for human rights violations committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, during the 2011 electoral period so as to prevent such crimes from being repeated during next election.

The UN registered 345 violations committed during the 2011 electoral period, affecting at least 769 victims, including the deaths of at least 41 individuals.

The report recommends that Congolese authorities carry out independent, credible and impartial investigations into the violations and bring alleged perpetrators to justice, regardless of their rank or position. It also calls for disciplinary measures against State officials and agents who have abused their privileges for partisan reasons, and for the authorities to firmly condemn incitement to violence and racial hatred.
Since last election, human rights violations have been accelerated by Joseph Kabila's dictatorship. Human Rights Watch has documented 84 cases since May 2012 in which politicians, political party activists, journalists, and human rights activists were arrested or threatened by the authorities because of their political views or published opinions.

The victims were journalists, human rights activists, political party activists, and political leaders who appear to have been targeted because they participated in demonstrations or publicly expressed views at odds with local, provincial, or national officials.

In many cases, state security forces beat those detained during arrest or while they were in custody, and took their mobile phones, money, and other possessions. In the majority of cases Human Rights Watch documented, those arrested were never brought before a judge or formally charged. In 16 cases, those arrested were tried and convicted in trials that did not appear to meet international fair trial standards.

In August 2013,  a member of parliament, Muhindo Nzangi was sentenced to three years in prison over comments he made on a radio program in proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards. His prosecution reflects a broader government crackdown on free expression in the country.
On August 13, 2013, two days after speaking on a radio program in the eastern city of Goma, Nzangi was tried, convicted, and sentenced for endangering internal state security.  Nzangi, a member of parliament from Goma, participated in a two-and-a-half-hour debate on Radio Kivu 1 on August 11. He and the other participants discussed the crisis concerning the M23, a Rwanda-backed rebel group active in North Kivu province, and the role of civil society.

Nzangi said that the Congolese people should call on the government to end talks with the M23 rebels in Kampala, Uganda and continue military operations against them. He urged people to direct their pressure toward Congolese President Joseph Kabila as well as the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, by holding “peaceful actions” such as marches and sit-ins.

Hours later, Nzangi was arrested. He was flown to the capital, Kinshasa, and charged with endangering internal state security, revealing defense secrets, and insulting the president. Because he was allegedly “caught in the act” (flagrante delicto), Nzangi was not protected by parliamentary immunity. His trial before the Supreme Court began immediately, denying him the right to have adequate time to prepare a defense.

The day after Nzangi’s conviction, his political party suspended its participation in the ruling coalition and publicly condemned the “parody of justice.” Following a meeting between MSR members and Kabila on August 16, the party announced it would resume participation in the coalition.

International law provides that everyone convicted of a crime has a right to appeal their conviction to a higher tribunal. Nzangi was tried by the Supreme Court, yet Congolese law only permits reconsideration of Supreme Court verdicts if there is new evidence and the minister of justice and human rights requests the Supreme Court to reexamine the case.

Another case of flagrant human rights violations is of  Eugène Diomi Ndongala, a former member of parliament and minister, has been detained since April in another apparently politically motivated case to silence dissent. He is awaiting trial.

Diomi is the president of the opposition Christian Democrats (Démocratie chrétienne) political party and a founding member of the Popular Presidential Majority (Majorité présidentielle populaire) – a pro-Tshisekedi political alliance. Diomi was elected to parliament in Kinshasa in 2011, but boycotted parliamentary debates and votes to protest the presidential election that was widely criticized as fraudulent and lacking credibility
. Following a request from the attorney general, the parliament voted to lift Diomi’s parliamentary immunity on January 8.

On January 18, an arrest warrant was issued, charging Diomi with having repeated sexual relations with two under-age girls in June 2012. Diomi’s lawyer told me that for the next two-and-a-half months, the authorities pressured Diomi to accept a deal in which charges would be dropped if Diomi agreed to take his seat in parliament. When Diomi refused, he was arrested on April 8.

Three days later, government officials held a news conference, accusing Diomi of plotting to assassinate the president and prime minister. They displayed a machete, empty bottles, and gasoline, which they said Diomi and 13 others planned to use to make Molotov cocktails. Diomi was never officially charged with these offenses.

Congolese law specifies that alleged perpetrators of sexual violence should be tried within three months after judicial authorities are notified of the case. More than four months have already passed since Diomi’s arrest. Because of his prolonged absence, on June 15 Diomi’s mandate as a member of parliament was invalidated.

A year earlier, in June 2012, Diomi disappeared for four months. He reappeared in October and later told Human Rights Watch that he had been held in secret detention centers by Congo’s National Intelligence Agency (Agence Nationale de Renseignement) and questioned and threatened about his political activities – a charge the agency denies.

Diomi is in Kinshasa’s central prison, despite three court orders from Congo’s Supreme Court to hold him under house arrest pending adjudication of his case. The attorney general claims that Diomi is no longer a member of parliament and therefore does not have the right to be placed under house arrest instead of being held in prison. The attorney general also said that he is empowered to decide how to execute Supreme Court orders. He said that Kinshasa’s central prison “was the only residence [he] had available” and that he could not allow Diomi to go elsewhere, where he might escape.

Supreme Court officials argue that there is no legal basis for the attorney general’s refusal to execute the court’s orders. They said that Diomi should be under house arrest because he was a member of parliament at the time the alleged crime was committed, and that the fact that his status was lifted is irrelevant

Diomi has suffered from health problems while in detention. His lawyer told me that Diomi has lost full functioning of his arm because of nerve problems, and that the prison hospital center was unable to provide the necessary treatment.

The Democratic Republic of Congo legal system is based on Belgian Law and local traditions.
The President appoints all judges. However, this system hast not functioned Joseph Kabila took over, and administrators, often military officers, have assumed judicial functions.

Human rights violations under Joseph Kabila is a daily reality and hoping that the situation will get better after the release of this report is a forlorn and wishful thinking. The matter of fact is that Joseph Kabila does not understand human rights language.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: AFP- Congolese President, Joseph Kabila-Photo

AFRICA: In Search of New Leadership....

If Africa wants to rise, it has to get rid of its political elite. Recent events in Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, Mali, the DRC, CAR, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea, is a reminder that there is no escaping the reality of state under-development in Africa.

The process of achieving state-ness in Africa, without changing the political elite will be a messy affair that will at best only be mildly ameliorated, if not made worse, by inconsistent and contradictory meddling by major world powers. Even the magic wand of political democracy might not be of much help in this regard.

Founded in 2004 on the virtue that “talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” the African Leadership Academy (ALA) is an institution striving for exactly this objective. The secondary school for students aged 15-18 has recruited 4000 applicants for only 100 spots every year. These applicants come from all fifty-four nations across the continent and derive from every social class – many from refugee camps.

In its highly interdisciplinary approach, students study “hunger eradication, health care provision, economic growth, and conflict resolution” in Africa, ending their two years with their Culminating Project. ALA also encourages its students to pass on their amassed skill set and knowledge to their community. The ALA is only one example of initiatives that create a generation without which economic growth will become a short-term illusion.
A plethora of false dawns
While economic development is crucial in maintaining a rise for Africa, educating the brightest minds has been neglected for too long. The continent has begun tackling the deteriorated educational systems, as investment in education is low. In order to ensure a sustainable economic powerhouse, generations of young people must be educated for new positions and jobs. Local, national, and international solutions are being created in order to solve the universal dilemma of access to education and the quality thereof, as well as the creation of an entrepreneur class developed to scale these solutions.

With many countries resolving their conflicts, there is also a surge in migration back to the continent from members of the African Diaspora community. While abroad, numerous members received western education that taught democratic ideals, which they plan to foster in their homeland. The children of the Diaspora community also carry inherited memories of the land of their forefathers –which in turn fosters a desire to one day return and join their two worlds. Africa’s real growth potential lies in a new generation of open-minded and international students who are willing to transform Africa.

In the past decade, there has been a stark decrease in preterm deaths, child mortality rates, and HIV and malaria infections among the African population. In addition, there has been an increase in life expectancy rates and real income per person by 30%. Also, in 2002, foreign investment in Africa was $15 billion, compared to $46 billion in 2012 – which is higher than in any developing region. All of this is rapidly speeding Africa’s economic pulse. However, the continent has seen a plethora of false dawns set rather quickly due to rampant violence, corruption, and improper governance.

Africa’s prospects are in fact overwhelmingly positive – but only if a new generation of leaders is ready to tackle the continent’s bad governance and to embrace its international opportunities. The economies of the fifty-four states are booming, a factor which is due to their high commodity prices as well as their good macroeconomic policies, which allowed the majority of the continent to withstand the global financial crisis and the chaotic euro zone. All of this while, at the same time, it maintained economic growth and macro-stability. It should be noted that Africa now holds a lower public debt than certain EU nations, a major feat on the part of the developing continent.

Currently, urbanization is flourishing throughout the continent. In 1980, only 28% of Africans lived in cities; today, 40% of Africans live in urban centers. Urbanization boosts productivity levels, investment, and demand. Greater economies of scale are achieved when companies have the ability to hone a larger customer base. These factors also help to produce a more viable middle-class.

With much of Africa seen as quite virgin, foreign states are all clamoring to invest in the virtually untouched continent. The vast amounts of oil, minerals, food, natural gas, and arable land will allow Africa to continuously prosper, as global demand remains high. Despite colonial ties to Europe, more than half of Africa’s trade is with Asia. States like China, for instance, bid for natural resources and minerals in exchange for billion dollar packages of infrastructure investments – including (but not limited to) roads, railroads, schools, hospitals and mine improvements. These direct investments increase the spread of modernity across the continent.
Helping or robbing?
It is apparent that these investments improve the quality of life in Africa; nevertheless, the question of whether these foreign states are attempting to help the continent rise or to rob it of its resources surfaces. But because of the widespread, improper governance in Africa, many foreign nations take advantage of the continent.

In June, despite China being an important trading partner to Ghana, thousands of Chinese nationals were expelled from the nation for illegal mining and the pillage of the nation’s gold. In 2012, the Brazilian and Japanese governments collaborated in order to create a project that would utilize 14 million hectares of land in Mozambique in order to produce commodity crops to be sold and distributed in Brazil – resulting in the displacement of millions of farming families.

Hence, neither China, the US, nor the EU can solve Africa’s problems. But Africa still needs their support to create conditions for both economic growth and the rise of a generation educated under democratic principles.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

RUSSIA: Russian Sensitivity over the Arctic

The Arctic is believed to be rich in natural gas and oil, and countries with territory in the region are increasingly looking to exploit it. Russia is now planning a dedicated Arctic military force, and is revamping old Soviet military bases to stake its own claim.

Russia is planning an increased military presence in the Arctic, as several countries increasingly eye the region as a potential boon for natural resources.

President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting of top military leaders on Tuesday that Russia was "intensifying the development of that promising region" and needs "every lever for the protection of its security and national interests there."

Earlier this year, Russia completed renovation of an abandoned airfield on the New Siberian Islands, and sent 10 warships and four icebreakers to beef up security there. Putin also said Russia would revamp a number of other Arctic military bases that had fallen into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that he would create a special military force dedicated to protecting Russian interests in the Arctic. Putin said earlier this week that Russia needs a greater military presence in the region to counter potential threats from the United States.

An incident in September exposed Russian sensitivity over the Arctic, when police arrested 30 people on board a ship sent by Greenpeace to protest Arctic drilling. The activists, crew members and journalists face charges that could carry sentences of up to seven years in prison.

The comments came just one day after Canada announced plans to claim sovereignty over the North Pole. Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said the government has asked scientists to prepare a submission to the United Nations that would extend Canada's territory to the outer reaches of the country's continental shelf.
"We are determined to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the tremendous resources that are to be found in Canada's far north," Baird said. The US Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic contains 30 percent of the world's untapped natural gas resources and 15 percent of oil -- though exploiting the resources is estimated to be extremely costly.

Some scientists say Canada's claim to the North Pole is a long shot. Current international law grants Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States 200 nautical miles of territory off their northern coasts. The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is tasked with evaluating claims like Canada's that expand beyond those boundaries.

In 2007, Russia dropped a canister with a Russia flag at the North Pole to symbolically claim the Arctic seabed as its own.

By Jennifer Birich
AFP Blogger

Photo-Credit: BBC News- Science & Environment-Day in the life of Arctic Explorer-Photo

U.S.: 'Congress'-Attempting to Rewrite Iran's deal

On 24 November, Secretary of State John Kerry signed a landmark nuclear pact with Iran. On Tuesday, he tried to sell the deal to a skeptical Congress. Kerry's appearance before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs marked the first time a senior administration official faces lawmakers who have been harshly critical of the pact since it was announced in Geneva on November 24th -- and who are now looking for ways of rewriting it. 

Congress is already preparing further financial sanctions targeted on Iran’s oil sector that, if passed, could see Iran walking away from the interim deal.  Secretary of State Kerry was sent to plead with Congressional leaders to hold fire, but instead faced criticism over the extent to which Congress was unaware of years of secret diplomacy with Iran.

California Republican Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, is one of the most prominent opponents of the deal. "Under the agreement, the international community relieves the sanctions pressure on Iran while its centrifuges continue to enrich uranium," Royce said. "This hearing is an opportunity for committee members of both parties to press Secretary Kerry to explain why the Obama administration believes this sanctions-easing agreement is the right course."

The White House is desperately trying to keep Congress from imposing new sanctions on Iran during while talks towards a broader nuclear pact continue over the next six months. In a strange bedfellows alliance, both the administration and the government of Iranian President Hassan Rohani argue that any new punitive measures would scuttle the current deal and end the negotiations towards a final pact before they even really got underway.

Kerry amplified that argument during his time on Capitol Hill yesterday, but it's not clear if his efforts got much traction. Influential lawmakers in the House and Senate are crafting measures that would impose hard-hitting new sanctions on Iran in six months if the current talks don't result in a deal. Despite White House objections, New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and other powerful Democrats have expressed support for the bill. The House version has drawn the support of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

The problem of the trust-deficit is underscored by the fact that for many years it has been widely understood that a successful agreement would look like the one reached in Geneva. Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium to relatively low levels (3-5 per cent) but submit to an even more stringent inspection regime. Iran would freeze work on a heavy water facility and ship out, dilute, or convert its stock of 20 per cent enriched uranium (weapons grade uranium requires enrichment beyond 90 per cent but the process is non-linear, meaning Iran’s increasing capacity to quickly enrich to 20 per cent was a major concern for the P5+1). These conditions would legitimise Iran’s right to nuclear energy but render it unable to produce the fissile material required for weaponization. The vast array of sanctions levied against Iran would then be sequentially ramped down.

Iran could throw out the inspectors, but this suicidal act of provocation would still leave Iran many months and probably years short of a deliverable bomb, during which time it would face almost inevitable military attack. Whilst the characterisation of an irrational and suicidal Iran has certainly featured heavily in domestic discourse, particularly in Washington and Tel Aviv, it has thankfully never made it into the decision-making calculus of the P5+1. Yet, equally, Iran never made any progress in persuading the world that its intentions were entirely peaceful either.

The deal protected both sides’ core interests and avoided the zero-sum situation of one side having to accept defeat at the expense of the other. If anything, Iran has settled for rather more modest sanctions-relief than was expected: just $7 billion of which $4 billion involves the repatriation of payments for oil sales that were caught in a financial no-mans-land when the banking sanctions came in.

Iran has faced perhaps the most comprehensive and devastating application of sanctions in modern history; it would be foolish to believe that Iran is not very motivated to reverse them. It was Rohani’s pledge to roll back sanctions that won him the Presidency over the summer and it is the faith Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has in him to do so that protects him from hard-line opponents.

But there’s a reason why the literature on economic sanctions is profoundly sceptical of their efficacy. Ten years ago, when sanctions began, Iran had less than 160 centrifuges spinning, it now has over 18,000. Iran has increased its centrifuges, built a new reactor, and put another into the national grid – all in the face of sanctions. Even now, Iran will never submit to zero enrichment on Iranian soil, the core demand of the unilateral and UN Security Council sanctions. The reality is that a deal was only made possible because the West shifted its position and accepted that Iran’s nuclear programme was so sophisticated that it will never be fully dismantled.

This is a major concern for President Obama’s team, but one must assume that Congress’ potential intransigence has been discussed during secret talks with Iran. Obama will do his utmost to hold back Congress, and his hand will be strengthened if Iran quickly demonstrates its determination to hold up its side of the bargain. Yet, if he fails, he also has the ability to provide sanctions relief by Executive Order. He also has the capacity to limit the extent to which sanctions are applied or interpreted. Furthermore, even Congress cannot prevent the EU from dropping their sanctions. Most importantly, however, even recalcitrant Congressmen will be aware that they will be held accountable if they torpedo this deal and Washington finds itself dealing with a new war in the Middle East.

What the deal with Iran shows is that the two most formidable domestic opponents of a US-Iranian rapprochement, the pro-Israel lobby and Congress, are both weakened and outmanoeuvred.  The Obama administration broadly succeeded in persuading the American public that the alternative to reaching an accommodation with Iran is another war in the Middle East. This positioned Congress (not necessarily unreasonably) as the war-mongers at a time when the American public has never been more reluctant to embark on foreign wars.

The real significance of what was achieved in Geneva lies not just in the concessions offered by Iran, considerable as they are, but in how both sides seem to have finally persuaded each other of their good intentions. This will surely be tested over the next six months, but should it hold, both sides will be rewarded with a transformational foreign policy victory.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: Reuters- US Secretary of State, John Kerry, at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs-US-Congress-Photo

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

SOUTH AFRICA: Paying Tribute to Nelson Mandela

The memorial and funeral of Nelson Mandela is attended by thousands world leaders and statesmen amongst them - and watched by billions. A man who all his life fought for unity, reconciliation, tolerance, has once again at his death united divided religious leaders, politicians, black and white, poor and rich.

Presidents and prime ministers, celebrities and royals joined tens of thousands of South Africans to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela Tuesday, in a memorial service celebrating a man seen as a global symbol of reconciliation.
In what has been billed as one of the largest gatherings of global leaders in recent history, world leaders from President Barack Obama to France's Francois Hollande gathered alongside street sweepers, actors and religious figures to pay tribute to the revered statesman who died last Thursday.
Despite the rain, the atmosphere inside Johannesburg 's FNB stadium is celebratory, with people dancing, blowing "vuvuzela" plastic horns and singing songs from the anti-apartheid struggle.
Many carried banners honoring "Madiba," Mandela's traditional clan name, or his picture. Some had skipped work and queued for hours to secure a seat so that they could pay their respects.
Nelson Mandela is a hero to millions of us around the world. After 27 years in prison for fighting against the apartheid segregation system in South Africa, he was elected president of the country in 1994 in the first all-race elections. Mandela devoted his life to freedom in South Africa, but he also spoke out against injustice around the world. A hero has left us, but his legacy as a human rights defender lives on.

Mandela had been released from prison in February 1990. Imagine the upheaval in those years. The unshakable had been shaken. The unbreakable had been broken. Those whose power seemed unassailable had been deposed by those who had moments earlier seemed powerless.

Mandela is a symbol of resistance to apartheid. He is a father to his country. But he was also a powerful symbol of the times in which he lived. He was hope incarnate. He was a message to all those brought down by injustice that no matter what the odds, no matter how impossible ultimate victory may seem, not to give up.

Mandela was the avatar of an era that reminded us that history is made by men and women of courage and that it can dismiss in the blinking of an eye all that seems unchanging.

Today, many lament the injustices and grave errors of these times. Growing inequality. Enduring racism. Insensitivity to the frailties of our planet. Oppression of countless groups, simply because of ethnic origin or religious beliefs or because they are women. We are frustrated that our governments seem to have lost their ability to govern. We worry that we are unable to rise to the challenges of our moment.

And so in the death of Mandela comes yet another of his gifts to the world: a reminder not only of what he did but of the stunning changes that swept the world in the time of his triumph. It is a coda to a great life, a reminder to cast aside resignation and defeatism and know that great hearts do exist. And they sometimes do make the impossible happen.

A hero has left us, but his legacy to South Africans, Africans and the world lives on. '' R.I.P. Nelson Mandela''-May Your Soul Rest in Peace''

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analys/ Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP-

Monday, 9 December 2013

C.A.R.: France's Risky Intervention

The Central African Republic is on the verge of collapse, as religious warfare threatens to devolve into genocide. Now French President François Hollande is sending 1,200 troops to end the violence -- but France runs the risk of becoming embroiled in complicated power struggles.

France said its troops will begin to disarm militias in the Central African Republic on Monday, while acknowledging that its reinforced presence in the capital of Bangui and nearby towns was creating tensions with former Seleka rebels on the ground.

While chaos and violence reigned in the Central African Republic's capital of Bangui on Friday, some 5,000 kilometers away in Paris, French President François Hollande held a pompous Élysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa. Before hosting the VIP group of heads of state and government, Hollande had announced he was sending troops to the Central African Republic -- the continent's "strategic buffer," where 1,200 French soldiers are now tasked with putting a stop to the killings, in cooperation with an international UN aid mission.

"France supports this operation. We have a responsibility to assist and show our solidarity," Hollande declared. He can count of the financial support of the European Union and the United States -- and on the restraint of those in power in Bangui: In the wake of recent massacres, before the United Nations Security Council approved the intervention, Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye had expressly asked for military assistance.

And it is urgently needed. After months of fighting, the Central African Republic is on the verge of collapse. Less than a year after a diverse group of regime opponents and demobilized military men under the name Séléka (Coalition) installed current President Michel Djotodia in Bangui, the country is dissolving into murderous conflicts and the government has lost control.

The predominantly Muslim Séléka alliance gave rise to marauding groups of soldiers who terrorized the north with rapes and murders, setting off a humanitarian crisis. According to the UN, more than 400,000 people have fled. Then armed militias formed to oppose the mostly Islamic and widely feared gangs, but according to reports by human rights organizations, the mostly Christian Anti-Balaka groups have behaved just as mercilessly. A religiously motivated civil war is brewing, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks of a "state on the edge of genocide."

Although France has a history of intervening in the Central African Republic, Operation Sangaris, named after a local butterfly, is more than the imperial reflex of a former colonial power. Since the 1979 Barracuda operation, when Paris overthrew the self-appointed Kaiser Bokassa, Paris has intervened militarily again and again in the country, sometimes to protect its own economic interests. The nuclear power company Areva invested in uranium mining in the country, but because of the corrupt elites who remain in power, this investment has led to a troubling relationship that has frequently been criticized by France's left.

Last December, the country’s then-president, Francois Bozize, called on Paris to help him fight the increasingly powerful Seleka rebel movement. France already had troops in the CAR’s capital, Bangui, but Hollande declared that they were not there “to protect a regime” or intervene in the country’s internal affairs. He stuck by this position. When Seleka forces finally overran Bangui and ousted Bozize in March, the French troops confined themselves to holding the capital’s airport and helping evacuate French citizens and other expatriates.

As recently as March of this year, Hollande had refused to come to the aid of President Djotodia's government. Only the danger of complete collapse and a possible domino effect on neighboring countries pushed Paris to act.

In retrospect, Hollande’s caution may have been a mistake: International officials who have visited the CAR in the course of the year argue that it has slid from serious instability to outright anarchy, and restoring order will be concomitantly harder.

As it happens, only Paris has the will and ability to intervene quickly. A UN contingent of about 1,000 police officers from Chad, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and Guinea has been overwhelmed. France has troops in Libreville and N'Djamena as well as paratroopers on the helicopter carrier Dixmude. Antonov An-124 cargo planes have already transported military specialists and material to the Bangui M'Poko airport.

The intervention won't be hugely risky from a military perspective, aside from the country's tropical terrain. The greater challenge will be the political liberation of a country the size of Belgium and France combined. The criminals need to be arrested, and rights and law need to be re-established . And then a process of national reconciliation needs to be begin.

That could take longer than the planned four-to-six-month troop presence. With the agreement of other heads of state at the security summit, France wants to leave the country's political realignment to the citizens of the Central African Republic. But Paris won't be able to avoid removing the ruling clique and therefore runs the danger of becoming entangled Bangui's power struggles. "This authority is provisional," says determined French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian. "They will be replaced."

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP-French Forces arriving at Bangui M'Poko Airport-Photo

AFRICA: Demographic Growth & Economic development

As Africa faces demographic growth of historic dimensions, hopes for corresponding economic development are high. But the continent is unprepared, and the recent economic improvements are threatened.

If you wish to gain insight into Africa’s recent economic rise, go to the border crossing between Burundi and Rwanda. On the Rwandan side you will find colorful posters advertising mobile phones, whereas in Burundi the asphalt street ends after a few kilometers and turns into an unpaved road. The two countries could not be more distinct from each other.

Rwanda represents progress and hope. Like in other African countries, a middle class and a service sector have emerged. In contrast, Burundi is regularly ranked amongst the world’s worst countries in a diversity of aspects – no matter which study – and is part of the “Africa” that has defined the continent´s public perception for the past decades.

For some journalists and experts, it seems to be clear that Burundi is first and foremost Africa’s past, while Rwanda’s model casts a light for the future of the continent. Indeed, cover stories such as TIME’s “Africa Rising” from 2012 are based on solid numbers. The World Bank projects GDP growth to continue at around 5 percent throughout the next years.
It is a danger.
However, these indicators are misleading: The prospects of sub-Saharan Africa do not depend on foreign investors’ money and cannot be analyzed based on the amount of advertisement posters. Instead, it is Africa’s mothers who will decide what their continent is going to look like in the not-too-distant future.

In around 100 years Nigeria’s population will be comparable to China’s, but in an area the size of Texas. Within the same time span, Africa’s population is likely to quadruple. Instead of one billion people, four billion Africans will have to make do with resources that are already scarce and insufficient today. In Burundi, this evolution could prevent any possible economic and political development and even sources of hope such as Rwanda face major challenges.

Population growth does not necessarily have to be a problem: It can become an opportunity if certain positive economic conditions are met. Sub-Saharan population growth, however, is strongest in those countries that perform worst economically. To imitate Asia’s rise, first of all, African governments would have to create an enormous amount of jobs. Demographic change is a catalyst: If it develops parallel to a strengthening economy, it can cause long-term wealth.

In Africa, on the other hand, the population growth is more likely to lead to a catastrophe because parallel to the growth itself, an additional shift will impact any outcome. While children have made up the largest part of Africa´s population so far, the average age is rising. Instead of defenseless children, we will see more young adults with families who want and need to work.

But over the last ten years, African economic growth has outrun employment rates, implying that working-age Africans do not fully benefit from the rising GDP. Inequality combined with growing competition for employment will have another, even more important consequence: In contrast to children, young adults are victims who can defend themselves.

Young men in particular tend to use violence if they consider their future prospects to be bleak( the case of Dr-Congo, where unemployed young men turned to gang violence, they call themselves: Kulunas). The resulting political instability would disrupt the fragile economic improvements African countries have witnessed recently and scare foreign investors. Hence, to the south of the Sahara, demographic change is not an opportunity. It is a danger.

Furthermore, countries such as Burundi would not remain the only ones affected. Political instability and floods of refugees could rapidly spread to better-performing countries. The example of Rwanda especially demonstrates why this demographic threat is more than one of many possible scenarios.

The government in Kigali is one of the few that is aware of the immense impact such an evolution could have. Throughout the last few years, Rwanda has launched programs to counsel mothers regarding their family planning, which have the aim to decrease birth rates. Although Rwanda´s birth rate is now indeed falling, population growth will continue upward because demographics take generations to adjust.

In fact, despite family planning being one of the Rwandan government’s main efforts, the country’s population will double within the next 20 years and quadruple by 2100. Whether or not Rwanda’s economy will be able to cope with refugees, unstable neighboring countries, and its own growing population is hardly predictable.
Strengthening women’s rights
Both NGOs and governments face a pressing and enormous task: They have to strengthen women’s rights and provide them with the needed resources to let them decide about their family planning independently and responsibly.

Amongst the possible measures are “cash for work” programs, which employ large scores of workers and give women a chance to save their earned money for the education of their children. Some of these projects already exist in rural Rwanda, but much more remains to be done.

Meanwhile, cities such as Kigali have seen the emergence of new business branches, as well as the construction of banks and large-scale enterprises. It seems as if Rwanda’s economy has begun its race to catch up with the country’s population growth.

However, not much time is left: Contrary to its economy, demographic change is not endangered by any chance of stagnation in the foreseeable future.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AfricaTime. A busy market in Lagos-Nigeria-Photo

Friday, 6 December 2013

AFGHANISTAN-U.S.: Hamid Karzai's antics

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has startled and dismayed the world. After an arduous diplomatic process to define the terms of a future international presence in Afghanistan, he balked at the last second, like a white-eyed horse in front of a jump.

Karzai was on board when the language of the Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement with U.S. negotiators was finalized on Nov. 19. Less than a week later, a gathering of Afghan elders, officials and community leaders (known as a loya jirga) voted unanimously — as Karzai had asked them to do — in favor of signing the deal before the end of the year. But then Karzai abruptly announced he wouldn't sign after all, insisting on new conditions, such as "peace in Afghanistan," and an end to house raids and drone strikes.

U.S. decision-makers should have expected such antics. It is they who have conditioned Karzai to behave this way, by persistently rewarding similar stunts. In Afghanistan as elsewhere, a lack of psychological savvy on the part of U.S. leaders, combined with a perverse tendency to abandon or undervalue their own leverage, are undermining U.S. interests as well as those of populations Washington purports to be helping.

The first sign that Karzai was collecting cards to slip up his sleeve was his decision to convene a loya jirga to vote on the draft agreement with the United States. The deal would authorize the presence and define the role of international forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

The Afghan loya jirga, a traditional, consensus-based institution that can provide popular checks on executive power, harks back to the days of the nation's founding in the 18th century and beyond, before formal government structures existed. But today's Afghan Constitution is clear: According to Article 90, the National Assembly is charged with "ratification of international treaties and agreements, or abrogation of membership of Afghanistan in them." There was no call for a loya jirga at all.

But a National Assembly vote would have been binding, while a loya jirga only submits recommendations. Stuffed with delegates selected by Karzai and his aides, debating dozens of policy issues embedded within the text of the draft agreement, it was bound to generate a variety of cards Karzai could subsequently play.

As the final interpreter of the resulting contradictory recommendations, Karzai is the sole interlocutor, whose whim determines the monumental — perhaps existential — issue of an ongoing international security presence in Afghanistan, and the millions of dollars in international aid likely to be linked to that presence.

And that's just where Karzai likes to be: alone in the driver's seat. For years he has successfully reduced the entire U.S. partnership with his country to an often emotionally fraught personal relationship between a succession of U.S. officials and him.

President George W. Bush indulged him with a biweekly videoconference — while the bulk of U.S. investment, in material resources, personnel and the time and energy of top officials, was devoted to Iraq, leaving Afghanistan and its growing problems drastically under-resourced.

Obama took office determined to shift the emphasis but also to subject Karzai and his ostentatiously corrupt and exploitative coterie to more scrutiny. Yet Obama officials also proved incapable of making that change. They would scold Karzai but neglect to think through his likely countermoves and how best to block them, or to marshal concrete actions to back up the tough verbiage.

In 2009, Karzai brazenly stole a presidential election that was largely paid for and secured by the United States, counterfeiting at least one-third of his ballots. Then-Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John F. Kerry spent days afterward in the palace rose garden, patiently hearing Karzai gripe, wheedling and bargaining with him for the barest acknowledgment that not all had been right with the vote. At the time, Kerry was praised for having salvaged the "relationship." In fact, he was reinforcing a pattern.

Somehow, subsequently, Karzai rewrote the narrative — as he so often does — making America the villain, railing against its "interference" in the election. No one bothers to counter him.

In March 2010, President Obama, on a surprise visit to Kabul, addressed the corrosive corruption of the Afghan government, which many saw as fueling the Taliban insurgency. Karzai went ballistic, storming out of rooms and theatrically threatening to join the Taliban himself.

The U.S. response? Roll out the red carpet for an unctuous mend-the-fences state visit to Washington.
Moreover, throughout the ups and downs, the CIA has doled out its millions, in suitcases and shopping bags stuffed with cash, no questions, no accountability. Far from buying Karzai's malleability, the payments have taught him that whatever he says or does, the U.S. will stick by him.

Still, U.S. policy does tend to be binary: all on or all off. A scan of reader reactions to newspaper coverage of the latest dust-up reveals near-unanimity in favor of an immediate, total withdrawal. Karzai is gambling the future of Afghanistan and its people — not that he especially cares.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: Reuters-Afghan President Hamid Karzai-Photo

UKRAINE: Failed deal divides Ukrainians

The failure of the Ukraine government to sign a long-awaited trade pact with the European Union has sparked massive protests in the country's capital, Kiev. As street protests escalate, there are echoes of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution.

Tens of thousands demonstrating outside the parliament building are calling for the resignation of the government over its rejection of closer ties with the EU. The crisis has again exposed the East-West oscillation playing out in Ukraine between the EU and former Soviet master Moscow.

The EU warned that Ukraine is risking its economic future by rejecting the trade deal and focussing instead on enhancing ties with Russia. The pact was due to be signed at the Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit held in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius on November 28-29, 2013. On the agenda was also the initialling of association and free trade agreements with Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova.

The meeting had been heralded as a defining moment for Europe after years of preparation. Successful signing would have effectively blocked Russian ambitions to restore its influence over former Soviet territory. There seems to be good reason to view the outcome of the meeting in Vilnius as egg on the face for Brussels and as a major triumph for Moscow.

The EaP was initiated by Poland and launched in 2009. It offered an institutionalised forum for discussion of trade and other relations with Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, which all border the EU, and with Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia that are located in the South Caucasus.

The ambition behind the EaP was to counter the Kremlin’s talk about the countries in its ‘near abroad’. The reason why the EaP must now be viewed as a general failure is that the programme never offered more than a halfway house. The governments in the ‘near abroad’ had to consider that forging closer ties with Europe would invite retaliation from Russia, and that the EU would not be ready to compensate for severe disruptions in trade and in the flow of energy.

Had Brussels been successful in bringing Ukraine inside the tent, it would have had to contend with Russian sanctions against the ailing Ukrainian economy. Being compelled to come to the rescue of Kiev would have produced further stress on an already overstressed financial situation within the EU.
Once Brussels has digested its humiliation, it may sit back and watch how Moscow deals with the fallout of its ‘victory’.

Much as the EU has been pursuing a programme for ‘partnership’ in the east for which it is not ready to foot the bill, Russia has been pursuing a programme for enlargement of its own that it would not be able to support economically - should it succeed in getting political acquiescence. Moscow has certainly not shied from using strong-arm tactics against other former members of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine has proved a harder nut to crack, but there have been threats of a renewed gas war and a blockade of imports from Ukraine. Now that Kiev has yielded to pressure, one can question what Moscow would gain from a complete assimilation.

A crowning achievement for Russian President Vladimir Putin would be having Ukraine first join the Russian-led Customs Union and then his envisioned Eurasian Union. But it would add such extra burdens to an already weakened Russian economy that it would simply be a Pyrrhic victory.

The bitter truth is that following many years of severe economic mismanagement, Ukraine has turned itself into a poisoned pill that nobody really wants to swallow.

The only party that has sufficient resources to support a genuine Ukrainian recovery is the EU. But to Brussels the thought of offering Ukraine full membership, with access to subsidies and membership of the EU, is outlandish. Even the less costly option of an association agreement was viewed by many as too much.

There are good grounds to argue that the only loser in Vilnius was the Ukrainian economy - and the Ukrainian people. The defining feature of this ‘failed deal’ is that the leadership in Kiev abhors having to join either side. Ukraine remains a country on hold neither committed to Europe or to Russia – a stalemate which favours only its leader President Viktor Yanukovych and his personalisation of power.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: AFP- Ukraine's Protest-Photo

SOUTH AFRICA: The Life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

The first South Africa black President Nelson Mandela died yesterday. The former South African President – and one of the most respected and inspirational political leaders of recent times – Nelson Mandela has passed away aged 95 after battling ill health for some time. 

Mandela was born in 1918 and grew up in a system in which a small white minority repressed a black majority. The total separation of people according to skin color permeated all aspects of life. The whites had built up a system that made them rulers, that banned blacks from certain areas, that kept them poor and ignorant, that denied them any and all opportunities for social mobility.

Mandela was born the son of a member of the Tembu royal family in the former Transkei tribal homeland. In his native tongue, his name is Rolihlahla, a slang term for "troublemaker." It was a name that he was supposed to live up to.

Mandela was one of the few people of his skin color to enjoy a higher education, originally attending Fore Hare University, at the time the only university admitting blacks. He would eventually make his way to Johannesburg, where he clerked at a law firm, studied law and eventually founded the country's first only African-run law firm with his friend Oliver Tambo.

And he enjoyed life in the city. "Mandela was seen as a man about town, and a ladies' man" as well as a dancer and a boxer, wrote Anthony Sampson, his official biographer. His interest in politics only came gradually thanks to the influence of his longtime friend Walter Sisulu, to whom Mandela was thankful all his life. "By ancestry, I was born to rule. (Sisulu) helped me understand that my real vocation was to be a servant of the people," Mandela once said.

In 1944, Mandela, Tambo and Sisulu founded the Youth League of the ANC. Its goal was to create a South Africa in which skin color played no role. It was to be a non-racist state rather than a multiracial one, and the ANC expressly stated that it did not aspire to driving the whites into the sea.

However, in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre, the black movement became radicalized. Mandela became a leader of the newly founded militant wing of the ANC, the "Umkhonto we Sizwe" (Spear of the Nation). He was not a pacifist then. In addition to championing a strategy of civil disobedience against the regime, his organization carried out attacks -- not against people, but against symbolic buildings, on the infrastructure of the whites.

In the late summer of 1962, Mandela was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for protest actions and other charges. One year later he and other co-defendants were placed in the dock again in the famous Rivonia trial. As the main defendant, he was charged with responsibility for numerous acts of sabotage. The public prosecutor called for the death penalty. More than 30 years later, as president, Mandela would invite him to dinner. It is precisely this kind of effort -- to treat even his worst enemies with dignity and to desire to understand them -- that makes Mandela such a highly credible person.

The judges ignored the prosecutor's recommendation and instead sentenced Mandela to life in prison. The defendants celebrated the decision almost as if it had been an acquittal, but among themselves, they had agreed that they would not appeal the decision if they were sentenced to hang. "We would disappear under a cloud of glory," he told a friend at the time. "This is the service that we can provide our organization and our people."

Mandela was to disappear in prison for 27 years. On Robben Island, he was subjected to harassment by the guards. But what caused him the greatest suffering was the fact that he couldn't be together with his wife Winnie and their five children. He was working in the island's quarry when he learned that one of his sons had died in a car accident.

The prison's management sought systematically to break the spirits of black prisoners. In the beginning, they weren't allowed to wear pants with long legs. The short trousers they were given were intended to make clear that blacks, and especially black prisoners, were to be viewed more as naughty school boys than real people.

Mandela protested so long that a guard eventually threw him a pair of old khaki pants. Mandela wouldn't have become Madiba if he had been satisfied with that gift alone. He refused to accept the gift until his fellow prisoners were also allowed full-length trousers.

Mandela persistently organized the passive resistance to the despotism. But he never held any personal hatred towards the racist regime's henchmen. He even became friends with one of his guards.

Imminent change was growing palpable by the beginning of the 1980s. Mandela was taken from the island and to a prison in Pollsmoor and, starting in 1988, in the Victor Verster Prison. There, he enjoyed certain privileges and lived in his own small bungalow with a swimming pool.

The regime seemed to be trying to get closer to its Number One enemy. Mandela also recognized the regime's weakness. The Soviet bloc was teetering, the communist threat that had always been used as a reason to justify the apartheid regime had also faded. South Africa's leaders were isolated, and international economic sanctions had driven it into a corner.

At that point, officials began to allow Mandela to leave prison on short furloughs from time to time. There were also times when he was left unguarded, but he never fled because he knew that time was on the right side for both him and the issue of black people in South Africa.

One of his greatest political achievements was not accepting the overtures the regime made to him. On his own, without even being able to consult with his followers in the ANC, he cautiously carried out "talks about talks."

In the end, President Pieter Willem Botha made the offer in 1985 to free Mandela under the condition that he would renounce violence. But Mandela refused to be bought. "Only free men can negotiate," he countered. "Prisoners cannot enter into contracts."

In 1990, the regime conceded defeat. On Feb. 2, the new South African president, Frederik Willem de Klerk, announced the end of apartheid and lifted the ban on the ANC. At least 150 million people watched the televised coverage of Mandela defiantly raising his fist as he was released from prison. Mandela was part of the negotiations for a smooth transition of power. He and De Klerk were both given the Nobel Peace Prize for their work.

In 1993, before the first free elections, the country was on the verge of civil war. Skirmishes occurred between armed white right-wing extremists, Zulu separatists and ANC fighters. People were killed every day. Then a white fanatic shot the charismatic communist Chris Hani. Madiba put all of his moral weight and charisma in a radio address with which he hoped to prevent an explosion of violence. "A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster," he said, at the same time praising "a white woman, of Afrikaner origin" who "risked her life so that we may know and bring justice to the assassin." He was able to prevent mass bloodshed.

In 1994, Mandela formed a government of national unity together with de Klerk. Black Africans took control of an inefficient, bureaucratic state that had been economically ruined and suffered from massive social inequity based on the color of people's skin. After five years, Mandela voluntarily stepped down as president -- and also in that sense he is an unequalled role model for many African leaders.

In his private life, he divorced Winnie Mandela, a power hungry person embroiled in scandals. He then married Graca Machel, the widow of the former president of Mozambique.

For much of his life, Mandela's family had to survive without him. It was only after his release from prison that he really got to know his children. This pained Mandela more than his imprisonment or degradation. After prison, he wanted to catch up with them. Right up to the end of his life, he was never alone again. His family was also gathered at his home in Johannesburg to say goodbye to him during his final hours.

So what was so special about Nelson Mandela? I think what has impressed me most about him and the life he has lived is his deep commitment to a cause – the cause of abolishing Apartheid and creating a new South Africa in which citizens can live together regardless of background. Of course  there is much more work to be done before the country can fulfil its true potential. But what was achieved by Nelson Mandela and his followers is a true revolution.

The second aspect that has deeply impressed me is the way in which this revolution was achieved. After leaving prison following decades of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was not bitter or out for revenge but showed great strength of character by setting in motion a process of reconciliation – leading it by example. This combination of dedication to a just cause and the great strength of character shown pursuing it in my eyes is the foundation of the legend that he is. It is also the reason why he was such a dignified leader.

How will people judge the life of Nelson Mandela? What will his political legacy be? Nobody knows yet but I hope that the qualities I mentioned above – dedication to a just cause and great strength of character – will become more of a political model in a world in which these characteristics are all too often absent. “Pragmatic” day-to-day management of the status quo – the dominant political model of today – can never replace the dedication and character shown by people like Nelson Mandela.

There surely are enough things in today’s world that need to be changed but a leader of Nelson Mandela’s calibre is nowhere to be seen. For many of our contemporary politicians even accepting the task of fundamental change seems too daunting. That’s why too many of them don’t even try.

This needs to change and leads me to my favourite Mandela quote, meant to encourage people not to discard their ambitions but to try realising them: “It is always impossible until it is done”. The world has lost an inspirational leader and a true role model. He will leave a void that will be very difficult – if not impossible – to fill.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP- Nelson Mandela & Winnie Mandela, the day of his release from prison-Photo

Thursday, 5 December 2013

AFRICA: African International/Domestic Justice

Recent coverage of violence in the Central African Republic has repeated clichés about “lawless” Africa, where warlords like Joseph Kony roam free and local authorities are too weak or corrupt to intervene. But today Africa – perhaps more than any other continent – is wrestling with the potential and limits of using law, either international or domestic, to address large-scale human rights violations.

In the wake of the African Union’s latest battles with the International Criminal Court – sparked by the ICC’s prosecution of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto – various African elder statesmen have delivered divergent verdicts on the role of international law in resolving African conflicts.

Desmond Tutu accused African leaders who oppose the ICC of “effectively looking for a license to kill, maim and oppress their own people without consequence”. His views were echoed by Kofi Annan who said, “African judicial systems are weak…Africans want justice, preferably from their own governments if they can and, if not, from the International Criminal Court”. Thabo Mbeki, however, cautioned that “Justice cannot trump peace….You can imagine what would have happened in our case, in South Africa, if the International Criminal Court was there in 1994, and somebody said arrest de Klerk and take him to The Hague. We would have refused”.
Holding their own citizens accountable
While these views highlight the dividedness of African opinion over the ICC, they also overlook a vital development: the steady increase over the last decade of domestic African legal systems addressing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Focusing on international justice, Tutu, Annan and Mbeki – all of them involved in complex peace negotiations across the continent – ignore vital reforms taking place in many African countries, which are increasingly holding their own citizens accountable.

The experiences of four countries in particular highlight these important domestic developments.
Between 2002 and 2012, Rwanda used 11,000 community courts known as ''gacaca'' to prosecute 400,000 suspected perpetrators of the 1994 genocide – the most extensive post-conflict justice process attempted anywhere in the world.

While some donors and observer groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International predicted ''gacaca'' would degenerate into mob justice, it succeeded in emptying Rwanda’s jails of the enormous backlog of genocide suspects, previously detained without trial, while encouraging communities to openly discuss the root causes of the conflict. In the same period, the Rwandan national courts underwent root-and-branch reform and since 2012 have started handling the cases of high-level genocide suspects extradited from abroad.

Across the border in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo – so often international commentators’ paradigmatic case of a “failed state” – a European Commission-assisted judicial reform process in Ituri district since 2003 has seen the local civilian and military courts prosecute numerous cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including against high-ranking members of the Congolese army.

Prosecutors and lawyers in Ituri were furious that the rebel leaders, Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo, had been whisked off to face trial at the ICC while their cases were still under investigation by local authorities( One of the reason was that Congolese President Joseph, who is involved in mafia deals with some rebels, would have been exposed if the trials of these individuals were concluded by local authorities). Officials in Ituri view it as a missed opportunity to hold these suspects’ trials in local courtrooms where violence-affected communities could witness them firsthand.

Meanwhile, in the South Kivu province of the DRC, a system of mobile gender units is currently prosecuting cases of sexual violence. A creative collaboration between international specialists from the American Bar Association and the Open Society Justice Initiative and Congolese judges, lawyers and investigators, these courts – like gacaca in Rwanda – hold open air trials in full view of local communities. The process involves “light touch” international assistance that respects and bolsters the independence of domestic actors.

While Rwanda and Congo address their internal conflicts, countries like Senegal and South Africa are currently dealing with crimes committed in other African states. In February this year, Senegal opened “Extraordinary African Chambers” within the national judicial system to prosecute the former Chadian dictator, Hissène Habré, for crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990. Chad and the African Union provided more than half of the budget for the special tribunal, with the rest from international donors.
Other African states may intervene
In South Africa, the Supreme Court of Appeal is currently considering a case brought by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum against high-ranking Zimbabwean officials accused of torturing opponents of Robert Mugabe’s regime. The SALC and ZEF have argued that South Africa has an obligation to prosecute these international crimes, having implemented the ICC Statute within domestic law.

The Senegal and South Africa cases highlight that, if some African states are unwilling to address serious crimes committed on their soil, other African states may intervene to do so.

These examples show that African states are using various forms of law – special tribunals, reformed national judiciaries, community-level courts, mobile units – to address atrocities across the continent. While most international discussions – including those of African elites such as Tutu, Annan and Mbeki – revolve around the ICC, we should shift our attention to these new domestic trends.

International justice is an expensive, distanced enterprise that investigates crimes in a particular country then soon moves on. In contrast, domestic legal responses to mass crimes are not only substantially cheaper and highly visible to local populations but also involve the reform of national institutions, with lasting benefits for African citizens.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP- Participants at the Judicial Dialogue between African Court and National Judiciaries during a visit to the Sea of the Court, Arusha, November 20, 2013-Photo

AFGHANISTAN: US's Afghan Exit & Russia

At the heart of the Obama administration’s 2014 Afghanistan exit strategy is the decision that almost all of what went in must come out. That involves Russia, even more than it did going in.

With relations with Pakistan so volatile, the United States is not going to trust the transportation of weapons and other military equipment to the traditional supply route from landlocked Afghanistan through Pakistan’s tribal areas, where the Taliban can help itself. Instead, a large-scale airlift of personnel and lethal cargo will cross Russian airspace, homeward bound.

Since 2009, the Pentagon has used Russia’s air corridors extensively under what it calls the US-Russian Lethal Transit Agreement, and will continue to do so as the withdrawal steps up in 2014.

According to the US Transportation Command, between July 2009 and August 2011, US military and civilian transports flew 1,373 flights over Russian territory carrying 211,000 personnel in and out of Afghanistan, along with 80,000 tons of equipment. Since then, the number of flights has remained at a steady annual average of just over 1,000. The total number of flights from September 2011 through October 2013 was actually around 2,327, carrying a total of 469,000 passengers.

Meanwhile, a land route for non-lethal supplies, called the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), continues to deliver supplies to Afghanistan for troops still on the ground. Congress only relatively recently authorized the Pentagon to purchase vegetables from Afghan suppliers; everything else, including bottled water and toothpaste, is shipped in.

The NDN follows part of the ancient Silk Road from the east—and more recently, the Russian supply route for its own troops in Afghanistan. It starts at one of three main seaports on the Baltic coast—Riga in Latvia, Klaipeda in Lithuania, or Tallinn in Estonia—where container ships are offloaded onto Russian trains to be carried across Russia and into Central Asia. The final rail destination is usually in Uzbekistan. Because Afghanistan has no railroad network to speak of, the goods are then transferred to trucks for the last leg of the journey.

Why would the Kremlin be so obliging at a time when US- Russian relations are in such poor shape over issues like Syria, Snowden, and the case of Sergei Magnitsky, the whistle-blowing lawyer who died in a Moscow prison?

Well, for one thing it puts the administration in Vladimir Putin’s debt. But if the Kremlin hopes that Russia’s role in the withdrawal will result in a more muted US approach on human rights, it is reckoning without a belligerent Congress.

In December, the State Department—on instructions from Congress—is due to publish an updated list of Russians who are known to be serious human rights abusers, including some of those involved in Magnitsky’s nightmare, with the intent of seizing any US-based assets and denying them US entry visas.

But there’s also the money. It costs $1.2 million a year to maintain an American soldier on the ground in Afghanistan, compared to $650,000 in Iraq. High transportation costs, including customs fees, account for a lot of the difference, with the Russians reaping a lot of the benefit.

By Jennifer Birich
AFP Blogger

Photo-Credit: AFP

BRITAIN-EU: David Cameron & Romania-Bulgaria Debate

The attack on some of the EU's most popular basic rights has sparked outrage across Europe. At today meeting of EU interior ministers, Germany and the UK therefore want to bring renewed pressure to the topic.

"The commission is called upon to respond in its final written report to the legitimate concerns and problems of member states and to identify real solutions," says German Interior Ministry spokesman. From a German point of view, this refers in particular to what measures and sanctions are allowed against the "abuse of the right to free movement on the basis of European law."

British Prime Minister, David Cameron proposes new measures to address migration issues that would in effect introduce two-class EU citizenship and abolish the free movement of people across the EU. Apart from restricting access to the welfare system Cameron has this proposal about people coming to the UK., saying that Germany, Austria, Netherlands share his views.

''We must put in place new arrangements that will slow full access to each other's labor markets until we can be sure it will not cause vast migrations. There are various ways we could achieve this. One would be to require a new country to reach a certain income or economic output per head before full free movement was allowed. Individual member states could be freed to impose a cap if their inflow from the EU reached a certain number in a single year.'' David Cameron said.

The escalation in rhetoric is related to an impending deadline: Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, there will be full freedom of movement for workers from Romania and Bulgaria. Both countries have been full European Union members since 2007, but their citizens have thus far faced restricted access to labor markets in nine other EU states. Experts believe that the feared stampede of new migrants will not materialize because the majority of people who wanted to move abroad did so a long time ago. But politicians in Western Europe are still nervous.

The UK has plans that go much further: Cameron's government also wants to curb benefits for things such as child benefits for foreigners from EU states and is discussing new rules for future candidates for EU accession. The proposal would only grant these countries' citizens access to the EU labor market once these countries had achieved a certain level of per capita income. On this, Germany's Interior Ministry only says: "We have no comment on individual national measures that would affect other member states in this context."

Austria and the Netherlands, on the other hand, appear to have dropped out of the campaign against benefit tourism. A spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry in Vienna said the country currently doesn't see any need for negotiations because the problem of benefit tourism doesn't exist there. Meanwhile, the Dutch labor ministry says that it will have a look at Cameron's plans, but that it doesn't currently have any of its own demands to make of the EU. The main worry in The Hague, it continues, is not abuse of social benefits, but rather the issue of whether one can guarantee equality of pay for Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has again shown that he is unable to think about European matters in the linked-up way that these issues require. Obviously scared of and driven by UKIP and his Eurosceptic backbenchers. And Cameron not only wants to be able to remove individuals but has also ideas about when free movement of people should generally be “qualified” (whatever that means – either movement is free or it is not). What Cameron wants is that the freedom to move around freely in Europe depends on the size of your wallet.

So what these proposals in effect mean is that the EU should become a space in which rich people can move around freely and use their rights as citizens and poor people can either be removed or prevented from moving in the first place. Apart from the issue of how these ideas can be brought in line with EU law (I don’t think they can without changing the treaties), these proposals are ethically so objectionable that it is mind-boggling that they come from a sitting UK Prime Minister.

Pressures resulting from migration are valid concerns and need to be addressed. But the first mistake is that they are seen as a national issue and not as a European one. This is maybe unsurprising as the European level of governance is mostly seen as part of the problem in the UK and rarely as part of the solution – this only leaves the national level. As the saying goes: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Migration has two sides of the same coin: countries gaining people and countries losing people. Migration flows might cause issues at both ends and both need to be addressed together. For the UK, studies have shown that European migration has overall been beneficial to the country. So the UK is a net winner and net loser countries should be more concerned about this.

The underlying problem of Cameron’s approach to the migration issue is much deeper. The current UK government seems allergic to any kind of European solution and the default position is national interest and national solutions.

To be clear again: if local communities come under pressure because of a sudden influx of people these are valid concerns and need to be addressed. But if you look beyond the symptoms the underlying issue is mostly too much pressure on public services like schools, hospitals and GPs. British People are not ''xenophobic'' but they are concerned for declining public services – and foreigners are often the scapegoats for this decline.

If you look at the problem this way you have a European issue. People move freely and can create local pressure on public services but there is no provision for helping local communities. If the right of free movement is a key European right, then there should be European help to address the issues exercising this right can cause.

The EU is unlikely to change to the extent Cameron wants (if treaties need to be changed every country needs to agree). So viewed from this angle, Cameron’s initiative is likely to isolate the UK even more within the EU and will further harden the fronts in an already toxic debate about Britain’s European future.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: AFP - British Prime Minister David Cameron-Photo

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

EUROPE: European Parliament & Populists Groups

Far-right populists are expected to make significant gains in elections for the European Parliament this spring, but the only existing populist group in the body shows these parties can shout as loud as they want but are unlikely to have much influence.

Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, the EFD -- one of seven political groupings in the 766 member parliament -- was formed following the last election, in 2009. The bloc is comprised of 32 members from 12 different EU countries, with the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) holding the most seats (nine), followed by the Northern League (seven).

While all of the parties represented in the EFD are nationalist by nature, broadly critical of deeper EU integration and the euro zone, and claim to represent the popular will of their publics, the alliance is more practical than ideological. The main reason they come together is because to not be part of a group is to be in quite a weak position. A group gives them legitimacy and more speaking time on the floor of the parliament.

Unlike other parliamentary political groups -- like the Christian Democrats, Socialists, or Greens -- the EFD does not have a shared, pan-European agenda. Members are not required to vote along a party line, but are rather encouraged to vote as it suits their national interests.

The result is that the EFD has achieved scant to nothing in the realm of parliamentary policymaking. The group has very little policy impact, and are unable to block many votes because their size is so small. EFD members have instead used the parliament as a soapbox in order to call attention to their national causes and garner media attention.

Indeed, the EFD delivered an average of less than one piece of draft legislation per member in committee sessions between July 2009 and October 2013, compared with over 2.5 per member for the center-right European People's Party (EPP) and the center-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D). Meanwhile, during the same time period, EFD members gave the largest number of speeches during plenary sessions, at an average of well over 200 per member, compared with around 150 for EPP and S&D members, according to VoteWatch Europe.

 A member of the European Parliament since 1999, Farage has long advocated for British withdrawal from the EU. These days, however, he is openly opposed to the very concept of the union. "Now I don't want Europe in the EU," he says. "It's an anti-democratic project run by bad and dangerous people."

Farage's radical and uncompromising stance on the EU is not shared by all EFD members. The Finns party's representative in the EFD, Sampo Terho of Finland, says his group would like to remain in the EU and "keep the euro," but prohibit euro-zone bailouts and return more legislative authority to national capitals. Although his party doesn't share UKIP's position of exiting the EU, Terho says EFD is a "workable" because its members are free to vote as they choose.

But others in the group, including, Speroni, have moved closer to Farage's position over the past few years. Europe's apparent failure to "solve" the euro crisis has encouraged Speroni to favor an Italian withdrawal from the EU and, at the very least, putting Italian euro-zone membership to a national referendum. "There is no discrepancy between me and Nigel," Speroni says of his alliance with Farage.
Despite his relationship with Farage, Speroni remains open to joining a potentially new bloc with other populist parties after next year's elections -- including with Italian rival Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement or Marine Le Pen's French National Front (FN). Le Pen -- whose party currently holds three seats in the European Parliament but stands to increase its presence to 18 next May -- has agreed  to form a new, more ideologically cohesive populist group with Geert Wilders' Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV). "Maybe they will exclude us or maybe they will ask us to join," says Speroni.

He bristles at concerns over the FN's anti-Semitic history and contends that was only an issue in the past when the party was run by Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie. (Northern League, which has also been accused of anti-Semitism, was part of a short-lived group between 1999 and 2002 that included the elder Le Pen, who is still a member in the parliament alongside his daughter.)

For his part, Farage says he is "not open" to an alliance with Le Pen and Wilders, excluding the possibility that the FN could join the EFD. "Le Pen has made great strides, but issues like anti-Semitism are too embedded," says Farage. The Finns' Terho concurs. "We would probably not accept (Le Pen) because she's too controversial. She's making the right decision by talking about forming a new group," he says.

The divergent EFD responses to the potential upsurge of parties like Le Pen's illustrate the ideological heterogeneity of populist parties across the Continent. There are both "xenophobic" and "euroskeptic" populist parties. Both types vary in their level of ideological fervor and also overlap at times.

Northern League -- a party with a legacy of bigoted statements that advocates for the defense of European Christianity from an onslaught of largely Muslim immigrants -- and the more extreme and openly anti-Semitic Hungarian Jobbik party are both examples of this crossover. UKIP, which takes pains to distance itself from any overt racism, falls more squarely into the euroskeptic box.

While most of the populist parties in question tend to be right-wing and nationalist, they do not always fall into a traditional left-right divide, particularly on economic issues. Italy's Five Star Movement advocates leftist policies, including wealth redistribution -- and yet it has also been accused of being both a fascist and anarchist party.

The social and political context of a given nation plays a large role in shaping the economic policies of populist parties. UKIP is a product of its British environment, and so it is inherently friendly to entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, as a French populist, Le Pen is almost socialist in her rhetoric about globalization. Some of these populist parties are proof that the left-right paradigm belongs to the 20th century.

All European populist parties, however, share a very strong anti-elitist feeling, and their voters have a much lower level of trust in institutions and the mainstream media. This anti-establishment basis allows for some coordination across national borders at the European level. Moreover, many of the parties are increasingly finding common cause against immigration, while calling for a joint defense of a broader European form of identity and Western values.

The euro crisis has also helped populist parties to shape a common stance against the so-called Brussels elite, even if the reasons differ. In Northern Europe, populists like the Finns point to the alleged mismanagement of taxpayer euros that have gone to huge EU bailout programs, while populists in the south, like the Five Star Movement, cite Brussels-imposed austerity that has hurt ordinary workers.

Nonetheless, experts widely agree that populists will increase their presence in the parliament after the election. There are currently around 60 right-wing populists in parliament, including the majority of non-attached members -- meaning those who are not affiliated with any group like the current FN members -- and those in the EFD. It is believed that number will rise to at least 100 next May, including gains for EFD's UKIP, the Finns, and the Danish People's Party -- though not for Northern League, which is expected to lose seats to the Five Star Movement. However, it will not necessarily prove easy for these parties to form workable political alliances.

To form an official group, parliamentary rules require that at least 25 members from at least one-quarter of EU member states be represented. There are potential scenarios for populist alignments: In one, the EFD largely stays intact, alongside a new bloc led by the FN; in another, an FN-led group emerges as the only official populist bloc, with the rest (including UKIP) becoming non-attached members; and a final scenario results in the EFD continuing to be the only populist group, with the FN remaining non-attached. What is clear though, is that the Northern League will prove decisive for the future of the EFD. If Speroni decides to join forces with Le Pen, it could signify the collapse of the EFD.

Regardless of how the parties coordinate, the populists will be fragmented" and unable, despite increased numbers, to have a huge impact on how the EP works. But the reason to be concerned is because of the kind of impact it could have on the stability of member states, and shifts in what mainstream parties do. The center-left and -right national parties could increasingly adopt xenophobic and anti-immigration policies to attract voters sympathetic to the populists.

At the parliamentary level, though, the populists are unlikely to have much luck unraveling the European project. If anything, their presence might paradoxically be a boon for EU advocates. The populists will force the European establishment to explain itself and argue its case for greater European solidarity.

By Jennifer Birich
AFP's Blogger

Photo-Credit: Wikipedia-Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Populist Party UKIP -Photo