Category: <span>Appeals</span>

Association of World Citizens Appeals

The Association Of World Citizens – Libya Appeal

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash.

The Association  of World Citizens calls for a ceasefire in Libya, the respect of international  Humanitarian Law and the start of negotiations  in good  faith on the future Constitutional Structure of the State.

The Association of World Citizens, responding to calls for assistance from persons displaced and in danger of bomb attacks by the fighting in and around Tripoli, calls for an immediate ceasefire so that humanitarian aid can be provided, and lives saved.

Fighting began on 4 April 2019 and is continuing led  by the forces of General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army;  opposed by local militias under the control of the Government of National,  Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. The fighting is likely to lead to increased violations of the laws of war;  especially attacks upon civilians and medical facilities.

United Nations Mediators.

The Association of World Citizens  urges that negotiations under the leadership of United Nations mediators;  originally to be held April 14-16, be undertaken with a range of participants as wide as possible. New and appropriate constitutional structures are needed for the administration of a complex and diversified State. The Association of World Citizens ; has proposed the possibility of con-federal administrative structures for the State.

The Association of World Citizens:  had been concerned with human rights and freedom of expression in Libya during the time of the leadership of Mu’ammar Gaddafi and has continued to be concerned with the fate of the people of Libya since his death in 2011.

Displacement of Some 94,000 People.

The new round of fighting within Tripoli and 8 conflict-affected municipalities in the Tripoli District has caused the displacement of some 94,000 people, between 4 April and 10 June according to U.N. estimates. In addition;  there are thousands of refugees and migrants in Libya, most coming from African countries.  Some 4000 are held in detention centers,  waiting for voluntary repatriation or deportation. Many others live outside these detention centers;  often in very poor conditions.

Now is the time for responsible action,  by all parties for an end to the fighting and the start of negotiations in good faith.

By Dr. Rene Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens.

 

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Libya Appeals

Libya: The Fairy Godmothers hoping to bless a new…

Photo by Levin on Unsplash

by Rene Wadlow.

The Fairy Godmothers of world politics met in Berlin,  on 19 January 2020 to assist at the birth of a State structure arising,  from the currently deeply divided factions of Libya: German Chancellor,  Angela Merkel and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres,  were the co-hosts with the Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimer Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron, the U.K.’s Bosis Johnson, the USA’s Mike Poupeo;  as well as the less easily recognized officials – Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Corte;  and the representatives of China, Egypt, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates.

There were also representatives of the major intergovernmental organizations involved in Libya: the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the League of Arab States.

The Berlin Conference.

The Final Document of the Berlin Conference is an effort to please all participants;  but in fact;  on the crucial issue of the creation of a functioning administration for Libya;  there was only a broad vision of a desirable future: a single, unified, inclusive, and effective Libyan government that is transparent, accountable, fair with equitable distribution of public wealth;  and resources between different Libyan geographic areas, including through decentralization and support for municipalities;  thereby removing a central grievance and cause of recrimination.

The creation of such State structures has been the chief issue since 1945;  when the Allies – Britain, the USA and the USSR – agreed that the Italian colonies should not be returned to Italy;  although Italian settlers were encouraged to stay. The Allies did not want to create the structures of the new State;  believing that this task should be done by the Libyans themselves. Also;  the three Allies disagreed among themselves as to the nature of the future State.

The Creation of a Libyan State.

By 1950-1951 with more crucial geopolitical issues elsewhere;  the Allies were ready for the creation of a Libyan State. It seemed that a monarchy was the most appropriate form of government;  as there were no structured political parties that could have created a parliamentary government.

Thus in 1951;  Idris was made the King of the State. Idris was the head of the Senussi Sufi Order;  created by his father. The Senussi Sufi Order had branches in most parts of the country. Idriss ruled the country as if it were a Sufi order;  and did little to structure non-religious political structures. Idris ruled until September 1969;  when he was overthrown by Muammg Qaddafi.

The Authority Of The People.

Qaddafi was also not interested in creating permanent political parties which;  he feared, might be used against him. He called himself “the Guide of the Revolution” not “President” and Libya became the Libyan Jamaihirya;  that is, the authority of the people.

The closest model to Qaddafi’s vision is a Quaker Meeting;  where decisions are taken by consensus and compromise at the local level. These decisions are then sent as recommendations to the next higher level;  where by consensus and compromise again a decision is taken. Ultimately, these decisions reach to the top of Libya;  and the “Guide” sees how they can be carried out.

The problem with the governance of Libya;  was that not everyone was a member of a Sufi order;  where the search for enlightenment in a spirit of love was the way decisions,  were to be made. Moreover, there were hardly any Libyan Quakers;  and compromise was not the chief model for the tribal and clanic networks;  which was how the country was structured under Qaddafi.

Field Marshall.

Since the overthrow and death of Qaddafi in 2011;  there has been no agreement on how the country should be structured. The model which is most likely to be followed is that of General Khalifa Haftar;  who now likes to be addressed as “Field Marshall”. The model is a military-based dictatorship with a small number of civilians as “window dressing”.

The model is well represented through the world although;  not always held up as a model form of government. Haftor holds a good bit of the Libyan territory;  although his hope of a quick victory over the “national unity” government in the capitol Tripoli has not been successful for the moment.

The National Unity Government.

The National Unity Government of Faiez Sarraj is a civilian-led government;  but heavily dependent for its survival on tribal militias. The model for the government is that of Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey;  with a certain ideological coloring from the Islamic Brotherhood;  originally from Egypt;  but whose ideology has spread.

What type of structures can be created between these two major models is not known. I would expect to see a Khalifa Haftar-led government;  with a few civilians brought in from the National Unity Government.

The Fezzan.

The only geographic area outside of the current Tripoli-centered conflict between Faiez Sarraj  and Khalifa Haftar is the area known as the Fezzan – the southwestern part of the country,  on the edge of the Sahara. The area was associated with the rest of the country during the period of King Idrass;  as there were a number of branches of his Sufi order in the oases;  where most of the 200,000 people in the area live, mostly date palm farmers.

Gaddafi largely left the area alone as there was little possibility of developing organized opposition. However, today;  the governmental neglect has opened the door to wide-spread smuggling of people, weapons and drugs. The Italian government in particular;  has drawn international attention to the lack of administration in the Fezzan;  as many of the African migrants;  who end up in Italy have passed through the Fezzan on their way to Europe.

The creation of highly decentralized governmental structures in Libya will not be easy. Nevertheless, such decentralized administration is key to the future;  and a challenge to all of us;  who want to see a peaceful and relatively just Libya;

 Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Ceasefire in Libya Appeals

Ceasefire in Libya: A Gift for U.N. Day?

Photo by  David Peterson in Pixabay.

(Geneva).   On Friday 23 October 2020;  Stephanie Williams;  the U.N. acting Special Envoy for Libya said that the  representatives of the parties in Geneva had agreed to a ceasefire starting 24 October;  U.N. Day.  All military units and armed groups on the front lines  are to return to their camps.   All mercenaries and foreign fighters in Libya;  are to depart  within a maximum period of three months;  from 24 October.

Both the Russians and the Turks have sent mercenaries to back their interests.  The Russians have used the “private” security firm Wagner;  first founded to back Russian interests in Ukraine.  The Turks have sent Syrian militias friendly to Turkey;  with promises of money and Turkish citizenship.

Since the outbreak of armed conflict on the outskirts of Tripoli on 3 April 2019;  many persons have been killed and wounded. Migrants and refugees;  being held in detention centers have suffered.  The humanitarian situation has degraded dramatically.  In the recent past; all the armed factions have violated the laws of war;  and have a sad record of abuses against civilians.

A Lightning War.

General Khalifa Hifter hoped his attack would be a blitzkrieg ( a lightning war). He badly underestimated;  he degree of military response that he would meet from the militias loyal to the Government of National Accord;  led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sariaj.

Libyan society faces large and complex issues  in order to create a stable administrative structure of government;  that takes into consideration the geographic and ethnic diversity of the country. There are three distinct regions;  which must have some degree of autonomy: Tripolitania and Cyrenaica;  both bordering the Mediterranean and Fezzan in the southern Sahara.  Within each of the three regions;  there are differing and often rival tribal societies which are;  in practice;  more kinship lines than organized tribes. (1)

There are differing economic interests and different ideologies ranging from “Arab Socialism” to the Islamist ideology of the Islamic State (ISIS);  which has spread from its Syrian-Iraqi base.  The Association of World Citizens has proposed the possibility of con-federal constitutional structures. However;  the first priority in the U.N.-led negotiations was to reach a ceasefire. We must hope that it will hold and that discussions on constitutional structures will follow.

Note

1) See J. Davis Libyan Politics Tribes and Revolution (London: L.R. Turis, 1987)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Republic of Congo Appeals

Democratic Republic of Congo — Need for Reconciliation Bridge-Builders.

Photo by Kaysha on Unsplash

On bridges are stated the limits in tons

of the loads they can bear.

But I’ve never yet found one that can bear more

than we do. Although we are not made of roman freestone,

nor of steel, nor of concrete.

From “Bridges” – Ondra Lysohorsky

Translated from the Lachian by Davis Gill.

The killing on 22 February 2021 near Goma in Eastern Congo of the Italian Ambassador to the Congo has highlighted the continuing insecurity of the area and the need for renewed efforts at peacebuilding. The Ambassador of Italy, Luca Attanasio, was part of a two-car convoy of the U.N. World Food Program to visit a school meal program run by the Program which has recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The convoy was fired upon by a group of six individuals. The Ambassador and one of the drivers were killed.

At this stage, it is not known which of some 45 armed groups in the area carried out the attack and if the convoy was attacked because it was of the United Nations or if any two-car convoy would hve been attacked in the hope of looting the contents.  While the U.N. Secretary-General has called for an  investigation, an investigation is unlikely to be able to say more than that the whole area is unstable and that more than U.N. or Congolese grovernment troops are necessary to bring stability.

Armed Violence Continues.

Despite a new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo who promised to tackle poverty at its roots, armed violence continues.  Felix Tshisekedi, son of the late, long-time opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, put an end to the 18-year rule of Joseph Kabila.  However, in a number of provinces of the country, especially the east, armed violence continues between the army and different tribal-based militias.  In some area, war lords battle among themselves.

The United Nations has some 20:,000 peacemakers in Congo (MONUC), the UN’s  most numerous peacekeeping mission, but their capacity is stretched to the limit.  While MONUC has proven effective at securing peace in the Ituri district in north-eastern Congo, it has been much less successful in the two Kivu provinces.

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

Techniques of Conflict Resolution.

The people in eastern Congo have lived together for many centuries and had developed techniques of conflict resolution, especially between the two chief agricultural lifestyles: that of agriculture and cattle herding.  However, the influx of a large number of Hutu, local political considerations, a desire to control the wealth of the area — rich in gold, tin and tropical timber — all these factors have overburdened the local techniques of conflict resolution and have opened the door to new, negative forces interested only in making money and gaining political power.

UN peace-keeping troops are effective when there is peace to keep.  What is required today in eastern Congo and in certain other parts of the country is not so much more soldiers under UN command, than reconciliation bridge-builders, persons who are able to restore relations among the ethnic groups of the area.  The United Nations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations need to develop bridge-building teams who can help to strengthen local efforts at conflict resolution and re-establishing community relations.  In the Kivu provinces, many of the problems arise from land tenure issues.  With the large number of people displaced and villages destroyed, it may be necessary to review completely land tenure and land use issues.

The Importance of Decentralization and Con-Federal Forms of Government.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed the need in States deeply divided on geographic and ethnic lines such as the Democratic Republic of Congo  to manage diversity as a strength rather than as a weakness..  There is often a tendency for leaders of States divided on ethnic lines to “over-centralize” the Administration in the hope of creating “national unity”.  In practice, such efforts at centralized government lead to some areas and some groups to feel marginalized or excluded.  In such cases armed violence seems to be the fastest  way to receive attention and to get “a share of the economic pie.”  Thus, the Association of World Citizens has stressed the importance of decentralization and con-federal forms of government as an alternative to the creation of new independent states which is often the first demand of marginalized areas.

World citizens were among those in the early 1950s who stressed the need to create UN peace-keeping forces with soldiers especially trained for such a task.  Today, a new type of world civil servant is needed — those who in areas of tension and conflict can undertake the slow but important task of restoring confidence among peoples in conflict, establishing contacts and looking for ways to build upon common interests.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Burma Appeals

Burma’s Military in a Political Hole.

Photo by Michael Pfister on Unsplash

By Rene Wadlow.

“An error is not a mistake unless you refuse to correct it”
John F. Kennedy

On Wednesday 31 March 2021, the United Nations Security Council met in a closed door session to continue its consideration of the violence in Myanmar. The participants heard a video message from the U.N.’s envoy to Myanmar who called on the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar Military Forces) to navigate an orderly and peaceful way out of the situation in which some 520 people have been killed by the military and some 2,800 people detained. How many are still detained is not fully known. Reporting from the area is difficult and uneven.

The Security Council repeated its earlier 10 March resolution against violence and calling for support for a democratic transition within the country. China is playing the key role within the Security Council but also in contacts with the military-led government which calls itself the State Administrative Council (SAC). China has a 2,227 kilometer border with Burma, and people move across this border with relative ease. Moreover, there are a good number of Chinese factories in Burma, companies that are closely related to Chinese-government owned conglomerates. There are also a good number of ethnic Chinese living in Burmese cities and larger towns, owning hotels, restaurants and shops. There have already been fires set in some of these Chinese-owned factories, but no group has taken responsibility for setting the fires. The fires are, nevertheless, an indication of growing anti-Chinese sentiment.

Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM)

It has been said that the first rule when you find yourself in a political hole is to stop digging. Unfortunately, the military leadership since its 1 February coup has done all it could to make matters worse. As a result, there has grown among many different groups of the society a strong Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) which has shown tactical innovation and creativity. Women have been on the front lines of these non-violent protests to military rule. A raised three-finger salute, drawn from the Hunger Games has become the outward sign of opposition.

The ethnic minorities which have played a large, if often violent role in Burmese politics since independence in 1947 – the Kachin, Karen, Shan, Mon, Karenni, Ta’ang – are divided in their response to the new military-led government. Some, such as Karen and Kachin rebels have launched attacks against the military. Others are lying in wait to see what is going to happen. For a number of reasons, all the ethnic minorities are divided into factions, and there is rarely a collective response. A good number of the minority civilians have displaced themselves, seeking shelter along the borders.

The Situation in Myanmar.

An unintended consequence of the 1 February coup and the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and other National League for Democracy leaders has been to open the door to a younger generation of leadership, less linked to military families. While this younger generation is not contesting the leadership of the older generation, it is inevitable that a generation of people now in their 50s will come to the fore such as the Myanmar Ambassador to the U.N. in New York Kyaw Moe Tun who broke with the military in a dramatic presentation at a first 26 February Security Council discussion of the situation in Myanmar.

There are many aspects to the fast-moving situation in Myanmar. They merit watching closely.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Libya Appeals

New Start for Stability in Libya.

Photo by  jorono in Pixabay 

By Rene Wadlow.

The 74 members of the Libya Political Dialogue Forum meeting in Geneva, Switzerland;  with the mediation of the United Nations;  on 5 February 2021; announced the creation of a new executive authority for all of Libya.

This interim unity government would lead the administration until national elections; which are to be held on 24 December 2021. This interim executive authority has the mandate to fulfill the 23 October 2020 Cease-fire Agreement; which calls for a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of all foreign fighters.
This new interim executive authority by its membership; tries to build a balance among the three geographic divisions of the country. It also tries to build on new faces; which have been relatively not directly involved in the troubled situation since the 2011; end of the government of M. Qaddafi.

The new interim executive will have a three-person Presidency led by Mohammad Younes Memfi. He was born in 1958. He is an engineer and businessman from Misratia. Mohammad Younes Memfi  was educated in Canada and has not been directly involved in politics before. The other two members of the Presidency are Abdullah Hussein Al-Lafi; more involved in politics but not in the first ranks; and Mossa Al-Koni; an ethnic Tuareg from the south near the frontier with Mali. Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah will serve as Prime Minister under this new Presidency.

 

Colonel Moammar Qaddafi.

There is still a long road ahead to create meaningful reconciliation among the divisions; based on geography, tribal networks and religious brotherhoods. At Independence in 1951; authority rested with King Sayyid Idris (1890-1983); the leader of an important Islamic brotherhood; who remained more concerned with religious reforms than with the structure of the government. (1)

When the military officers; led by Colonel Moammar Qaddafi took power in a coup in September 1969; there was for a short time some discussion as to the forms that the government should take. Colonel Qaddafu wanted to do away with parliamentary government and representative elections; in favor or people’s committees; a people’s congress and revolutionary committees – all held together by the ideological assumptions of his Third Universal Theory – a concept that embodied anti-imperialism, Arab unity, Islamic socialism and direct popular democarcy. (2)

 

Imagen de WikiImages en Pixabay

Disagreements on the nature of the State; had led to important divisions among the ruling circle; especially in 1975.

However; all open discussions on the nature of the State; of the relations between State and society;  of the place of tribes and of religious brotherhoods were considered subversive; in fact treason. In practice; but not in theory; decision-making was in the hands of Colonel Qaddafi, his family, friends and tribal allies. (3)

Three Unstable Zones.

Since the end of the Qaddafi government; the country has been largely divided into three unstable zones: the West with Tripoli as the main city; with a “Government of National Accord” led by Faiez Sarraj; an East around Benghazi; with the “National Libyian Army” under General Khaifa Haftar; and the south divided among many political, tribal factions.

 

However; both the West and the East contain different armed tribal groups; Islamic militias and armed groups linked to the exploitation of migrants, traffick in arms and drugs. As the disorder dragged on; more and more outside States; became involved to different degrees and in different ways: Russia, Turkey, Egypt, France, the USA and to some extent the African Union.

To what extent the new interim authority will be able to create public services; limit outside influences and create appropriate forms of government will have to be seen. Libya merits close attention.

Notes.

1) For a useful analysis of Libyan governmental structures see J. Davis. Libyan Politics, Tribes and Revolution (London: I.B. Tauris, 1987)
2) See M.M. Ayoub. Islam and the Third Universal Theory: the religious thought of Muamar al Qudhakdhafi (London: Kegan Pail, 1987)
3) See Rene Lemarchand (Ed) The Green and the Black. Qadahafi’s Politics in Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988)

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Darfur Appeals

Continuing Instability in the Darfur Conflicts.

12 Mar 2021 – Despite the removal after 30 years of power of the Sudanese military dictator Omar Al-Bashir and his subsequent arrest; stability has not returned to Darfur; where fighting began in 2003. Although the Darfur conflict has faded from the headlines; it continues producing many refugees, internally-displaced persons, unused farmland, and political unrest.  The joint African Union-United Nations force (MINAUD); has not been able to produce peace.  Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep;  and during the past 13 years there have been lulls in fighting; but no peace to keep.

The Darfur conflict of western Sudan; is a textbook example of how programmed escalation of violence can get out of control. Neither the insurgencies nor the government-backed forces; have been able to carry out good faith negotiations; or deal with the fundamental issue of how to get cattle farmers and settled agriculturalists to live together; in a relatively cooperative way.

South Sudan.

Darfur (the home of the Fur);  was always marginal to the politics of modern Sudan and to the two phases of the North-South civil war;  which took place from 1954-1972 and from 1982-2005; ultimately leading to the creation of a separate State, South Sudan.  Darfur;  about the size of France; had been an independent Sultanate; loosely related to the Ottoman Empire.  It was on a major trade route from West Africa to Egypt; and so populations from what is now northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali; and Chad joined the older ethnic groups of the area: the Fur, Masalit, the Zaghawa, and the Birgit.

However; Nomads from Libya also moved south into Darfur.  As the population density was low; a style of life with mutual interaction between pastoral herdsmen and settled agriculturalists; with some livestock developed. Increasingly, however; there was ever-greater competition for water and forage; made scarce by environmental degradation and the spread of the desert.

A “Marriage” was Desirable.

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

Thus, Darfur continued its existence; as an environmentally fragile area of Sudan.  It was marginal in economics; but was largely self-sufficient.  Once Sudan was granted its independence in 1956; Darfur became politically as well as economically marginal.  Darfur’s people have received less education, less healthcare, less development assistance; and fewer government posts than any other region.  Southerners were given government and administrative posts; in the hope of diminishing the violent North-South divide.

Share the Wealth and Administrative Reform.

There was no such incentive to ‘share the wealth’ with Darfur.  Its political weight was even lessened; when Darfur in a 1995 ‘administrative reform’ was divided into three provinces: Northern Darfur, Western Darfur, and Southern Darfur.  Some areas that were historically part of Darfur; were added to Northern and Western Bahr El-Ghazal.  The division of Darfur did not lead to better local government; or to additional services from the central government.  It must be added that Darfur’s political leadership had a special skill in supporting national political leaders; just as the national leaders were about to lose power — first Al Sadig al Mahdi and then Hassan al-Turabi.

The Black Book.

In 2000; Darfur’s political leadership had met to draw up a Black Book; which detailed the region’s systematic under-representation in national government; since independence. The Black Book marked the start of a rapprochement between the Islamist and the more secular radicals of Darfur; which took form three years later with the rise of the more secular Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Islamist-leaning Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

However;  at the level of the central government; the Black Book led to no steps to increase the political and economic position of Darfur.  This lack of reaction convinced some in Darfur; that only violent action would bring recognition and compromise as the North-South civil war had done.

Little Red Book.

The two Darfur groups, SLA and JEM; started to structure themselves, gather weapons and men. The idea was to strike in a spectacular way; which would lead the government to take notice and to start power and wealth-sharing negotiations.  Not having read the “Little Red Book” of Mao; they did not envisage a long drawn out conflict of the countryside against the towns of Darfur.

By February 2003; the two groups were prepared to act;  and in one night attacked and destroyed many of Sudan’s military planes based at El Fasher.  The Sudan military lost in one night more planes than it had in 20 years of war against the South.

The Evildoers on Horseback.

However; the central government’s ‘security elite’ — battle hardened from its fight against the South starting in 1982;  and knowing that the regular army was over-extended and tired of fighting— decided to use against the Darfur insurgents; techniques which had been used with some success against the South: to arm and to give free reign to militias and other irregular forces.

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

The SLA or The JEM.

The Sudanese central government gave these groups guns, uniforms, equipment and indications where to attack; but no regular pay. Thus; these militias had to pay themselves by looting homes, crops, livestock, by taking slaves and raping women and girls.  Village after village was destroyed; on the pretext that some in the village supported either the SLA or the JEM; crops were burned, water wells filled with sand.  As many people as possible fled to Chad; or to areas thought safer within Darfur.

Darfur represents a classic case of how violence gets out of control; and goes beyond the aims for which it was first used.   There have been splits within both the SLA and the JEM; mostly on tribal lines, making negotiations all the more difficult.  Darfur is also a classic example that U.N. military forces do not create stable civil societies. There is yet much to be done; and there are very few positive signs of necessary action.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Tigray Appeals

Ethiopia’s Tigray, a New Biafra?.

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash.

By Rene Wadlow.

On 4 March 2021; at the United Nations, Mark Lowcock; the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs; warned that a campaign of destruction is taking place in Ethiopia’s Tigray  Provence; saying that nearly five million of the six million population of the Provence, needed food assistance.  For the first time; a high U.N. official highlighted the role of the Eritrean Defense Forces fighting along side of the Ethiopian central government’s forces were committing crimes of war.  He indicated that as the Tigray fighting enters its fourth month;

there are “multiple credible and widely corroborated reports from Tigray of widespread atrocities, involving mass killings, rapes, and the abductions of civilians.”

The fighting in Tigray began at the time of the harvest of agricultural production. Much of the harvest has been destroyed as well as farm markets.  Thus; there is wide-spread hunger.  The question which;  we must ask is if famine is a consequence of the fighting;  or a deliberate policy to starve the Tigray resistance – starvation as an arm of war.  The famine situation in Tigray today brings to mind the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-1970.

The International Committee of the Red Cross.

During the Biafra war; I was a member of a working group of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.  The armed conflict was the first in Africa; in which only an African State was involved; no colonial party used to the European laws of war. The International Committee of the Red Cross faced a new socio-cultural context; in which to try for the respect of humanitarian law.

We find many of the same elements in the lead up to the fighting in Tigray: a change in power in the central government;  an effort of the new administration to centralize the administration; demands for autonomy or independence based on ethnic criteria; a flow of refugees toward other provinces of the country; the influence of neighboring or other States in the conflict. The Nigeria-Biafra war dragged on for 30 months; and at least one million lives were taken.

Blocking food aid to Biafra became a deliberate policy. Starvation became not a consequence of war; but an arm of war.  The policy of starvation is remembered and still colors politics in Nigeria. (1)

 

To Uphold Human Dignity.

The fighting in Tigray becomes more complex by the day as Ethiopian Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, ethnic militias from the Amhara region face Tigrayan forces. There is a buildup of Sudanese government forces on the Ethiopian-Sudan border; and there are growing ethnic conflicts; in the Benishangul-Gumuz region; as Tigrans flee into Sudan.  Reporting on the war is very limited.  Communications are deliberately cut; and journalists unwelcome and under heavy government pressure.  Starvation as a government war policy is denied. One would not expect otherwise.

However; we know little of the military planning of the central Ethiopian government. For the moment; all efforts for mediation proposed by the United Nations or the Organization of African Unity have been refused by the Ethiopian central government; and the former officials of the Tigray province have fled.  For the moment; we on the outside can only watch.

We need to do more to uphold human dignity.

 

Note.

1) See: Ifi Amadiume and Abdullah An-Na’im (Eds)  The Politics of Memory: Truth, Healing and Social Justice; (London: Zed Books, 2000, 207 pp.)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Nagorno-Karabakh Appeals

Nagorno-Karabakh: Continuing Repercussions in Armenia.

This map describes the current situation in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but mostly governed by the de facto independent state, Republic of Artsakh. Image is a modified version of MarshallBagramyan’s map. File:Artsakh Occupation Map.png, Author:Elnur Hajiyev.

The November 2020; ceasefire agreement signed among the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia has provided some stability for the Nagorno-Karabakh area.  The 2000; Russian military dispatched quickly to the area has brought an end to the fighting.  The agreement stated that the Russian forces would stay for five years; but that their posting could be extended depending on the political situation.

When the fighting began on 27 September 2020; The Association of World Citizens;  which has been concerned with Nagorno-Karabakh; since the 1992 armed conflict; sent an urgent Appeal to the authorities of Azerbaijan and Armenia urging a ceasefire and the start of negotiations in good faith.  A follow up message was sent to the Ambassadors to the United Nations of the leadership of the Minsk Group of the OSCE (Russia, France, U.S.A.).

Azerbaijan-Turkish Aggression.

In Azerbaijan; the fighting which led to the ceasefire is widely considered as a “victory”; and has increased the popularity of the Azerbaijan President Iham Aliev.  However in Armenia; the fighting which led to a loss of seven districts around Nagorno-Karabakh; as well as one third of the Karabakh territory is considered as a “defeat”.

The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pachinian; is under heavy negative pressure with calls that he resign.  In Armenia; many refer to the fighting as the “Azerbaijan-Turkish Aggression” – an image recalling the Armenian genocide within the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1916.  Turkey had provided weapons and drones to Azerbaijan; which had an influence on the fighting.

 

No Longer Able to Make Reasonable Decisions.

On 25 February; the leaders of the Armenian armed forces demanded that the Prime Minister, Nikol Pachinian; and his whole cabinet resign.  The army had said a few days earlier; that the Prime Minister was “no longer able to make reasonable decisions”; after he had fired some of the top military commanders.

On 25 February; the Prime Minister warned of an attempted military coup; and called on his supporters to gather on Republic Square at the heart of Yerevan.  A good number of people have gathered on 26 February; and some plan to camp there as a form of protection on the model of such “Occupy” efforts in Turkey, Ukraine, Egypt and Wall Street. One must hope that cooler heads will arise to bring about a decrease in the tensions; but it is still too early to say.

A situation which merits close attention.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Sudan Appeals

Sudan: Difficult Transitions.

Photo by Mohamed Tohami on Unsplash.

By Rene Wadlow.

With the death on 26 November 2020 of Sadeq Al-Mahdi;  a major figure of modern Sudanese politics;  leaves the scene at a time of deep transitions within Sudan. Sadeq was the great grandson of Mehammed Ahmed;  who in the 1880s proclaimed himself as the Madhi in the struggle against the Egyptians and the British. When impiety progresses;  God inspires the Mahdi, the Messiah, to establish justice. Thus;  the Mahdi is both a political as well as a spiritual leader.

 

Sadig never declared himself to be the Mahdi;  but the family had taken Al-Madhi as the family name. He was a political leader having been Prime Minister twice, 1966 -1967 and again 1986 -1989;  both times forced out by the military;  who set up long-lasting military dictatorships; the first time by General Jaafar Nimeiry;  and the second time by General Omar Al-Bachir.

The Sufi Order.

Sadig was the head of an important Sufi order;  a tariqa as Sufi orders are called in Sudan. His political base was the Sufi order. He was educated at Oxford University in England;  and had high hope to modernize Sudan. Yet both times that he was prime minister;  he became bogged down in socio-economic tensions that would lead shortly afterwards to war. The first time;  the tensions and war which led to the creation of the separate state of South Sudan;  the second time the continuing North-South split of the country;  and the tensions which led to the armed conflict in Darfur province. In both cases;  the military were able to present themselves as more able to deal with conflicts than a civilian.

I had Sadeq Al-Mahdi as a member of the Association of World Citizens team to attend a seminar at the United Nations in Geneva;  on human rights and Islam. We had discussed at length his experiences and the nature of Mahdist movements.

The Ironies of Sudanese Politics.

One of the ironies of Sudanese politics was that his chief opponent;  the ideological brain of the Al-Bachir National Islamic Front, Hassan Al-Turabi was his brother-in-law, the men having married two sisters of the same family. While Sadeg was a Sufi highlighting; a personal relationship to God with no emphasis on the Islamic legal code or the Koran;  Hassan Al-Turabi, influenced by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood;  stressed the legal code and promoted the idea of a pan-Islamic brotherhood based on a common understanding of the legal code.

Today;  Sudan is in a period of transition. The South has become a separate country with a good number of difficulties. A good number of issues;  including oil revenues;  need to be worked out between Sudan and South Sudan. The war in Darfur continues;  but negotiations are very difficult as opposition groups have split along tribal and ideological lines. The new Sudanese government is an uneasy coalition of military and civilian members of trade unions and professional societies. It is not clear what role Sufi orders;  which are mostly rural, will play. It is also not clear to what extent new political parties will be formed based on the civil society forces;  which were largely outside the earlier political parties. Sudan remains a country in transition; to be watched closely.

 Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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