Archive for Justice

Guinea millitary rulers have no authority to sign mining deals

After the brutal killings and attacks on unarmed demonstrators last month that left at least 157 people dead and over 1000 injured, the military dictators in Guinea have no right to sign a $7 billion mining deal with a Chinese company. Even though these people came to power by force, initially they had a lot of support and goodwill in a country where the people were tired of the previous corrupt ruler and his drug dealing son. But after this massacre, they have forfeited their right to rule the country, and as such have no legitimate authority to sign any deals, let alone a $7 billion sell off of the country’s mineral assets.

It is also astonishing that the Chinese would sign this deal less than a month after the horrific attacks by the military on unarmed civilians. This is another clear example that China doesn’t give a damn whether Africans live or die as long as it gets its hands on Africa’s raw materials. Would anybody be surprised if China were to oppose the EU development chief’s call to put the Guinea ruler Capt Moussa Dadis Camara on trial for “crimes against humanity?”

In light of this latest development, one has to wonder what Rwandan President Paul Kagame was thinking when he praised China for the “way it does business in Africa.” Really, Mr. President? I wonder if the people of Guinea, or those in Darfur’s camps would agree with that. Or was he talking about how African dictators feel about the way China does business with them?

Comments (1)

Land Grab in the 21st Century

This has to be one of the most dangerous developments of the past 18 months. If these companies and countries continue to grab land from poor nations at this alarming rate, it is only a matter of time before riots break out everywhere and governments in these poor nations will be unable to control the rage of the hungry masses.

We have already seen unrests in several African countries in the past year as food prices sky rocketed. Just imagine the level of unrest and violence when people realize that while they can’t afford to feed their families because of sky rocketing food prices, large companies and other governments are shipping food grown in their country to feed their own population.

The level of greed, short sightedness and arrogance shown by these companies and countries is just incredible. To think that they can just buy millions of acres of fertile farm land in developing countries, especially in African countries where there is still a lot of lingering resentment left over from the colonial era, and not expect any backlash is just wishful thinking.

What is most pazzling about this report is that countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia, which currently receive large amounts of food aid because they are unable to feed their own populations, are selling fertile farm land to other nations and corporations. Food pricess in Ethiopia have gone up so much in the past 18 months that people are unable to feed their families and are resorting to food aid. How will the Ethiopian government justify selling prime farm land to other nations so that food can be exported in order for those nations to protect their citizens from wild price fluctuations while Ethiopians go hungry?

And as for Sudan, hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced from their homeland in Darfur primarily because the Janjaweed, backed by the government, wanted Darfur’s farmlands and water resources. If this doesn’t tell you how valuable and scarce land is in the Sudan then nothing will.

Who is being displaced from their land in the Sudan (or Ethiopia/Zambia/Cameroon,etc.) now, so China, India, Korea and a couple of Arab nations can feed their own populations; or companies such as Hyundai and Morgan Stanley can make millions or even billions of dollars? Does this also mean that the UN, USAid and other aid organizations will continue to feed the poor in Ethiopia and Sudan while those nations start exporting food? Where is the logic in that?

Are these nations and companies doing the land grab really this naive? Or has greed blinded them to such an extent that they are unable to see the obvious consequences of their actions? This practice has to end now, and the deals already finilized rescinded before violence breaks out in these poor nations and governments start falling. Otherwise we will see levels of violence unseen in Africa in decades, and the collapse of hard won peace, stability, democracy and development.

Comments (1)

Internal Colonialism

A new dam is being built in Ethiopia that has the potential to devastate the indigenous people who have lived there for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Government officials say that the dam will reduce flooding, and will benefit the people who live downstream from the dam. The thing is, the people who live downstream don’t want the flooding to be stopped or managed:

One of the senior community priests, Bargaeri, said although they were aware of the dam, they had heard nothing official.

“We will suffer because there will be no more floods,” he said. “I don’t think the government likes the Omo tribes. They are going to destroy us.”

The floods lie at the very heart of the dispute over the dam.

According to anthropologist Marco Bassi, of Oxford University, the tribes have developed sophisticated agricultural techniques that have allowed them to live comfortably and sustainably for centuries.

Each wet season, the riverside communities retreat to higher ground, waiting for the flood that inevitably comes.

Once the waters retreat, the communities move back to plant their crops on the damp and newly replenished soils.

Their cattle feed on the fresh grasses. The higher the flood, the more land is inundated, and the more becomes available to farm.

Even the highest of floods are necessary to replenish the outlying bush lands that the communities use to feed their livestock during the equally inevitable droughts.

“It looks very primitive from the outside,” Mr Bassi said. “But when you investigate it, you discover that they have a very intimate knowledge of the land and its fertility.

“Each family has maybe seven or eight different varieties of sorghum that responds to different conditions. And combined, the community has 20 or 30.

“They know how to plant in a way that guarantees enough food whatever happens through the year.”

Why is it that some African central governments believe they know what is best for the indigenous people? How is this any different than the actions of former European colonizers who took land away from the natives in Eastern and Southern Africa in the 19th century?

As far as these Ethiopian tribes are concerned, the actions of the central government are no different than 19th century European colonizers. The only difference this time is that the colonizers are their fellow countrymen: this is nothing but Internal Colonization.

Comments off

Are Private Security Contractors the Answer?

It doesn’t look like the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is going to sign the peace treaty anytime soon, or ever. It also appears unlikely that the Ugandan army will be able to defeat the LRA. To make matters worse, now the LRA has setup bases in Central African Republic, and is attacking villages in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Also in the Democratic Republic of Congo, general Nkunda’s militia is at it again attacking villages and killing civilians in the eastern part of the country, and on the verge of taking the town of Goma. Similarly, the DRC army seems incapable of protecting its people, and the UN doesn’t have enough manpower to stop Nkunda or the other militias operating in eastern DRC.

So, are the people of northern Uganda and eastern DRC condemned to forever live in fear and terror because their governments or the UN can’t protect them? The answer should be an emphatic no, and it is time the world came up with new ideas and actions to end these atrocities.

It is clear that unless a powerful western nation intervenes and defeats these warlords and war criminals (similar to Britain’s intervention in Sierra Leone), which seems very unlikely at this moment, other more radical options need to be considered. One of those ideas has to be bringing in private security contractors; with a clear mandate of bringing those war criminals to justice.

It is clear that private security contractors are not going to be cheap, but the LRA has already inflicted a heavy human and material cost on the people of northern Uganda, and will continue to do so not only in Uganda but in South Sudan, DRC and CAR. The toll on the DRC is even higher, with some estimates of 4 million deaths in the last decade, not to mention the looting of the country’s resources.

So the question isn’t ‘can we afford private security contractors?’, but ‘can we afford to continue doing nothing?’.

There needs to be a clear rules of engagement for the private security contractors before they are deployed:

  1. Ideally this should be approved by the UN Security Council, and the countries where the private security contractors will be operating.
  2. Civilians have to be protected, where the security contractors must do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties.
  3. A clearly defined goal: capturing or eliminating specific war criminals.
  4. A clearly defined time line: e.g., capturing/eliminating LRA leadership in 24 months, etc.

This is a potentially controversial idea and likely to be criticized by some quarters, but something needs to be done now to end the atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Comments (1)

No Deferment on Bashir Arrest Warrant!

It is really maddening, but not surprising, to read African leaders “demanding” the UN Security Council defer the indictment of the Sudanese President Bashir for “genocide for mass killings in Darfur” by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. This is yet another example of African leaders looking out for one another at the expense of their own people.

According to the Guardian article, arguments used against the indictment include the situation on the ground could get much worse, and the Sudanese government and its supporters may make it impossible for aid agencies to care for the Darfur refugees, which are valid concerns.

What is baffling is one argument used by the African leaders, that the International Criminal Court is “picking on Africa” by indicting Bashir. Are they serious?!?! Are they saying that African war criminals should be exempt from prosecution because they have already gone after the former Liberian President Charles Taylor? So no more African war criminals should be prosecuted until another war criminal from a different continent is prosecuted first? Or do we have to wait until one war criminal from each continent is indicted before we go after another African war criminal? Just incredible! This is mind bogglingly stupid and heartless! Any African leader who uses this argument again should be mercilessly ridiculed.

What is heartening is that the victims themselves want Bashir prosecuted:

The strongest counter to this position comes from an unexpected quarter – from Sudanese human rights and civil society activists who would surely bear the brunt of any government backlash. They insist that there can be no trade-off between justice and peace in Sudan.

“The survivors in the camps say only justice can make a difference. There can be no peace without justice,” Salih Osman, a human rights activist from Darfur and a member of Sudan’s national parliament, said during a visit to London this week. “The survivors say: ‘We have nothing to lose. There is no peace, and there is no deployment of the hybrid force.’

Who should the UN Security Council listen to, the self serving AU leaders who are protecting one of their own or the victims themselves? OK, if that isn’t convincing enough, how about taking Bashir’s past actions and history into account?

The second point Sudanese dissidents make is that the Bashir government only responds to pressure. It does the minimum necessary to deflect international scrutiny and as soon as it detects a relaxation, it goes back to business as usual. Bashir responded to Moreno-Ocampo’s announcement by going to Darfur for the first time and making a reconciliatory speech admitting there could be no military solution.

Osman Hummaida, another human rights activist went further in arguing that an indictment could usher in a more conciliatory government in Khartoum, which would strengthen the prospects for peace in Darfur and the south.

“In terms of the political agenda, it has impacted positively. It has demoralised the hardliners. The people backing reform are in a better position now,” Hummaida said.

“There are people in the [ruling National Congress party] NCP with a heavy financial interest. They want to engage with the international community and they may not let one person stand in the way.”

If these aren’t convincing arguments in favor of issuing the arrest warrant against the Sudanese president, then I don’t know what is.

The author also gives another great example of how indicting the then President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, for war crimes may have hastened the fall of his regime. If members of the UN Security Council vote to delay the indictment, one message they may send to Bashir’s victims, however unintentional, is that his crimes aren’t on the same scale as that of Milosevic’s.

I hope the Security Council and the ICC do the right thing and give the people of Darfur the justice they want and deserve. If not, it may be necessary to start an online petition demanding the UN Security Council not defer the indictment, and that the ICC issue an arrest warrant.


The ICC “asked for more evidence” before it decides on whether to issue an arrest warrant. Lets hope this isn’t a sign of the ICC succumbing to the pressure of the lobbying by the African leaders.

Comments off

Friend of Kenya grieves

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that those of us who are of east African origin, wherever we may currently reside, looked up to Kenya as a shinning beacon in a troubled and turbulent region.

That is why I was very excited to hear the results of the early returns which showed many of the incumbent MPs, especially those who were accused of wrong doing, had lost their seats. It gave me hope that maybe the rest of the countries in the region, and even Africa as a whole, would follow the example set by Kenyan voters; that is, voters will hold elected officials accountable for their actions. Unfortunately all that was undone by cowardly election officials and by selfish, power hungry politicians.

As far as I am concerned, both the president and Mr. Odinga have forfeited their right to become president: The president for declaring victory too soon and being sworn in even though there was plenty of evidence that showed there were irregularities with the reporting of the results. Another reason why the president has forfeited his right to the presidency, and why he needs to resign, is the killings of demonstrators by security forces who apparently were given shoot to kill orders. The orders may not have come directly from him (either the interior minster or the police commissioner may have given the actual order), but ultimately the buck stops with the president.

And Mr. Odinga does not deserver to become the next president of Kenya for failing to demand an end to the senseless killings on Kenyans by his followers. Even though it looks like Mr. Odinga was cheated of the presidency, and he initially called for calm, he should have demanded that his followers refrain from killing Kikuyus for several reasons, one of the reasons being Kikuyus or other ethnic groups were not responsible for the vote rigging. In my opinion this glaring failure disqualifies him from becoming the next president of Kenya. His failure to demand an immediate end to violence demonstrates he lacks the required moral authority and leadership skills he is going to need if he is to lead a country that is going to need to heal the deep wounds it suffered during this crisis.

The main blame for this crisis rests squarely at the shoulders of President Kibaki though. Instead of recognizing that Kenya is the beacon of hope for the region, and that it needs to lead by example, he chose to follow examples set by Ethiopia’s and Nigeria’s recent, largely discredited elections. He saw that the leaders of these countries were able to getaway with blatant disputed elections and thought if they could getaway with it, he should too.

The opposition should have responded by peaceful demonstration, the way Ukrainians did when their election was stolen from them. There is no reason why Africans can’t express their grievance without resorting to violence. We are no more predisposed to violence than our brothers and sisters in other continents are, despite what some people may believe. We have to stop following political leaders who are only interested in their narrow political agenda, and are willing to do and say anything to achieve it.

My biggest fear now is that Kenya will be permanently scarred by this, and will never be the same again. I hope and believe this isn’t going to be the case though. I believe kenyans can and will overcome this tragedy and come out the stronger for it by vowing never to kill another kenyan for political reasons.

In my view, one way to recover from this crisis is to start by forming a national unity government until presidential elections are re-run. This national unity government should be lead by somebody respected by most, if not all, Kenyans. I am not Kenyan, so have no right to suggest a name, but if I had to pick one then it would have to be Nobel peace prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai.

The second step in this process would be to hold a truth and reconciliation like hearings to grieve and forgive. The final step in this recovery process would involve the erection of a monument to remember the lives lost in this senseless violence, so Kenyans will never forget what happened and will never let it happen again.

We Africans have to understand that African lives are just as precious as the lives of those from other continents. We can’t resort to killing our neighbors every time we disagree with them, be it for social, economic or political reasons. After all, no politician is worth a single life, let alone hundreds or thousands of lives.

Comments off