May 2011 IIJD Newsletter Update

Libya: Gaddafi’s Regime Continues to Battle Opposition as International Community Intensifies Response.Colonel Muammar Gaddafi remains defiant over rebel demands for his ouster. Gaddafi forces have launched offensives to retake towns now under opposition control; the coastal town of Misrata continues to bear the brunt of this assault. NATO forces continue to bombard Libyan military positions; a recent NATO missile attack resulted in the deaths of one of Gaddafi’s sons and two of his grandchildren.  NATO has intensified its attacks on Gaddafi residences, compounds and Libyan security forces.  The humanitarian situation across many parts of the country continues to worsen, with the UN and other humanitarian groups struggling to distribute aid; the UN recently was forced to vacate Tripoli after its compounds were attacked by mobs. Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) has suspended Libya from its Human Rights Council, citing gross human rights violations committed by the Gaddafi regime; the country has also been suspended from the Arab League. The International Criminal Court (ICC) also announced its decision to issue arrest warrants for three Libyan individuals on suspicion of human rights violations. The US and Europe’s ongoing campaign against the Gaddafi regime continues to be mired in controversy, as the reasons behind NATO’s mission in Libya are questioned. France and Italy, as well as their allies, are accused of seeking to topple the Gaddafi regime for their own economic interests, which include increased access to Libyan oil resources and the countering of a fast growing independent African economic sector.   

Cote D’Ivoire: After a flow democratic process; Laurent Gbagbo Captured; May Reconciliation Begins?Last month, the United Nations helped by French forces in Cote d’Ivoire launched unprecedented actions that consisted on bombarding the institutions of the West African country.  After weeks of heavy bombardments of the Ivoirian military camps, defense positions, the Presidency and Presidential residence, the rebels forces loyal to Alassane Dramane Ouattara designated President elect by the International community raided incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo’s compound with the assistance of French forces. Gbagbo was subsequently arrested unharmed; many other supporters (including members of cabinet) were arrested, tortured, publicly humiliated and killed.  The charismatic leader of the young patriots, Minister Charles Blé Goudé has disappeared; it’s believed to have been assassinated by the Alassane Ouattara.  The incumbent president now under house arrest in the rebel controlled area faces possible charges of human rights violations and will likely be prosecuted by Ivorian courts as Mr. Ouattara had said. During the past few months, hundreds of civilians were killed, while many thousands fled the city of Abidjan and outlying areas as pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces battled each other for the presidency. Although the presidential election was marred by fraud, and the country’s Constitutional Council, which possessed sole authority in deciding such matters, declared Gbagbo winner, both candidates claimed victory shortly after the election. In addition, the UN, along with the greater international community (IC), neglected the rule of law and acted without authority by independently determining Ouattara victor. During the ongoing dispute, the IIJD supported peaceful resolution of the conflict through an independent review of electoral irregularities and the implementation of either a run-off election or a repeat of elections where the alleged fraud occurred. Although Gbagbo’s request for an independent inquiry into election results was entirely legitimate and the most democratic solution to the dispute, Gbagbo was ultimately removed by force and Ouattara illegitimately established as President of Cote d’Ivoire.  Mr. Ouattara has a second chance to prove that he is a democrat and not the autocrat of the 1990s while he was Prime Minister of Houphouet Boigny. To impose Ouattara as President, the French forces are still patrolling the streets of Abidjan; most supporters of Laurent Gbagbo are still being arrested and jailed while real prisoners (chiefs, robbers and brigands) are being freed from jailed and enrolled in the army of Mr. Ouattara. As new President of Cote d’Ivoire, Mr. Alassane Dramane Ouattara will now have the task of reconciling the factionalized population amidst continued tension and sporadic outbreaks of sectarian violence.

Tunisia: Interim Government Struggles to Fulfill Protest Demands.Tunisia’s interim administration continues to make progress as several former Ben Ali Cabinet ministers have resigned. Prime Minister (PM) Mohamed Ghannouchi, a close former ally of disgraced Ben Ali, finally resigned after thousands of protesters continued to rally in March, demanding his ouster. Tunisia’s new government, led by new Prime Minister, Beji Caid el Sebsi, and interim President, Fouad Mebazza, is now working to rewrite the country’s Constitution and will hold general elections this summer. The government has banned all officials from former President Ben Ali’s political party from standing in any future elections. Meanwhile, Tunisia’s Islamist movement, the Ennahda, has been legalized and now has authorization to form an official political party. Its head, Rachid Ghannouchi (no relation to former PM), returned to Tunisia in late January, after 20 years of exile.

Zimbabwe: Increased Violence and Lack of Democratic Reform to Delay Elections. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai recently declared that elections which were planned for later this year will not go ahead without proposed democratic reforms that include the formation of an independent electoral commission. In anticipation of elections, President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and security forces have stepped up their harassment and detention of opposition MDC leaders and supporters, and there is a heavy security presence in Harare. Several people from human rights groups have been arrested. International and Zimbabwean human rights groups, as well as several governments, have condemned the arrests, which include the arrest of 45 activists who had gathered at a lecture on the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The IIJD calls upon the Mugabe regime and security forces to halt all attacks against MDC and pro-democracy supporters and to release human rights activists recently arrested. The IIJD also calls upon the Mugabe regime to immediately implement democratic reforms as required by the 2008 power-sharing deal that ended the violent post-election crisis. The IIJD believes that once these reforms are enacted upon, only then will Zimbabweans be guaranteed free and fair elections whose result will not result in dispute or violence.   

Sudan: Hundreds Dead after Clashes Continue Between Southern Sudan’s Army and Rebel Forces.Fighting between Southern Sudan’s military, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, and rebel leader George Athor’s forces in Jonglei state and other parts of the South has resulted in the death of hundreds of people over the past few months. Although Sudan’s recent referendum on Southern Sudan independence was conducted peacefully, violence in Southern Sudan has increased over the past several weeks, as some rebel groups have refused to disarm. The Southern Sudanese government has accused Bashir’s government of supporting rebel factions and militias to destabilize resource-rich Southern areas. Southern Sudan is expected to formalize its newly-established statehood in July. The IIJD calls upon all rebel groups and militias to immediately halt all attacks against civilians as well as South Sudanese government forces and to disarm as required by previous peace agreements. It also calls upon the Sudanese government to provide its cooperation to the Sudanese government and to end its support of armed groups in the South.

Other recent developments…

Uganda:Incumbent President Museveni was declared winner of the presidential election last month, with 68% of the vote over challenger Kizza Besigye, who won 26%. Mr. Besigye was recently victim of maltreatments from the police and security forces. Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years, has been widely accused of using state resources to bribe voters. Museveni is rumored to be grooming his son for the presidency; several of his family members, including his wife, hold significant posts in the current government.

Nigeria:Incumbent President Jonathan Goodluck has won recent presidential elections 57% to 31% against challenger Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader. The election was hailed as being Nigeria’s most free and fair election thus far, although violent rioting was reported in Buhari’s home region in the North.

Algeria:Mounting protests against President Bouteflika’s administration and a call for greater freedoms by the political opposition have led to Algeria’s parliament voting to end the government’s ‘emergency powers,’ which have been in place since 1992.

Gabon:Protests last month in Libreville against the Bongo regime resulted in violence, as security forces attacked unarmed protestors, who rallied in support of opposition politician Andre Mba Obame. Over 30 people were arrested and until recently, Obame had been forced to take refuge at UN Offices in the city. Obame continues to claim to have won the 2009 Gabon presidential election, accusing Francophile Ali Bongo as well as the French government of mass electoral frauds. The International Community, including the Africa Union, continues to ignore Obame’s accusations.