Romero Hayman

Center for Effective Philanthropy, Manager

Romero Hayman is a manager at the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) in Cambridge, MA. CEP is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide management and governance tools to define, assess, and improve overall foundation performance. CEP assessment tool subscribers include such organizations as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Boston Foundation. In his time with CEP, Romero has worked with, and presented to, the senior management and boards of many of the largest foundations in the United States and Canada. Romero is primarily responsible for CEP’s work assessing foundation staffs and boards, and helping foundations use the results of these assessments to make management decisions. He also contributes to CEP’s research and co-authored a report entitled Beyond compliance: The Trustee viewpoint on Effective Foundation Governance.

Aparna Polavarapu, Esq.

Aparna Polavarapu is a lawyer and recently went back to graduate student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she focused her research on promotion of rule of law and women’s rights in post-conflict and developing countries. Graduating with a JD from Georgetown Law School in 2005, she worked as a business attorney, where she specialized in private equity, venture capital and debt finance transactions. Outside of the corporate world, she engaged in pro bono representation of asylum seekers. Her current research involves combining field research with legal analysis to develop more effective and fair rule of law initiatives.

Martha Hopewell

Ms. Hopewell is a creative and energetic leader who has demonstrated a superior ability to work with diverse stakeholders to increase organizational effectiveness. Ms. Hopewell has over 20 years of domestic and international non-profit executive management, consulting, and coaching experience. Ms. Hopewell has undertaken extended assignments in North Africa, the Caribbean, and francophone West Africa, where, as a Field Director, she designed and supervised projects in community mobilization, non-formal education, community health, micro-enterprise and income generation, youth development, and the arts. Ms. Hopewell has consulted with health, education and social service organizations to revitalize their strategic aims, galvanize board and executive leadership, and harness the human, financial, and organizational resources necessary to achieve enhanced impact. Her consulting assignments have been in the United States, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Thailand. Ms. Hopewell is a talented writer and event planner, and enjoys working with clients to develop successful promotional materials, grants, and events to raise visibility, improve outreach, and generate revenue. Currently Ms. Hopewell is the Principal of Seven Centers Consulting – a coaching and strategic planning firm serving progressive, mission focused leaders and their organizations.

Ms. Hopewell received her B.A. in Economics and Urban Studies from Wellesley College in 1979, and her M.Sc. in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics in 1989. She expects to receive her certification as a Professional Co-Active Coach in 2007.

Jean Claude Etheart, MA, MASD

Mr. Etheart serves as the current General Administrator at the Haitian Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Prior to his work at IIJD, Mr. Etheart was a Haitian delegate to the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations and a Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor at SEILA in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He is also the Director of the Board for Haitian Governance. Mr. Etheart has an extensive background in nonprofit management, local governance and decentralization, in both Haiti and the Boston area. He received his Master of Science in Sustainable Development with a concentration in management from the School for International Training. Mr. Etheart also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the Institut Superieur Technique d’ Haiti.

Jonas Mbwangue

Mr. Mbwangue is an agricultural engineer with more than 15 years experience working in developing countries. Before coming to IIJD, he was Executive Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. As a consultant, Mr. Mbwangue has specialized in poverty, social impact analysis, monitoring, evaluation, management and advocacy of health programs in developing countries. Mr. Mbwangue currently works as a consultant for the World Bank Institute in the Rural Poverty & Development Program. He holds a Master of Public Administration from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a degree in Agricultural Engineering from the National Institute for Rural Development at Dschang University in Cameroon.

Dr. John Gay

Dr John Gay brings about 50 years experience working and living in Africa. Since his retirement in 2001, Dr. John Gay has been associated with the Episcopal Divinity School and Boston University. In 2003 he organized a tour of seminary students in South Africa and Lesotho, and also administered a consultation on contextual theology at the Episcopal Divinity School. John has worked on several research and development and study programs for the UNDP, World Bank, FAO, and UNICEF as well as providing technical assistant to several Southern African governments.

Up to his retirement in January 2001 John worked with the Sechaba Consultants on social and economic analysis in Lesotho, worked until March 1992 with the Transformation Resource Centre, as a missionary appointed by the American Episcopal Church. Transformation is an ecumenical organization working for peace, justice and economic development. Before joining Transformation, he worked as a consultant with development projects in Lesotho, as well as in Botswana, Ethiopia and Tanzania. His focus has been on helping people at the bottom of society express their knowledge, goals, problems and beliefs to those in governments and in foreign aid agencies that are planning their future and at the same time, trying to help local colleagues develop research skills of their own. In Lesotho, He worked with agricultural development projects.

Chairperson, social science division, Cuttington University College, Suacoco, Liberia, 1958-65, 1966-68, 1970-73, and dean of instruction, 1958-60, Dr. John served as a missionary for the Episcopal Church at Cuttington University College, with intermittent periods of teaching and studying in the United States. He was at first in charge of the entire academic program, but when a Liberian was appointed to the post of dean of instruction he moved to the position of chairperson of the social sciences division. During his time at Cuttington, he taught social science, conducted his own research, engaged in extension work in the surrounding communities, and supervised student research.

John taught at the National University of Lesotho in sociology and African studies, engaged in his own research and taught students how to be researchers, and for two years he was a Fulbright lecturer. During his first four years in Lesotho, before joining the University, he taught courses in the Anglican theological seminaries in Lesotho and South Africa, on a voluntary basis.

In 1986 John had a fellowship at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he studied the relation between social and economic development in Africa and new ideas in theology. Prior to that he had fellowships at Cambridge University (1975-76) and Stanford University (1965-66), where he wrote up research done in Liberia, and broadened his understanding of research methodology and findings from other research projects.

Dr. Gay has continued to assist with ongoing research at Sechaba Consultants, particularly in the areas of chronic poverty, small businesses and democracy, both in Cambridge and in visits to Lesotho, South Africa and Namibia in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. John is still associated with the Afro barometer democracy study and the Southern African Migration Project. His experience and deeply understanding of the issues Africa now faces have brought him to the International Institute for Justice and Development where. John seat at the IIJD Advisory committee.

Prof. Kwame Frimpong

Professor Kwame Frimpong is a graduate of the University of Ghana and Yale Law School in the United States. He is a Professor of Law and a qualified barrister in Ghana.

He taught at the University of Botswana from 1984 to 2007. Prior to that, he taught briefly at the University of Ghana from 1978 to 1984.  Professor Frimpong was a former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of University of Botswana. He was also the Secretary General of the Southern African Universities Social Science Conference (SAUSSC) from January 1996 to December 1999.

He served as the United Nations Legal Adviser (Observer) to the Commission Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation (popularly known as the Goldstone Commission) under the United Nations Mission to South Africa (UNOMSA), during South Africa’s transition to democratic rule (1992-1994).

Professor Frimpong has since December 2007 returned to his home country, Ghana. He is Professor of Law at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) where he served as the Dean of the Graduate School of Governance, Leadership and Public Management (GSGL&PM) from 2008 to 2010. He has since 20 January 2010 been appointed the Founding Dean of a new Law School at GIMPA.

Professor Frimpong’s research and publications are versatile and cover, criminal law, administration of criminal justice, criminology, penology, prison reform, constitutional law and constitutionalism, human rights, democratic governance, and corruption.

Professor Frimpong is a strong advocate of rule of law, human rights, democratic rule and good governance in Africa.

Prof. Francis Ssekandi

Francis teaches Law at Columbia University Law, Judge at the World Bank Administrative Tribunal and Member Panel of the ICSID Arbitrators. He is the Chairperson of the IIJD Advisory Council.

Mr. Ssekandi has over 35 years of legal practice in various common law and civil law jurisdictions. He has served as Attorney and International Legal in the areas of international project finance, international commercial law, international law and legal and judicial reform, as well as significant experience in adjudication, arbitration, mediation, civil conflict resolution and peacekeeping.

Francis Ssekandi became a Judge of the High Court of Uganda in 1974 and later Justice of Appeal of the currently renamed Supreme Court of Uganda.

Mr. Ssekandi joined the United Nations in 1981 and was a principal legal advisor to the United Nations development programs and was also in charge of the commercial law cluster resolving commercial disputes with the United Nations.

He served over 19 years in the international civil service, as Deputy Director in the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations, Director, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General in Liberia, and General Counsel of the African Development Bank. He negotiated several technical cooperation agreements with governments and initiated many innovative institutional legal models for the delivery of UN programs, including the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the African Management Services Company (AMSCO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and United Nations Compensation Commission after the 1991 Iraq war. He completed a project for legal and judicial reform of the justice sector for the Government of Rwanda, prepared and negotiated Technical Cooperation Agreements for the Government of Timor Leste (East Timor), as a UNDP International Consultant.

In 1996 he became Deputy to the Secretary General’s Special Representative in Liberia, in charge of peacekeeping operations there. In 1997 he was appointed General Counsel of the African Development Bank where he was the anchor for the institutional reforms carried out by President Omar Kabbaj, including revision of the Bank’s Charter to incorporate new voting rights for shareholders, and establishment of an Administrative Tribunal to judge staff disputes. he is a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia University, and is Admitted to the Uganda Bar, the New York Bar, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He serves on the Boards of the IIRR, plays soccer, the ABA/UNDP Resources Centre and the Centre for Peace/War Studies. Published articles and Edited and updated Elias’ New Horizons in International Law

Mr. Francis M. Ssekandi graduated in 1965 with LL.B (Hons) from London and obtained his LL.M from Columbia University in 1966. Francis Ssekandi is Professor of law, Columbia University School of Law,Judge, World Bank Administrative Tribunal and Member Panel of ICSID Arbitrators. He seats at the Board of Directors of the Center for War/Peace Studies. He is the Chairperson of the IIJD Advisory Council.

Call for Action: A call for a peaceful resolution of the post-electoral dispute in Cote d’Ivoire

Dear Mr. President:

I would like to draw your attention to the current trend of events in Cote d’Ivoire.  As you read this letter, this West African country finds itself under threat of war. A war that although ‘strategically planned’ is certain to result in the death of thousands of innocent civilians, and the disturbance of peace and security in the region.  Encouraged by the International Community, some African nations are planning a military intervention in the country in response to an ongoing, but legitimate political dispute over the presidency. The International Institute for Justice and Development (IIJD) believe strongly that peace and justice must always be preserved, especially in the case of Cote d’Ivoire, where circumstances surrounding the current political crisis have raised legitimate questions regarding the rule of law and thus the validity of an Alassane Ouattara presidency. We call upon your leadership now so that together we can resolve the current political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire without resorting to the use of force. 

Description of Current Situation in Cote D’Ivoire

On October 31, 2010, Ivorian citizens went to the polls to elect their president and to regain their right to inclusive democratic elections after many years of civil war. Although the hope was that Cote d’Ivoire would undergo a fair and peaceful transition in governance, a fiercely contested election results have led to the swearing in of two presidents, whose victories have been determined by conflicting decisions made by two of Cote d’Ivoire’s national institutions:  The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Constitutional Council (CC). The President of the IEC, without reaching a consensus as is required by law, declared Alassane Ouattara winner, while the CC, which has ultimate authority in election matters, declared Laurent Gbagbo victor, after reviewing voting reports and irregularities.

From the very beginning of the electoral process, the Electoral Commission’s lack of impartiality was obvious.  Controlled by political parties, it was intentionally designed that way to satisfy all parties to the 2002 peace agreement in order to end a major civil conflict that had divided the country. The IEC, which is comprised of 461 members, is over 90% pro-Ouattara. Gbagbo’s support is limited to a mere 42 members.  In order to have everybody involved in the peace and political process, President Laurent Gbagbo initially agreed to this composition of the IEC because by law, any decision made by the Commission would have to be unanimous and all votes would have to be made both manually and electronically, ensuring a check upon the system. In addition, Laurent Gbagbo knew that the Constitutional Council (CC), whose head is appointed by the president, had final determination on Presidential and legislative elections in Cote d’Ivoire.  The Ivoirian Constitutional Council is victim of the apparent lack of independence common to most African countries’ justice systems in certifying elections rigged by the ruling party.

Both the IEC and the United Nations (UN) were tasked with overseeing and monitoring the October presidential election; however, there were significant obstacles to the successful implementation of this task, which included serious abuses by pro-Ouattara rebel forces in the North, as well as the IEC’s reported tampering with election results. Northern rebel forces loyal to Ouattara refused to disarm before the elections, as was required by the peace agreement. Rebel forces then prevented substantial UN involvement in election preparation and monitoring in the North. Without any protection, Gbagbo’s northern supporters faced serious pressure and violence from opposition and rebel forces. The few international and African election observers that had access in the North documented cases of murder, beatings and intimidation of pro-Gbagbo voters, and ballots were being supervised, stuffed, and carried by rebel forces, contrary to election rules.

As a result of rebel interference, voting irregularities in the North were significant. In addition, in several districts, the IEC mysteriously reported different voting results from independent, international election monitors. For instance, in the district of Bandama, election monitors reported a total of approximately 150,000 votes for Ouattara; however, the local IEC put Ouattara at 245,000 votes, a 95,000 vote surplus that could not be explained. Also, of the 20,073 manual tally-ups of votes submitted for electronic verification, 2,000 were rejected for over-stating the number of registered voters, which altogether accounted for an additional 600,000 votes. Furthermore, the IEC overstepped its authority in unilaterally invalidating absentee voting ballots from over 28 districts in France.

For the election, the IEC was tasked with reviewing and reporting election results and determining the victor through consensus by a designated deadline date, as is required by law. The IEC was also required to report voting irregularities and human rights abuses to the CC, which exercises sole authority over such matters. However, the IEC failed in both regards, first by violating its mandate in announcing Alassane Ouattara’s victory without reaching consensus and well beyond the deadline, and second, by not properly addressing major election and human rights abuses. Shortly after the IEC announced its decision, the  Constitutional Council claimed, after a review of election results and reported irregularities, that incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo had actually won the election, thus invalidating the IEC’s determination—a power it alone possesses under the Ivorian constitution.

When the president of the IEC, Mr. Yousouf Bakayoko appeared at the Golf hotel, which Ouattara had been using as his headquarters, to proclaim well beyond the designated constitutional deadline, that Ouattara had won the election, the IEC had reached a consensus and consolidated the results in only 15 of the 19 electoral areas of Cote d’Ivoire.  No consensus had been reached at that time for four areas under the rebellion’s control, where voting irregularities and violence were observed. However, the results given by the Head of IEC included the contested numbers from the North. By that point, Cote d’Ivoire’s constitution clearly gives the Council final say in determining election results. After examining the claims of irregularities, and analyzing the reports and tallies, the CC partially invalidated some of the fraudulent votes from the northern regions and, after the adjustments were completed, proclaimed Laurent Gbagbo as winner with 51.45% of the vote to Ouattara’s 48.55%. 

The Post-Electoral Dispute

On the basis of the IEC’s results and with increasing support from the International Community (IC), Mr. Alassane Ouattara maintains that he is the elected president. He claims that the CC had abused its authority.  However, in reviewing election results and announcing Gbagbo victor, the CC, which is structured and organized in the same way as the French Constitutional Council, exercised its rights and responsibility as outlined by the Ivorian constitution.  The Council is the supreme authority in these matters. It is vested with the constitutional power to declare an election invalid if improperly conducted, and its decisions are binding on all authorities. Given these facts, Gbagbo has remained steadfast in his assertion that he is the elected president.

The International Response:

From the very beginning of this political crisis, the IC has failed to legitimately address the core issue surrounding this electoral dispute, choosing instead to ignore obvious rule of law violations and to offer unmitigated support to Ouattara. The decision by the IC, as well as the UN (whose responsibility is to remain impartial in contending with such matters), to deny the CC its rights and responsibilities outlined under the Ivorian constitution is completely contrary to the principles of the rule of law and to what the IC has demanded of African nations.  The UN acted particularly incredulously in ratifying the IEC’s provisional results without addressing legitimate claims of human rights abuses and election fraud in the North. The UN’s primary responsibility is ensuring free and fair elections and the protection of human rights. It is expected to respond when violations have occurred, and yet in Cote D’Ivoire, it has completely failed to do so.

The IC’s failure to acknowledge or investigate legitimate concerns raised regarding election fraud as well as the Council’s role in the electoral process is deeply regrettable and counterproductive to establishing an environment for sustainable economic and political development in Africa. Furthermore, the IC, which includes the UN, EU, AU and some ECOWAS members, have also failed to sufficiently justify their decision to support Mr. Alassane Ouattara. They have provided neither legal justification, nor convincing evidence in support of their decision to deny the CC its rightful authority to determine the winner under the Ivorian constitution. Given this fact, the IC cannot justify the use of force against any party to the dispute, particularly since the IC rarely ever took such a strong stance on African issues, even in cases of atrocious human rights abuses.                              

The IIJD’s Contribution:

The International Institute for Justice and Development (IIJD) believes the concerns outlined above to be of critical importance to the people of Cote d’Ivoire, as well as to neighboring countries, the sub-region, Africa and the world.  The electoral process must be fair, transparent and impartial for everyone.  All institutions and individuals involved in administrating and observing elections must be held to those principles.  No institution, be it the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), or the Constitutional Council should be manipulated and/or permitted to bypass those principles.   This is a matter in which justice, a necessary condition for peace and security, must take precedence over political expediency and the narrow interests of a few. International organizations, especially the UN, AU and ECOWAS, should act responsibly to find a peaceful and just solution to the crisis, as dictated by the facts and the best interests of the people of Cote d’Ivoire. 

As an organization that promotes the principles of democratic governance and rule of law, the IIJD has a firm position on democracy in Africa. However, given the facts in this case, nobody could say with certitude today that either Mr. Ouattara or Mr. Gbagbo has won the presidential election in Cote d’Ivoire.  That is why we call upon all parties, including the international community, to exercise restraint in order to ensure the safety and security of all Ivoirians and to seek a just resolution of the situation that first and foremost respects the rule of law and ensures that basic democratic principles are protected.  In order to preserve peace and avoid another war in Cote d’Ivoire, the IIJD proposes the implementation of one or more of the following options: 

  1. A complete review of the election results including investigating the irregularities and recounting of all the votes to determine the real winner of the presidential election. 
  2. The reorganization of vote in areas where results have been credibly disputed, including all areas where acts of violence and intimidation by security or rebel forces were observed by objective third parties.
  3. The implementation of a second election or ‘run-off’ throughout the entire country.

The above three options should be organized, supervised and observed by an independent group composed of reputable NGOs, respected and well-known world leaders and other reputable democratic governance professionals. The IIJD strongly believes that implementing one of the above-mentioned options will ensure respect for the rule of law and due consideration for the circumstances surrounding the dispute.  Furthermore, none of these three options should be viewed as too costly, given the price Ivorians will pay if they must again experience war.

Africa has suffered through generations of war, genocide, economic devastation and political chaos. It is time for a new era of American leadership that promotes real democratic reform, justice and the protection of human rights in Africa. We call upon your leadership in resolving this situation peacefully and with due respect for the rule of law.

The whole continent is observing you.  We firmly believe that with your support, the Ivorian people, and all parties to the dispute, will finally be provided what they have been so wrongly denied thus far: a fair opportunity to justice.     

On behalf of the present and future generations of Africans, we thank you for your consideration of our appeal.

With my highest esteem and sincerest consideration,

Benjamin Ngachoko

President & C.E.O


Recipients list

Barack ObamaUS President
Ban Ki-MoonUN Secretary General
Hillary ClintonU.S. Secretary of State
Nicolas SarkozyFrench President
Johnnie CarsonU.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Ambassador Ivan BarbalicPermanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UN
Ambassador Philip ParhamPermanent Representative of United Kingdom to the UN
Ambassador Zhang YesuiPermanent Mission of the PRC to the UN
Ambassador Vitaly ChurkinPermanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN
Ambassador Sir John SawersPermanent Mission of the UK to the UN
Ambassador Susan RicePermanent Mission of the US to the UN
Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes CabralPermanent Representative of Portugal to the UN
Ambassador Hardeep Singh PuriPermanent Representative India at the United Nations
Ambassador Thomas Mayr-HartingPermanent Mission of Austria to the UN
Ambassador Baso SangquPermanent Representative of South Africa to the UN
Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-NgondetPermanent Representative Gabon to the UN
Ambassador Michel KafandoPermanent Mission of Burkina Faso to the UN
Ambassador Nestor Osorio LondonoPermanent Representative of Columbia to the United Nations
Ambassador Peter WittigPermanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations
Ambassador Li BaodongPermanent Representative of  China to the United Nation
Ing. Mirek TopolánekPresident of the European Union
Ambassador Luiza Ribeiro ViottiPermanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nation
Ambassador Nawaf SalamPermanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nation
Ambassador Jorge UrbinaPermanent Mission of Costa Rica  to the UN
Ambassador  Gerard AraudPermanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Christopher H. SmithChairman, House Subcommittee on African Affairs
Dr. Mohamed Ibn ChambasECOWAS CEO
Jean PingChairperson, African Union
John KerryChair US Senate Foreign Relation

IIJD Call for Action: Niger Fragile Democracy at Stake

The International Institute for Justice and Development (IIJD), Inc. calls upon the United Nations and the international community to take a stronger stance against the undemocratic and illegal actions committed by President Tandja towards systematically dismantling Niger’s democratic institutions.

After adopting a new constitution in 1999 that established democratic institutions, President Tandja took office through generally fair and free elections – a milestone in Nigerien history. In the 2004 elections, a test of the new Nigerien democracy, voters chose President Tandja, making him the first democratically re-elected incumbent in the independent country.

The IIJD believes that the steps taken by President Tandja in recent months, however, have compromised his democratic credentials, undermined the legitimacy of his mandate, and betrayed the faith of the Nigerien people who twice elected him. President Tandja, nearing the end of his time in office, has sought to amend the constitution to abolish the limit on presidential terms, allowing him to rule indefinitely. Article 36 of the 1999 constitution specifically mandates that a president, elected for five-year terms, is eligible for only one re-election. Article 136 further specifies that “articles 36 and 141…of the present constitution cannot be subject to any revision.”

Upon being sworn in, President Tandja pledged to “respect and enforce respect for the constitution.” In 2007, the President interviewed with Le Monde and made it clear that he would “step down after his 2nd term.” As late as March 2009, the President – in speaking with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France – reaffirmed that he would respect the current constitution and step down when his time in office expired in December 2009.

President Tandja’s actions since that time have clearly been unconstitutional and illegal. The Constitutional Court on May 25th,2009 ruled that any referendum to create a new constitution would be unconstitutional. The next day, President Tandja dissolved the Parliament, becoming the de facto sole authority in Niger. On June 2nd, he signed a decree appointing a committee of only a small handful of politicians to write a new constitution. The Constitutional Court twice more reaffirmed that a referendum seeking to amend presidential term limits would be illegal. On June 29th, President Tandja dissolved the constitutional court. That same day, President Tandja invoked Article 53 and assumed emergency powers.

The IIJD is concerned by these recent actions that are reminiscent of Niger’s more authoritarian era. President Tandja’s drastic actions to stay in office have been accompanied by a blatant disregard for Nigerien civil society and far-ranging suppression of dissent. President Tandja’s administration has categorically ignored requests by the National bar association to respect the Constitutional Court rulings.  Women and independent journalists protesting the recent events were dispersed at various points leading up to the referendum. State media carried only pro-referendum and Tandja messages, while a private TV station that broadcast a message critical of the President was temporarily shut down. The Administration has ignored protests from the Democratic and Social Convention (CDS), a former coalition partner of President Tandja’s National Movement for the Development of Society (MNSD) in parliament. The CDS withdrew its eight ministers from the cabinet, calling upon the President to respect the Constitutional Court’s verdict. The international community must strongly oppose such actions and use its influence to restore democratic practices.

The democratic gains that Niger has made since being embroiled in an era of coups and re-coups have been worthy of praise and set an example for its neighbors. Recent events, which demonstrate disregard for the other branches of government and for democratic procedure, have compromised such gains and jeopardized Niger’s democratic legacy. President Tandja has severely weakened, and perhaps destroyed, the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary. In dissolving both the Parliament and Constitutional Court, he has disrupted the balance and separation of powers that the IIJD believes are integral to a stable and prosperous democracy. President Tandja’s referendum seeks to create an entirely new constitution written, not by a legislature, but by a five-person panel appointed by the President. If the results of the illegal referendum were to be upheld, it would allow President Tandja unchecked executive powers for an indefinite number of terms.

Niger is only one in a series of African countries in which the executive has flouted the constitution and the established democratic institutions in order to maintain power. The IIJD strongly believes that the United Nations, along with the rest of international community, must do everything in its power to ensure that Niger’s democratic gains are protected and that a strong message is delivered: countries that blatantly disregard their democratic principles will not be condoned nor ignored. Without action, Niger is heading back towards the instability that plagued its people in past decades. President Tandja’s administration is placing Niger’s peace, stability, and opportunity for possible long-term prosperity in severe jeopardy.

With Niger’s hard-won, yet still vulnerable democracy poised for possible destruction, the IIJD urges you to take firmer action to restore the constitution and its proper procedures.

With my highest esteem and sincere considerations,

Benjamin Ngachoko

President and CEO

International Institute for Justice and Development

IIJD Call for Action: Mr. Paul Biya’s threat to democratization in Cameroon

We are writing to ask for your desperately needed help in response to the urgent threat to democracy that is currently occurring in Cameroon.  As Paul Biya continues to push for a modification to article 6.2 of the constitution that would allow him to extend his tenure beyond 2011 so too does the voice of the Cameroonian people clamor ever louder for permanent respite from his tyranny.

Greater pressure must be exerted by the international community on this corrupt government and it’s tyrannical leader to scrap their plans for modifying the constitution.  Biya has already revised the law once to extend his mandate; he will do it again to maintain his iron grip on power.

The demonstrations of the past couple of months following Biya’s initial proposal to modify the constitution in December are symptoms of the growing discontent of the people of Cameroon.  We have seen these demonstrations grow in strength and number, the most violent occurring just a few weeks ago before once again being suppressed by Biya’s brutal forces of order.  As his tyranny grows so too will the anger of the people; if democracy suffers another wounding blow the reaction will only grow ever stronger.  For this reason we implore you to heal these wounds before they become untreatable and the country descends into civil war.

Action on your part now will be far more achievable and far less costly as opposed to later intervention when matters have reached boiling point.  Please do not stand by to watch another potentially peaceful and prosperous African country go the way of her sisters.  International aid is already stretched to its limit; African soil is already saturated with blood.  Please intervene now before a flood of misery and destitution drains the life out of Cameroon.

Paul Biya has been in power since 1982.  In that time the economy’s growth rate has more than halved despite Cameroon’s wealth of natural resources.  He has plundered these resources for his own gain; he has brutally oppressed the people he should be protecting.  He is responsible for the destruction of his people’s freedoms and rights: the inalienable right of his people to free and fair elections, the right to free speech, the right to free and fair trials, the right to free movement and the right to life.  Paul Biya will continue to fight for power with more determination than ever.  If democracy prevails he knows that he shall be held accountable for his actions.

Hilaire Kamga, representative of the civil society platform and currently in the USA campaigning for Cameroon, is calling for an independent enquiry.  We at the IIJD fully support his call for a review, in line with the democratic process.  Kamga equally criticises those who believe that a change can only be brought about by violent means, by insurrection, revolution or even a coup d’état.  Such regime change is endemic to the history of modern Africa yet has rarely proven to yield positive change, merely replacing one violent regime with another.  It is not simply that the head of this corrupt system in Cameroon must go but that the whole system must change.  If not, a new man in power will become just as corrupt as the last, a victim to this untenable system.

Kamga says “We have to find the means of avoiding the worst by constructing realistic mechanisms that are efficient and credible, that may permit the citizens to find confidence in their country without being drawn into dead-end political options”

The only way to bring about real positive change in Cameroon is through democratic means.  A constitution should not be changed if it is to the detriment of democracy and the negation of the rights of the people, but to ensure the independence of the executive, legislative and justice branches of government, to ensure a free and fair legal system, to increase the transparency and accountability of the branches of government and to ensure the fundamental need for free, fair, and frequent elections.

When the system starts to function in a democratic manner it will become its own defense against corruption and tyranny.  We encourage an independent enquiry into the modification of the constitution and for a pressure to be put on Biya to call a halt to his project of tyranny.

We believe that the constitution of Cameroon is in need of modification but this must only be done in the interests of the people. The modification of article 6.2 will only allow Paul Biya to continue to plunder Cameroon for his own gain and continue to send Cameroon spiralling into the dark ages.  By continuing to provide financial aid to this regime foreign governments are only lining the pockets of corrupt government officials and paying for the brutal suppression of a people, smothering their calls for freedom and justice and precipitating the decline into poverty and misery. Action must be taken now.

If something is not done Cameroon will descend into civil war. If demonstrations have been violent before the change imagine the chaos if the change is implemented.  The people of Cameroon will not back down in their fight for a free and fair democracy and fair and transparent system of justice in their country.  We must ensure that their fight and their energy be a peaceful one to end this tale of woe.

Thank you for your commitment to this urgent issue

Yours Sincerely,

Benjamin Ngachoko

President and CEO

International Institute for Justice and Development

List of Recipients

  • Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General
  • Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State
  • Gordon Brown,  UK Prime Minister
  • Jendayi Frazer, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Africa
  • Peter Ogego,  Ambassador of Kenya to the U.S.
  • Ambassador Jean-Maurrice Ripert , Permanent Mission of France to the UN
  • Ambassador Wang Guangya, Permanent Mission of the PRC to the UN
  • Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN
  • Ambassador Sir John Sawers, Permanent Mission of the UK to the UN
  • Ambassador Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, Permanent Mission of the US to the UN
  • Ambassador Johan C. Verbeke, Permanent Mission of Belgium to the UN
  • Ambassador Jorge Urbina, Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN
  • Ambassador Dr. R. M. Marty M. Natalegawa, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the UN
  • Ambassador Zachary Dominic Muburi-Muita, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kenya to the UN
  • Ambassador Mirjana Mladineo, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Croatia to the UN
  • Ambassador Michel Kafando, Permanent Mission of Burkina Faso to the UN
  • Ambassador Le Luong Minh, Permanent Mission of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to the UN
  • Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo,  Permanent Mission of the Republic of South Africa to the UN
  • Ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias, Permanent Mission of Panama to the UN
  • Ambassador Mr Giadalla A. Ettalhi, Permanent Mission of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the UN
  • Ambassador Marcello Spatafora, Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN

IIJD Call for Action: Democratic Hopes for Zimbabwe Threatened by Government Repression

The recent developments in Zimbabwe have given rise to concern about human rights and the advancement of democracy in the country. The IIJD has been closely following the situation in Zimbabwe and calls for the stakeholders in the international community to take a stronger stance against the systematic dismantling of democratic processes and silencing of opposition by the Mugabe administration.

IIJD Call for Action: The Central African Republic on the Verge of Collapse

The IIJD calls upon the United Nations and the international community to recognize and take action on the alarming situation that is currently developing in the Central African Republic (CAR). For many years the CAR has been teetering on the edge of chaos and recent developments have only led to a more inevitable collapse. In a country now overrun with violence, fear and lawlessness, only a swift, deliberate and concentrated United Nations, African Union, and local government effort will be able to create peace and stability. With the lives of hundreds of thousands of Central Africans now in danger, immediate action is necessary.

IIJD Call for Action: Fatou Jaw Manneh Remains in Gambia

UPDATED: The IIJD continues its call for action to release journalist Fatou Jaw Manneh, who was held by the Gambian government on charges of sedition after giving a critical interview accusing the president of inaction and betrayal. The day before her trial recommenced on June 27th, her charges were amended “to false publication with intent to cause alarm and fear in society and uttering seditious words.” This provides hope for those working to help Manneh, because according to The Gambia Echo, amending a charge translates to a lesser penalty in the case of conviction. However, this amendment also indicates foul play on the part of the prosecution that knows it cannot win on the original charges of sedition and so is moving to a misdemeanor charge that it feels it can win.

On June 27, the second prosecution witness, Mr. Basiru Gassama, completed his testimony against Manneh, reading excerpts of the interview for which Manneh was charged with sedition, citing her criticism and frustration with the Gambian president Yahya Jammeh and her insinuation that he should be replaced. However, it became apparent in his testimony that he did not posses the vocabulary necessary to understand the meaning of many of Manneh’s comments, and merely understood that she was criticizing his president in a way he didn’t agree with. In an important development, the judge in the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court has ruled that the charges brought against Manneh are offenses in the Gambia, and that it should be transferred from the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court to the Banjul Magistrate’s court according to the Daily Observer in Banjul. The Judge in Kanifing felt the jurisdiction of the Banjul Magistrate’s court is better equipped to hear the case because that is where the article was first read and where the sedition charge was first voiced. The trial continues in Banjul, and Fatou Jaw Manneh remains in the Gambia as her trial moves forward.

Click here to read the Letter to the Gambian Ambassador to the UN – April 2007

Click here for an update on the Freedom of Speech Tried in Gambia – May 2007

IIJD Call for Action: Presidential Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

In light of recent developments after the elections in the DRC, the IIJD calls upon the international community to set high standards for future elections. Doing this will ensure that other countries will not have the same difficulties that the DRC is having right now.

Conclusion on the IIJD’s African Land Grab Series

In the previous articles, unexposed issues, property, economic, food, and environmental rights have been discussed relating to land grabs in Africa.  As one can see, land grabs are not only an issue of property and land titles, but also an issue of economic self-determination, food and water security, and environmental justice.  For centuries, Africans have fought to control their own governments, economies and societies as independent people with human rights.  However, the continuance of land grabbing prevents the realization of African self-determination and all that self-determination encompasses.

As we move deeper into a world in which businesses know no boundaries and increasingly become entities unto themselves, there becomes a greater necessity for corporate responsibility.  Corporate responsibility includes fair labor standards, fair wages, sustainable resource extraction, and industrial processes that create the least amount of pollution possible.  Furthermore, corporations have a responsibility to respect the cultures of the communities where they do business and abstain from any practices that threaten the cultural existence of those people they meet.  Economic growth is essential to all societies and without industry the human experience would be more difficult than it currently is.  However, growth and profit-making should not come at the expense of social justice and environmental protection because without either social justice or environmental protection profit-making will not continue either.  Land grabs are anything but corporate responsibility as they put the primary focus on profit-making and completely ignore the rights and culture of the African people they affect.

African governments and non-African governments also have responsibilities to their people and as members of the international community.  Their responsibilities are to uphold their constitutions and abide by the international laws they are party to and to develop laws where there is a need.  The state must act to protect the social, economic, environmental, and cultural interests of its people.  Moreover, the State must do all these things transparently; otherwise, there can be little legitimacy in the eyes of its people.  Land grabs are lacking on all these points making any business deals achieved in this nature illegitimate.  The legitimacy of African governments is especially pertinent to the land grabs issue as corruption is a huge problem in general for African countries.  As stated throughout the African Land Grab series, the reason for land grabs is not so much a lack of laws making them illegal, but a lack of enforcement for the laws that exist.  In this way, land grabs are that much worse because they are already illegal and not merely unjust, based on many African national laws and certainly by African Union standards.

Undoubtedly, land reform is a serious issue that must be tackled on the African continent.  While the concept of land titles may not be culturally relevant to all African people, a land registration system has merit because it can protect people from being removed from their land.  However, this is not to say that all African land tenure customs should be forgotten in lieu of international practices.  Instead, land tenure systems must be both culturally relevant as well as consistent with international practices to attract business and investment.  This is the only way to both justice and sustainability.  African civic engagement is one way to bring forth these changes in land management.  Africans who know about their rights regarding land, economics, food security, and the environment have a responsibility to bestow that knowledge on fellow Africans, and if African communities work together they can generate governmental change within their countries.

The illegitimacy of the institutional infrastructure supporting African land grab: unexposed issues

Since the global economic downturn and food price spike of 2007, the Land Matrix project found that between 2000 and 2010 a total of 203 million hectares of African land were leased to foreign countries or investors.   A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an article written by Liz Alden Wily about how African governments allow farmers to be pushed off their land. I read the article with great interest and agreed with most of what Liz wrote, but one thing struck me hard. I could not stop thinking about one remark she made about African ownership of their land: that Africans are not legal owners because they possess no title, as required by [inherited colonial] laws, to prove ownership. This remark is unsettling because it should not be a matter of debate that Africans own their lands.

The legacy of European colonization had a profound impact on government institutions of African countries. Today, their legal frameworks remain a combination of common or civil laws introduced during colonization, long standing customary and traditional practices, and, in some places, Sharia (Islamic) law. African countries have enacted new laws to focus on specific issues of trade and commerce. The body of colonial era laws and codes has evolved little, even after re-drafting new constitutions in the 1980s and 1990s. Historically, Africans have had customary rules and traditions about land ownership and land trades. These ownership rules predated colonization.

The end of colonization should have been the end of colonial laws. Sadly, the established system morphed into the system that exists today. If we assume that Africans’ customary rules on land ownership have no value, then the current assumption stands. However, the constant and undeniable fact is that Africans’ ownership of their land precedes the existence of current corrupt governments or dictatorships. Transfer of land in conformity with local traditional rules still prevails in most places.

Lack Of Awareness

Land ownership is one of the most personal issues, and many wars have erupted over land disputes.  Africans’ lack of action derives from the fact that they are mostly uninformed about  laws that have made them tenants on their own lands. Africans are simply not aware that their land was taken away a few decades ago by the stroke of a pen during colonization. Africans in large part are not awake to this injustice, even though it’s more personal and a matter of survival for almost all families and communities in Africa.  Those governments, who have failed to develop the continent and prevented the able and willing among their own people from taking over to make progress, are now completely ceding the land.

The Significance Of Registering The Land

The requirement to register land is not and should not be viewed as establishing or creating property or the right to the land, but as merely documenting proof of ownership. Those are two different issues in regards to ownership. African communities know what their ancestral lands are; no government should be able to take that away.  Furthermore, registering a piece of land is expensive and out of reach to most Africans; how could anyone place such a burden on people who have owned the land for millennia? The unfairness of the inherited colonial laws and systems should have been destroyed with the end of colonization. It’s unfortunate that these foreign laws, even under revised form, are now being enforced to cede African land, for the benefit of a few.

The Colossal Contracdictions Behing Land Grab

Africans are being forced to leave their land, and are tortured and sent to jail for refusing to give up their land to foreign investors (e.g. China, the Middle East, Europe, the  United states of America) or local political barons and privileged elite. There are many cases where communities and families have been displaced, including a Cameroonian man who was recently jailed for refusing to cede his ancestral land to Chinese investors. Those taking the land are using it to grow food mainly for exports and their own country’s consumption. How does anyone explain that at the time when people are dying from hunger in Sudan and Somalia, these countries’ lands are being given to foreign “investors” to grow food for Middle Eastern consumption? Government leaders take the money to fill their own pockets and leave their own people famished. 

Most of those African leaders making such decisions came to power and are staying there through illegitimate means. Governments are putting lands in the hands of the highest bidders under the guise of development programs to benefit Africans.  African leaders treat their countries’ resources like personal property; as a consequence, the primary beneficiaries of this “land grab” are everyone but African farmers or their communities. Africa should be part of international commerce, and of course all countries, including African countries want foreign investments, however, this should not be at the expense of the only thing Africans can hold on to: their ancestral lands.

For those investors coming for the gold rush, they need to ask themselves if these land deals provide them with the certainty and security that they seek for their investments.  They should think twice before dealing with African leaders who do not hold the interests of their own people at heart. If theses leaders do not protect their own people’s interests, why would they care much about what happens to other’s investments?  Investors should stop relying on corrupt leaders or they may end up seeing their investments vanish with the dictatorships that enabled them. 

The Need For Reform

African and European scholars are advocating for more fairness and equity, but their voices are eclipsed by the lack of action by Africans themselves. As if getting rid of dictators wasn’t enough, Africans now have to reassert their ownership over their ancestral lands in a way that denies anyone the ability to make them once more slaves in their own land.

This is why institutional reform is paramount for Africa’s development. If electoral cycles aiming to change presidents are the goal for most, then we are all missing the point. African countries need an institutional foundation that embraces African customs and addresses the needs of their own people. The current system is so inadequate that we urge the African Union and other international organizations to recognize African lands as owned by African people and local communities, and to accept African customary rules on land ownership so as to secure the stability of the continent and peace in the world.  Now is the time to prevent future conflicts over land in Africa.

The Responibilities Of The Sons And Daugthers Of Africa

Action needs to be taken before it’s too late and the world finds itself with major conflicts over land in Africa.  Sons and daughters of Africa should be making the work of African and Western scholars like Liz Alden easier by joining in the process and making sure that not only unjust laws are changed, but that loopholes are eliminated. They should also ensure that local communities have a say in how lands are ceded or leased to local or foreign investors. This is not about regime change, but about securing the only place on which Africans can stand to build a better future for themselves.  Irresponsible governments should lose their ability to jeopardize the future of Africans even further than the damage they have already caused. The land expropriation is happening with the blessings of so-called adopted colonial laws. Slavery and colonization needed local agents and traitors to make the impact it did make on Africa.

The idea that 90% of land is not “legally registered” and therefore does not belong to their rightful owners should not be allowed to stand. Africans are not tenants to governments (democratically elected or not) that behave like agents serving the interests of all but their own people. Dictatorships are universally recognized as destructive for their own country and people.

The African continent is evolving and changing rapidly. Land grab may be the true catalyst for the revolution to rid African countries of all dictatorships.  This issue may end up raising African consciousness and help them finally take control of their resources. For Africans still asleep, please do not wake up in the future and ask how slavery and colonization happened. It is your responsibility to stand up and act today. Just remember the wise words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

More Articles In This Series To Follow:

Land grabs are not only displacing people from the ancestral lands they have lived on for centuries, creating a property rights issue, but are also affecting people’s economic, environmental and cultural rights. Thus, land grabs present several distinct, but interconnected rights issues for many present-day Africans, especially rural Africans, women, and small-scale farmers.  Often none of these injustices stand alone and frequently one begets the other. The following article series Land Grabs in Africa will seek to describe the different parties leasing/buying land in Africa, what becomes of the land that is leased/bought, and the consequences of land grabs for the majority of Africans who are negatively affected.  More importantly, however, this series will also advocate for reformed land policy in Africa to safeguard people and communities rights.

Food and Water for Sale: The Impact of Land Grabs on the Right to Food in Africa

Africans are no strangers to the issue of food and water insecurity, and land grabs only serve to exacerbate these insecurities on the continent. Often inhospitable climatic conditions and lack of access to modern technology make farming difficult for African farmers.  However, added difficulties arise when those pockets of land that are farmable are taken from Africans who depend on that land for their food source.  Ironically, many of the land grabs taking place are for the purpose of other countries’ food security.  Thus, this article on land grabs will focus on the right to food and water and how land grabs infringe on those rights.

Large-Scale VS. Small-Scale Agriculture

If the state is selling away land that is used by its people to cultivate their own food then this creates a serious issue of food and water security and injustice.  When the majority of a continent’s population relies on individual plots of land for food production and water security, selling that land without consent of the people denies availability, accessibility, and adequacy in regards to food production.  Furthermore, the State usually does not supply any substitute land for the community in which land is taken from nor is the land generally used for the benefit of the local community.  Any agribusiness that takes place is large-scale, and most of the produce goes outside of the country and the continent. 

In some cases, large foreign agri-business employs farmers from the community to grow whichever raw material the business is producing.  However, these deals often do not work for the farmer, as he cannot yield the demand of the large corporation.  When he cannot yield the demand he loses his contract with the large corporation as well as his income and land.  Many agriculture and climate change experts are now reporting that small-scale farming may be more sustainable in the long-term.  Large-scale farming is hard on the soil and requires copious amounts of water.  Additionally, monoculture economies are not beneficial for African societies especially when “Africa continues to be a net importer of food despite an abundance of fertile land and water.”(1)     Instead, organizations like the U.S.-based Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) are teaching people about their property rights and providing grants to African states so that they may create registry systems or strengthen existing agencies.  MCC argues that “[f]or a poor, rural family, access to a small farm plot can be vital to day-to-day survival, providing family members with food, household income and the possibility of working their way out of poverty.”(2)

The Right to Food and Water

The right to food and water is characterized as the right of all human beings to feed themselves either by producing their own food or by purchasing food.  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food defines this right as “The right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people which the consumer belongs, and which ensure a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear.”(3)   The right to food and water is about availability, accessibility, and adequacy.  This means that in the case of subsistence farming the State is tasked with enabling access to seeds, tools, and water; opening lines of credit to purchase these items; and protecting the property rights of small-scale farmers.  In the case of purchasing food it is the State’s responsibility to ensure both fair wages and adequate infrastructure so that people can travel reasonable distances to buy available foodstuffs.  The right to food and water is not about ensuring a minimum number of calories, proteins, and other nutrients each day or the right to be fed.  Instead this right is about ensuring the ability of one to feed one’s self and one’s family.(4) 

Much research has been done about the relationship between food and water scarcity and conflict.  Water expert Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security has studied around 225 conflicts dating back 5,000 years directly related to water.  Additionally, Letitia Obeng, chair of the Global Water Partnership believes that “ncreasing water insecurity in rural areas… is likely to bring worsening food security and more migration to cities, which in turn will have problems supplying enough water to their inhabitants. That is likely to lead to growing conflict and, in extreme cases, failure of fragile states.”  Therefore, enabling availability, access, and adequate supplies of food and water is not only important for one’s personal health, but also the health of society, especially politically fragile African countries.

Many international and national legal instruments exist to promote and protect the right to food and water.  Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights promotes the right to food and water as well as Article 11 Sections (2)(a) and (2)(b) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.  Specific international legal instruments such as Conventions on the Rights of the Child Article 24 (2)(c), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Article 12 (2), and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Article 25 (f) and 28 (1) also support the right to food and water.  In the case of African states, there are also regional instruments like the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003) that also call for the right to food and water (5).   

As parties to the international and regional legal instruments promoting the right to food and water, African governments are compelled to integrate these laws into their own national laws and enforce them.  Accordingly, any land deals that negate the right to produce or purchase food for one’s self is unjust.  Clearly the land deals being struck between African governments and foreign parties are negating the right to food and water for many people.  Furthermore, it is largely disappointing that a continent with such ample supplies of fertile land and underground stores of water also houses some of the hungriest and impoverished people in the world.  Therefore, this signals an institutional problem rather than a problem of resources.  Indeed, currently food and water security are not about a global food shortage, but instead about a food system that does not allow access for all to the food that is available.  Land grabs in Africa only intensify this problem (6).

In the following article for the African Land Grab Series, environmental injustice caused by economic development will be explored as it relates to land grabs in Africa.

Land Grabs and the Continued Fight for African Economic Self-determination

For the majority of Africans, their economic livelihoods are tied directly to the land on which they live.  When Africans are forced to leave their land due to land grabs, they are also being forced to leave their livelihoods.  Therefore, land grabs not only infringe upon Africans’ property rights; they also infringe upon Africans’ economic rights.  The struggle for economic rights has been the cornerstone of the modern African state since decolonization.  Aside from ending the racial discrimination that Africans suffered under colonization, the push for decolonization was also motivated by the right of Africans to reap the economic benefits of their own labor and the natural resources of their continent.  Land grabs perpetuate the same economic disenfranchisement that Africans suffered under colonization making land grabs neo-colonial in nature.  Ironically, these neo-colonial land deals have been promoted as development focused investments.  However, one must argue that while increased investment in Africa is necessary to extend Africa’s growth and development, any land deal that forces Africans off their land and away from their work are not beneficial for Africans or Africa, never mind unjust. 

Economic self-determination is the idea that all nations of people have the right to decide how their country’s resources will be utilized.  This includes resources such as minerals, metals, timber, produce, human labor, water, and of course land.  As with property rights, there are also many interregional and international laws that protect economic rights.  Within the Banjul Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples there exist specific articles that protect the right to self-determination as it pertains to economy.  Furthermore, the United Nations’ Resolution 1803 on Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources Article 1 states “The right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources must be exercised in the interest of their national development and of the well-being of the people of the State concerned.”(1)  

The Push for International Investment

Nevertheless, with reference to land grabs, existing laws have largely been ignored in the interests of biofuel production, food and water security for foreign nations, and of course, money.  Aside from the income that such land grabs provide for corrupt African government officials and African elites, there has also been great pressure from the international financial community on African governments for economic policies that open African borders to foreign investment.  Their argument is that increased foreign investment in Africa will promote all-around societal development, which will include the rural communities most affected by the land grabs.  However, the efficacy of this argument is flawed as the majority of Africans, especially those who are being removed from their land, rarely see any type of economic benefit.  As most Africans rely on subsistence farming to feed themselves, their families, and for income, mere eviction from their land creates economic injustice.  Further economic injustice takes place when the majority of the African population sees no benefit from the raw materials and natural resources extracted from their national lands by foreign corporations.  At the very least, leased land could potentially bring in steady tax revenue, but in some cases the land is leased tax-free.  Recently, the Sudanese government struck a lease deal with a Saudi business for 2 million acres of tax-free farming (2).   Additionally, foreign governments and corporations are also buying land at bargain prices, often less than 1-dollar USD per hectare (3).   In Cameroon, the government has already sold or leased about 1,235,500 acres (or 500 thousand hectares) of land out of 4,942,107 acres (or 2 million hectares) requested (4) .
The land deals with foreign investors frequently promise employment, schools, and infrastructure projects, but Africans rarely see any of these promises come to fruition.  Thus, the economic injustice suffered by Africans, especially rural Africans, goes hand in hand with the loss of property. 

Taking Responsibility

Several parties must be held responsible for any economic disenfranchisement that land grabs create for everyday Africans.  The foreign countries and corporations buying land must remember the interests of the foreign citizens whose lives their deals are effecting.  In fact, Resolution 1803 also holds foreign parties responsible for not infringing on sovereignty over natural resources stating “Foreign investment agreements freely entered into by or between sovereign States shall be observed in good faith; States and international organizations shall strictly and conscientiously respect the sovereignty of peoples and nations over their natural wealth and resources.” (5)   African governments must also strive to protect the interests of their people and the resources their territories have been favored with.  This is not only their legal responsibility, but also the legacy of decolonization they must uphold.  Finally, it is also the responsibility of African citizens to prevent land grabs.  African citizens must mobilize as communities who will not tolerate government corruption. 


In the next article on the African Land Grab series, the focus will be on food and water rights that have been largely affected by the leasing and buying of African land.

The Environmental Destruction and Resource Exploitation of African Land Grabs

In addition to infringing on property rights, economic rights, and food and water rights, land grabs have also significantly violated the environmental rights of African people.  Environmental rights assert that all human beings deserve to live in a clean, healthy environment regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, religion, and/or gender, and future generations deserve an environment in which they can continue to live and thrive.  Environmental injustice happens when environmental degradation not only takes place, but the environment of disenfranchised, poor communities is destroyed.  This is often the case with African communities forced to leave their land.  The ways in which land from land grabs is used is often detrimental to existing ecosystems, and research has shown that when communities’ environments are damaged the result is violent conflict.  To take away one’s land is certainly unjust, but to destroy an ecosystem leaving it unfit for further human use is blatant injustice.  In this article on environmental rights and land grabs, I will discuss the environmental degradation that often comes with land grabs as well as the existing laws that protect people’s environments. 

Economic Development or Environmental Injustice?

As briefly discussed in the previous articles on land grabs, resource extraction, agribusiness, and industry are the predominant usages for land taken through land grabs.  Timber, mining, and oil production are relatively old industries in Africa dating back to colonialism while growing produce for biofuels is relatively new.  All these industries are incredibly detrimental to the environment in that they cause deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water and soil pollution.  They are not only incredibly detrimental to the land, but also to human health for both the laborers working the mines and the communities living nearby.  The byproducts from the industrial process are often toxic and hazardous to human health and end up in the natural water sources around the industrial sites.  Moreover, these industries, especially agribusiness, require extensive amounts of water that is already a scarce resource in Africa.

In addition to the negative side effects of biofuel production, waste distancing is another relatively new environmental challenge for Africa.  Waste distancing is when a rich government or community is able to pay to have their waste dumped within or nearby an impoverished community.  One of the first environmental justice cases on waste distancing happened in Koko, Nigeria where a farmer was paid a small fee to take toxic-waste drums from Italy[1].    In Ghana, children drag magnets through e-waste landfills hoping to collect metals like coltan, gold, and tungsten that are used in electronic devices. Those metals are then bought by Chinese brokers and reused in new electronic products[2].   A number of studies on environmental justice have shown that “poor neighborhoods and communities, including those made up largely of people of color or Native peoples, tend to be targeted for the siting of landfills and other toxic activities”[3]  because they usually do not have the resources or political clout to resist the waste dumping and need the income that waste scavenging brings in.

Protecting Human Rights and Human Habitats

Because of the impending negative environmental and social consequences of climate change, environmental protection is an increasingly important endeavor for governments and communities all over the world.  This is especially true for Africa as it is expected to experience some of the worst effects from global climate change.  Many international laws have been implemented to protect environmental rights, prevent biodiversity loss, and promote sustainable resource development.  The African Union Convention on the Conservation of Natural Resources was created to promote the sustainable development of African resources while also protecting the surrounding ecosystem from exploitation and pollution.  Additionally, there are two conventions that prohibit waste distancing and monitor the transboundary movement of hazardous materials in Africa:  Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes Within Africa and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.  Both conventions call for “the reduction of hazardous waste generation and the promotion of environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes, wherever the place of disposal, [as well as] the restriction of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes except where it is perceived to be in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management.”[4]   Additionally, countries like Namibia and South Africa have strong environmental justice laws protecting both the rights of the people in their habitats as well as the ecosystems of their territories[5].  

Nonetheless, more can be done to protect the environment for all people by preventing land grabs.  The forcible removal of people from their land is wrong, but destruction of land sanctioned by the government adds insult to injury.  One cannot assume that pollution would not take place if African communities were not disenfranchised from their land or the economy.  However, it is much easier to pollute land one has no connection to instead of a homeland where one and one’s family must survive for years to come.  As with the previous rights issues surrounding land grabs, it is not that laws to prevent environmental injustice are lacking.  Environmental injustice takes place because of government and corruption a lack of law enforcement.

As we have already witnessed decades of violence, sickness, and death resulting from the environmental degradation caused by Dutch Royal Shell in Nigeria’s delta region, one can expect more violence and conflict to occur throughout the African continent if environmental damages continue.  Investment, industry, and economic growth are all essential to Africa’s development for the future.  However, a healthy, pollution-free environment with enforced human rights law is also essential to Africa’s future.  Land grabs are not an economic activity that supports the social justice and environmental protection that sustainable development is about, which is why these types of deals must stop.  As with any healthy democracy, people must rally for government transparency and protection of their rights.  Obviously, this is no easy task.  However, without civil protest Africans will continue to be disenfranchised from their land and suffer environmental injustice.

African Land ‘Grabs’ and the Growing International Food Crisis

If you’ve been job searching in the international development field recently, you’ve likely come across a plethora of somewhat cryptic vacancy announcements posted by the ‘International Finance Corporation’ or IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank. The IFC claims that its objective is to ‘foster sustainable economic growth in developing countries,’ by financing private sector investment, mobilizing capital in the international financial markets and providing advisory services to businesses and governments. The expansion of the IFC’s work reflects a growing trend in private sector investment throughout the developing world, particularly in Africa, where private company interest in controlling and cultivating large areas of agricultural land has increased exponentially. The purchase of agricultural land by various international companies, including large hedge funds, has led to the disenfranchisement and displacement of hundreds of villages and thousands of small farmers and their families—who have been forced by their governments to relinquish their farmlands to these corporations and work these new industrial farms, in return for essentially nothing. In addition to the creation of a new kind of ‘serfdom’ within Africa, these large agricultural land grabs by private international corporations have elicited serious concern regarding the control of the world’s future food supply, for the control of global food markets by private profiteers and corrupt political officials is certain to create insecurity in the global food system, particularly for the poor.  

National Food Security within a Globalized World

A country’s ability to produce its own food is considered a strong measure of a nation’s food security. It is widely believed that if a nation is reliant upon other countries to meet its staple food demands, it is vulnerable to various external threats. Consider the effect of global monopolistic oil forces upon local oil prices. The monopolistic control of the world’s oil supply has often led to production and price manipulation (sometimes as a political tool)—exploited by speculators and oil companies, which reap huge profits while local populations’ livelihoods suffer. Since 2008, increases in global fuel prices have resulted in unsustainably high food prices, leading to the deterioration of millions of peoples’ livelihoods and subsequently widespread protests and riots, particularly across Africa.

The dependency on foreign countries for vital resources is increasingly viewed as a major risk to national security. The recognition of this fact, as well as the fact that global population numbers continue to rise, has prompted governments to enact policies, some of which harmful, to protect and expand agricultural resources to ensure national food security. For instance, in South Korea, government fears over food security have led to the implementation of import barriers and government subsidies, especially of rice, a staple food. The government’s intent is to increase domestic production of rice so that there will be sufficient stock. Although the government has succeeded in expanding domestic production and supply, because of heavy state production support and trade restrictions, the price of rice in South Korea is well above the international average. Similar agricultural policies implemented by the US government have also led to a heavily subsidized farming industry within the US, resulting in a huge tax burden for US citizens, agricultural overproduction, major barriers to trade, inflated land prices and a general lack of innovation.

Other countries have utilized other means to ensure adequate domestic food supply, particularly in wake of more frequent natural disasters and occurrences of drought. After wildfires ravaged huge agricultural tracts throughout Russia during an already low production season, the Russian government halted all wheat exports to ensure sufficient domestic stock; this led to further increases in global food prices, as Russia is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wheat. Other states have sought to expand control of overseas agricultural resources in order to meet national food demands: a practice that has increased, as states have come to realize the growing competition they face from agribusiness firms and hedge funds—especially in Africa, where governments are all too willing lease massive tracts of uncultivated land for minimal returns.  Although investment in land resources is not a new phenomenon, critics argue that such investments are no longer about seeking out a comparative advantage in global markets but rather about providing food and energy for wealthier countries by using the land and water resources of the world’s poorest populations.

The Foreign Pursuit of African Land

‘Land grabs’ as they have come to be called are occurring throughout the developing world, with increasing frequency and size; land leases have ranged anywhere from 10,000 to 500,000 hectares. The largest of these deals continue to occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where corrupt, illegitimate, and incompetent governments; weak land rights and the availability of undeveloped agricultural land is prevalent. It has been estimated that 18 out of the 33 to 40 countries leasing lands for foreign direct investment are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and two-thirds of the global land under lease for biofuel and food production are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Those countries with the most widespread investment in Africa are China, India, Saudi Arabia, as well as several other largely populated nations with insufficient or depleting agricultural land (UK, Bangladesh, South Korea and Qatar).

In what is probably one of the largest deals thus far, in 2010, India-based Karuturi Global, the world’s largest flower producer, secured the lease of a 1,200 square mile tract of land (the size of Rhode Island) in Ethiopia to enhance its flower production. In the area of Gambella, a Northern province close to the Sudan border, Karaturi (which also deals in produce) leased another large land tract that will begin producing palm oil, sugar and rice for export by next year. Gambella has provided investors 1.1 million hectares, nearly a quarter of its best farmland, and 896 companies have come to the region in the last three years. They range from major Indian agribusiness companies, who have acquired up to 300,000 hectares, to Saudi billionaire Al Amoudi, who is constructing a 20-mile canal to irrigate 10,000 hectares to grow rice, to Ethiopian businessmen, who have plots of less than 200 hectares.

Bangladesh’s government recently helped secure major land leases in Uganda, Tanzania and Gambia for two Bangladeshi agribusiness companies: the Nitol-Niloy Group and Bhati Bangla Agrotec. The deals would allow the companies to lease large currently uncultivated farmlands at a minimal cost, with the majority of produce exported back to Bangladesh to feed its growing population. Although Uganda’s Agricultural Ministry denied that any such land deal was in place, the Tanzanian government’s deal with Bhati Bangla Agrotec for now remains set to go ahead. Under the deal, Bhati Bangla will lease over 30,000 hectares of land, with 10% of the profit going to the Tanzanian government, and 60% of produce exported to Bangladesh. The deal also supposedly entails Bhati Bangla employing and training local Tanzanian farmers; however, it has been reported widely that Bhati Bangla, as well as other firms, will actually bring over Bangladeshi farmers to work the land. The firms will pay each farmer a monthly salary and provide free accommodation and food.

The effects of such massive cultivation are wide-ranging. Industrial agricultural production requires the clearing of hundreds of square miles of forest, which will likely do irreversible damage to the environment, wildlife, as well as to the populations of people that depend upon these local resources for survival. In addition, industrial agriculture tends to use large amounts of fresh water and depletes the soil of nutrients at unsustainable rates. This means that these massive areas of agricultural land will undergo serious degradation as a result of this industrial cultivation. Agricultural land degradation is already a major problem in many developed countries. The UN reports that over two-thirds of the world’s agricultural land already suffers degradation, which is another significant reason for agribusinesses’ and governments’ growing pursuit of overseas resources.

Livelihoods Threatened, Populations in Peril

“When I look around, everyone here [in the local community] is a potential criminal…” stated Peter DeClark, Emvest Matuba’s Farm Manager, when expressing the company’s position on local workers during an investor on-site tour. EmVest Asset Management is a South African-based investment firm that maintains investments in five developing countries—Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa—and recently acquired 2,000 hectares of farmland in Matuba, Mozambique for a period of 50 years. As part of the land deal, which required local villagers to relinquish a large part of their land, Emvest promised significant job creation and a general improvement in local livelihoods. In fact, the promise of increased employment, as well as infrastructure development, is a primary reason for African governments’ leasing of land.

In the case of EmVest, very little job creation in Matuba has been achieved. The local Matuba chief— when interviewed by The Oakland Institute, a non-profit which recently completed a comprehensive investigation into private sector development in Africa—stated that local villagers had been more able to feed their families when they were able to farm their own plots of land than when working for EmVest. As for infrastructure, though it boasts a strong relationship with the local community through the provision of medical facilities, schools and boreholes, EmVest has only built two boreholes for the villagers thus far, and this was only after the villagers complained that the company’s operations had cut off their cattle’s access to drinking water.

In Sierra Leone, local villagers who had agreed to lease land (believing they would be adequately compensated) to Swiss-based firm Addax, have also had their livelihoods diminished by agricultural operations. Their local MP Martin Bangura had promised that the deal would not affect the community’s rice-growing areas, referred to as the ‘bolilands.’ However, in late 2010, the bolilands were drained by Addax to begin sugarcane production. In addition, Addax had promised to employ thousands of local villagers on its farms; however only fifty locals have been given work, and at a mere $2.50/day. The international poverty line, established ironically by the World Bank, is $1.25 per person per day. That amount is the bare minimum needed for a person to survive, to live without suffering. At just $2.50/day, how can a farmer or laborer afford to feed his entire family? It is impossible; that amount barely covers the cost of two individuals’ daily food.

The way in which these land deals have been acquired have also been heavily criticized, as investigations have shown that some companies were able to obtain land rights by bribing local chiefs with something as small as a bottle of fine whiskey. In South Sudan, the US-based Nile Trading and Development (NTD) Company attained a lease through an agreement with the ‘Mukaya Payam Cooperative.’ However, Sudan’s Agency for Independent Media (AIM) revealed the cooperative to be fictitious, made up of a group of influential natives from Mukaya Payam and surrounding areas. AIM found that the local communities were mostly ignorant of the deal and the fact that their land had been traded away for a 40% profit share that would go directly to this so-called ‘cooperative’. Uneducated, illiterate and generally trusting of their local officials, many rural villagers have been easily exploited by their governments. Other companies have boasted how little they paid for the lease and how lands were practically being giving away by African governments desperate for foreign companies with the capacity to industrialize their countries’ agricultural industries.

One of the most serious consequences for many local populations, whose land has been leased out to foreign governments and companies, is forced displacement. Thousands of people across Africa have been given no choice but to move from their homes to make way for large farms. In Tanzania, a land deal with Agrisol Energy is forcing the removal of long-settled Burundian refugees from their land and well-established communities in Katumba and Mishamo. In 2008, the Tanzanian government had announced a plan to grant citizenship to the refugees in 2010. However, recent reports indicate that their citizenship has now become contingent upon their relocation to other areas. Interviews with former refugees revealed that their legal status and certificates of citizenship were being withheld until they relocated. In Gambella, Ethiopia, over 15,000 people have been forced to move from their homelands with the promise from their government of better social services. Although the government claims the move is voluntary and completely unrelated to the Karaturi land deal, a recent investigation by the UK’s Guardian uncovered evidence that villagers had no choice in the matter and that promises of better health and education services remain unfulfilled. Many villagers were too afraid to speak on camera, citing fears of government reprisal.


The world cannot sustain its growing population without increasing global food and water supplies and networks. The current total global trade in grain and grain equivalent is just 200 million tons and that amount is decreasing as exporting countries’ populations increase and must consume more of their own food products. Our need for food, fuel and water is insatiable; shortages of these commodities have already led to conflict, violent protests and riots and the destruction of livelihoods. The solution for many developed and wealthier developing countries is to seek out greater resources beyond their own shores, oftentimes, rather ironically, in countries that cannot afford to produce sufficient food to feed their own populations (Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, etc). The availability of large farmlands and the potential for industrialized agriculture across Africa is undisputed. However, it is deeply concerning that African governments have outsourced significant control of these lands, with very small returns for local populations, as the majority of the agriculture and biofuel produced will be exported.

The World Bank (and the IFC), instead of protecting the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, is acting more like a broker for large international agribusinesses and corrupt governments, working to reform African land laws and fiscal regimes to make them more attractive to foreign investment. This leaves the world’s humanitarian community, major NGOs, foundations and some governments, scrambling to empower poor farmers through the formation of more powerful cooperatives, the development of market access roads, the protection of land rights and the provision of capital and inputs. Unfortunately, these efforts cannot come quick enough, and now the same actors—the speculators, bankers and unregulated investors—who all had a hand in inflating food prices and almost destroying the global economy, have managed to consolidate their control of global food production and land to profit from the very crises they provoked. 

The Uncertain Future of a Nation: What Will Become of Western Sahara?

The Sahrawi have been under the occupation of Spain and now Morocco. The purpose of the UN involvement in Western Sahara was to establish a referendum for the people of Western Sahara to choose whether they wanted independence, or to be under Spanish rule. Instead of holding a referendum, Spain handed over the territory to Morocco. The UN created the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, abbreviated MINURSO after the French name, for over thirty years.  MINURSO’s mission was to monitor the ceasefire and oversee a referendum on the status of the Sahrawi people and the system of government to take place. During the past thirty years, the UN has provided support for the referendum by determining voter eligibility and registration, and by monitoring the ceasefire to prevent a war between the two parties claiming control over Western Sahara. The UN has also facilitated informal negotiations between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO, which have had little success in resolving the conflict. Several countries have formally recognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as an independent nation. However, almost half of those countries have also frozen or withdrawn their recognition.

Negotiations Between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum on the Status of Western Sahara (MINURSO) was created with the purpose of monitoring the ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO and to set up a referendum through which the Sahrawi could determine whether they would have autonomy under Morocco, or independence as the SADR. The mandate was made in 1991 through Security Council Resolution 690. The mandate has been renewed annually, with the most recent Resolution 2044 unanimously passed in the Security Council to renew the mandate until April 2013. This mandate has been criticized along with the previous mandates for failing to establish a referendum. However, voter eligibility remains one of the key points of contention between the parties.

The Resolution does little to encourage constructive negotiations between the two parties, and merely calls upon the parties to cooperate with the Secretary-General in negotiations. This resolution also calls upon the parties to reach a resolution that will provide for a lasting solution and self-determination consistent with the principles of the UN Charter.

The original MINURSO mandate was to last approximately thirty-six weeks after it was implemented, and end with the results of the referendum on self-determination. MINURSO headquarters was established in Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara in the North, within the territory currently occupied by Morocco. In the beginning, Morocco did not recognize the Frente POLISARIO as a legitimate independent party to the negotiations. Increasing recognition of the SADR, represented by the Frente POLISARIO made it difficult for Morocco to deny the legitimacy of their opposing party and Morocco eventually agreed to negotiate with the Frente POLISARIO.

The International Community: Recognition and Relations

The Frente POLISARIO declared Western Sahara to be the SADR in 1976. The Sahrawi Constitution was most recently ratified in 2007, and establishes a three-branch government, with executive, legislative and judicial branches. The executive branch consists of a president and 18 government ministries, and the legislative branch has a 53-member parliament. The judicial branch applies a mixture of Islamic and western law. Elections for Parliament are by universal suffrage for anyone over the age of 18. The President is automatically named the Secretary General of the Frente POLISARIO. 

The SADR was admitted to the Organization of African States (OAU), the predecessor to the current African Union, in 1982. This led to Morocco leaving the OAU in 1984. Since Algeria’s recognition of SADR in 1976, over 80 countries have recognized SADR’s sovereignty, although approximately 35 countries have since withdrawn their recognition. The countries that have recognized SADR are predominately located in Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. India withdrew its recognition of SADR in 2000.

Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, France is Morocco’s strongest ally with respect to the conflict over Western Sahara. France has supplied Morocco with material support including weapons and airplanes, and has consistently fought against the addition of human rights monitoring into MINURSO’s mandate.
The United States, also a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has never officially taken a position on the conflict. Morocco’s proposal that Western Sahara be semi-autonomous was found to be a “serious and credible proposal” by both the U.S. and France.  The U.S. policy has been supported by three presidential administrations, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and now Barack Obama.  French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe stated that the Moroccan proposal was the only realistic proposal and was a basis for a solution. Both Juppe and Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, have praised Morocco for their advancing human rights reform in the region. 


There are over 100 UN resolutions and a decision from the ICJ that support the Sahrawi’s right to self-determination, yet Morocco is still able to claim that they are the rightful rulers of Western Sahara. Clearly, Morocco is intentionally trying to stall the referendum for fear that the Sahrawi people will vote to be independent and Morocco will lose the natural resources from the land.

The position-based negotiations between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO hinder the future of negotiations and the resolution of a peaceful settlement.
Christopher Ross, Personal Envoy of the Secretary General, stated in an interview that the cost of continued failed negotiations includes:

possible renewal of military hostilities, the possible outbreak of popular unrest, and the possible recruitment of frustrated young and unemployed Sahrawis into terrorist or criminal groups. The costs include the humanitarian plight of the refugees, increasing questions about human rights, the expense of maintaining significant military forces, and an inability to plan for the use of the natural resources of Western Sahara in a proper way.

In order for there to be a proper resolution of this conflict, both parties must agree to hold a referendum, where all Sahrawis and only Sahrawis can participate. Only then will the Sahrawi people get the justice they deserve.