Legal Rights Owed to the Sahrawi: Self-Determination and Use of Natural Resources


Self-determination has been a point of contention for the Sahrawi people since the UN encouraged Spain to decolonize the territory in the 1970s. In lieu of a referendum on self-determination, Spain ceded administrative control of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, two nations that asserted claims over regions in the occupied territory. This did not change the status of Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory, and prolonged the referendum. After a war in which the Frente POLISARIO was victorious, Mauritania and the Frente POLISARIO entered into an agreement in which Mauritania renounced all claims over Western Sahara. This gave the Frente POLISARIO control over approximately one-third of the territory, leaving Morocco with the other two-thirds. Morocco maintains the position that it has the legal right to control Western Sahara, and currently controls not only the government, but the natural resources as well.

Western Sahara is an area rich in natural resources. Morocco currently controls the majority of Western Sahara’s natural resources in the form of fisheries, phosphates and iron ore, and other resources. The Sahrawi have little access to these resources, as many of the workers are Moroccan citizens who immigrated to Western Sahara to work in the industries. Resources originating from the territory of Western Sahara are marketed by the Moroccan government as originating from Morocco, and companies wishing to take advantage of the resources present in the territory contract through the Moroccan government or Moroccan businesses. The Sahrawi have no control over the natural resources and the commerce from those resources in the Moroccan occupied territory. The Moroccan government controls the entirety of the coastline, preventing many Sahrawi from fishing, a lucrative industry.

The Right to Self-Determination

UN Charter Chapter XI: Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories (Articles 73 and 74) states that Member States assuming the responsibility for administration of a non-self-governing territory have certain obligations over that territory and its peoples. Most notably, Article 73 of the UN Charter requires those Member States to ensure the “political, economic, social and educational advancement…just treatment, and … protection against abuses” of the peoples of that territory.  In 1960, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. This declaration, more commonly referred to as the Declaration on Decolonization recognizes the principles set forth in the UN Charter to promote fundamental human rights and self-determination of all peoples. 

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), entered into force on March 23, 1976, states in Article 1 that all peoples have the right to self determination, and all peoples may freely dispose of their “natural wealth and resources… [and in] no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.” Article 47 reaffirms the inherent right of all peoples to fully utilize and enjoy their natural wealth and resources. Morocco is a party to both the ICCPR and the ICESCR. Under international law, parties to a treaty must adhere to all obligations created by that treaty. By asserting control over Western Sahara, Morocco has failed to carry out its obligations under both treaties.

The Right to Use and Control of Natural Resources

The right of the Sahrawi to utilize their natural resources is supported by several international instruments. Morocco controls two-thirds of Western Sahara including the entire coastline. Moroccan controlled mines employ predominantly Moroccan employees, take phosphorus belonging to the Sahrawi and sell it to foreign companies under the Moroccan name.

The UN has adopted over eighty resolutions related to sovereignty over natural resources. General Assembly Resolution 1803 (XVII), passed in 1962 states, “the right of the peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources must be exercise in the interest of the national development and of the well-being of the people of the State concerned.”

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights investigated the human rights situation in Western Sahara in 2006.  The report was never officially published, but it was leaked.  The report noted that in the Moroccan territory, “the Sahrawi people are not only denied their right to self-determination, but equally are severely restricted from exercising a series of other rights.”  The UN Legal Counsel addressed the Security Council in 2002 stating that the use of mineral resources by an administering power of a non-self-governing territory is legal unless “conducted in disregard of the needs and interests of the people of that territory.”

In 2007, Morocco entered into the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (hereinafter “the Agreement”). The Agreement, made without regard for the Sahrawi people, permits European countries to fish commercially along the coastlines of Western Sahara, with all proceeds from the commerce going to Morocco. The first fishing agreement between Morocco and the European Union dates back to 1995. While there has been recent conflict over the Agreement, the problem is economical, and not based on the unfairness or the agreement. Last year, several members of the European Parliament wanted the renewal proposal to be referred to the European Court of Justice to make a ruling on the inclusion of Western Sahara in the Agreement. This ruling would look at whether the inclusion of Western Sahara mirrored the wishes of the Sahrawi and whether their interests were taken into account, as required by treaties and international law. This was rejected by the plenary of the European Parliament. The reasons cited for the rejection and ultimate renewal were predominately economic.

States that trade with Morocco have to decide whether to participate in the exploitation of the natural resources in Western Sahara. Some states have spoken out against Morocco’s use of Western Sahara’s resources. In a speech to the Swedish Parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt stated that Morocco occupies the territory of Western Sahara, and therefore “has no right to exploit the natural resources in Western Sahara for its own benefit.”


Decolonization has reached every former territory with the exception of Western Sahara. The Sahrawi should be afforded the right to self-determination, a right not only enjoyed by the rest of the world’s population, but also supported in international instruments. More than fifty years after the Declaration on Decolonization, the Sahrawi are still waiting to obtain the right afforded to them by law.

The right to control over natural resources is important because it was recognized that without it, the right of self-determination was being compromised. Self-determination is connected on a fundamental level to the right to control one’s own resources in addition to controlling one’s own government.

Morocco must not maintain their illegal control over the government, land and peoples of Western Sahara. The Sahrawi have the rights to establish their own government and use their natural resources for their own benefit. The Organization of African Unity took a firm stand on this issue, but the majority of the international community has continued to ignore the violations that Morocco is committing against the Sahrawi; it is important to remember that these rights do exist and that something must be done to protect them.

The Fight Over Western Sahara: The Issue of Decolonization

In 1960, the United Nations General Assembly issued the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (commonly referred to as the “Declaration on Decolonization”), declaring,

The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights…. All peoples have the right to self-determination…. [Peoples shall] exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence, and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected…. Immediate steps shall be taken…to transfer all powers to the peoples…without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire…. Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. All States shall observe faithfully and strictly the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the present Declaration on the basis of equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of all States, and respect for the sovereign rights of all peoples and their territorial integrity. General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) December 14,1960.

This led to the decolonization of many territories subject to the control of European countries. While the Declaration on Decolonization called for “immediate steps,” decolonization is far from being a thing of the past. The territory of Western Sahara is host to the last unresolved issue of decolonization in Africa. The right of self-determination is a principle that is frequently discussed in international law. The principle of self-determination in international law is not clearly defined. For the purpose of this article, the term self-determination will be used to mean the rights of a people to determine their own government and be free of the imposition of rule by another state’s government. The right to self-determination is a legal concept that is supported in the United Nations Charter (hereinafter “UN Charter”), the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and various international treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights .

The United Nations Security Council created a peacekeeping mandate for Western Sahara in 1981. The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was created for the purpose of “monitoring the ceasefire, facilitating the exchange of prisoners of war, aiding the repatriation of refugees, identifying and registering qualified voters and eventually organizing and ensuring a free and fair referendum.”  MINURSO was intended to start with a ceasefire and end with the results of the referendum. On April 24, 2012, the Security Council unanimously voted to renew the Mandate of the MINURSO in Resolution 2044. Thirty years after the initial mandate, the referendum for the determination of control over Western Sahara has yet to take place. This raises several issues, including what role the United Nations and the international community has played in the decolonization of Western Sahara, and the future for the territory.

The Land and People
Encompassing an area of over nine million square kilometers, and spanning almost all of northern Africa, the Sahara is the largest tropical and climatic desert in the world. The Sahara is host to the countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, and the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Western Sahara is a small coastal territory in the northwest, bordered by Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania. Approximately 522,000 people live in the 266,000 square kilometer stretch of land. The dispute over the sovereignty of the Sahrawi people has persisted since the withdrawal of Spain in 1974.

The indigenous peoples of Western Sahara, the Sahrawi—literally “people of the Desert” in Arabic, are nomadic in nature. Prior to Spanish colonization, the Sahrawi traveled from central Mauritania to southern Morocco and eastern Algeria. Ethnically, the Sahrawi are a mixture of Berber, Arab and Black African descent. They speak Hassaniya, a dialect of Arabic and practice Sunni Islam. While tribal affiliation is no longer as important as in the past, the Sahrawi come from twenty-two different tribes. Many Sahrawi are more sedentary than their ancestors. When Spain colonized Western Sahara, they established schools and inexpensive housing near the mines to encourage the Sahrawi to settle near and work in the mines. This was the beginning of the Sahrawi national identity, an identity that further developed under Moroccan rule.

The territory of Western Sahara is predominately low, flat desert with small, rocky mountains in the south and northeast. The climate is hot and dry, water is sparse, and less than one percent of the land is arable. Because of this, fishing is a major source of industry and food. Phosphorus and iron ore are the most important natural resources in Western Sahara. Morocco controls the entire coastline, and has signed an agreement with the European Union (EU) to allow EU members to fish off the coast of Western Sahara.

The Conflict over Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a non-self-governing territory  under the control of Morocco. The Sahrawi are represented by the Frente Popular Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (“Frente POLISARIO”). The Frente POLISARIO declared Western Sahara to be the independent state of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or SADR, in 1976. The SADR is recognized by a handful of countries and the African Union—formerly the Organization of African Unity (OAU). This recognition led to Morocco’s withdrawal from the OAU in 1984.

Morocco has claimed the right over Western Sahara since it was a Spanish colony. After the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the Declaration Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, Spain attempted to hold a referendum, on self-determination in 1974. Before this was possible, Morocco and Mauritania persuaded the UN General Assembly to solicit the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an advisory opinion on their respective claims over the territory. The ICJ held that any legal ties that Morocco or Mauritania had to tribes in Western Sahara did not establish territorial soverignty over the land. The ICJ held that any ties the two countries had with Western Sahara would no affect the decolonization of Western Sahara.

Despite the ICJ’s opinion, King Hassan II of Morocco announced that the ICJ had supported Morocco’s claims over the territory and took control over Western Sahara when the Spanish ceded administrative control in 1976. Morocco secured its claim over the northern two-thirds of the land by settling 350,000 Moroccan civilians in a move known as the “Green March” in 1975. During this time, Mauritania occupied the remainder of the territory. Shortly after, the Frente POLISARIO engaged in guerilla warfare against both Morocco and Mauritania. Bombardments of Sahrawi cities by Morocco forced tens of thousands of refugees into Algeria. The Frente POLISARIO suceeded in ousting Mauritania from the territory and signed a peace agreement on August 5, 1979 in which Mauritania renounced all territorial claims.

After the OAU’s summit in Nairobi in 1981, a resolution regarding the implementation of a resolution was established in conjunction with the UN. An immediate ceasefire was to be put in place with a joint enforecment provided by the OAU and the UN. The 1991 UN Security Council passed Resolution 690, establishing the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to monitor the ceasefire and organize a referendum. The purpose of the referendum was to determine the future of Western Sahara as either an independent country or a permanent part of Morocco.

MINURSO’s mission was never fully deployed. While MINURSO has monitored the ceasefire since the operation began, the referendum has never been held. The biggest impediment to the referendum was the question of who was eligible to vote. Between May 1993 and May 1996, MINURSO’s Identification Committee processed potential voters. Voter eligibility was to be based on the 1974 census conducted by Spain before ceding Western Sahara to Morocco, and before the Green March. King Hassan of Morocco submitted 120,000 names of voters that were not included in the 1974 census. Before completing the identification process, the UN suspended the committee and withdrew most of the MINURSO civilian staff.

In an attempt to reach a compromise, UN Special Envoy James Baker proposed a “Framework Agreement” in 2001. This would provide autonomy for the Sahrawi people under Moroccan soverignty during a four-year transition period followed by a referendum. After this proposal was rejected by the Frente POLISARIO, Baker proposed a new resolution where Western Sahara would be a semi-autonomous region of Morocco during a transition period. This time Morocco was the one to object.

Negotiations between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO have been ongoing and unproductive. While the OAU and several states recognize the SADR as a state, Morocco insists that the Frente POLISARIO is not a legitimate party to the negotiations. After several unsuccessful attempts at negotiations, Christopher Ross, the Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara suggested informal preparatory meetings in 2009 before holding the fifth round of  negotiations.

Moving Forward
The long-standing struggle of the Sahrawi over their independence has raised several issues that require attention. While Morocco is governing the territory, the Sahrawi are being denied their right to self-determination, an established principle of international law, as well as their right to use their natural resources. The future of the territory is uncertain, with negotiations between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO gaining little momentum, and the lack of involvement of the international community or the UN. This three-part series will continue with an examination of the rights of the Sahrawi over their self-determination and natural resources, an evaluation of Morocco’s claim over the territory, and an evaluation of the negotiations for the future of the territory.

Showdown at The Hague: Tens of thousands to support the former Pr. Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire

The international Criminal Court (ICC) postponed the hearing scheduled to take place on June 18, 2012 in the case against Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Cote d’Ivoire, facing charges of crimes against humanity.  While the purpose of the hearing was to allow both sides to present arguments on the sufficiency of evidence for a trial, President Gbagbo’s lawyers—who previously challenged the ICC’s jurisdiction—asked for a continuance to better prepare a defense. The hearing has been rescheduled for August 13, 2012.

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.

In fact, there were 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.

When the president of the IEC, Mr. Yousouf Bakayoko, (currently member of the Ouattara’s government)   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%.

Despite All these irregularities, led by Sarkhozy of France,  the UN and the USA continued the campaign against Laurent Gbagbo: stating that he has refused to step down after losing the presidential election to his archrival Alassane Ouattara. In fact, the whole election process was flow.  Gbagbo raised legitimate legal questions regarding the elections and Ouattara’s alleged vote fixing. Gbagbo brought this accusation before the Ivorian Supreme Court, decided in favor of Gbagbo.

At this point the United Nations (UN) stepped in and certified former International Monetary Fund official Alassane Ouattara as the victor. President Gbagbo’s demand for a recount of the votes was denied. The standoff resulted in months of violence between supporters of both sides leaving thousands dead.  The UN, France and the USA refused to follow a peaceful resolution of the elections dispute and then confirmed their determination by ousting Gbagbo by force. The French recently admitted to working with the UN to break the back of Ivorian forces supporting President Gbagbo because Ouattara’s forces were not capable of it on their own. President Gbagbo was captured, handed over to Ouattara’s forces, tortured, and imprisoned in Cote d’Ivoire. In November, President Gbagbo was flown to The Hague, Netherlands where he currently awaits trial before the ICC.

The former leader stands accused of crimes committed by forces loyal to him during the standoff. Gbagbo claims he is innocent. In 2011, The Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC found that there exists “reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Gbagbo bears individual criminal responsibility, as an indirect co-perpetrator, for four counts of crimes against humanity, namely murder, rape and other sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts.”1 Human rights groups have stated that forces loyal to both leaders committed crimes during the standoff.

During the post electoral crisis, the International Institute for Justice and Development (IIJD) investigated the matter and proposed a solution to the dispute. A personal call to action was sent out to world leaders and international organizations involved in the crisis. (See the IIJD letter to world leaders.) President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa later agreed with the IIJD and wrote that the West got it wrong by not adopting a solution similar to the one proposed by the IIJD.

What took place in Cote d’Ivoire can be characterized as a coup. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the French elite have condemned Gbagbo’s anti-colonialist rhetoric. The election provided the opportunity for Sarkozy and French government, backed by the UN, the European Union, and the USA for “payback.” Such payback has international ramifications.  Because of the way this post-electoral crisis was handed, the credibility of the ICC is now being questioned by Africans who praised the court at its inception.

Since President Laurent Gbagbo was transferred to The Hague, Ivoirians living in Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere have been traveling to The Hague by the thousands to express their support for Laurent Gbagbo, the father of democracy and multiparty system in Cote d’Ivoire. On June 18, 2012, despite the fact the case was already known to have been postponed, tens of thousands of people traveled to the ICC to express their support to Former President Laurent Gbagbo.

Egypt 2012 Presidential elections results: Run-off on June 16 and 17th, 2012

Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi will face each other in the presidential run-off on June 16 and 17. Those are the official result the presidential election  announced by the Egypt’s election commission.  Following the official announcement,  Shafik’s campaign headquarters burst into flames on Monday night in what may be the worst act of election-related violence since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.  The causes of the fire are still to be determined.  Meanwhile, crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Alexandria, and other cities, protested the candidacy of the Shafik, a longtime Mubarak loyalist.

According to Egypt’s election commission, Morsi received 5.76 million votes followed by Shafik’s 5.5 million. The Nasserite candidate Hamdeen Sabahi came in third with 4.82 million votes.

Shafik, Sabahi, and moderate Islamist candidate Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh have all filed appeals alleging fraud in the vote counting. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who led a delegation monitoring the voting, had endorsed Egypt’s presidential election results.   President carter added  that while numerous irregularities did take place, the “did not affect the basic integrity of the election.”

What the Coup d’État in Mali Teaches Us

On March 22, 2012 a military coup, led by the US trained Captain Amadou Sanogo, overthrew the democratically elected president of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, affectionately called ATT. This came as a surprise to most, since the presidential elections in Mali were scheduled to be held on April 29th, 2012 and ATT was not running as a candidate, because it was the end of his second term. The main reason given so far by the coup leaders is that ATT mismanaged the most recent Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country. Allegedly, he was too soft on the rebellion and always favored a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Malian troops in the north reportedly did not have enough weapons to face the rebellion and consequently endured resounding defeats at several posts.

Over the past two decades, Mali has been perceived and even admired as one of the leading countries on implementing democratic principles of governance. ATT will always be known as the military leader who took power away from a dictator and organized elections (in which he was not a candidate) to transparently transfer power to civilian Alpha Omar Konaré.  At the end of Konaré’s two terms, ATT, who had left the military, was elected President of Mali as a civilian. He had been contemplating a peaceful retirement and more time with his family after the presidential elections.

Most people are asking why a military coup at this time. However, our goal here is not necessarily to answer the question of the real motivations of coup leaders. We want to make an analysis of why such a coup was even made possible, because as much as this may be a surprise to most, it can happen in any African country in the same situation as Mali, where we think that democratic governance is taking hold. Several factors contributed to the occurrence of this military coup.

The military’s expectations
The coup leaders in Mali have officially declared why they led the coup, even though we still wonder if their reasons justify their senseless act. African militaries have been trained to serve their government leaders and not to protect their people. ATT might have been in accord with his generals, but lower ranking personnel expected more. The military’s expectation that ATT was going to send troops to the north to crush the rebellion was not met. He was not only at odds with their expectations, but they had the impression that they were abandoned to themselves, as troops fighting without proper equipment in the north.  ATT was a different kind of leader in this regard; he wanted to give a peaceful and negotiated resolution of the crisis a chance. Had he taken the same route as Modibo Keita and Moussa Traoré during their time as Malian Presidents, the coup might have never happened. Unfortunately the coup itself has given an opportunity for Tuareg rebels to seize and put even more territory under their control. Malians do not need much time to realize that a military regime does not serve their interests.

The recurring Tuareg rebellion
The Tuareg rebellion represents a constant and recurring issue that surfaced with French colonization.  The conflict between state power and nation building in the African context appears to be well illustrated by the constant rejection by Tuareg of any state government over their traditional structure. They resisted colonization, but they have remained powerless in regards to how their Saharan and Sahelian lands were divided between Mali, Niger, Algeria and Libya. During the independences of the early sixties, their dreams of having their own territory faded as each one of those countries became independent, in spite of France’s attempt to recoup Tuareg domains from established countries to form one territory that would remain under French control.  A colonial law, introduced by late Houphouet Boigny (while he was working for the colonial power France) in 1956 and passed into law on January 10 1957, briefly created a common organization for Saharan regions (OCRS), including territories from Algeria, Niger, Chad and Mali. The OCRS was liquidated a few years later, in 1963, after Algeria gained its independence in 1962. Even though France created the region for economic, military and geopolitical strategic reasons, the Tuareg people saw the law as a legal basis for the creation of their own territory.  It is worth mentioning that the north of Mali is also populated by other tribes with different cultures, including the Peuls and Arabs, and they are not enthusiastic about secession from Mali, even though they are disappointed by broken promises of development coming from Bamako.

The issue of Tuareg marginalization and their institutional infrastructure
The Tuareg’s main issue revolves around marginalization, and the uneasiness of losing their cultural identity and their way of life. Not only did the Tuareg fight colonization, they rejected the colonial educational model left behind at independence and refused to send their children to school. Such a position was understood and justified by the fact that Tuaregs are a group of people constantly moving around, but within their traditional territory. In so doing, they did not have within their ranks, people with the kind of training needed to take over along other tribes the management of their country affairs after colonization. The struggle to keep their cultural identity and their traditional institutional structure continues to this day and is manifested by the many rebellions seen over the past decades in Mali and Niger.

One question that should be asked is, aren’t Tuaregs themselves as responsible for their own marginalization as the governments they blame? With the signature of the 1992 pact in Mali, some Tuareg leaders joined the government and allegedly participated in embezzling funds destined to reconstruction of their area at the expense of their own people. It is important to say that Tuaregs are not necessarily unified in mounting the current assault on Malian institutions, including some of the leaders that participated in previous rebellions. Some Tuaregs are even more disappointed in their own leadership and their leadership’s quest to secure their own interests at the expense of the community.

Because of wars and lack of opportunities in their country, they had emigrated in large numbers to Libya in order to find better prospects. The removal of President Kaddafi from power has left some unintended consequences and victims in the process. Tuareg leaders who had worked in Libya for a long time saw in the Libyan war an opportunity to replenish their weapons during the chaos. Without Kaddafi to continue supporting them, some returned to Mali and those weapons and equipment they brought back from Libya are now serving them well.

The concept of democracy in the African context
The concept of democracy in the African context has been narrowed down to electoral contests. This coup has been largely condemned by both the international community and people in Mali. However, there is a good part of the population in Mali that supports it; they even demonstrated to prevent the planes of ECOWAS Heads of States from landing in Bamako on Thursday, March 29, 2012. Some have long been disenfranchised by the whole democratic process. Too many expectations have not been met and too many reforms not accomplished, be it for government institutions, or other aspects of Malian life. Have Malian governing institutions failed to be transparent and accountable enough to the people or have people not been empowered enough to see that even a democratic government cannot do all for them?

Democracy and Malians disillusionment
The mere fact that some Malians are taking to the streets to support the coup is not in itself a support to an undemocratic transfer of power. They are not necessarily expressing their support for the military, which they know all too well, is not a democratic institution. For those old enough to remember the regime ruthless of Moussa Traoré, the scars may still be fresh. This is an expression of disillusionment with the electoral process that has made Mali the emerging democracy most have come to admire in Africa.  The advent of “democracy” has been a disappointment for most of the Malian population that has not seen a significant improvement in their living standards during the past 20 years. Instead, there has been the creation of an emerging class of elites that competes in sharing political power and reaps most of the economic benefits.

Furthermore, government policies have been at odds with people’s expectations and interests. While blindly implementing policy recommendations from the World Bank and the IMF, ATT has not helped, but portrayed the image of someone working for foreign interests at the expense of his own people. We understand that Mali is a country with limited means, but people do not feel empowered enough to take part in the management of their country’s affairs. They complain of increasing corruption and a justice system that does not address the needs of the most vulnerable in society. In spite of all progress made to master the organization of fair and transparent elections, Malian leaders have not yet succeeded in giving their people control over government affairs and responsibility for their own destiny. That leads people to question the concept of democracy as currently applied, which to them begins to sound like a Western and foreign concept, even though they continue to embrace its basic principles.

The need to build institutions needed to support and strengthen democratic governance
The right of the people to be informed about how their government works and how to assume their own responsibilities should be cultivated and preserved. As much as the government has failed to spread the wealth and share the benefits of democratic institutions, what matters to the general population is how those transformations affect their livelihood. The people of Mali should soon realize that political alternance does not guarantee food on the table, but that it is their responsibility to continue demanding a better performance from their government and also continue to work even harder to build institutions that support democratic governance. The work and efforts do not stop once a dictator is gone; rather it is the beginning of a long and arduous process to rebuild not only political institutions at the image of people expectations, but the country’s economy.

Can Amadou Toumani Touré and Malians pull another magic trick?
The demonstrations by Malians preventing the head of states from landing in Bamako demonstrates the distrust and unease of Malians, and most Africans, with the way the “international community” intervenes when it comes to African problems. We only hope that Malians will be able to uphold their own responsibility to themselves as they chanted “let us resolve our own problems.” If Captain Sanogo had been infected with the ATT virus of 1991, we have no doubt to believe that Mali will soon return to a democratic process.

The neighboring countries should be careful not to rush in making decisions that could only worsen the situation. ATT should not let other African leaders make decisions about his country’s destiny, since some of them have not proven to be good examples to follow as far as leadership and peace are concerned in Africa.

As ATT declared two days after the coup, what matters is not him, but his country. For that, he was considered a hero for most Africans when he led Mali to democracy in the early nineties and that picture may remain so for a long time, only if during the current crisis, he succeeds in applying the same wisdom that helped him manage the sunrise of democracy in Mali. 

As of today, the situation is quickly evolving. The coup leaders have agreed to step down. ATT is doing the right thing by officially resigning ahead of the end of his term to pave way for a return to democracy.  Let’s hope the Malian magic works again this time.

Who benefits?
We would like to make a puzzling remark; the most important question that no one is asking, who would benefit from instability in Mali or its partition anyway? For that matter, whose interests are at stake in the Saharan and Sahelian regions of Africa? Let’s observe!

Looking ahead
For whoever succeeds Amadou Toumani Touré, the magnitude of the tasks at hand demands a special set of skills. First, the Tuareg issue needs to be put to rest once and for all. Second, the leadership should develop and implement socio-economic policies that match Malians’ aspirations and involve their contributions, and the assistance of its dedicated Diaspora population. Third, and most importantly, the government needs to build institutions that support and strengthen democratic governance while empowering the general population to maintain a strong control over the management of the country’s resources, and assume its own destiny as a willing participant. Then and only then, Mali will be able to unlock its full economic potential.

Senegalese Presidential Elections: How Wade’s Attempts to Confiscate Power Failed

Throughout the world, people have demonstrated by their actions that freedom and democracy are universal concepts, and that they were determined to keep and exercise their right to choose their own leaders.  The Senegalese people have recently demonstrated their commitment by opposing Abdoulaye Wade’s plans to remain in power indefinitely and by choosing Macky Sall as their new president.

Abdoulaye Wade’s tarnished image
The 85 year old Senegalese President Wade, who was determined to go for a controversial third term, had just lost the election. At about 9:30pm GMT on Sunday March 24th, Abdoulaye Wade called rival candidate Macky Sall to concede the 2012 runoff election as preliminary results gave the latter an overwhelming lead.  Mr. Sall had held several ministry portfolios before becoming prime minister under Wade. For that, he owes his political career to Mr. Wade, but the two men fell out over the handling of public spending by Karim Wade, the president’s unpopular son mockingly called “the Minister of the Sky and the Earth”, whom many believed was being groomed to succeed his father.

In 2000, then President of Senegal Abdou Diouf lost the elections and conceded to his long time opponent Abdoulaye Wade.  Since taking power in Senegal Wade’s government has gone through several crisis, mostly mismanagement, corruption, and fund embezzlement.  Transparency and freedom of expression rights regressed under his regime.   During my trip to Senegal a few years ago, I had a chance to meet with ordinary people and learn how damaged the presidency of Mr. Wade was. Wade’s popularity had fallen amid a rising cost of living and high unemployment in Senegal. Many voters spoke simply of change, rather than of Sall’s specific credentials. President Wade’s image also suffered after he began giving an increasing share of power to his son Karim, after he was handed control of multiple ministries including infrastructure and energy. President Wade, at the last minute, tried to change Senegal’s constitution in order to remain in power.  The last straw was the announcement on November 2011 that Wade would stand for a third term despite his country’s constitutional two-term limit.  That announcement prompted fierce fights, large protests, and violence. His failures as an individual shocked Senegalese, and his positions and management style sparked outrage among educated Africans throughout the world. 

The determination of the Senegalese people
Just a year after Wade took power, a new constitution was passed in 2001 instituting a two-term limit for presidential office.  However, on November 23rd 2010, when Mr.  Abdoulaye Wade decreed that February 26, 2012 will be the date for the presidential election in Senegal; he also indicated that he would stand for a third term set at seven years by the 2001 constitution.  Mr. Wade, a lawyer himself, argued that the two-term limit should not apply to his first term which started before the constitution was changed.  His argument was ultimately upheld by the constitutional court in January 2012. Like many dictatorial regimes, hiding behind a non-independent judiciary and police forces, Abdoulaye Wade’s government had issued a ban on protesting in Dakar in response to a protest planned for 23 July 2011. Instead, protesters moved their planned demonstrations outside the city.

After the constitutional court ruling in January 2012, protests erupted the following day, buildings burned across the capital Dakar, police fired tear gas at youth demonstrators who questioned the ruling; six people died during these protests. Wade made a television appearance in which he called the protests “displays of petulance” and promised an “open” electoral campaign with “no restrictions on freedom.”  Truckloads of police in full riot gear and armed with tear gas, grenade launchers, and truncheons surrounded the presidential palace used by Wade. The protests continued into February. Riot police fired volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets in Dakar on 19 February 2012, one week before the presidential election. 

President Wade also employed another tactic, more vicious than the third term he was determined to acquire.  He wanted to adopt the process being used by President Paul Biya in Cameroon to stay in power indefinitely, which was to abolish the absolute majority of 50 % plus one votes required to win in the first round of election.  Mr. Wade tried to lower it to only 25%. These actions would fundamentally change the electoral process and bring it down to the level where he could remain in power by maneuvering to obtain just 25% of votes. Additionally, Wade sought to add the position of vice-president to his cabinet, 

Only after violent protests, Wade dropped his plans for those two constitutional changes: lowering the percentage of votes required for a first-round victory from 50% to 25% and creating the position of vice-president, which critics feared that Wade would use to ensure his re-election against a split opposition and to make his son vice-president. That was a last attempt of Abdoulaye Wade’s regime to legalize illegitimacy in Senegal.   It would have been a severe blow to democracy. That is why President Wade’s defeat is great news for Senegal and Africa.

The elections
The election itself was held without major disturbance.  In February’s first round, no candidate got more than the 50% of votes required to be declared winner.  Wade fell short of a majority, polling only 34.8% of the votes. Macky Sall came second with 26.6%, but most of the other 12 candidates backed him in the second round. The head of the European Union observer mission to Senegal, Mr. Thijs Berman, said the results were very clear, about 65% for Mr. Sall and 35% for Mr. Wade, so “there is no hesitation as to who is the winner”.  Even before Mr. Wade’s concession, thousands of Sall supporters began celebrating on the streets of Dakar, just hours after the polls closed and results started filtering over the radio waves. Mr. Sall won more than 60% of the vote. 

Post-election reactions
The congratulatory phone call to Sall, at 21:30GMT on Sunday, alleviated fears that Wade would attempt to stay in office by challenging the runoff results. In a statement released by Mr. Wade, he said: “My dear compatriots, at the end of the second round of the vote…the current results indicate that Macky Sall has won.” His spokesman Amadou Sall added: “It is the whole country that has just won … This is a big moment for democracy and President Abdoulaye Wade has respected the voice of the people.”

After President Abdoulaye Wade admitted defeat, Macky Sall spoke in front of thousands of cheering supporters in the capital Dakar.  He was sworn in on April 2nd, 2012 as the fourth President of Senegal after Leopold S. Senghor, Abdou Diouf and Abdoulaye Wade, promising to be a president for all Senegalese. In addition to the candidates, 11 heads of state attended the inauguration. Abdoulaye Wade was not in attendance. State media announced that the 85-year-old incumbent was headed to Saudi Arabia for a religious pilgrimage.

Macky Sall’s best gift to Senegal would be to strengthen the institutions of governance of his country and ensure the development of an independent judiciary and access to a free and fair justice system.  The International Institute for Justice and Development (IIJD) considers these reforms to be among the most important factors in advancing democracy, protecting human rights, and assuring sustainable development in Senegal. Only through the reform of these systems can we combat corruption, demand accountability, secure investments, and create an incentive for educated and capable citizens to contribute to their country’s future. So far, Mr. Sall has promised that he will shorten the presidential term to five years from the current seven and enforce the two-term limit. He has also promised to bring in measures to reduce the price of basic foodstuffs. However, the new president must tackle the rising unemployment and implement policies that address the needs of all Senegalese people and empower them to be masters of their own destiny.

Cameroon: Victim of Political Apathy

On April 21, 2008, an insignificant, but determined number of Cameroonians either stayed home or went about their daily routines draped in black dress, in silent protest of the government’s disastrous decision to end presidential term limits. The protest, called for by the country’s main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), was largely a failure, as enthusiasm for the protest, both amongst party members and the public, faltered in the face of violent military reprisal and the reality of general political debility. The result of course was tacit acceptance of President Paul Biya’s constitutional coup, which veritably guaranteed his re-election and probable indefinite rule. Last month, to most people’s dismay, but not to a single person’s surprise, Biya announced his bid for a third presidential term, and this past month, presidential elections went ahead in Cameroon. A confident Biya had no need to campaign, as his victory was all but guaranteed thanks to a concerted, effective effort on his part to essentially incapacitate the opposition and degrade the people’s will.

Paul Biya has been president of Cameroon for over 26 years, winning his first presidential election in 1984. Biya subsequently ‘won’ elections in 1988, 1992, 1997 and 2004; however, not without substantial controversy, especially in 1992, when widespread fraud was alleged by the opposition and in 1997, when the election was boycotted entirely by the opposition, which decried an biased and therefore unfair electoral process. Biya ultimately lost his legitimacy as Cameroon’s leader during these years, as it became obvious he would not cede power. Biya proved willing to utilize oppressive and fraudulent tactics to maintain his position, as well as his party’s dominance. Even the extension of presidential terms to seven years, which was part of Cameroon’s 1996 constitutional reform, was insufficient in satisfying Biya’s increasing lust for power, and by 2007, he began his case for an end to presidential term limits altogether.

In his 2007 end of the year address, Biya made the preposterous claim that presidential term limits were “unconstitutional”. Biya claimed, rather unfoundedly, that the people of Cameroon had expressed popular support for him to run for a third term and so to prevent this would somehow limit the ‘will’ of the people and thus be contrary to democracy. Biya believed that false claims of popular support, coupled with ridiculous and amateurish logic, could sufficiently mask his personal power ambitions and counter the very basic but important reasoning behind the principle of term limits. Unfortunately, the public was far too distracted by skyrocketing fuel and food prices to realize the full implications of Biya’s power grab and to thus appropriately respond, a fact Biya and his party, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), fully exploited.

The public’s outrage with the Biya government’s incompetence and corruption manifested itself in February 2008 with unprecedented protests in the country’s capital. Unfortunately, these protests were met swiftly with violent and deadly tactics by Biya’s police forces, particularly the Brigade d’Intervention Rapide (BIR) or the Special Intervention Brigade, an elite security force which is often employed by Biya to crackdown on any and all opposition activities. Widespread public disenchantment with the country’s political establishment made it highly unlikely that a significant number of Cameroonians voiced support for a third term for Biya, despite his assertions. This fact was further evidenced by the government’s refusal to hold a referendum vote on the constitutional amendment to ban term limits and by the Biya regime’s continued oppression of the opposition and its increasing crackdown on any political dissent.

Oppression of opposition has been a defining characteristic of life under the Biya regime. During the past ten years, Cameroonians have suffered widespread human and civil rights violations, as the government has tightened its grasp upon its power. On World Press Freedom Day just this past May, a couple hundred journalists and supporters gathered in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, to protest the government’s oppression of free speech and the media. Specifically, the protesters demanded that all journalists currently imprisoned be freed and that justice be served in the case of Bibi Ngota, the former Editor of the Cameroun Press, who died in prison in April, while awaiting trial on ‘fraud’ charges. The protest, although entirely peaceful, was swiftly met with violence by security forces; protesters were clubbed repeatedly by police. Ngota is one of many journalists to have been arbitrarily arrested, or otherwise threatened or intimidated in the past several years by the Biya government. Serges Sabouang, Editor of Le Nation, and Robert Minsa, Editor of Le Devoir were also both arrested on ‘fraud’ charges, and four other journalists were recently charged for critical comments made on television regarding judicial proceedings.

These violations have gone beyond arbitrary arrests and the shutting down of media outlets; cases of extra-judicial killings, harsh prison conditions, torture and other forms of cruel treatment are also rampant. During the February 2008 protests, over 100 people were killed, mostly by Cameroon security forces, which used lethal force against unarmed civilians. In addition, many extra-judicial killings of political opponents have been documented by human rights groups (See link for photos and video of alleged recent crackdown of peaceful opposition protests:

In 2003, Patrick Mbuwe, a former Secretary of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), was shot and killed by men suspected of being members of government security forces. Also, in August of 2004, John Kohtem, a leader of the SDF in Balikumbat district of North-West Province, was beaten to death. Doh Gah Gwanyin, a local chief and Member of Parliament, was publicly named by the SDF and local human rights groups as having instigated and participated in the beating of the victim. Gwanyin was finally convicted of murder after years of immunity, but was subsequently released on bail, when the case went on appeal; Gwanyin remains free, as the case is still pending. There are numerous other beatings, arbitrary arrests, use of excessive force and misuse of the legal system perpetrated by the government that continue to go unanswered.

This most recent election was once again hampered by the oppressive state of politics in Cameroon. On the day of the election, international election observers noted a very low voter turnout, the result of widespread political apathy. Most Cameroonians believe the election to be a foregone conclusion and therefore do not believe their participation will have any effect. In other words, it is understood that the opposition will lose. With such a prevailing sentiment, how can anyone call Cameroon a ‘democracy’? A country cannot be called a democracy when its population feels as though it no longer has a choice in its own leadership.

The absence of a strong and healthy opposition is not a mark of the country’s unity, but rather demonstrates the political impotence of average Cameroonians, as well as the country’s opposition. With widespread poverty, it is not that Biya has the people’s confidence; he has proven himself largely incompetent in terms of establishing effective, accountable governance and managing the country’s economy (over 60% of the population is unemployed). The population feels powerless after so many past failures of the opposition to successfully unseat Biya. John Fru Ndi, leader of the SDF, came close to unseating Biya in the 1992 election. In fact, it is widely held that Ndi was the actual winner of the election, but that electoral fraud perpetrated by Biya and the CPDM, which has always been strongly backed by France, led to a Biya victory by a narrow margin. Biya won with 40% of the vote over Ndi’s 36%. A third opposition candidate, Maïgari Bello Boúba of the National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), garnered 19%. Interestingly, even with Biya being declared victor, it was obvious that Biya no longer had the confidence of the Cameroon people. Over 60% of the vote went to other candidates, which essentially meant that over 60% of the voting population no longer wanted Biya as their president.

Unfortunately, the pluralistic, populist politics seen during the 1990s, seemed to dissipate after the opposition’s repeated defeats, which resulted from unfair election conditions, fraudulent government tactics, political and media oppression, as well as opposition party disunity. Some have argued that the opposition’s failure to form and maintain a more unified platform places it at a serious disadvantage. Had opposition parties unified in 1992 to present just one person to the public as the opposition candidate, Biya would have surely been defeated. And had they maintained their coalition, formed just a few years later, Biya would not have won by such a landslide in the 2004 election. One way to prevent any candidate from winning the presidency without winning the majority vote (as Biya did in 1992) would be to implement a run-off, which is currently not constitutionally mandated in Cameroon. This would certainly level the playing field in an election in which there are multiple, weaker opposition candidates. However, Biya has worked to ensure that a run-off will never occur in Cameroon by employing underhanded tactics meant to confuse and divide opposition party support. To guarantee a substantial majority for himself in presidential elections, Biya reportedly props multiple opposition candidates, orchestrating and financially backing political campaigns, whose only purpose is to detract support from more popular candidates such as Ndi, thus preventing their victory.

This past election, there were (officially) only 7.5 million voters in a country with a population of nearly 20 million. A substantial number of these registered voters decided not to participate, we’ve been told.  There were also allegations of numerous voter list irregularities, and a significant portion of the population complained of difficulties in obtaining their voter registration cards. Turnout to both political rallies and events and the actual election was minimal; voting was delayed at over 24,000 polling stations and numerous ballot boxes were either tampered with or reported missing. Furthermore, the Biya’s electoral commission, Election Cameroon (ELECAM), which is led by Biya’s CPDM associates, is overtly biased in favor of Biya. Immediately after the election, several opposition candidates (those of course not working for Biya) file petitions with the country’s Supreme Court to have election results thrown out. The petitioners alleged the following:

  1. no ballot papers of some candidates at some polling stations on election day;
  2. people without names on the electoral registers allowed to vote;
  3. names of the dead found on the voter’s list;
  4. people caught voting severally times and CPDM agents caught paying people sums ranging from FCFA 1,000 to 5,000 to vote for their candidate.
  5. fraudulent possession of hundreds of cards by some party agents;
  6. voting without national identity cards;
  7. chartered and ambulant voters;
  8. favouritism of the CPDM candidate through the State media and mobilisation of state resources;
  9. impartiality of ELECAM and the administration in favour of Paul Biya;
  10. inadequate lighting facilities on election day;
  11. voting in chief’s palaces and military garrisons;
  12. absence of indelible ink; among others.

 Unfortunately, all petitions were denied by the pro-Biya court, and Biya was subsequently declared victor. Some had hoped that a Biya victory would lead to major protests that would eventually force Biya from office, similar to the Arab Spring. However, this has thus far not occurred, and given the population’s lack of investment and the opposition’s failure to mobilize major support, it is doubtful whether it is likely to occur in the near future. Adding to the problem is the international community’s lack of interest in calling for real democratic reforms within Cameroon. Instead of praising the peacefulness of the election, the UN and the rest of the international community should be using its leverage to pressure the Biya government to end its politically oppressive tactics and enact real democratic reforms that include Biya’s removal. The international community has been far too accepting of Biya’s undemocratic 30-year rule; its protest of the 2008 decision to erase presidential term limits was weak and ineffectual. The international community does a serious injustice to Cameroonians by continuing to recognize Biya as a legitimate leader. In particular, France, which actually sent military advisors to Cameroon to assist Biya, in the event of post-election mass protest, must discontinue its support of this tyrant.

If Cameroonians are to salvage their democracy, a much more concerted effort on the part of the international community, as well as Cameroon’s opposition and its population, is needed. Apathy must be abandoned in favor of action. Cameroonians must reengage the political process if they are to free themselves from this tyranny. Apathy is never a solution for political challenges; it only exacerbates existing problems, and permits corrupt elements to further entrench themselves. Cameroon’s opposition, although limited by a politically repressive environment, must unite and strengthen its outreach if it is to regain the momentum it experienced in the early 90s. 

November 2011 IIJD Newsletter Update

Liberia: Presidential Run-Off Election Set to Go Ahead Next Week after NEC Chairman Resigns. In early October, Liberia held its presidential election, with incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, winning 43.7% of the vote; Winston Tubman, the American-Liberian nephew of former Liberian President William Tubman, took 32.7%; and former rebel leader, Prince Johnson won 12%. Because there was no clear majority, a run-off is scheduled for November 8th between Sirleaf and Tubman; Johnson recently threw his support behind Sirleaf. Tubman had threatened to boycott the run-off, decrying fraud and favoritism at the National Election Commission (NEC). However, he has since agreed to participate following the resignation of NEC Chairman James Fromayan.

Tunisia: Islamist Party Wins Majority in First Democratic Parliamentary Election; Population, International Community Wary of Islamist Rule. Moderate Islamist Party, Ennahda, which has been banned for decades, won nearly 40% of total parliamentary seats (90 of 217 seats); followed by the Congress for the Republic Party (CPR), a secularist party founded by human rights activists in 2001, with 30 seats; and then center-left Ettakatol, or the Democratic Forum for Labor and Freedoms, with 21 seats. Ennahda did not win an absolute majority so it will have to work with secular parties to form a coalition government. Ennahda chief, Rachid Ghannouchi, has promised to respect Tunisia’s modern, liberal societal traditions and to not impose any sort of Muslim code that would restrict women’s rights.

Cameroon: Paul Biya ‘Re-Elected,’ Extending 29-Year Dictatorial Rule. In early October, presidential elections were held in Cameroon, which pitted Biya, who has ruled for nearly three decades, against 22 other candidates. The election was marked by serious oppression of opposition party activities and media access/freedoms by the Biya regime, as well as significant voter apathy, which resulted in extremely low voter turnout. This past week, the country’s Supreme Court validated election results, confirming Biya’s ‘victory’ with 78% of the vote; John Fru Ndi, veteran opposition candidate, followed with just 11%. Several opposition candidates had filed petitions with the Supreme Court, calling for poll results to be completely thrown out due to widespread election fraud and irregularities; however, these petitions failed under the CPDM-controlled courts. Meanwhile, opposition party calls for massive public protests have gone unanswered and the international community’s response to Biya’s continued dismantling of democracy has been mostly muted.  

Libya: Muammar Gaddafi Tortured and Killed by Rebel Fighters. On October 20th, the former Libyan dictator’s convoy, which was trying to flee Sirte, was attacked by NATO forces. Gaddafi and his few remaining body guards fled the convoy and were found by rebel fighters in a network of drain pipes. Cellular phone footage taken by rebel militiamen at the scene shows a wounded Gaddafi being dragged from the pipe, sodomized with what is believed to be a knife, beaten and kicked, and eventually dragged partly naked through the streets by rebel fighters. Gaddafi was reportedly shot in the head by one of the rebels at the scene before being taken into NTC custody. Gaddafi’s body was placed on public display in Tripoli before being buried at an undisclosed location in the desert. Gaddafi’s son, Motassim, was also reportedly captured alive but then also executed. His other son, Saif, is still at large and said to be negotiating his surrender. The NTC has opened an investigation into the killings of Gaddafi and his son. The interim government, which just appointed an interim prime minister, Abdel Rahim al-Keib—an academic and wealthy businessman who is a native of Tripoli—is set to hold elections in eight months.

Somalia: Kenya Government Deploys Troops to Somalia to Combat Al-Shabaab. This month, after several cross-border kidnappings and killings of tourists and humanitarian workers by armed Somalis, the Kenyan military initiated a military offensive against Al-Shabaab targets in Southern Somalia, dubbed ‘Operation Linda Nchi’, which means ‘protect the nation.’ The Kenyan government stated that its military will continue operations within Somalia until the threat of Al-Shabaab had been severely downgraded. The government also plans to conduct a massive security operation within Somali areas of Nairobi to weed out the domestic Al-Shabaab threat. Human rights groups have stated their concern at the planned operation. In Somalia, Kenyan troops have advanced, removing Al-Shabaab fighters from several major Southern towns. Al-Shabaab fighters have been fleeing this advance, opting instead to attempt more organized ambushes of Kenyan troops. Kenyan fighter jets have also conducted aerial bombardments of Al-Shabaab positions; it recently bombed the town of Jilib, where it reportedly killed several civilians. Jilib residents staged a protest against the Kenyan bombardment. France is providing logistical support to Kenyan troops.

Other Developments…

US President Obama Announces Deployment of 100 Troops to Help Combat LRA. The US will send 100 soldiers, mostly special forces, to play an advisory role to forces from Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic. US forces will assist them in dismantling the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and in tracking and apprehending its elusive leader, Joseph Kony. The LRA has terrorized populations throughout central Africa for nearly two decades, murdering, raping, pillaging, and kidnapping children.

Uganda: Opposition Leader Kizza Besigye Arrested Under Controversial ‘Police Act.’ Besigye was arrested on October 18th by Ugandan police after walking a mere 500 meters from his home towards his party’s headquarters. Police placed Besigye under house arrest in what they referred to as ‘preventive detention.’ Police were attempting to prevent Besigye from participating in another ‘walk to work’ protest against rising commodity prices; they claimed that Besigye’s detention was necessary to prevent possible violence. Besigye has petitioned the Constitutional Court, claiming that Section 24 of the Police Act, which was used to justify his detention, is unconstitutional and that his detention was unlawful.

October 2011 IIJD Newsletter Update

Zambia: Zambians Elect New President; Sata Begins Overhaul of Government. Zambians elected opposition leader, Michael Sata, to the presidency, unseating one-term incumbent Rupiah Banda and his once powerful MMD party. Since being elected, Sata—who campaigned against Banda’s overly conciliatory policies toward Chinese investors, whose increased control of several economic and financial sectors have worried Zambians—has made several major changes to government. Sata removed several officials from major posts, including the heads of Zambia’s anti-corruption body and the country’s central bank. In addition, Sata recently canceled the sale of Zambia’s First Bank to South Africa’s FirstRand, stating his desire for Zambian investment to remain with Zambian investors. He has also initiated an investigation into the sale of Zambian telecommunications company Zamtel to Libya’s LAP Green. 

Egypt: Country’s Military Head Denies Order to Shoot from Mubarak; Free Speech, Democratic Reforms under Attack by Military Rulers. Field Marshal Tantawi testified this month at a closed hearing in the trial of Former President Mubarak. Tantawi’s testimony was seen as crucial to the case against Mubarak, who is being charged with murder. The prosecution claims that Mubarak ordered military and police personnel to fire on unarmed protestors. In a rather controversial turn, Tantawi testified that Mubarak did not give any such order, prompting many to accuse him of protecting his former boss. Criticism of the interim military government has intensified over the past few months, as more than 12,000 protestors and social activists have been tried in military tribunals, some solely for acts of freedom of expression and speech. One blogger, his only charge criticizing the military, has been on a hunger strike for more than a month and is in critical condition. Egyptian prosecutors are also said to be investigating NGOs that allegedly receive foreign funding, seeking to criminally prosecute any NGO operating without restrictive permits that were formerly required under the Mubarak regime.

In addition, civil society groups and political parties have denounced the ruling regime’s new election law banning political parties from contesting a third of parliamentary seats, which under the new law will go to independents. Political parties contend that the rule would allow old regime members to secure positions and thus regain control of the government. Two-thirds of the parliamentary system will follow a proportional representation system. The military government has also come under criticism for re-establishing emergency law following an attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

International Criminal Court to Investigate Crimes against Humanity in Côte d’Ivoire. ICC judges have directed prosecutors to open an investigation into the killings of over 3,000 people during post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire earlier this year. Independent investigations by human rights groups had already found evidence that both sides committed human rights violations during the political crisis and that President Ouattara’s forces had continued to engage in human rights abuses after Former President Gbagbo’s arrest. Gbagbo and his wife are currently facing charges of corruption in domestic courts.

South Africa: South African Government Refuses Dalai Lama Visa Allegedly under Pressure from Chinese Government. The Dalai Lama was set to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations on October 6th, but was forced to cancel after the South African government refused him a visitor’s visa. South Africa’s Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, had been in China last week, signing a number of bilateral trade and investment deals. Tutu and others have criticized the government’s refusal to issue the visa, calling such political behavior on the part of the government a violation of the country’s democratic constitutional principles. The government has denied acting under pressure of the Chinese, although it has offered no explanation for denying the visa.

Libya: Rebels Launch Offensive on Last Remaining Gaddafi Strongholds. Libyan rebel forces began an assault against Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town, after Sirte leadership and residents refused to surrender. NGOs operating in Sirte have declared a humanitarian emergency, as food and medical supplies run low. Civilians continue to pour out of the city. Meanwhile, the new rebel government, the National Transitional Council (NTC) announced the formation of an interim cabinet; it has promised to hold elections eight months after the end of all military operations. 

Other Developments…

Rwanda: Two Former Ministers Convicted and Sentenced to Prison for War Crimes. Former Public Service Minister Prosper Mugiraneza and his then trade counterpart Justin Mugenzi were convicted of complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR). Two other ministers, Casimir Bizimungu and Jérôme-Clément Bicamumpaka, who had also been tried, were acquitted of the same crimes due to lack of evidence. Mugiraneza and Mugenzi have been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Kenya: Highly Revered Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai Dies. Kenya’s Wangari Muta Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, environmentalist and human rights activist, died 25 September at age 71. A mother of three, she devoted her life to promoting the environment and democracy. Maathai was the first African female to win a Nobel Peace Prize and the first woman in East Africa to earn a doctorate in veterinary anatomy, which she obtained from the University of Nairobi. She was awarded a Nobel in 2004 for her work the Green Belt Movement, an NGO she established in 1977 to aid in the fight against poverty and environmental degradation. She mobilized Kenyans, particularly women, to plant more than 30 million trees, and inspired the UN to launch a campaign that has led to the planting of 11 billion trees worldwide. More than 900,000 Kenyan women benefited from her tree-planting campaign by selling seedlings for reforestation. Maathai was an extremely outspoken advocate for the poor and was often vilified by Kenyan officials, including former President Moi and Kenyatta. Under Moi’s regime, she was beaten unconscious by police after organizing protests against Moi’s corrupt land dealings. Maathai was an inspiration to millions of Africans, particularly women. She will be cremated, as per her wishes; in her honor, over 5,000 tree seedlings will be planted countrywide.

Zimbabwe: 700 Foreign Companies Miss Deadline to Present Plan for Transfer of Indigenous Shares. The Zimbabwe government will probe about 700 foreign-owned companies that have missed a deadline to tell the government how they will transfer their majority equity to indigenous people, risking ‘serious consequences,’ that include cancellation or suspension of their operating licenses. Under the controversial economic empowerment law that came into force last year, foreign-owned firms must give at least 51% equity to black Zimbabweans. Those that fail to comply face legal action, which can be withdrawal of their operating licenses.

Zanzibar: Ferry Capsizes and Kills over 200. In early September, a ferry travelling between the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba capsized after being overloaded. Over 200 people were killed; 579 people, including 20 children were rescued. Both the Tanzanian and Zanzibar Presidents called for three days of mourning to commemorate the dead.

Zambia Presidential Election: Setting an Example for Africa

In September, Zambians voted in a new president, opposition party leader Michael Sata, whose election resulted in the removal of the heavily entrenched Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) from power. The presidential elections were mostly peaceful, and incumbent President Rupiah Banda, much to everyone’s relief and surprise (given Africa’s track record), gracefully conceded defeat. At a time of frequently contested elections, violent political protests and reprisals, government restriction of political freedoms, and perhaps most disconcerting, attacks on term limits, Zambia’s ability to engage in political transition peacefully and legitimately is to be commended—even if Sata’s political past gives some cause for concern. Zambia, which has a political history similar to that of many of its African neighbors, has managed to foster a political environment conducive to multi-party politics. Moreover, Zambians have demonstrated that rigorous multi-party politics may very well be the key to ensuring democratic practices are protected and advanced in Africa.

 The election of Michael Sata, ends the MMD party’s 20-year rule over Zambia. The MMD’s extended reign, as well as its dominance in parliament, has long been criticized by democracy advocates, who contend that the MMD had re-established de facto one-party politics in Zambia, contrary to its founding principles. Over 20 years ago, it was MMD leaders that helped eliminate de jure one-party politics established by the autocratic and corrupt United National Independence Party (UNIP). UNIP had ruled Zambia unchallenged since its independence in 1964. Over the 25 years that it ruled under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda, UNIP attacked and dismantled Zambia’s democratic institutions and allowed government corruption to go unchecked. In 1991, however, under extreme pressure from the people and major political and civil society leaders (MMD), who were increasingly angered by UNIP’s unabated power, Kaunda readily relented, and multi-party politics were re-introduced to the country; the constitution was also amended to include a retro-active two-term presidential term limit.

Interestingly, Zambia’s major political transitions, including its presidential transfers of power, have all been predominantly peaceful. After Kaunda permitted multi-party politics in ’91, he suffered a tremendous defeat in the presidential election held that same year, losing to MMD leader, Frederick Chiluba, who won 81% of the vote. Instead of using violence to retain his position, Kaunda immediately accepted defeat. In addition, when Chiluba blocked Kaunda and several other opposition members’ attempts to run in the subsequent presidential election, Kaunda used peaceful protest to contest the decision, which was eventually upheld. It is important to note that UNIP had lost significant support amongst the population in the years leading up to the 1991 election; the fact that UNIP no longer maintained the support or trust of the people no doubt was a major factor in Kaunda’s decision not to further challenge the MMD government, which now exercised considerable support of the population. In 1996, Chiluba did win a second term and the MMD retained significant control of parliament, winning 131 of the 150 available seats.

In 2001, with the next presidential election looming, Zambians once again found their democracy under threat; this time from their MMD president. Chiluba, not satisfied with his two-terms in office, proposed extending presidential term limits to three terms. Chiluba’s proposal, however, was met with swift and powerful opposition, not only from the Zambian people, but from civil society leaders, opposition party members, and even a significant majority of his own party. Fascinatingly, unlike in many other African nations, Zambia’s ruling party, the MMD, was never a homogeneous entity; although its democratic pursuits and free market ideals were largely shared by all members, its membership was highly diverse and comprised of political, economic and civil society leaders from various ethnic backgrounds, with equal share in the country’s success. Also unlike other African nations, the party did not center on any one individual’s leadership—and if Chiluba had attempted to make it so during his tenure, he had obviously failed (in part because he had alienated other ethnic groups and had committed major fraud). Chiluba was eventually tried for corruption, along with some of his cabinet members, after the election of MMD leader, Levy Mwanawasa to the presidency in 2002.

It was during the period of 2001-02 that the MMD became highly factionalized, forcing large majorities to break from the MMD and form new political parties. The 2002 presidential election was contested by 11 parties; three of those parties legally contested Mwanawasa’s narrow victory, citing voting irregularities, but the court upheld election results. Once again, the challenging parties peacefully accepted the decision, opting to focus instead on building their bases and contesting Mwanawasa in the next election. This trend of using non-violent means to resolve often charged political disputes continued after Mwanawasa won yet again by an even narrower margin in 2006, in a fiercely contested election that pitted him against Michael Sata, of the new Patriotic Front party, and Hakainde Hichilema of the also new, United Party for National Development. Although the initial announcement of Sata’s loss prompted rioting in Lusaka, Mwanawasa’s victory (43% of the vote) was again accepted by both challengers, who each garnered more than 20% of the vote.

The origins of the Patriotic Front lie within the MMD’s decline, which began with Chiluba and continued under Mwanawasa’s reign. Mwanawasa was hailed for his consistent stance against corruption, which included prosecuting former President Chiluba, a move that alienated many of Chiluba’s MMD supporters. Chiluba plundered millions of dollars from the country during his tenure. Although rich with copper resources, the country was veritably broke when Chiluba left office in 2002. Chiluba, who died in June of 2011, had been tried several times for corruption in both British and Zambian courts. Chiluba was convicted in a British court of corruption in 2007, but the Zambian courts failed to convict him or to uphold and enforce the British court’s ruling requiring Chiluba to return millions to the Zambian government. Mwanawasa’s decision to prosecute Chiluba angered Chiluba loyalists within the MMD; many of these people left MMD to form new parties in protest.

The formation of the Patriotic Front (PF) in 2001 by Michael Sata can also be attributed to Chiluba. Sata had been a close ally of Chiluba’s throughout his presidency, even vehemently supporting Chiluba’s bid to extend presidential term limits to three terms (a fact that should give many cause for concern). In his support of Chiluba, Sata went so far as to orchestrate the removal of 22 MPs and the country’s Vice President, who had opposed extending term limits. By removing these individuals, all of whom were likely successors to Chiluba, Sata had also hoped to secure his position as future president. It was widely expected that Chiluba would back Sata as the MMD’s presidential candidate in the 2002 election; however, Chiluba threw his support behind Mwanawasa, surprising and angering Sata and other loyalists. It was then that Sata decided to break away and form the PF. Over the course of the next decade, Sata and Chiluba’s relationship would remain shaky, with Sata at times pushing for prosecution of Chiluba for graft—a position interestingly enough Sata did not take up while serving under Chiluba—and at other times, Chiluba actually throwing his support behind Sata in his presidential bids.

Zambia has certainly experienced a healthy diversification of its political parties and platforms over the past two decades. This has no doubt contributed to its success at engaging in peaceful political transition. A one-term president is almost unheard of in Africa. However, in this most recent election, after just one term, Banda accepted defeat and handed over the presidency to Sata without protest. What is perhaps most fascinating about political transition in Zambia is the Zambian people’s ability to shift their political support on the basis of political issues and policies. Political support in Africa is typically motivated by ethnic loyalties; however, such is not the case in Zambia, which is highly significant, as interest or policy-based voting is a practice characteristic of more advanced democracies. In fact, a population’s ability to examine individual issues and base its political support on party/candidate platform and performance, rather than cultural or ethnic ties, is crucial to the development and preservation of democracy.

It is the homogenous nature of Zambia’s demographic landscape that has fostered such practical politics. Although Zambia has over 72 different ethnic groups and 9 major languages, the country is heavily urbanized. Over 44% of its population, an equal mix of all ethnicities, lives in urban areas and therefore relies upon a healthy market economy, as well as government and social services for their livelihoods. It is no surprise then that the focus of Zambian citizens would be government economic policy and corruption. Recent presidential campaigns were characterized by these two issues.

Sata’s campaign in particular focused on the Banda administration’s economic policies, specifically its relationship with the Chinese government, which has invested considerably in Zambia’s copper industry. Sata, as well as a host of civil society leaders and groups, NGOs and the World Bank, have noted that while the country’s GDP has grown substantially over the past few years due to Chinese investment, very little of that profit has actually reached average Zambians—two-thirds of Zambians still live underneath the international poverty line. Opposition parties, unions and watchdog organizations note that most profits are taken out of the country instead of being reinvested in much needed infrastructure, like hospitals and schools. Sata easily exploited public anti-Chinese sentiment to his advantage. He accused Banda of having too close of ties to the Chinese. Banda’s campaign was allegedly funded by the Chinese, and although Banda denied this, he continued to refuse to identify his campaign finance sources. In its campaign, the PF promised a more equitable taxation system that would ensure industry profits benefitted the people. It also promised a more hard-lined approach to graft, criticizing the Banda government for being too soft on corruption.

Both parties, the PF and MMD, promised a strategy for resolving economic disparities and improving economic conditions in the country. Both parties promoted an actual platform, which is atypical of many African political parties. Although we recognize how difficult and very repressive the political environment is in most African countries (especially francophone Africa countries), political parties’ platform is mostly opposing the ruling party. They will often engage in heavy criticism of ruling leaders, but offer less or nothing in terms of a credible, substantive platform. Zambians’ ability and willingness to partake in substantial political discourse is extremely significant. Not only is this a reflection of a more sophisticated political environment, but it is also a strong reason for country’s success at engaging in peaceful political transition.

Sata’s and the PF’s election signifies another important shift in Zambian politics. Sata is a precarious figure with a controversial political past. It remains to be seen whether his fervent pursuit of the Zambian presidency was well-intentioned. For now, he enjoys massive support amongst the majority of the population, and in just the short time that he has been president, he has already made significant changes, including removing some government figures such as the head of Zambia’s anti-corruption watchdog. But more important than Sata’s election is the nature of politics in Zambia and Zambians’ consistent willingness to accept political transition even in the most volatile of political environments. Zambia is one of the poorest nations and has one of the least educated populations in Africa, yet it maintains one of the strongest and most peaceful democracies. It is in the best interest of all Africans to acknowledge Zambia’s progress and to learn from its many successes, particularly its population’s ability to transcend ethnic lines, protect democratic processes when threatened and address and adapt to changing political needs.  

IIJD September 2011 Newsletter Update

Egypt: Mubarak Trial Begins in Cairo. The trial against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak began in Cairo in early August; Mubarak has been charged with ordering the killing of civilians during the protests that forced his ouster earlier this year. Mubarak is also being charged with corruption along with his two sons Gamal and Alaa. Former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and six top police officers are also being charged with capital murder. Mubarak’s first few appearances have been chaotic, as Mubarak supporters clashed with anti-Mubarak protestors outside the courthouse and a barrage of defense attorneys flooded the courtroom, forcing the judge to disallow cameras in the courtroom so as to prevent any further grandstanding by Mubarak attorneys. Clashes in the courtroom also erupted between victims’ families and Mubarak supporters, as well as between opposing attorneys. However, the trial of Mubarak, as well as of his family members and other chief figures of the former regime, is a major step towards ensuring that the country’s few democratic institutions and processes are respected and strengthened. The use of the judiciary to accomplish justice in the most sensitive and volatile cases also sets an important example for other countries in the region experiencing similar political transitions.

Over 850 people were killed during the protests, mostly by the regime’s security forces. Mubarak has pledged his innocence in the killings; however, prosecutors have gathered over 1,000 witnesses in support of their case. Witness testimony began this month. Some senior officers, who had been called to testify after providing signed affidavits that Mubarak and el-Adly did indeed give orders to shoot and kill protestors, once on the stand, denied any such orders existed, prompting prosecutors to discredit their own witnesses and allege witness tampering by the defense. The trial is expected to possibly last several years. Meanwhile, Egypt’s new cabinet and military council have been working to draft new laws to govern the upcoming September elections, as well as to establish more transparent localized transitional governance.

Nigeria: United Nations Building in Abuja Bombed by Islamist Group, Killing 21 and Injuring Dozens. On August 26, the UN’s main building in Abuja was attacked by a suicide bomber, who drove through two security barriers before hitting the building and detonating a large explosive. Over 400 people of various nationalities work at the building. Twenty-one people were killed, and 76 injured after the bomb gutted the entire first floor of the compound and set parts of the building alight. Boko Haram, the main Islamist militant group in Nigeria—responsible for the killing and maiming of hundreds of people just this year alone—immediately claimed responsibility for the horrific attack. Although no arrests have been made, Nigerian security forces are currently investigating the incident, allegedly with the FBI’s assistance, and have recently intensified their crackdown in Islamist areas. This has led to increased ethnic tensions, particularly in Jos, the site of frequent inter-ethnic clashes between Christians and Muslims. Given the size and uncharacteristic nature of the UN bombing, some of the public has speculated on possible government involvement in the attack, with the motivation being political. Others have criticized the Nigerian police, which are known for their corruption, incompetency and brutality. Meanwhile, the government is investigating the possibility of increased links between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda.

Libya: Rebel Forces Take Tripoli. In late August, after some pockets of resistance retreated and/or were defeated, rebel forces were able to capture Tripoli. Gaddafi loyalists retreated southeast to the city of Bani Walid, a Gaddafi stronghold. After re-establishing security in the capital, rebel forces advanced on Bani Walid and are currently in negotiations with town leaders over the terms of surrender; the negotiations are being televised. It is unclear where Gaddafi is at the moment; however, some close family members have fled to Algeria, which has granted them entry on ‘humanitarian grounds.’ A large Gaddafi-loyalist military convey also fled across the border to Niger, where Tuareg tribesmen, loyal to Gaddafi, have lent his forces their support. It is unclear whether Gaddafi was travelling with the convoy, which was carrying large amounts of money and gold; however, former Libyan security chief and Gaddafi right hand man, Mansour Daw, was present in the convoy and is currently in the Niger city of Agadez, where the Niger government has granted him asylum, again on ‘humanitarian grounds’. US and Libya NTC officials have called upon the Niger government to find and arrest those senior officials subject to prosecution in Libya. NTC officials have warned other governments against harboring or supporting former regime members. The government of Burkino Faso has reportedly offered Gaddafi, his sons and other regime members safe haven. If not captured, Gaddafi and other regime loyalists may prove dangerous to the NTC, as they may invoke loyalist support in Tripoli as well as support from Tuareg rebels located near the border. When questioned why NATO did not attack the convoy, NATO officials stated that its mission was to protect civilians, not bomb those fleeing fighting.

Kenya: ICC Trial Begins for Post-Election Violence Accused. After the Kenyan government failed to prosecute government officials indicted by the ICC over their role in crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 post-election violence, Hague prosecutors publicly released the names of those indicted and ordered them to appear in front of the ICC. Those indicted thus far include former MP William Ruto—who was recently tried and acquitted on charges of corruption involving illegal land deals and who also faced additional accusations over corruption at Kenya’s education ministry, where millions of dollars have gone missing—Deputy PM and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta; Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kirimi Muthaura; Former Police Chief Mohammed Hussein Ali; Minister for Industrialization Henry Kosgey; and Radio Executive Joshua Arap Sang. This month, Ruto was finally sacked from his position as Education Minister. He and the other accused have been attending pre-trial hearings at The Hague since April. Earlier on, ICC judges warned the defendants against making provocative speeches, as evidence had emerged that some had planned to incite further violence to regain political leverage. The ICC promised that summonses would become arrest warrants if such was the case. Ruto, Sang and Kosgey’s trial began this month; the defendants have argued that the ICC lacks jurisdiction in their case because the defendants were not agents of the state at the time the offenses were committed; however, ICC prosecutors have demonstrated that the defendants were in fact agents of political and military institutions thus making the case admissible (the court had also ruled this previously). In their opening statements, ICC prosecutors stated how defendants paid various agents to incite and commit violence and how they formed an organized command structure to orchestrate atrocities. The trial continues this month.

Sudan and South Sudan: Violence Continues Amongst the Two States and Between Tribes; Sudan Outlaws Major Opposition Party and South Sudan Capital to be Moved. In South Sudan, deadly cattle raids continued this month in the state of Jonglei, where clashes between the Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups have been ongoing for decades. Murle fighters attacked Nuer villages, killing more than 600 people, kidnapping over 200 children and stealing over 25,000 cattle. The raid was apparently committed in retaliation for a June attack by the Nuer that left over 400 Murle dead. Also, to avoid ethnic tensions, South Sudan announced this week that it would be moving to its capital from Juba further north to the remote area of Ramciel. Meanwhile, in the North, Sudanese forces clashed with SPLM-North forces in the Blue Nile State, an opposition strong hold. The North has accused the Southern government of supporting rebel militias in those areas, a claim the South denies. In response to the fighting, Khartoum has arrested hundreds of SPLM-North, Sudan’s main opposition political party; removed the Blue Nile State’s elected governor from his post; and seized control of the state’s capital Damazin. Khartoum has stripped SPLM-North of its legal status and stated any member engaged in political activities will be subject to arrest. Thousands of people have now fled the border states of Blue Nile and Kordofan due to heavy fighting.

Other developments…

Cote D’Ivoire: Former President Gbagbo Charged with Corruption. On August 19, Gbagbo and his wife were charged with economic crimes, armed robbery, looting and embezzlement. Authorities had charged 57 soldiers from Gbagbo’s regime the week prior with crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to attacking state security and buying illegal arms. The former head of Gbagbo’s party, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and 11 others were also charged with attacking state security and backing the former president’s refusal to concede the poll. Gbagbo was forcibly removed from power after the international community, which included the UN, decided to unilaterally declare Ouattara winner, despite evidence of electoral fraud and the fact that Gbagbo had been declared winner by the country’s Constitutional Council, the only body with authority to do so. Gbagbo and his wife have now been transferred from house arrest to jail. Meanwhile, in July, UN investigators uncovered evidence of Ouattara forces committing mass atrocities against Gbagbo supporters after Gbagbo’s arrest. Ouattara has yet to properly address these accusations and evidence.

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Reported to be Dying of Cancer. Wikileaks released a new set of documents last week, some of which indicate that Mugabe is suffering from cancer, diagnosed as early as 2006. The US Envoy in Zimbabwe stated in a cable that sources had indicated to him that Mugabe would die in a few years’ time and that his illness had already rendered him incompetent to rule. Cables also revealed divisions within ZANU-PF, as well as a growing impatience and anger at Mugabe’s continued rule. Government officials from various countries including Tanzania and South Africa also heavily criticized ZANU-PF for its failure to competently govern the country.

Somalia: UN Declares Famine in Additional Areas; 750,000 Face Starvation. As drought continues and more people flee, more areas of southern Somalia face the threat of famine and disease, despite international aid efforts. The UN stated that internal displacement, which had initially exacerbated the problem, was now decreasing, but rates of malnutrition and mortality are increasing, and the spread of disease is partly to blame as measles and cholera cases are being reported in refugee camps.

Cameroon: Biya Once Again Announces His Bid for the Presidency. Presidential elections are set to be held in October 9th, 2011. Biya, who has ruled the country for nearly 30 years, announced the decision despite widespread calls for him to step down. There are 21 presidential candidates on the ballot, including the leader of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, John Fru Ndi, who has sharply criticized Biya’s bid for another seven year term. Mr. Paul Biya who is known to be one of the worst dictators on hearth changed the constitution in 2008 to eliminate term limits and allow himself to remain in power, despite widespread protests that were also fueled by rising food prices. Paul Biya regime has refused to establish an independent national body vested with the power to freely organize elections in Cameroon.    Over 80% of Cameroon’s youth are unemployed. The protests were violently suppressed by security forces which killed an estimated 120 people. Biya and his regime have been accused, not only of brutality, but of widespread corruption, as well as electoral fraud.

South Sudan: Independence Marked by Major Challenges

On July 9, 2011, the world officially welcomed its newest nation, South Sudan, which finally achieved independence after decades of violent oppression at the hands of the Northern-based regime. Although the achievement is momentous, it also brings with it significant challenges, especially for the South Sudanese government, which must contend with prevalent poverty, ongoing tribal conflict, continued security and economic threats from Khartoum and perhaps most daunting, a serious lack of governmental and social infrastructure.

Economic Development Challenges in South Sudan

South Sudan is one of the poorest and most disadvantaged countries in the world, and therefore faces serious challenges to its development. Its economic troubles stem predominantly from years of heavy mismanagement of government funds and oil revenue, as well as serious neglect and violent interventionism, by Omar al-Bashir’s northern regime. The percentage of South Sudan’s population that currently lives below the poverty line is over 50%. In addition, the country’s child malnutrition rate is 48% (average Global Malnutrition Rate for children 6-59 months is 22%), significantly higher than emergency levels, and its child mortality rate 38%. South Sudan’s poverty is compounded by a serious lack of social and educational services, as the number of schools and health centers are limited. As of 2010, the adult literacy rate is a mere 37% (compared to 76% in the North); and the percentage of the population with a primary education, only 48%. South Sudan is also struggling to cope with a severely deficient infrastructure. Its airport lacks a decent airstrip and power outages in Juba are frequent. Access to improved water and sanitation services is extremely low, and there are only about 100 miles of paved road throughout the entire country (an area the size of France), resulting in minimal market access for a population that still lives mostly in thatched roof houses.

Currently, South Sudan depends on the oil industry for 98% of its revenue and that revenue funds a significant majority of the government’s activities. The country’s oil resources are vast; in fact, the majority of the 500,000 barrels of oil produced daily within the whole of Sudan comes from the South. Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), North and South Sudan each receive 50% of the two countries’ total oil revenue. The two governments have been in discussion over the future of oil shares, specifically how much the South should pay in transit fees to ship oil North via Khartoum-owned pipelines. However, they have yet to come to any agreement. Khartoum has sought to impose transit fees totaling one-third the export value of Southern oil shipments to the Port of Sudan, Sudan’s only major maritime port. South Sudan is currently entirely dependent upon Khartoum both for piping oil, as well as refining and exporting it, as it does not exercise control over any pipeline or refinery, nor does it have a substantial port. The Kenyan government does plan to expand the capacity of its Lamu Port, which includes building a new pipeline to the port, under the Lamu Port South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport Corridor, or LAPSSET, project, which would allow South Sudan an alternate shipping route. However, funding has not yet been secured; hence it would be years before the pipeline and port are actually fully operational.

Recognizing the danger of continued dependence on Khartoum’s cooperation for its revenue, the South Sudanese government (GOSS) has sought to diversify the country’s economy, particularly by expanding agricultural investment. Like many other African countries, South Sudan is seeking greater foreign direct investment in its agricultural sector—as it does not currently have the capacity to industrialize the country’s agricultural industry on its own. Rainfall levels are adequate, and fertile uncultivated farmland is widely available throughout the country (it is estimated that only 4% of South Sudanese land is currently being cultivated), so the potential for large agricultural production is high. In fact, from 2007 to 2010, private investors acquired approximately 6.5 million acres of land in South Sudan, for production of agriculture, mining and timber, as well as oil. To determine the potential for further investment, South Sudan will hold a major conference and trade fair in October of this year in Juba, where government officials, donor agencies and private sector representatives will discuss possible opportunities for economic and business development.

Increased investment and economic diversification are key to South Sudan’s future stability. Not only would this result in greater and more secure revenue for the government, but this would also increase employment and income opportunities for the population; ensure greater food supply (South Sudan currently imports staple foods and relies on food aid due to inadequate domestic production); and help establish comparative advantage by industrializing sectors and creating a productive labor force. However, there are currently several major obstacles to the country’s economic advancement that must be addressed. The development of the agricultural sector is hindered by a shortage of skilled labor (only 30% of the population engages in agricultural production), poor rural infrastructure, limited to no use of improved technologies, inadequate inputs and little to no agricultural/livestock extension services. Other significant barriers to growth include a lack of financial/market infrastructure and services, the lack of adequate government and legal infrastructure and continued often unpredictable violence.

Fiscal Threats and Policies

Most recently, the GOSS suffered a serious financial setback after Khartoum announced the early introduction of a new currency, shortly after South Sudan’s launch of its currency. The 2005 Peace Agreement prohibits the Northern government from introducing a new currency until at least six months after South Sudan launches its currency, allowing the Southern government time to invest and/or otherwise exchange its Sudanese pound reserves. South Sudan decided to launch a new currency in July, just after declaring independence. GOSS claimed it had no choice but to launch so soon after independence, as Khartoum had stopped supplying it with its share of the country’s oil revenue. Khartoum has often used its control over oil profits and refined oil production to either pressure or punish the South. Last year, Khartoum switched the South’s oil payment currency from US dollars to the Sudanese pound, an apparent move by the fiscally inept Northern government to hold onto its US dollar reserves and undermine the South’s fledgling economy by flooding it with money that would essentially be worthless in several months’ time. It had been suggested by international experts that both countries hold off on the launch of new currency, so as to allow the current currency and trade between the two to stabilize. Khartoum had even suggested the two form a monetary union; however, distrust on both sides and the Bashir government’s many underhanded tactics seemed to force South Sudan’s hand.

This new move by Khartoum essentially renders the South’s USD700 million worth in Sudanese pound reserves valueless. GOSS has set up stations across the country so its citizens can exchange their old Sudanese pound holdings to the South Sudan pound. The government had planned to sell those acquired holdings back to the North in exchange for foreign currency or replace the holdings through commercial trade with the North. However, with the North already suffering inflationary rates due to poor fiscal policy (that included a change in currency just a few years back), Khartoum was clearly concerned that the infusion of such large amounts of cash would further devalue the country’s currency, aggravating its current fiscal crisis. In addition, the issuance of a new currency ensures that the Southern government cannot utilize those reserves to benefit itself or its people in any manner. Khartoum claims that it will allow Southern citizens three months time to exchange their personal holdings and that it will work with GOSS to resolve the reserve issue. However, it has been reported that Khartoum is demanding that the South Sudanese government return the reserves to the North, now that they cannot be exchanged or used for trade. Khartoum fears that the South will attempt to smuggle its reserves into the North to exchange it. GOSS has refused to surrender its reserves.

Continued Territorial Disputes with North

The South’s issues with Khartoum are not limited to monetary policies, which have been arguably reckless on both sides. In addition to fiscal attacks, South Sudan continues to face a military threat from its Northern neighbor. Shortly after the South became independent, Khartoum launched a major assault on the town on Abyei, a disputed oil-rich area, which under a joint agreement between the two countries is patrolled only by UNMIS, a United Nations Mission in Sudan force that is comprised of police units from both sides, as well as foreign troops and civilian UN personnel. A referendum was supposed to be held in Abyei in January to determine its future status; however a dispute over voter eligibility prevented it, resulting in deadly clashes between opposing groups. The ethnic African tribe of the Ngok Dinka, which is mostly southern-based, and the Arab tribe of Misseriah both lay claim to the area.

Khartoum’s attack on Abyei seemed to have been motivated by an alleged assault on its police units and foreign UNMIS troops by Southern forces that killed 22 Northern soldiers and spurned larger firefights between Southern and Northern troops that resulted in the deaths and injury of another 300 Northern troops. Khartoum used the attack on its soldiers and its claims that the SPLA (Southern forces) were occupying disputed areas as justification to invade the town, driving all Southern Dinka tribes people from their homes and land. Armed gangs reportedly set Dinka homes and property on fire after looting them; Khartoum also brought in large numbers of Arab Misseriya, in an attempt to repopulate the area to its advantage. By the end of its assault, Northern forces and armed thugs had razed much of the Southern sections of town and the North retained total control. Khartoum eventually agreed to withdraw its troops from the area, after Ethiopia offered to send a peacekeeping force to the town; however, as of August 2011, the SFA (Northern forces) still remains in total control despite the fact that thousands of Ethiopian troops have been deployed. Meanwhile, in Kordofan state, another disputed oil rich area, Khartoum continues to allegedly bomb civilians; it has also blocked aid deliveries, forcing more displacement. Human rights groups have warned of major atrocities being committed in the area; however, access remains restricted by Khartoum.

Internal Challenges to Southern Unity

Challenges relating to territorial disputes and Northern military interventionism, including in Darfur (it is estimated that over 1,000 have been killed and over 200,000 more displaced since 2010), are further complicated by South Sudan’s internal conflicts and a severe lack of government infrastructure. This month, over 600 people were killed and many more injured, kidnapped and forced to flee in clashes between warring tribes in Jonglei state. These types of clashes, which have killed over 2,300 South Sudanese in just the past few months, are often driven by disputes over resources. This most recent conflict involved two tribes attacking each other to steal cattle resources, avenge deaths resulting from previous clashes and kidnap children, who are considered a valuable resource to tribes with very few. Violence related to this specific dispute has been ongoing for at least the past few months; however the government has been powerless to prevent its escalation or to bring the perpetrators on either side to justice. Its simply lacks adequate security and legal infrastructure in this area, which is a common challenge it faces in many parts of the country. In fact, in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, some major ministries are currently operating out of trailers.

Also compounding such conflicts, particularly in Jonglei state, is the continued rebellion by former SPLM member and SPLA commander, George Athor. Athor is one of several former leading SPLM members who have taken up arms against GOSS, resentful over his inability to secure a more powerful position within the new government. Athor lost the governor race in Jonglei state and in retaliation has sought to destabilize the territory, as well as punish those who did not lend him their support. It is reported that Athor’s forces have killed and forced the displacement of thousands. Athor has also armed numerous tribesmen to perpetrate acts of violence against other tribes, all with the alleged support of Khartoum. GOSS has attempted to negotiate peace with Athor and various other rebel leaders, even offering amnesty. SPLA forces have also launched offensives against rebel militias, hoping to place added pressure on them to surrender and reintegrate. Some progress has been made. Lt. General Gabriel Tang surrendered this year and is currently in detention, and Gen. Gatluak Gai, who had been particularly troublesome, signed a peace agreement with the SPLM in July, only to be shot and killed allegedly by one of his own men, a week later. Currently, however, Athor and several other rebel leaders continue to pose a threat.

The Challenges of South Sudan Governance

GOSS is currently operating under an interim constitution that was finally approved, after much debate, just days prior to the country’s formal independence in early July. Although the constitution’s approval was an important first step to establishing a democratic foundation to governance in South Sudan, its heavily centralized provisions elicited immediate criticism from opposition parties, civil rights groups and the international development community. Criticism specifically centers on the significant enhancement of presidential powers under the new constitution, which allows the president to remove state governors and dissolve state assemblies “in the event of a crisis in the state that threatens national security and territorial integrity.” The provision is a bit troubling, as it is difficult to imagine a scenario within a democratic state, even in a context as volatile as South Sudan, in which the removal and replacement of an elected official in such a way is justified. In addition, a provision such as that could easily be exploited to the advantage of the president and his party. This is a legitimate concern in a country where SPLM rules veritably unchallenged—though mostly at the behest of the people, who have voted overwhelmingly for SPLM candidates in the few elections held thus far.  

Opposition parties have argued against extraordinary national government interference, particularly presidential interference, into state affairs, as they seek a federal system of governance, in which states exercise significant autonomy. However, it is questionable whether such a system would be appropriate for a country in which regional and tribal conflict is so prevalent and where a foreign government, namely Khartoum, continuously interferes in hopes of retaining influence in the South.  In addition, the main opposition party within South Sudan, SPLM-DC, has yet to prove itself as a legitimate and valid alternative, as it is comprised essentially of disgruntled former SPLM leaders, whose only platform is opposing the ruling SPLM. The lack of support its candidates have received thus far from the population reflects a strong distrust of the party’s intentions.

The SPLM has repeatedly accused the SPLM-DC of operating militias in Upper Nile and Unity states with the intent to destabilize the region, particularly during the period leading up to the referendum. Furthermore, SPLM-DC’s founder, Lam Akol Ajawin, former Foreign Minister under Sudan’s unity government, was allegedly removed from his former position because of his closeness to Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum. The SPLM-DC has denied all accusations regarding its links to both Khartoum and to any militias. It has accused SPLM and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir of slandering its leaders, as well as unlawfully blocking its political activities, such as campaigning during the elections. SPLM-DC alleged that SPLM security forces used intimidation and violence to stymie its political efforts.

What perhaps is most troubling is that the Southern government continued to try to halt SPLM-DC political activities even after the country’s Supreme Court ruled such government action unconstitutional. President Kiir had initially signed an executive order directing state government officials to use all means to prevent SPLM-DC from engaging in political activities on the basis that it believed SPLM-DC was operating violent, anti-government militias; however, the court ruled the order unconstitutional. Although concerns regarding Khartoum’s influence and other destabilizing forces are certainly legitimate, unilateral moves on the part of GOSS’s executive, that have no constitutional basis, are also a threat to South Sudan’s future as an independent democratic state. In this case, the SPLM acted without establishing a legal or evidentiary basis for its accusations against the SPLM-DC. Kiir once again exercised excessive executive power more recently when he sacked the President of the Supreme Court, a power invested to him by the interim constitution. Most worrisome is that no explanation was given for the president’s removal.

Given the volatile nature of the South Sudanese political context, which includes various nefarious forces working to destabilize and weaken, not only GOSS, but the future of independent governance in South Sudan, as well as limited governmental capacity, it is somewhat unreasonable to expect democratic practice at the level of long-established democracies. However, GOSS must ensure that the principles upon which it establishes the country’s political system are not specific to the current environment. The heavy concentration of executive power within the central government, as outlined in the interim constitution, reflects the government’s distrust of the current political situation as well as its own ability to democratically resolve crises. Although this may be appropriate for governing in the current setting, if the country is to achieve true democracy, any future constitution will have to be based on principles that apply within a purely egalitarian context.


As per the interim constitution, the transitional period will last a period of four years, during which time, GOSS is obliged to develop a formal constitution, build state institutions and develop the country’s economy. Although the length of the transitional period has been criticized (opposition parties had requested the period last no more than two years), the task of constructing an entire country is monumental and without proper development of political and social institutions, the costly election of new officials would prove inconsequential. The country is completely devoid of governmental and institutions, which includes a weak civil society. It is also struggling with humanitarian crises brought on by conflict, with hundreds of thousands displaced, and lacks an independent source of revenue. South Sudan faces tremendous obstacles in its quest for successful independence. It is imperative that the international community continue to lend it substantial technical support on several fronts, but particularly in the area of good governance, which is the most necessary element to both political and economic success. 

Kenya Institutional reforms Updates

After the December 2007 post-election violence where more than one thousand people lost their life, an agreement was made amongst the feuding political parties to revise Kenya’s constitution, specifically to reduce the authoritarian powers of the president, and on August 4, 2010, a strong majority of Kenyans rallied behind a newly proposed constitution, designed to do just that. Over 67 percent of the voting population approved the new constitution, whose implementation is expected to produce a fairer system of governance and finally establish and protect multi-party democracy in Kenya.    The IIJD has continued to monitor the events in Kenya and this constitutes an update on the situation.  This is important as it could help guide the transition currently going on in Tunisia and Egypt.

In order to effectively pursuit the reform process, the Kenyan government created the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) in January 2011.  The CIC is responsible for advocating for and tracking the passage of constitutional legislation in Parliament.  Many bills have yet to be passed, but nearly all have been drafted and introduced into Parliament.  The CIC releases quarterly reports tracking the progress of legislation.  Additionally, the CIC website is kept up to date on current events concerning implementation of the Constitution.  The website also features a proposed timeline for enactment.  However, this timeline ends August 31, 2011 and nearly none of the goals have been accomplished. 

In late March 2011, President Mibaki introduced several bills required under the new Constitution in Parliament.  These bills are:

  • The Independent Commissions Bill
  • The Commission on Revenue Allocation Bill
  • The Salaries and Remuneration Commission Bill
  • The Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill
  • The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Bill
  • The Public Service Commission Bill
  • The National Land Commission Bill
  • The Commission on Administrative Justice Bill
  • The National Police Service Commission Bill
  • The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Bill

Of the ten Bills introduced by President Mibaki that day, only one (the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission), has been enacted.  Many of these bills are still in the process of being drafted.  A draft of the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill has been published, but has not yet been voted on in the National Assembly.  An existing agency, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, argues that a second human rights agency in unnecessary in Kenya.  This issue will likely present itself when the draft Bill comes up for debate in Parliament. 

The National Land Commission Bill would administer the National Land Commission (NLC) originally established in Article 67 of the Constitution.  The NLC will not be fully operational until the Bill is passed.  Public debates over the vetting and authority of officials have been a major cause of the delay in passing the Bill.  The Ministry of Land, a separate agency from the NLC, bowed to public pressure to prolong public discussions of the draft bill.  Additionally, Kenyan land surveyors object to the bill.  They fear the division of responsibility between the Ministry of Land and the new NLC is unclear, and will create additional problems.  Nevertheless, the Minister of Land has pledged that the National Land Commission Bill will be passed by February 2012.

A draft of the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Bill was introduced into Parliament in late July 2011.  The bill will likely be tabled for discussion during the coming weeks, and be voted on shortly thereafter.  The draft bill allows Kenyans living abroad to maintain dual citizenship.  Additionally, those holding dual citizenship are able to vote in Kenyan national elections, as well as run for electoral office, provided they meet residency requirements.

Eritrea’s Not So Special Court

The Eritrean judiciary is largely based on the structure of the local government, with Community Courts at the bottom of the judicial hierarchy. Above the Community Courts are the Regional/Zonal Courts, with the High Court representing the last appellate court in Eritrea. Much of the 1997 Constitution that could have applied to the Judiciary, has not been implemented. This includes Article 49 of the Constitution which called for the establishment of a Supreme Court and a Judicial Service Commission (JSC), neither of which has happened. The President is also suppose to consult the JSC before removing a judge; where as today, the Executive is currently appointing and dismissing judges at his own discretion (Globalex; Eritrean Constitution; Freedom House).

The failure of the Eritrean Government to successfully implement the Constitution of 1997 has had a devastating impact on the entire judicial system. Not only has the government failed to create a Supreme Court and Judicial Service Commission (JSC), as specified by the Constitution, but they have instead created a separate and autonomous court known as the Eritrean Special Court (Eritrean Constitution; NYU Globalex).

The Eritrean Special Court was established in 1996 in order to allow the President to target and try officials from the Red Sea Trading Company with corruption, extortion and embezzlement. The government believed that such offenses were drastically increasing and that the regular courts were being far too lenient in dealing with them. The Special Courts specifically targeted individuals charged with these crimes, providing the Executive with complete authority and zero accountability. Special Court officials do not operate according to any particular rule of law, but rather according to their own conscience beliefs or as a result of an executive order (Ethiopian Journal).

Despite the fact that the Special Courts were established to deal specifically with issues of government corruption, they have been drastically expanded to deal with a variety of governmental and political cases; not to mention the fact that the Special Courts may review any cases heard by the Regular and Customary Courts. The ability of the Supreme Court to re-try cases previously heard in either Regular or Customary courts is a prime example of government sanctioned double-jeopardy. The President has the authority to unilaterally decide which cases are tried by the Special Courts. In 1999 the Eritrean Attorney General guaranteed that the Special Courts were a temporary measure. This was clearly a false statement, see that the courts have only grown in size and influence over the past 12 years (Ethiopian Journal; NYU Globalex; Amnesty International).

Defendants under the rules of the Special Courts are almost always denied legal representation, prevented from having any visitors, and are often detained in a secret location. While being secretly detained, defendants are often beaten and tortured, only to be expected to then represent themselves in court. Defendants are frequently held for years in pre-trial detention before their cases are ever officially heard. The trials are also held in a secret location, with no member of the public, media or even the family allowed to be present. When a family member goes missing in Eritrea, it is common for the family to assume that they have either been killed or are being charged in Special Court. The Special Courts have also frequently failed to notify a suspect’s family when a suspect dies in custody (Ethiopian Journal; Amnesty International).

The Eritrean Special Courts are widely regarded as one of the most corrupt and inhumane court systems in the world. In a Special Court “the plaintiff is the government (the judge), the interrogator or prosecutor is the government (the judge), and the verdict is given by the government (the judge)” (Ethiopian Journal). The composition of these courts, where a single person is literally playing both judge and jury, demonstrates a complete lack of checks and balances, with the influence of the President carrying most of the weight (Ethiopian Journal).

It is impossible to successfully distribute justice when the judge is acting on behalf of the President. A majority of these Special Court judges are former members of the Eritrean military with no formal legal training. When handing down sentence verdicts, the judges are not required to adhere to any particular standards in regards to sentence length, often acting in whichever way the executive prefers. Many prisoners reported being sentenced indefinitely with no specific release date (2010 Human Rights Report).

The continued existence of these Special Courts will continue to derail the nation’s justice system and the people’s faith in it. The Special Courts are used to prosecute a variety of individuals ranging from draft dodgers, political dissidents and refugees. The government demonstrated its willingness to try high profile targets in 2000 when they tried Ermias Debessai, Eritrea’s former Ambassador for China, for embezzlement. Debessai was arrested in 1997 and held in pre-trail detention for three years before his trial. He was then convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to seven years by the Special Court. Amnesty international reported that throughout the trial, Debessai was not allowed to properly present his own case and that he was ultimately sentenced for political reasons. It appears that over the course of the past several years, the President has been more willing than ever to use these Special Courts as a means to try and convict all those who stand against his party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, and those who would be calling for the rightful implementation of the adopted Constitution of 1997 (Amnesty International).

The current make up of the Eritrean Judiciary is a major road block in terms of the country’s future development. In order for real change and development to occur within Eritrea, the Special Courts need to be abandoned and the government needs to make a concentrated effort to install both the Supreme Court and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). These are simply the first steps in establishing a well functioning justice system. Essentially, the government needs to officially implement the 1997 Constitution, which was adopted by the National Assembly and a Constitutional Convention. Such actions would not only allow for a more sound and internationally recognized Judicial System, but it would also establish the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the land, giving the judges of all courts the ability to draw judicial decisions from a sound and recognized form of law (Eritrean Constitution of 1997).

In order to effectively address the persistent development crisis on the African continent; caused by weak institutions; a lack of accountability, transparency, democratic rule; bad governance, corruption, and the persistence of military juntas, the IIJD recommends;

The system of governance and the political institutions of Eritrea need to be reformed so as to include a real separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Independent, impartial and autonomous electoral bodies need to be established in every African country, with the power and resources to organize and to supervise free and fair elections.

As for the corruption, Eritrea needs independent, impartial and independent anti-corruption agency vested with the power and having the resources to freely investigate allegations of corruption. Such agency will definitely enhance the ability of independent investigatory and prosecutorial bodies to try cases involving corruption and misappropriations of the nation’s resources at a government level.   

August 2011 IIJD Newsletter Update

Somalia: Al Shabaab Abandons Mogadishu while Over 29,000 Somali Children Declared Dead due to Famine: Last week, Al Shabaab reneged on its decision to allow unrestricted access to aid organizations in order to distribute food to Somalia’s growingly desperate population. The group continues to claim that the famine has been fabricated by the international community. However, thousands of more Somalis have fled across the border and into government-controlled areas of Mogadishu in search of assistance. The UN estimates that over 29,000 children have died as a result of malnutrition since the start of the crisis and that number continues to rise as families make long and treacherous treks to the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders. This week Al Shabaab withdrew from the capital Mogadishu after failed attempts to attack IDP camps and AU forces. It is believed that Al Shabaab was forced to retreat due to lack of supplies (including food) and reduced funding from Arab and Eritrean sources as well as from taxes on the population; however, the government has warned against civilians returning to newly abandoned areas out of fear of booby-traps and possible suicide bombings. AU peacekeepers also stated that they would be cautious in retaking these areas in the event of traps.

Eritrea: UN Report Accuses Eritrean Government of Plotting to Bomb AU Conference in Addis Ababa Last January. The UN’s Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported that it had uncovered substantial evidence that the Eritrean government had arranged and funded a plot to bomb the AU Summit in Ethiopia’s capital last January. The plot specifically involved bombing the AU’s headquarters, directly targeting African leaders while on break. It also involved attacking Addis’s largest market to kill as many civilians as possible, as well as bombing the Sheraton hotel, where dignitaries would be staying. Eritrean intelligence allegedly trained and funded anti-Ethiopian government group the Oromo Liberation Front (OLM) to carry out the attack, whose purpose was to debilitate the Ethiopian economy and government by creating a climate of fear throughout Ethiopia and diminishing AU trust in the Ethiopian government. The Eritrean has denied the allegations; however, it has long been accused of funding militants throughout East Africa, including Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab. Eritrea is already under a UN arms embargo, which it is repeatedly accused of violating. It now faces additional sanctions. To offset the increased isolation, Eritrea recently moved to rejoin East African economic group IGAD. Eritrea left IGAD in 2007 after it backed Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia to oust the Islamist government.

Ethiopia: Investigative News Reports Reveals Ethiopian Government Withholding Aid to Opposition Supporting Villages. BBC News recently completed an undercover investigation into the Ethiopian government’s purposeful withholding of development aid to supporters of political opposition groups. BBC journalists found whole villages in which people were starving due to insufficient agricultural production and the government’s subsequent refusal to provide assistance. Village leaders reported that they were essentially being punished by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (who has ruled Ethiopia since 1991) for not voting for his party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The BBC found villages in several areas that were suffering, although surrounding villages (which supported Zenawi’s regime) were well-fed and prosperous. This has led to serious accusations that the Ethiopian government is utilizing aid as a political tool, with the provision of aid contingent upon village support of Zenawi’s party. The report also uncovered evidence of mass detentions and rape and murder by government forces of village members believed to be supporters of militant opposition group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front. Villagers claim that both donors and humanitarian organizations have neglected their claims, dismissing them as isolated incidents.

Nigeria: UK Court Declares Jurisdiction over Oil Spill Case against Royal Dutch Shell Oil in Ogoniland Region of Nigeria. The British Court ruled that the Nigerian community can claim compensation for Shell’s two major disastrous oil spills that occurred in the Ogoniland region in 2008 and 2009 and destroyed parts of the Bodo’s fishing communities. Shell has already claimed responsibility for the spills, which experts have claimed to be as large as the 1989 Exxon Valdez Spill; however, it has done nothing to clean the oil which continues to engulf large and small waterways and farmlands. The UK court’s decision will allow complainants to potentially seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. UNEP is set to release its report on the environmental damage to Ogoniland, which it claims is substantial. It is estimated that over 13 million barrels of oil have been spilt in the region over the past several decades, twice as much as the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The UN estimates that it could take up to 30 years to clean the oil.

South Sudan: South Sudan Admitted to African Union. Upon obtaining independence in July, South Sudan has now been admitted to the AU as its 54th member state. The AU will now assist in settling long-standing disputes between Sudan and the South Sudanese, which includes rows over territory and oil resources. The AU recently deployed a peacekeeping force to Abyei, a disputed area that came under heavy attack by Sudanese government forces. An additional dispute over monetary holdings occurred this past month, when the Sudanese government, in violation of the terms outlined in the peace agreement, announced its decision to launch a new currency, shortly after South Sudan launched its currency. South Sudanese leaders complained that the move would devastate its economy by making its Sudanese monetary holdings worthless. Sudan has stated that it will allow a period to exchange currencies.

Other Developments…

Sudan: Five UN Peacekeeping Troops Killed by Mine in Abyei; Sudanese Government Prevents Medical Evacuation. At least five Ethiopian peacekeepers were killed and seven others injured when a landmine exploded while they were on patrol in Mabok, southeast Abyei town. Two died immediately, but three died while the UN was trying to negotiate a medical airlift. UN Peacekeeping Chief Alain Le Roy stated that the UN spent three hours trying to persuade the government to allow the evacuation. The three soldiers were dead by the time the airlift was permitted. Le Roy also stated that the Sudanese government threatened to shoot down the helicopter if the UN attempted to airlift the soldiers without its permission.

Malawi: Malawi Gripped by Violent Protests over High Food and Fuel Costs. Last month, nation-wide protests were staged by hundreds of Malawi citizens angered over high unemployment, the high cost of living and the government’s suppression of civil liberties. At least 18 people were killed and several dozen people injured when protests turned violent after government forces attempted to break up the demonstrations. Rioting ensued as groups of angry men began looting and attacking various locations, including the offices of President Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party. Police have been criticized for using brutal tactics against both protestors and journalists. Both the UK and US governments have condemned the government’s crackdown and have decided to suspend aid to the government. Presidential elections are to be held in 2014; Mutharika cannot run as this is his final term.

Swaziland: Swaziland Receives Short-Term Bailout from South African Government Amidst a Growing Political and Economic Crisis. The South African government recently agreed to provide the Swaziland government a $355 million loan to help bail it out of a fiscal crisis caused mostly by an inept and gluttonous dictator and corrupt governance. The government, which is essentially bankrupt, is unable to pay civil servants, who staged a rare protest last week. It is also running out of anti-retroviral drugs for its HIV positive population, which is the highest in the world. Meanwhile the king and his 13 wives continue to live exorbitantly lavish lifestyles at the cost of the state. The South African government stated that to qualify for the loan, Swaziland would have to adopt democratic government reforms set out by the IMF, which will oversee the loan.

Niger: Government Prevents Coup Last Month. Ten people were arrested for an alleged coup attempt against new Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou. Several soldiers including a major and lieutenant allegedly plotted to assassinate Issoufou. Authorities are searching for an additional suspect.

Cape Verde: Presidential Elections to Be Held this Month. Two-term President Pedro Pires will step down. His party, the ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde, faces a split vote however, as its candidate Manuel Inocencio Sousa faces another party member, Aristides Lima, for the presidency. Lima will run as an independent. The two will face the main opposition party, the Movement for Democracy, whose candidate is former foreign minister and law professor Jose Carlos Fonseca. Some have predicted that the election will end with a run-off.

Libya: Top Rebel Commander Killed by Allied Rebel Faction.  Abdel Fattah Younes, a former close ally of Gaddafi who defected to the rebels, was killed by rebel militiamen who had been sent to escort him to another location. Younes was deeply distrusted by some rebel leaders who believed he was still in contact with Gaddafi. It is believed that Younes had been recalled for suspicion that he was working with Gaddafi forces and that he had been executed for treason. Others have tried to blame the murder on Gaddafi loyalists believed to have infiltrated rebel forces.

The Ben Ali Trial in Tunisia: A Hollow Justice

Background: Tunisia at the Beginning of the Arab Spring Revolution

Had it not been for Tunisia, many argue that the Arab Spring that swept throughout the Middle East would not have occurred. Discontent over unemployment and oppression had reached a boiling point sparking protests throughout Tunisia over the despotic rule of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali had ruled Tunisia since 1987 when he staged a bloodless coup and declared the former President Habib Bourguiba mentally unfit. When elections were held in 1989, Ben Ali won and continued to be “re-elected” during each presidential election. In the most recent one that took place in 2009 he claimed he received 90% of the vote despite the fact that there was significant opposition.

Although the seeds of hostility towards Ben Ali’s rule were planted long ago with his repressive tendencies, it was only within the past few years that the seeds became choking weeds that would eventually prove fatal to Ben Ali’s regime. The murmurs of discontent began to rise with the re-election of Ben Ali in 2009. Tunisians were unhappy not only with the lack of civil liberties and freedoms but mostly with the rising unemployment due to Ben Ali’s poor economic policies. These policies, while generating growth and promoting stability, also increased the income gap amongst Tunisians. Economic development was heavily concentrated in the north and along the eastern coastline creating a disproportionate distribution of wealth in the south, center, and western regions. 

The government did manage to improve living conditions in those regions by providing potable water, education, and access to health services but they never managed to provide the people with jobs. Universities were unable to train students in a way that could meet the needs of the Tunisian economy which heavily relies on low-skilled jobs such as tourism and clothing manufacturing. In fact the rates of unemployment for college graduates were double that of the national unemployment rate (13%-16% nationally, while in Sidi Bouzid alone unemployment of college graduates was between 25% to 30%). Ben Ali’s promises to create jobs were empty as were his pledges to increase political and civil liberties.  Protests were mild in the beginning but as the income gap grew and unemployment rose sharply, discontent became more pronounced.

Tunisia Upright: The Sound Defeat of an Authoritarian Regime 

The repressive atmosphere established in Tunisia by the Bourguiba and Ben Ali regimes had continued to suffocate Tunisians as people became desperate to provide for families in the midst of such high unemployment rates. Attempts by journalists and human rights activists to denounce Ben Ali’s regime, which was known to be extremely corrupt, were met with even harsher measures. People were arbitrarily jailed, detained, and even beaten in an effort by Ben Ali to silence dissenting voices. Such extreme repressive methods were met with even more extreme expressions of protest including in multiple suicides of youths such as a young street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi and a young union worker named Hussein Nagi Felhi. Both deaths were violent and horrific as Bouazizi set himself aflame and Felhi climbed a high voltage electric pole and electrocuted himself. These extreme demonstrations revealed are what prompted the mass protests that would eventually sweep across Tunisia and the Arab world.

At first, Ben Ali denounced the protests of what he called “extremists” who he viewed as inciting violence. He urged his police to quell the riots and restore peace to Tunisia by any means necessary including violence. However, protestors would not be silenced prompting Ben Ali to reverse his earlier stance and promise to deliver economic, political and social reforms. He dissolved the government, called for early elections, and said he would not run for re-election hoping to satisfy his people. Tunisians refused to accept his concessions and as the tension reached a breaking point, Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia with his wife and family on January 14, 2011.The dethroning of Ben Ali and the persistent protests of an oppressed citizenry has inspired Arab countries throughout the Middle East to rise up against their despotic rulers.

The Challenges of a New Regime: Slow Changes

In the aftermath of Ben Ali’s flight, the Tunisian government has scrambled to maintain stability and order. The former Speaker of the Parliament Fouad Mebazaa was sworn in as interim President a few days after Ben Ali fled the country. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who served as Prime Minister under Ben Ali for 11 years, formed a new “national unity” government including opposition members. However, Tunisians denounced Ghannouchi and demanded him, and other key officials under Ben Ali, step down because they were reminders of the dreaded regime. Continued protests over Ghannouchi’s presence in the government forced him to step down from his post. Other key officials such as the minister for international cooperation and industry ministers also resigned. On March 7 a new government, free of any of Ben Ali’s old members, was announced and Beji Caid Essebesi was chosen as the new interim Prime Minister. Since then, the government has struggled to prove its legitimacy to the people who believe the changes they fought for are coming to slow. This issue of legitimacy is a serious factor in the trial of Ben Ali because many Tunisians believe it is a ploy to distract the people and bolster support for the struggling government.

The Ben Ali Trial: A Farce to Justice

The trial of Ben Ali has been viewed by many, including Ben Ali himself, as a farce of justice and an insult to the “Jasmine Revolution” of Tunisians everywhere. The trial is taking place without Ben Ali or his wife because Saudi Arabia has refused to extradite them. Many believe all avenues to bring Ben Ali to justice were not exhausted and that any punishment meted out by the courts will be empty since Ben Ali will never actually serve any sentence. Furthermore, the charges brought against Ben Ali are not exactly what the people want to see. Ben Ali and his wife have been charged with embezzlement, misuse of state funds, illegal possession of drugs and weapons, and the death of almost 300 protestors during the Revolution. But many want to see him charged with the numerous counts of human rights violations that occurred under Ben Ali’s watch. Officially, Ben Ali faces 93 civil cases and 182 cases that fall under military jurisdiction. 

The first part of the trial to take place was held on June 20. Ben Ali and his wife were each sentenced to thirty five years in prison and were fined over $65 million dollars for embezzlement. The second part of the trial took place on July 4 in which Ben Ali’s court appointed lawyers walked out after their request for postponement was denied. The defense lawyers claimed that the trial was nothing but a sham and that no attempts at justice are even being met. These protests are not entirely hollow as the first trial that led to Ben Ali and Leila’s first conviction took place in six hours, hardly enough time to thoroughly investigate and deliberate on all the charges.

Ben Ali: The Victim of His Own Weak and Corrupt Institution of Justice

Officials have defended the proceedings stating that they have complied with Tunisian law and taken every step and recourse to try Ben Ali fairly. But how could justice over 23 years of repression be handled in just six hours? It seems like the new government is using the trial as a way to win over the people and quickly close the chapter on Ben Ali and his regime without thoroughly investigating the extent of governmental corruption. However, until the government is willing to prosecute fully and completely all those who took part in the corruption of the former regime they leave themselves open to possible corruption. It should be noted that those now in charge of the interim government are not able to run as candidates in future elections so it does seem like they are making somewhat of a stride in maintaining fair practices.

Also to be taken into consideration is that the government has postponed elections for another 3 months stating that they need time to prepare for their first free and fair elections since Ben Ali first came to power. The wait for elections and the trial have caused the rumblings of discontent to rise once again as citizens demand to see the change for which they fought. Furthermore, elections for the Constituent Assembly which is supposed to draw up the new constitution of Tunisia has been postponed yet again until October 2011. The interim government cited technical difficulties for the postponement and although some were hesitant, the idea was that something so serious and important to governance should not be rushed. However, the move has been met with some objections by the people who feel they have waited too long for a new government.

The trial of Ben-Ali must be admired even if its effectiveness has been debated. Although the future of Tunisia remains in question, the trial of Ben Ali is a step in the right direction. While we understand that trying a former head of state is a difficult and complex matter, a greater effort should be made in trying Ben Ali and investigating the full extent of his corruption, the persecution, and the killings Tunisians were subjected to during his tenure. Six hours is simply not enough time to effectively mete out justice and such a matter should not be rushed. Although we understand and acknowledge that the laws and the procedures currently being applied to Ben Ali are products of his own institutional legacy we recommend that greater measures be taken in the investigation and his prosecution.

Although the interim President does appear to be guiding Tunisia through the process of transition fairly well, we recommend that the constitution be drawn up before elections are held. While a constitution is not necessary, it is important to have a guiding document that government can use to effectively rule. The old constitution is viewed by Tunisians as outdated and does not properly reflect the will of the people. However, if elections take place before the constitution is drawn up then Tunisia could fall in to the trap of having an illegitimate document that will probably reflect the view and will of the winners of elections and those who control the Parliament. It will certainly be another document carefully drafted to provide the government with the legality and the power to serve a specific group of interests. If the elections are held first, then the government will reflect the constitution and not vice versa which is a dangerous thing since it might not aptly reflect the will of the people. The IIJD strongly suggests that the new interim government should first draw up a constitution that reflects the wishes of its citizens and then hold elections based on the new constitution. It should draft and enact all the laws to establish the institutions necessary to guarantee free and fair elections.

Tunisians should be proud of what they have accomplished in forcing the removal of a leader who did little but oppress his people. The strength and will it takes to demand more from ones government in the face of police brutality, violence, and death should be noted and lauded. Rebuilding the institutions upon which effective governance is founded will take time and the government will need to address critical issues such as an ailing economy and high unemployment. It will need to remain strong and effective in the face of such a daunting task. Furthermore, it must take into consideration the will of the people who will no longer remain silent and who have made it known that they will not accept another dictator.

The Moroccan King’s Speech Edition

In many Arab countries this past spring, the falling of many regimes seemed often as inevitable as the changing of the leaves and as indomitable as the setting sun. Within these countries the leaders who had previously held almost absolute power are seeing the world fall beneath their feet, as the once powerful Egyptian President Mubarak will be tried in a country that he had previously ruled with an iron fist. Leon Trotsky once said of leaders, that if they seek only to preserve themselves, that is what they become; preserves – dried preserves. For as long as many Moroccans can remember, they have been ruled with almost absolute authority by the Alaouite Dynasty, with its current incarnation, King Mohammed VI, controlling almost all aspects of the government. With his recent speech on the 17th of June, the King is hoping to stave off such a fate for himself by offering concessions and a revamped constitution to be voted on by referendum on the 1st of July.


The Alaouite Dynasty has been ruling Morocco in some capacity since the 17th century. Since gaining independence in March of 1956, Morocco has been ruled by three Kings, Mohammed V, Hassan II, and Mohammed VI. While a Constitution did exist with a stated independent judiciary and separation of powers, in practice the King, especially Hassan II, ruled Morocco autonomously and often with an iron fist. The Constitution appoints the King as the Commander of the faithful and also serves as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, making him head of the nation’s state religion, Islam, as well as making him head of the military. He serves as the head of the Supreme Council, which appoints judges, and the King appoints the Prime Minister as well. The bicameral legislature is seen largely as a rubberstamp on the King’s policies. In short, any semblance of a balance of power has at this point been nonexistent.

The Moroccan people have lived with their extremely powerful monarchy since independence, with little opportunity to change it. There were protests against King Hassan II’s vast repression of his people in the 1980s, but they were short lived and harshly cracked down upon. King Hassan II, who ruled from 1961 until his death in 1999, was known as an extremely repressive leader, whose reign is known throughout Morocco as the “years of lead,” as the King cracked down hard against dissidents and democracy activists. It was not uncommon during his reign for thousands of people to simply disappear. King Mohammed VI, upon his accession to the throne in 1999, was seen by the people as a new type of King, one who is open to reform and liberalization. He has in fact shown reforming tendencies such as his releasing of thousands of political prisoners and allowing many exiled political leaders to return to the country. He further brought drastic improvements into the issue of women’s rights, as he updated the Code of Personal Status, the ruling legislation for determining the Malikite school of Islamic Law, to include the principle of equality between men and women, to raise the legal age of marriage of girls from 15 to 18, and to enforce stricter restrictions on polygamy. However, he has also institutionalized and streamlined the practice of corruption in Morocco to a way that surprised even many other Kings in the region, and has been periodically cracking down on freedom of the press and on political dissent. However, even with these instances, he is still seen largely as a reforming force in the region, and interestingly, none of the protesters called for the King, himself, to abdicate from the throne, but merely for an increase in democratic institutions and a stronger balance of powers. The King is often seen as a positive alternative to the legislature, whom they see as even more corrupt than the King, himself.

The February 20th Protest Movement

On February 20th, Moroccan’s came to the streets to protest what they saw as an inept government too long irresponsive to their needs. Largely composed of Islamists and Leftists, the protestors took to the streets in an unprecedented nationwide demonstration calling for democracy, and a limiting of the King’s powers to a constitutional monarchy. The Nation’s Interior Ministry estimated the total number of protesters at 37,000, protesting in cities all across Morocco, including Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, and Marrakesh calling for an end to corruption, a new constitution, and a reformed government. While some violence and acts of looting did occur, the majority of the protests were peaceful. The King, himself, was not an object of the protests as the protests were against the government ministers and the constitutional system itself. The Government had originally allowed people to protest with little violence and oppression. However, when the Government realized the potential impact of the protests, they developed a far harsher approach.

These protests, once thought of as unimaginable on the streets of Morocco, went on relatively peacefully every week. Until March 13th, when the police began to escalate the violence, beating individuals in a protest in Casablanca with batons, giving dozens of protesters concussions, as well as broken ribs and limbs. The Casablancan May 22nd protests were then meant as a continuation of the February 20th movement, but the protests were blocked by police, and barely got off the ground. The protesters regrouped and held a protest that following Sunday, the 29th of May, which turned out to be one of the bloodiest protests to date. In the neighborhood of Sbata, there were more than 40 protesters arrested and dozens injured as riot police beat anyone in sight, including those in the neighborhood simply watching the protests. As the government responded to the protests largely through two landmark speeches by the King on March 9th and June 17th, they saw no more reason for the protests, and no longer seem to be treating them as dispassionately as they did on the 20th of February.

King’s March 9th and June 17th Speech

In response to the massive protests in his country, King Mohammed VI announced on March 9th that he would heed the calls of his people, and drastically reform the nation’s constitution. According to the monarch the proposed reform is not a result of the protests, but rather a result of the wide-reaching and groundbreaking reforms adopted by the King since the beginning of his reign. On March 9th the King gave his first public speech since the February 20th protests, and announced to his people that sweeping changes would be made to the kingdom’s constitution, aimed specifically at improving democratic institutions and strengthening the rule of law. He further pledged that future parliamentary elections will be free, and that the winning party would choose Prime Minister, rather than the King, and he ordered a commission to draft and review the constitutional revisions, with a proposal to be given to him by June.

On June 17th, after significant anticipation among the Moroccan people and the world, the King gave his speech outlining many of the changes to appear in the new draft of the constitution. One major aspect the King noted, was that the constitution would be much more robust and far reaching than the former, as the number of articles in the constitution is to increase from 108 to 180. The King announced that the prime minister would become the “president of the government” and would have the authority to appoint government officials, two rights previously afforded only to the king. The judiciary would be governed by a Supreme Council of which the King would not be apart. One further change is to add the Berber language as an official language along with Arabic. The constitutional changes are to be put to a referendum on July 1st, as the King describes it so that the constitution can be the nation’s first constitution truly of and by the people. The King described the changes as, “a bedrock of the special Moroccan democratic development model — a new historical bond between the throne and the people.”

Even with these significant proposed reforms, there are still many key positions that the monarch will retain for himself. For example, King Mohammed will continue to chair the Council of Ministers as well as the Supreme Security council to allow him to retain his power over the military. Further, he retains his position as Commander of the Faithful, and is therefore the highest religious authority in the Islamic state. While many Moroccans applaud the King’s speech as historic in its capacity to truly reform the nation, many of the February 20th activists continue to claim that it is not enough, and that the King needs to relinquish the fundamental powers he still continues to hold over the country.

Admittance to the Gulf Cooperation Council

In a very important development as to the state of Morocco’s monarchy, in May Morocco as well as Jordan were invited and have subsequently joined the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is aimed at strengthening the security of monarchies in the Gulf. A group headed largely by Saudi Arabia, the GCC has sought to alter its strategic alliances in the midst of the growing revolutions in the region. As a member of the GCC, each nation is obligated to help the others in event of civil unrest, and Saudi Arabia has demonstrated this with its brutal crackdown of the protesters in Bahrain, another member state.

The goal of the GCC is to maintain a united front on foreign policy in order to sustain the ability of the monarchs to stay in power. While originally established for economic considerations, the group has become much more foreign policy oriented, and one of the primary fears is that the fall of a single monarchy could undermine the rest. How Morocco’s membership in the GCC will restrict and influence the actions of the monarch is yet to be seen. Considered one of the more volatile monarchies in the region, Morocco now has increased stability as Saudi Arabia and her allies are obligated to protect the Moroccan Monarch. It is obvious that the rest of the Council would drastically be against Morocco’s reforming of the constitution so much as to eliminate the King’s powers. The King might now forced to limit the scope of the democratic reforms so as not to anger Saudi Arabia or the rest of the GCC. Now it is not simply the King’s intentions for his nation’s future which are important, but the intentions of rest of the Gulf Monarchies as well.

What is to become of the July 1st referendum, and what powers the King will truly abdicate are at this point unclear. What is clear, however, is that the Moroccan constitution is facing a drastic change, and the Moroccan people feel a new sense of power over their government. For the King to maintain his relevance as an effective leader, he must heed the calls of his people, not just nominally, but forcefully and forthright. The constitution must not merely posit an independent judiciary or a stronger legislative branch, but guarantee it, and enforce it. For the King to remain relevant in the midst of an Arab Spring doing everything it can to rip off the leaves of tyranny for democracy and freedom, he must take his own words seriously and on July 1st show his people that he is serious about reform and avoid the fate of so many other leaders who did not.

July 2011 IIJD Newsletter Update

Libya: Russia Voices its Continued Concerns Over Legitimacy of NATO Operation as Rebels Reject New AU Peace Plan. The African Union (AU) recently proposed another peace deal that would have had Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi remain in power while democratic reforms are implemented. Under pressure from its supporters, the Transitional National Council (TNC), refused the proposal, stating that it would not accept anything less than Gaddafi’s departure, particularly after the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) issued a warrant for Gaddafi’s arrest. The AU has criticized the warrant, stating that it has hindered peacemaking efforts. The AU plans to hold additional peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July with all parties to further discuss the proposal. Meanwhile, NATO continues to bombard targets within Tripoli and recently admitted fault in the killing of 9 civilians after it mistakenly bombed a residential area in Tripoli. The Libyan government reported the killing of 19 additional civilians and the wounding of scores of people by NATO a week afterwards when NATO launched an air attack against the home of Libyan official. In addition to aerial bombardment, ground support to rebels has expanded, with France recently admitting to providing arms to rebels. Meanwhile, Russia, along with South Africa, has expressed its growing concern over the legitimacy of NATO’s mission in Libya; NATO was mandated by the UN to implement measures to protect civilians; however, NATO has expressed its desire to remove the current Libyan regime.

West Africa: ECOWAS to Discuss Implementing Convention on IDPs. Early this month, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders will meet in Abuja, Nigeria to discuss the implementation of a regional convention that will outline the principles and approaches to dealing with large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Known as the ‘Kampala Convention’, the original treaty was unanimously adopted by over 46 African states when first created in 2009; however, only 17 states actually ratified it. The treaty requires an additional 15 state ratifications in order to enter into full force. The convention, which is based upon various previous human rights conventions and international law, prohibits arbitrary displacement, caused by various man made causes, such as conflicts or development projects, and makes provision for the assistance of IDPs in the event of displacement. Its enactment would require AU member states to take all measures to prevent displacement and establishes state accountability in the event of displacement and any violation of IDP human rights.

Nigeria: Government Continues to Battle Terrorist Islamist Group ‘Boko Haram’ Amidst Daily Attacks. Nigeria’s main terrorist Islamist group, Boko Haram, has stepped up its attack of military and civilian targets. Just last week, in the northern town of Maiduguri, Boko Haram bombed a beer garden, where military officers frequent, killing at least ten people. In addition to the bombing, assailants shot and killed several local civil and political leaders after breaking into their homes. Over the past few weeks, Boko Haram members have launched several attacks, which included a bombing right next to the National Police Headquarters in Abuja that killed two people. Its deadliest attack occurred just two weeks ago when members of the terrorist sect attacked a bar, killing 25 people. President Jonathan Goodluck has vowed to use all available government resources to eradicate the group completely. Just a few years ago, the government orchestrated a brutal suppression of the sect, which has recently regrouped. British authorities recently stated that it had uncovered evidence of Al Qaeda’s intent to turn Nigeria into a primary operating base against ‘Western’ targets. In a related development, the Ugandan and Burundi governments are set to receive over $45 million in military aid from the US government to battle the Islamist threat in their countries; the package will include four drones to provide capability for targeted aerial attacks.

Senegal: President Wade Drops Undemocratic Plan for Electoral Rule Change; Denies Plans for Monarchical Succession. Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade decided to halt plans to change electoral rules after thousands of people protested in the capital last month. Wade wanted to reduce the majority vote needed to win a presidential election from 50% to a mere 25%, in an attempt to eliminate a required run-off. Wade also wanted to add the position of an elected vice-president, also vehemently opposed by many Senegalese, who view these changes as an attempt by Wade to position his son as president. Wade’s son Karim currently heads several ministries; Karim has denied that he is being groomed by his father to succeed the presidency; nonetheless, the Senegalese people continue to demonstrate their legitimate concern over Wade and his son’s intentions. Senegal’s constitution limits a president to two terms; this rule was established however after Wade was first elected in 2000. Wade contends that because he was elected to his first term before the law was enacted, that he is eligible to stand for another term, a notion hotly contested by legal experts. Wade’s plans to run in 2012 contradict previous promises. In 2007, after being elected to his second term, Wade stated plainly that his 2007 term would be his last.

Morocco: Months of Protest Prompt Moroccan Monarch to Hold Referendum on Reform. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, under pressure from growing protests, held a referendum this past week on proposed democratic reforms. The new reforms would strip the monarch of some power by making the country’s Prime Minister the new head of government. However, opposition critics claim that the reforms, which passed with a 98% vote, are superficial, as the king will maintain the ‘head of state’ and will retain total control of the military. Morocco has the longest lasting dynasty of all Arab monarchies at 400 years.

Other Developments…

East Africa: Severe Drought Threatens Millions. Significant parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia are suffering from an unprecedented drought and subsequent food crisis, with over 10 million people affected. In Somalia, every one in three children is suffering malnutrition, and thousands of Somalis have been crossing daily into Kenya, compounding an already dire refugee crisis there. Livestock have been completely decimated and cereal prices have drastically increased across East Africa. Aid agencies have launched a desperate appeal to donors for aid.

Ethiopia and Egypt: Ethiopia Postpones Ratification of New Nile Water-Sharing Treaty. Last year, six Upper Nile states, with Ethiopia at the lead, devised a new Nile water-sharing treaty that would have seen Egypt’s and Sudan’s share reduced. Under a pre-colonial agreement, Egypt and Sudan retain the rights to over 90% of the Nile’s waters, which flow from East Africa: an unsustainable agreement given increases in need by all parties involved. Egypt and Sudan initially took part in the negotiations for a new treaty; however both governments eventually walked out, refusing to give up their 90% share. With Egypt in a state of political transition, the Ethiopian government has decided, after meeting with an Egyptian delegation, to postpone ratification of the treaty. Ethiopia plans to build a 5,000-megawatt power project on the Nile close to the Sudanese border. The Sudanese government has previously indicated that it would use all means to protect its water resources.

West Africa: World Bank to Support ICT Projects in Gambia, Burkino Faso and Guinea. Under the new initiative, Burkino Faso, Gambia and Guinea will receive $23, $34 and $35 million, respectively, as part of the $300 million West African Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP). All three states have had significant difficulties in attracting investors within the telecommunications sector due to their location

Museveni and the Idiot’s Guide to Establishing a Dictatorship

Uganda’s newly elected President, Yoweri Museveni, angry at opposition protests over his extensive reign and the country’s deteriorating economic situation, recently declared the media an ‘enemy of the state.’ Referring specifically to the BBC, Al Jazeera, East African NTV and Uganda’s privately-owned The Daily Monitor, Museveni attacked freedoms of speech and expression, the very basis of a democratic state—likening news outlets’ reporting of recent unrest to ‘treachery’. With this rather disturbing attack, Museveni was simply solidifying his position as Africa’s next dictator, using what have become rather standardized tactics, applied by numerous African ‘strongmen’ before him, to establish authoritarian rule.

Step 1. Eliminate Term Limits

Ensuring no term limits is key to implementing one man rule. It is the very first step to guaranteeing that the man in power retains his seat without legal recourse. Dictators from Egypt’s now defunct Hosni Mubarak to Zimbabwe’s chief enemy of the state, Robert Mugabe, have employed this measure, believing that the constitutional absence of presidential term limits somehow legitimizes and justifies their continuous bid for ‘re-election’. Term limits are in fact a base principle of democracy; the very notion that an individual can retain power for decades is completely inimical to democratic practice. Thus the absence of term limits makes democracy impossible. Thankfully, there are signs that populations across Africa are recognizing this fact—most recently demonstrated by the ousting of Niger’s President Mamadou Tandja, who attempted to alter the country’s constitution by erasing presidential term limits and soon found himself sitting in a jail cell after mass protest and a military coup led to his dethroning.

Unfortunately for Ugandans, the government started its web of constitutional provisions, laws and regulations that entrenched one-man rule almost two decades earlier. It started with a Museveni-led revision of the country’s constitution in 1995 that included eliminating multi-party politics in favor of Museveni’s political party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM). Museveni essentially solidified one-party rule by limiting the power of Ugandans to organize and form political parties (actually by criminalizing such acts) and by ensuring that members of other political parties were removed from government posts. Museveni claimed that the NRM was completely inclusive and that it would represent all Ugandans, thereby eliminating the need for a multi-party system. Exploiting Ugandan’s sense of unity, Museveni, like other dictators before him, claimed that the multi-party system fostered sectarianism and therefore was ‘dangerous’. The result was the absolute, unopposed control of all government by the NRM; supplemented a constitutional amendment that required the country’s leader to be member of the NRM.

It was shortly before the end of Museveni’s second term, which was set to lapse in 2006, that he initiated his push to remove presidential term limits. The 1995 constitution limited presidents to two 5-year terms; however, this would mean an end to Museveni’s rule, which he could not allow. With his party already the dominant force within Parliament, Museveni found it easy to summon the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution once again. Furthermore, the constitution had already been amended a total of 119 times by then; in addition, the document’s length was unparalleled, reflecting the rather confused process in which it was created and then revised. Parliamentary corruption was the final factor in determining Museveni’s success in passing the amendment. It was reported that over 70% of MPs openly took bribes in exchange for their vote. The final parliamentary vote was 220 to 53 in favor of eliminating term limits.  

Step 2. Delegitimize and Incapacitate the Opposition

Removing presidential term limits, although important to establishing dictatorial rule, only afford the incumbent the opportunity to win the presidential seat once again. A wider campaign to incapacitate any opposition or challenge to re-election is required in order to guarantee victory. As mentioned under Step 1, Museveni devised a strategy that ensured NRM’s dominance within the government. In fact, Museveni managed to alter the constitution to essentially outlaw the formation of political parties. Ironically, the provision contradicts some of the primary tenets of the constitution: freedom of speech, expression and assembly. Several attempts at legally challenging the constitutionality of many of these offensive provisions and subsequent bills through Uganda’s courts sadly failed.

Unfortunately, the ‘war on terror’ gave new license to dictatorial governments to crackdown on any opposition groups thought to be challenging the established order. Museveni, like several other tyrannical African and Middle Eastern leaders, used the pretense of terrorism to dismantle and arrest any persons or groups who threatened their rule. Uganda’s 2002 Anti-terrorism Act, which broadly defined terrorist activity and any material or intellectual support for such activity, veritably permitted the arrest and possible execution of any persons accused of attempting to cause unrest. The bill also gave Uganda’s security establishment sweeping powers of surveillance and monitoring of citizens, civil society and political groups, as well as the media. The Act has essentially prevented any meaningful attempt at challenging Museveni’s reign.

That same year, the Ugandan parliament passed the 2002 Political Parties and Organizations Act, which attempted to set very strict conditions under which political parties could register. Although the act legitimized the formation of political parties, it also placed heavy restrictions on them, basically depriving them of the freedom to function. In a rare case of judicial independence, sections of the act that restrained party function were deemed unconstitutional by Uganda’s high court. The petitioners argued that the act would transform Uganda into a de jure one-party state, solidifying NRM’s rule. This led to the lifting of the ban on political parties in 2005 (which coincided with the removal of presidential term limits).

Since the lifting of the ban, several small opposition political parties have emerged; however, their influence is minimal. In addition, the chief opposition party to the NRM, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), is led by Kizza Besigye, a close former ally of Museveni. FDC’s leadership is comprised mostly of disenchanted NRM members, frustrated over Museveni’s continued rule and their inability to seize the presidential seat. Besigye himself is perceived by many as being no better than Museveni, using the façade of democratic reform to ascend to the presidency. Nevertheless, Besigye, along with other stalwart FDC members, have suffered numerous arrests and beatings, in pursuit of their goals. In addition, it should be noted that there are several highly respected Ugandan civil society leaders who are members of the FDC and whose democratic motivations are not questioned.

Museveni is clearly threatened by the FDC’s growing popularity. Over the past three elections, Besigye’s base has increased; in the last election, held in February 2011, Besigye obtained 26% of the vote to Museveni’s 68%. The FDC claimed widespread electoral fraud in the form of ballot-box stuffing and intimidation, and attempted to stage peaceful mass protests within the capital (protests that eventually focused on the country’s deteriorating economic crisis); however the protests were met swiftly with violent anti-rioting tactics from security forces, acting on the orders of Museveni, who had vowed to put a stop to any street protests, warning against Egyptian-style protests in Uganda (and by doing so, manifestly validating that he is indeed a dictator of the Mubarak sort).

After numerous brutal crackdowns that included spraying pink dye onto anyone engaged in the peaceful ‘Walk to Work’ campaign (a tactic used by the South African apartheid regime against black South Africans to later identify and arrest protestors), Besigye was beaten and arrested and now stands trial for ‘inciting violence, rioting after proclamation and unlawful assembly’—the latter of which seems an impossibility within a true democracy. But Museveni’s attack against any opposition did not end there. Museveni recently convened a commission to discuss the possibility of once again amending the constitution to ensure that any person arrested for protesting be denied the opportunity for bail (and be held for up to six months). He also desires the inclusion of a provision that would deem the act of protesting a form of ‘economic sabotage,’ claiming that even peaceful protests threaten the economic stability of the country. Museveni’s proposals continue to be hotly contested by various government, civil society and university entities, even his own supporters. It remains to be seen whether he can use his corrupt influence and heavy-handedness to force the provisions through.

Step 3. Debilitate and Control the Media

In addition to the new provisions attacking the basic rights to assembly and due process under the law, Museveni’s proposal has also threatened Uganda’s independent media, which is considered one of the few mediums left for Ugandans to openly discuss and debate State affairs—as they’ve found themselves increasingly disenfranchised from their own government. Museveni, obviously unhappy with any critical reporting of his rule, has launched a targeted attack against Ugandan media, declaring its reporting to be “unbalanced” and even “treacherous.” In what was very violent and yet typical language for him, Museveni dubbed specific media outlets as “enemies of Uganda’s recovery,” and vowed to treat them as such. Museveni warned against what he called ‘malicious’ and ‘irresponsible’ reporting by some of Uganda’s major media outlets.

The coupling of these accusations with the announcement of the proposed constitutional amendment that essentially deems any protest a threat to the State is concerning, particularly since any reporting that criticizes the regime’s actions could be interpreted as a form of ‘protest’. In addition, people are undoubtedly inspired to action over what they read or hear in the news. Under the new laws, any action on the part of individuals or groups that is viewed by the government as ‘inciting violence’ would be considered criminal. Could the media therefore be held liable for ‘inciting violence,’ for simply reporting the facts or being critical of Museveni and his government’s actions?

In order to solidify authoritarian rule, it is essential for Museveni to completely debilitate all government and public outlets of independent thought and discussion. To a dictator, the media should be just another tool to enforce his agenda and dictate his country’s narrative. The total control of all major media, although increasingly difficult to achieve in this day and age with the advent of Internet reporting and social networking, is a tactic applied successfully by numerous African strong men nonetheless. In fact, Museveni’s long-time crony, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, has recently employed such a strategy to stymie any critique of his government, using the pretense of ‘inciting ethnic hostility’ to arrest reporters and editors and to suspend and remove media licenses. Museveni has often criticized Uganda’s major independent media outlets of their reporting; his regime has also gone so far as to periodically shut down newspapers and radio stations and to detain editors and reporters. Museveni’s recent proclamations are therefore a troubling indicator of an escalation in his campaign against independent media (and essentially truth and fact).

Step 4. Secure Loyalty of Security Forces/Military Leadership

Ugandans do not have an army. Museveni has an army. That is the sentiment of most Ugandans, and it is mostly true. Museveni led the resistance against the former Ugandan regime and is hailed as a national hero: the man who brought stability to what seemed like a never-ending civil conflict that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. In what sounded more like a threat than a promise, Museveni has said himself, “I brought you stability. The other candidates can’t keep you as safe [as] I can, therefore vote for me.” In addition, during the 1996 and 2001 elections, Ugandans were subjected to rather threatening and frightening TV and radio advertisements that warned of the potential of violence if Museveni was not re-elected.

Museveni recognizes that his support base is his military, which throughout the years has been strategically filled with various ethnic clans, whom he managed to integrate by exploiting fears and promising strategic ends. In addition, throughout the past two decades, whenever Museveni needed to replenish his ranks, he often recruited young and impressionable men who held him in awe; men who view Museveni as some messiah. Many of these soldiers are now major officers within Museveni’s army and their allegiance is vehement. In fact, it was reported in 2010 that during both the 1996 and 2001 presidential elections, the country’s top military leaders had conspired to overthrow the democratically-elected government if an opposition candidate had won over Museveni. Furthermore, Ugandan news media reported that just this past election, signs of an intended coup by Museveni were quite obvious, as large contingents of military police and troops in full battle camouflage were positioned sometimes clandestinely, sometimes openly, across the country. Indeed most Ugandans have come to accept the notion that Museveni has no intention of giving up power, even if he undisputedly loses an election.

Museveni’s unilateral command of the military therefore provides him with impressive force behind his rule. Maintaining the presence and loyalty of such a force is key to enforcing authoritarian rule. As long as Museveni retains such a devoted force, the opposition, as well as average Ugandans, will have extreme difficulty voicing and/or orchestrating any significant challenge to the despot’s incessant reign.


Africa is littered with dictatorships from Zimbabwe’s Mugabe to Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir to the continued reign of the tyrannical Bongo family in Gabon to Paul Biya of Cameroon. There are over 54 sovereign states in Africa, and almost all have been subject to some form of dictatorial rule post-independence. Currently, over 27 African states are run by dictators; dictators-in-the-making (having abolished term limits); coup leaders; transitional military regimes; and undemocratic ‘power-sharing’ governments. That means an estimated 44% of Africa’s total population lives under an undemocratic regime. Many of these dictatorial regimes have employed the same tactics listed above to solidify their power. As if straight from a playbook, this formulaic strategy has been employed time and time again in several countries so that strong men, those like Museveni, can remain in power for the benefit of themselves and not their people. Recognizing the above tactics is important however to understanding and countering these attempts at establishing authoritarian rule and to reversing the rising tide of the new era of African dictatorship.

Evaluating the Egyptian Election

Following the Egyptian protests of January and February of this year, the nation remains in a constant state of flux.  The military, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), governs the country and will administer elections in the fall.  The SCAF issued a temporary constitution on May 30, 2011, which will remain in effect until after the Parliamentary elections in September. The first elections to be held are the Parliamentary elections in September.  Following this, a new constitution will be drafted and, finally, a new president will be elected. These elections will certainly determine Egypt’s future.  Yet, nearly every detail surrounding the elections is in contention: when they will take place, what type of election they will be, who will oversee the elections and who may campaign. 

The SCAF has taken an additional step in an attempt to ensure legitimate elections by enacting amendments to the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights and through the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration.

The 2011 Constitutional Declaration clearly mandates the creation of a special agency to govern the upcoming elections.  The details of this agency, called the High Elections Commission (‘Commission’), were further outlined in the 29 May 2011 amendments to the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights.  Presumably because of the numerous incidents of fraud following the most recent presidential election, the Commission will have complete authority regarding elections.  It will watch over the entire process, from voter registration to the declaration of the victor.  The Commission will be composed of members of Egypt’s highest courts; lower judges will staff the polling places.  Given the court’s history of voiding elections during Mubarak’s terms in office, it is our hope that the Commission will have the necessary independence and political freedom required to properly review elections.  What is less clear is whether the Commission will be able to properly administer elections free from improper influence or fraud. Although the intent of the SCAF in passing these laws cannot be doubted, the new laws’ implementation is equally important as their content. Egypt has a long history of unjust electoral practice that must be overcome.

The IIJD believes that elections must be fair and transparent for democracy to flourish. Elections are evaluated using five objective, non-negotiable factors to determine the legitimacy of any election.  Explained more fully below, these factors converge to create a holistic view of the political process and establish the sincerity of the electoral process.  The IIJD will only support elections which satisfy all five components of a free and fair election.

An independent national electoral commission must carry out and monitor elections.

The amendments to the law on the exercise of political rights create a regulatory agency which is clearly intended to be fair and impartial.  The Commission would regulate each step of the electoral process, including voter registration, campaigning, manning polling station and vote counting.  The amendments go so far as to require that one judge be available for each ballot box.  As such, many of the elections may occur over several days so that all can be appropriately observed.  It remains unclear if the Commission will be staffed adequately so as to guarantee judicial supervision of all polling places.

A fair, just, and transparent electoral law must be recognized as such by all parties involved, including members of the government, political parties and voters.

The election law amended by the SCAF was in place in Egypt for 39 years prior to the January 2011 revolution.  The May 2011 amendments were not voted on by legislators or the Egyptian population but were drafted and enacted by the SCAF alone. Yet, they have been accepted as the law governing the upcoming elections.

Many political organizations and citizens have spoken publicly against the law for not taking adequate steps to ensure a truly fair and free election.  Most notably, liberal political groups contend that the early date of the election (September 2011) will unfairly advantage the well-established Muslim Brotherhood.  These groups believe the elections should be delayed so that new political parties may be formed and given the opportunity to obtain the necessary resources to be successful in the election. In sum, although the content of the law is contested, it is generally accepted by the population and political groups as legitimate and controlling statute.

The IIJD believes that the SCAF should consult with the Commission, political parties and other interested groups to select a reasonable date for the election.  By imposing the September election, the SCAF requires the yet-unformed Commission to successfully execute an entirely new electoral process in less than six months.  A fair election is nearly impossible under these circumstances.  

Free and open media coverage.

The amendments make the Commission responsible for portioning airtime on national media outfits for candidates.  This control over both public and private media should equalize the coverage of different political parties, allowing all parties the ability to campaign on a public stage.

Additionally, Article 13 of the Provisional Constitution guarantees a free and open media, though this freedom is limited during a state of emergency.  This guarantee was also present in the 1971 Constitution. Yet the constant state of emergency under former President Mubarak meant that there were consistent instances of censorship.  Since the January 2011 revolution, there appears to be more media freedom, both through traditional media sources and the internet. Open dissent regarding SCAF’s actions and further protests continue to occur. Yet whether this freedom will continue through elections cannot be certain.

A registered citizenry with unrestricted access to media and press who may vote without facing intimidation or persuasion.

One of the most important changes made by the SCAF’s amendment is that specially obtained voter identification cards are no longer necessary.  Instead, voters will use the National Number identification card they already have.  Furthermore, polling locations and districts will be determined based on the residence listed on the National Number ID, simplifying the voting process. Previously, voters were often confused as to the location of their polling center, or were unable to obtain the correct identification card.  Many were disenfranchised because of such technicalities.  

Furthermore, the Commission will prepare the voter lists.  In the past, the Ministry of the Interior created voter rolls.  This change will increase the transparency of elections, while also making it harder for the current regime to influence the election’s outcome.  It remains unclear how voter lists will be circulated.  The IIJD recommends the lists be posted in public spaces at least two weeks prior to the election.  The Commission will also investigate any reports of intimidation or violations of the electoral process.  The amendments include bans on campaigning in houses of worship and educational institutions, as well as bans on bribery, violent threats, and religious campaigns.

All political candidates may freely campaign in all areas of the country.

The amendments do not directly address the issue of freedom to campaign.  In the past, the government imposed a blanket ban on political parties in order to suppress opposition to the Mubarak regime.  The current law seeks to open the political realm to all interested groups.  The amendments do create safeguards which ensure that all interested parties are able to avail themselves of national media outlets.  Candidates are also empowered to directly deal with the electoral commissions regarding the candidate’s place on the ballot.  No guarantees or assurances of safety of the candidates have been made.  Candidates who are legally allowed to campaign may still be met with violence and other intimidation tactics.  Presence of law enforcement officials or other security forces are needed to secure true freedom to campaign.

The amendments to the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights enacted by the SCAF take immense steps towards a free and fair election.  However, the true test will come upon implementation of these new laws during the September elections.  The IIJD recommends that:

  • A new constitution be enacted prior to the parliamentary elections
  • The constitution be drafted by an independent commission staffed by legislative and political experts
  • The Higher Election Commission be formed immediately and given absolute control over elections
  • The Higher Election Commission postpone the upcoming September 2011 Parliamentary elections until after a new constitution has been enacted
  • The government train independent electoral monitoring groups to supervise the elections, and to create national reports concerning conduct and quality of the elections
  • In the alternative, the government should clearly delineate the supervisory limits of judicial monitoring of the Parliamentary elections

June 2011 IIJD Newsletter Update

Libya: NATO Bombardment Continues. NATO Forces comprised mostly of UK and French forces, continue to bombard Gaddafi government and military positions including positions throughout Tripoli. NATO’s widened campaign, even at the cost of civilian lives throughout Tripoli, signifies an obvious shift in policy and a potential violation of its UN mandate. NATO and interested international governments (UK, US, France and Italy) affirmed that the purpose of NATO’s military campaign was to protect civilians; however, that purpose has now shifted to regime change, as NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently confirmed that nothing less than Gaddafi’s departure will be accepted. Meanwhile, the EU has established an office in rebel-stronghold Benghazi and the National Transitional Council (NTC) has opened an office in Washington, DC, USA. The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Gaddafi and a recent UN investigation into the conflict has concluded that war crimes have been committed by both sides. A recent attempt to settle the conflict by South African President Jacob Zuma failed to result in a negotiated settlement; Gaddafi stated that he would agree to a ceasefire but would not step down.

Sudan: Northern Sudanese Government Launches Major Assault upon Strategic Town; Forces New Agreement over Demilitarized Zone. This month, after Northern Sudanese soldiers, who were being escorted out of a neutral zone by UN peacekeepers, were attacked by South Sudanese forces, Northern Sudan launched a full assault on the disputed town of Abyei, which as per the 2005 peace agreement is ruled by a joint administration. Abyei is an oil-rich region which is claimed by both Northern and Southern tribes. It was set to hold a referendum, allowing residents to decide which country to join; however that has now been postponed indefinitely. In their assault, Northern Sudanese forces razed the town, whose over 60,000 residents have fled south. The UN condemned the Northern Sudanese government’s unwarranted attack and seizure of Abyei, but also condemned the Southern Sudanese attack on Northern forces a week prior. The Northern Sudanese government has stated that it will not vacate Abyei until new political and security arrangements have been made; Khartoum has proposed that Northern troops remain in the region until a referendum can be held. This proposal will likely be rejected by the South as well as the UN, given Khartoum’s record of violence and intimidation. The presence of Northern troops in Abyei will hinder the freedom of any such referendum. Ethiopia has offered to provide troops to patrol Abyei until the referendum. The UN recently proposed a three-month extension of its peacekeeping mandate to ensure adequate security after South Sudan’s official secession in July. The Northern Sudanese government has opposed the request and stated its desire for full withdrawal of UN peacekeepers in July. Recently, amidst fears of an escalation in violence, both sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone along the border that will be jointly patrolled.

Egypt: Egyptian Military Facing Increased Condemnation as it Cracks Down on New Protests and any Opposition to its Rule. Recent reports, confirmed by an Egyptian army official, claim that female protestors were subjected to humiliating treatment that included being stripped down and given ‘virginity’ tests, after being arrested and held for several days by military forces. Egyptian and international human rights and legal groups have condemned the Egyptian military of its treatment of the women and other protestors who have criticized the military’s actions. Journalists, a human rights lawyer and a potential presidential candidate have all been summoned to appear before the military council over their criticism of the military. The military has faced recent criticism, not only over its continued abuse of protestors, but over its slow prosecution of former regime officials and its alleged dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood. Some have accused the military regime of forming a deal with the powerful Muslim Brotherhood to ensure that both institutions benefit from the transition. Meanwhile, former President Hosni Mubarak and several of his family members and former government officials have been arrested and will go to trial over their role in the killings of protestors and in the widespread corruption that plagued the country during Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Nigeria: Sectarian Violence Escalates as Radical Islamic Group Launches Several New Attacks. Just one week after Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck’s swearing in, local Islamic sectarian group Boko Haram launched a series of terrorist attacks against various military and civilian targets across the Northern states. The terrorists struck in Maiduguri, Bauchi, Zaria in Kaduna State, Borno and Zuba on the outskirts of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), killing 16 people and injuring another 40. Shortly after the attacks, a spokesperson for the terrorist group claimed responsibility for the bombings, and of the killing of Alhaji Abba Anas Umar, younger brother of one of Nigeria’s most renowned Islamic leaders, Shehu of Borno. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for killing several security and religious officials, targeting any one perceived to be helping Nigerian security forces in the fight against it. Boko Haram opposes any education it views as being ‘Western’ and accuses the Nigerian government of being corrupted by ‘Western’ ideas; the group believes the Nigerian constitution to be illegitimate and is seeking the imposition of sharia law in the country. Over the past few years, the Nigerian government has battled the group and its use of guerilla tactics. Clashes in 2009 left hundreds of people dead, mostly sect members. In addition, immediately following Goodluck’s re-election, hundreds of people in the North were killed during three days of rioting and reprisal killings by Boko Haram members and other Muslims angered by election results. Newly-elected Goodluck must now contend with growing sectarianism as well as instability and violence in oil-producing areas of the country.

Cote D’Ivoire: President Ouattara’s Forces Accused of Continuing Mass Killings of Gbagbo Supporters; President Ouattara Implicated in Attacks. Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have accused both former President Laurent Gbagbo’s forces and current President Alassane Ouattara’s forces of committing mass atrocities during the political crisis. AI concluded its two-month investigation in late May, after uncovering evidence that both forces carried out mass executions and rape of civilians. Particularly troubling is the that both human rights groups found evidence that Ouattara’s forces continued to execute Gbagbo supporters and those of particular ethnic groups in the weeks after Gbagbo’s arrest. HRW reports that Ouattara’s Republican Forces have continued to kill. rape and/or otherwise severely abuse pro-Gbagbo civilians, even in the capital Abidjan. In one instance, Republican Force soldiers interviewed by HRW reported witnessing the execution of 29 detainees and stated that the killings had been ordered directly by Chérif Ousmane, the close ally of Prime Minister Guillaume Soro and a longtime commander in the northern capital of Bouaké for Soro’s Forces Nouvelles, the rebel group that now comprises the majority of the Republican Forces. HRW and AI have both accused Ouattara and other senior officials of complicity in these attacks and have criticized Ouattara for doing nothing to prevent them, thereby providing his tacit support. Ouattara’s inability to prevent such attacks also demonstrates a serious lack of control over the country’s new security forces, which are comprised extensively of criminal elements.  Mr Ouattara seems to have chosen to eliminate through prosecutions, arrests, illegal detentions, extra-judicial killings of an entire political class, mostly supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo before the legislative elections in Cote d’Ivoire.  How will that tactic work?  we should never forget that the whole thing began in Cote d’Ivoire with the 2002 failed coup to topple a democratically elected president…Laurent Gbagbo.  Is that the kind of leader and “STRONG MAN” President Barack Obama and his administration want for 21st century Africa?   The IIJD will continue to focus on the situation in Cote d’Ivoire.  

Other Developments…

Burkino Faso: Military Mutiny Put Down but Country Still Remains Unstable. In April, hundreds of soldiers mutinied against the government in protest of unpaid housing allowances. Shortly before the mutiny, tens of thousands of people had taken to the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, in protest of high food prices. Protests by various groups have been ongoing since February, including a protest by teachers and students in late May over low salaries and large class sizes. Many of the mutinous soldiers went on a rioting and looting rampage and some even attacked a jail, freeing colleagues arrested for rape. President Blaise Compaore, who has been in power for over 24 years, sacked his government in response and promised to pay the allowances; however, soldiers in some areas, particularly the southern city of Bobo Dioulasso, continued with their tirade, looting markets and terrorizing local residents daily. This past week, pro-Compaore soldiers ended the soldiers’ mutiny by encircling their base and forcing their surrender. Several people were killed and 57 soldiers have been arrested. Compaore’s continued autocratic rule however remains under threat as he no longer has the loyalty of security forces and the population grows increasingly angry with the country’s economic situation and government corruption.

Madagascar: SADC Increases Efforts to Resolve Madagascar Political Crisis. Last month, Madagascar’s President Andry Raejolina, who seized power through a 2009 army-backed coup that resulted in the ouster of President Marc Ravalomanana, visited Luanda to conduct talks with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. The two discussed the deteriorating political and economic situation in Madagascar and the recently proposed political roadmap developed by the South African Development Community (SADC) in an effort to resolve the ongoing political stalemate. Raejolina’s government has thus far rejected the SADC proposal and has itself proposed a timetable for a constitutional referendum and elections for late summer this year. A previous constitutional referendum was rejected by the international community as seriously flawed. Opposition and various other political and legal groups have criticized Raejolina for making unilateral decisions in his favor and for not creating an inclusive government as demanded by the public. In addition, France has been accused of perpetrating the crisis, first by supporting the coup to protect its economic interests in its former colony and now with its heavy involvement in constructing the SADC roadmap. Meanwhile, poverty within Madagascar has increased to record levels with more than 75% of the population now earning less than $1/day; in addition, human and civil rights abuses and criminality are reported to be widespread and illegal logging has boomed in the past two years, causing severe environmental degradation.

Somalia: No Progress as Mogadishu-Based TFG Remains Besieged. Somalia’s transitional government (TFG) has made little to no progress in expanding its political control of the country. The TFG’s mandate is set to expire in August; although it will likely be extended. Political in-fighting within the transitional regime and between parliament members have hindered any political progress. This past February, the Somali Parliament unilaterally voted to extend its term for three years after the end of the transitional period; however, the TFG rejected the move as illegitimate. The UN envoy in Somalia, increasingly frustrated by the inept government, recently called upon the UN Security Council to set strict benchmarks and a monitoring mechanism for ensuring the implementation of transitional goals. Meanwhile, TFG and UN peacekeepers continue to battle Al-Shabaab militias in Mogadishu; recent fighting has killed another 17 civilians. The WHO recently reported that half of the casualties in Mogadishu are comprised of children under five. In early May, the Ugandan government announced its decision to send 4,000 more troops to Somalia to combat militants.  

Swaziland: The Forgotten Land of Avarice

In a tiny land far, far away, there live a people who suffer daily under the rule of an arrogant and selfish king. The majority of the people are very poor, with little to eat. The people toil to earn their daily bread. Meanwhile, their King sits in a lavish castle. He enjoys only the finest of luxuries, and his plate of course is never empty. Although the king is laden with wealth, he gives little to his people, who are helpless, forever slave to their king…”

Although the excerpt above seems like something that could only have originated from a children’s fairytale, it is in fact a description of the current situation in Swaziland, Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy. Swaziland is not only the smallest country in Africa, surrounded almost entirely by South Africa, but it is also the smallest country in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Its small size and lack of strategic importance has allowed the country going largely unnoticed by the international community. Sadly, this neglect has permitted its government, comprised of essentially a king and an appointed legislature, to in turn neglect its people’s needs and to allow them to suffer under a deteriorating economy with no palpable recourse. However, anger amongst Swazis is growing, and just this past March thousands took to the streets to protest civil service lay-offs and a pay freeze amidst government corruption and the king’s increased decadence. Could this resistance mark the beginning of a much awaited end to Africa’s last true monarchy?

Swaziland’s system of government is archaic: an autocratic regime that makes no attempt to even feign democratic countenance. In fact, the autocracy has for decades successfully convinced the majority of the populace that since the country has always been a kingdom, a tradition rooted in Swazi culture, that the concept of the political party and even basic democratic principles are ‘alien’ and therefore incompatible with tradition. Swaziland’s government is comprised of a King, who serves as the lone executive authority, and a bi-cameral legislature (Senate and House of Assembly), whose members are predominantly appointed by the King. Elections are held every five years for those constituencies that elect parliamentarians. Elections however are nothing than a farce to convince the public that it has some control over and representation within the government. All candidates are loyal to the royalist regime; the election of an openly opposition and/or reformist candidate is a rarity, and even if elected, there are always sufficient regime-loyalists to stymie any attempts at political change. Parliamentarians are essentially accountable to the king, not to the people.

Political parties are banned and election campaigning is restricted in Swaziland. Like so many other oppressive governments worldwide, the Swazi regime has used the recent ‘war on terror’ as a basis to deny the formation of any pro-democracy parties. The Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) party, Swaziland’s major movement for political change, operates in exile, banned entirely after the provision of an anti-terror law by the regime. The regime works tirelessly to eradicate PUDEMO’s influence within Swaziland. It has even been implicated in the May 2011 murder of a PUDEMO supporter, Sipho Jele, who was found hanged, at the correctional facility he was being housed at after being arrested for wearing a PUDEMO t-shirt at a recent demonstration. At his funeral, which was attended by over 500 people, police arrested several attendees and stripped others of any PUDEMO paraphernalia, including the cloth that had been laid across Jele’s coffin. In addition to a ban on all political parties, who the government confidently calls ‘terrorists’, all media is subject to censorship, particularly the broadcast or publication of any government criticism. Media outlets have frequently been shut down; their operations suspended or owners taken to court because of their reporting of government officials’ corruption.

Perhaps most disturbing is that the current governmental system primarily persists because of the Swazi public’s apathy toward it. Most Swazis have come to merely accept the royal regime as an unchanging monolith; they willingly offer their subservience to a king that continues to act only within his own interests. As a result, past efforts at constitutional reform simply waned; without substantial desire of the population for democratic change, there was essentially no incentive for the regime to enact any reform that might reduce its power. Also as a result of this public apathy, civil society groups, particularly pro-democracy organizations, have struggled to garner sufficient support.

Swaziland currently suffers from a severe economic crisis, the cause of which is terrible governance. Years of wasteful expenditure by the royal family, a lack of fiscal discipline and government corruption on a massive scale have veritably devastated the country’s already fragile and underdeveloped economic system. King Mswati III and his family for years have stripped the country and its people of their rightful wealth by using large investment corporations to control state economic resources. The most powerful of these is the Tibiyo Taka Ngwane Fund, first established in the 1950s after independence to control and regulate state resources. After independence, Swazi mineral rights and royalties were vested in the Swazi people, not the government. The Fund was created to administer these rights and to ensure proceeds went to the Swazi people. However, such was not the case.

Shortly after the fund was established, it became one of the royal family’s main sources of finance, controlled by the king’s male family members and accountable to the king and his wants only. The fund now has interests in agriculture, manufacturing, real estate and media. Particularly offensive is the use of the fund by the royal family to seize land from non-Swazis for its own benefit. These lands, which belong to the people, were developed into royally-owned maize and dairy estates, the profits of which go straight to the king. The royal family has used the capital generated from the fund to buy stakes in various foreign investment ventures and companies in various economic sectors, establishing its wider family clan (the Dlamini) as wealthy capitalist class that controls, not only the country’s politics, but major aspects of Swaziland’s economy. A regime change is therefore an obvious necessity to eradicating the royal family’s unconscionable grasp upon the country and its starvation of its people and their resources for its own gains.

In March, the Swaziland government announced the implementation of austerity measures within the civil service sector, after a sharp decline in customs revenue reduced the government’s budget. The government announced that it would be cutting civil service worker salaries, enacting a pay freeze and that it would be reducing and halting pensions for the elderly, who are reliant upon these annual payments of a mere $85 for basic survival. Shortly after the announcement, civil service workers, their families and civil society groups took to the streets in the thousands to peacefully protest the measures, loudly rebuking the government for forcing the public to bear the burden of the government’s corruption. Just in February, Swaziland’s finance minister admitted publicly that the government was losing an average of $11 million to corruption monthly; this does not include the millions of dollars in state revenue and proceeds that go to find the lavish lifestyle of the wretched king and his family. The king is estimated to be worth over $100 million—none of which is actually earned of course; and all of which is stolen from his people’s land and resources. While the king reels in exorbitant amounts of money, the average Swazi makes only about $1 per day. More than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. In addition, the AIDS prevalence rate is about 25%, the highest in the world and Swaziland’s life expectancy, a mere 32 years of age. The life expectancy of a Swazi royal family member is probably about double to triple that.

The royal family’s excessive lifestyle, particularly the king’s decision to once again spend lavishly on his birthday celebrations, while the rest of the country anguishes, resulted in unprecedented public rage and prompted mass protests. The rage was of course completely warranted, even if a decade or two late. Amidst the budget crisis, the Swazi government actually raised the king’s personal budget, which serves as a mere complement to a $10 billion trust left to the king by his even more corrupt father. So, while the public suffers and is forced to endure cuts resulting from a government-created budget crisis, the king sits on $10 billion made off the backs of the Swazi people? It would also be irresponsible to not mention the king’s use of public funds to purchase a personal private jet, to construct new royal palaces for his 14 wives, to purchase luxury vehicles, some of which cost $700,000 a piece, and to fund the infamous ‘Reed’ festival—where thousands of women are rallied into a football stadium to present themselves in hopes of becoming his next wife. And if this was not enough of an affront to the dignity of the Swazi people, just this past February, the government voted to increase politician exit packages and perks. The new budget now allows the wives of former prime ministers to receive salaries and enjoy medical aid and funeral benefits, courtesy of the state.

Although early protests were permitted under the watchful eye of Swazi security forces, the King has ultimately responded to protestor demands with a despotic crackdown, which includes breaking up union meetings, arresting pro-democracy supporters (allegedly beating and killing them as well), violently breaking up any new protest attempts and ejecting journalists from the country. It also seems that the proposed austerity measures will go ahead, and again the Swazi people will be forced to compensate for their government’s insatiable avarice. Another major unfortunate consequence of government greed is that it has also hindered the level of international humanitarian aid the country receives. Although sixty-percent of the country’s wealth is amassed in only 10% of the population’s hands (royal family and government officials), the country is categorized by the World Bank and other international institutions as ‘lower middle income’ because its GNI (gross national income) is so high. When the GNI is divided per capita it gives the false impression that the people are better off; however, such is not the case, as the average Swazi does not benefit from any government revenue or royal family profiteering. So, the implementation of austerity measures will not be matched by any increase in foreign aid, as the country simply does not qualify for such partnerships. In addition, although international humanitarian organizations understand the obvious disparity, they are increasingly reluctant to continue supporting development projects in Swaziland when the government is clearly capable of funding them itself (if not for the corruption).

Swazis have certainly experienced a sort of an awakening these past few months, mostly driven by the realization that their king lives separate from their reality, as if within his own fairy tale. Swazis recognize that their government does not serve the people, nor has it ever. However, this widespread awareness and rage must be matched with equally ardent action. Average Swazis must rally in support of themselves and against an impiety that ravishes their country in the form of a corrupt king and his sycophants. Many protestors indicated that they drew inspiration from recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. They have discovered that their subservience has always been a choice, and like the people of Tunisia and Egypt, they too can choose to no longer be slave to a parasitic regime that is all too happy to have them suffer for its own continued benefit. 

Libya and the Realist Response to Modern Revolution

Like the Tunisians and Egyptians before them, Libyans have discovered the full breadth of power they yield as a people. However, like those before them, they have also sacrificed tremendously and continue to do so at the hands of an increasingly desperate megalomaniac. Self-appointed Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi continues to pound opposition and rebel positions in defense of his weakened position. Even with parts of the country under the control of the opposition and wide-ranging international military intervention in Libya, Gaddafi has continued to resist the NATO assault and to unleash his forces in defiance. Gaddafi’s obstinacy is driven ultimately by the realization that he can offer nothing short of his own demise to appease the opposition and  the international community (France, Great Britain, USA and others), whose increasingly extensive military attacks have raised doubt over the legitimacy of its continued intervention in Libya.

The Failure of Libyan Governance

Libya’s system of governance has changed drastically over the past century. After gaining its independence from its former Italian, French and British colonial masters in 1951, Libya adopted a federalist system of governance with a hereditary monarch, Idris al-Senussi, at the helm. However, the country did not officially become a Kingdom until1969, when al-Senussi solidified his power by abolishing the federalist system of government, essentially abandoning all democratic ideals. At the time of al-Senussi’s rule, Libya was a mostly impoverished country; however, the discovery of massive oil reserves in the late 1950’s resulted in significant increases in national revenue. Wealth from the highly profitable oil industry, however, amassed into the hands of a few elite, creating greater rift between political leaders, including the King, and the rest of the populace.

In 1963, while the King was out of the country, Gaddafi, along with a group of other military officers, led a bloodless coup that resulted in the abolishment of the monarchy and the establishment of the Libyan Arab Republic. Gaddafi formed the Revolutionary Reform Council (RCC) and vowed to implement domestic policies based on social justice, non-exploitation and an equitable distribution of wealth, although he and his military cohorts did not form the General People’s Congress (GPC) until almost ten years later. The GPC established popular direct authority, and all executive and legislative authority was vested in the new organ, whose head remained Gaddafi. The GPC serves as a medium between the masses and the country’s executive, providing a representative outlet for Libyans, but also a means to convey executive orders to local authorities. It is ultimately a limited representational body, only meeting for a few weeks annually.

Beneath the GPC, are various other committees and basic people’s congresses, whose leadership is determined by members. Political parties are banned; hence political partisanship and significant debate are not permitted. All gubernatorial, mayoral and local executive administrative positions are appointed by the national government and are ironically based on familial connections, religious leadership and wealth. Essentially, the sub-national government continues to function as a hierarchical system of administrative links with the central government, rather than a vehicle for popular representation or participation.

Examining Libya’s Revolutionary Dynamic

 The recent protests, motivated by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, began in the eastern city of Benghazi, after the arrest of a lawyer who is an outspoken critic of the government and who is defending family members of victims of the Abu Salim prison uprising of 1996. Arrests of government critics in Libya are a common occurrence, as freedom of speech and expression is wholly denied. The Ibrahim Index ranks Libya at almost the very bottom in terms of political participation and human rights protection, below the likes of Sudan, Zimbabwe and Eritrea: states whose governments have garnered reputations for their oppressiveness. Given the nature of government, the denial of basic civil rights and the lack of justice, particularly to Benghazi residents, the growth of an opposition movement seemed inevitable. After an attempted crackdown that included violence against protesters in Benghazi, Libyans in several parts of the country took to the streets, unified in their need for reform and their disgust at the regime’s violent repression and emboldened by successful revolutions in neighboring countries.

The Libyan government attempted to crackdown on protesters by using violence. Gaddafi’s initial use of force in many ways backfired against him as he believed that the use of traditional repressive tactics would stymie protester will; however, his brutality only intensified Libyan anger. It also showed the full extent of his illegitimacy as the country’s leader—for legitimate leaders do not have to use violence against their own people to maintain their position (or to prove their legitimacy). Rather ironically, Gaddafi, like so many other autocratic leaders before him, began as a vehicle of revolution, only to abandon revolutionary ideals in favor of self-serving policies.  Power and wealth quickly corrupted these individuals, and their excessive greed ultimately prompted the need for a ‘second’ revolution, however factionalized or indeterminable the underlying forces behind that revolution may be.  The people of Africa, as well as the Middle East—many of which experienced revolutions decades ago, which freed them from the bonds of colonialism—have now been forced to orchestrate new revolutions to free themselves from their new masters and develop the representational government former revolutionaries had once promised.

Questions arise however over whether Libya’s current ‘revolution’ is motivated by an inherent need by the people for democratic governance or whether there are other motivations behind the organized movement. Like the Tunisian and Egyptian people, Libyans have demonstrated their serious disgust of the current regime, and Gaddafi’s ouster is a foremost demand of the opposition. However, it is entirely unclear the type of government that would replace Gaddafi, if he were to fail in his defense of his rule. Although Gaddafi’s statements regarding the opposition obviously merit scrutiny, his claim that extremist elements are orchestrating much of the movement does hold some credibility. In fact, leaked US diplomatic cables from 2008 indicated a growing concern that many Libyan jihadists who had left Libya to fight in various international conflicts, including the recent Iraq war, had begun to return to eastern Libya and that their influence over society and politics there continued to increase—of course the Gaddafi regime’s neglect of the eastern part of the country, which is heavily impoverished, made it quite easy for extremist elements to exploit the local population’s discontent.

The fact that the eastern part of Libya has been for some time under an established Islamist and extremist influence explains, at least in part, why and how the opposition was so quick to mobilize militarily against the Gaddafi regime, a stark contrast to movements in Tunisia and Egypt. Within days, the opposition had taken up arms against Gaddafi’s security forces. In many of the eastern areas, where the security apparatus is generally weak, the opposition, which includes radicalized elements, immediately abandoned the route of peaceful protest for a more militarized strategy, a serious sign of concern. Many would also argue, however, that the opposition movement ultimately had no choice but to defend itself: Gaddafi’s forces immediately turned to violence in an attempt to quell protests, which certainly prompted many to act in self-defense by taking up arms. In addition, fear of further retaliation against protestors and their families by Gaddafi, which is common place, and the knowledge that Gaddafi would never concede also undoubtedly contributed to the opposition’s militarization.

The Demands of International Geopolitical Interests

The international community’s response to Libyan protests and the threat to Gaddafi’s regime was somewhat muted at first, even as reports of the regime’s violent attacks against unarmed protesters flooded international news outlets. Libyans were struggling to funnel news of their plight to the outside world, and the world watched as those who could reach the outside world begged for intervention. To the credit of average Libyans—in the face of massacre, with no physical protection from the international community—they rallied together en masse, remaining steadfast in their demands. They used the power of numbers to survive the onslaught and establish an organized opposition movement with the assistance of defecting military and security forces. Meanwhile, countries with economic ties to the Gaddafi regime, which includes Great Britain and Italy, were clearly hesitant in their support of the protesters. In addition, other Western powers, which included the US, also remained hesitant, not only because of oil interests, but over genuine concern that the Libyan opposition movement was in fact being orchestrated by extremists and hence inimical to Western interests.

With the United Kingdom (UK), Libya shares lucrative ties. Perhaps the most apparent and controversial is the UK’s issuance of over 215 million euro in export licenses to Libya, which permitted the sales of arms that included weapons and materials recently used against unarmed civilians. Although the UK recently cancelled these licenses to both Bahrain and Libya, the UK government has garnered criticism for its sale of military equipment to a regime that so blatantly violates the rights of its citizens. However, this criticism should not be limited to the UK, countries like the US, France, Russia and China have all supported autocratic regimes to further their own interests.

Italy’s ties to the Gaddafi regime include support to counter mass migration of Africans to Italy and various Libyan financial investments in Italian businesses and vice versa. Italy, which has struggled to deal with a steady stream of African migrants (recently increased due to the Tunisian revolution), has become increasingly reliant upon the Gaddafi regime to stymie that flow, as hoards of migrants attempting to cross over to Italy have been handed over to Libyan authorities. These migrants are often thrown into ill-equipped prisons and jails throughout Libya.  Most significant is Italy’s oil interests in Libya. Libyan oil accounts for 22% of Italy’s total supply. In addition, Libya’s largest oil producer is Italian oil company, ENI, whose operations have been seriously hindered since the violence began. Clearly, for the Italian government, a serious challenge to Gaddafi’s rule could mean the end of a very beneficial economic relationship. Europe’s reliance upon Libyan oil contributed to several countries’ hesitance in supporting protests; however, when much of the oil-producing part of Libya fell under control of the opposition, some EU countries began to realize the potential benefits of an alternate regime and actively sought relations with the opposition.

France in particular was one of the first to formally recognize the opposition as legitimate, no doubt seeing the possibility of increased economic involvement with an alternate regime. While Italy has shared quite close and extensive political and economic ties to the Gaddafi regime, France’s Libyan connections have been somewhat limited. In fact, the fiercely independent Gaddafi regime has spent the last two decades working to diminish European influence on the African continent, in particular Africa’s economic dependency upon its European allies. It is these actions that France is so keen on preventing through its support of Gaddafi’s ouster. The Libyan government has been working with its African partners to establish independent monetary institutions, which include the African Monetary Fund and the African Central Bank. These institutions will no doubt threaten the existence of the African franc, thereby essentially destroying France’s advantage on the continent. The Gaddafi regime has served as the main source of funding for these initiatives. In addition, by ridding Libya of the Gaddafi regime, France also creates opportunity to counter economic competition within t several sectors, specifically the telecommunications sector. Libya’s LAP Green Networks (LGN), an African telecoms company that is funded by the Libyan government, has continued to increase its investments on the continent and has beat out France’s Telecom for various contracts; the firm has invested about $600 million in acquiring stakes and licenses in Africa’s telecoms industry, a major threat to France’s previously dominant role. Libya is also host to Africa’s first pan-African telecommunications satellite; Africa’s new satellite system has meant the end to costly expenditure for Africans: $560 million less a year in costs paid to Europe for long-distance communications. The removal of Gaddafi’s regime and the installation of a more Western-friendly government, guarantees France greater economic protection on the continent.

It was not too long after recognizing the benefits of a Gaddafi-free Libya that many European countries, as well as the US, acted by beginning proceedings for the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya. With Gaddafi’s forces encroaching upon opposition strongholds and making ground, the window to act was quickly closing, however. If the international community did not act, there would be no opposition left today. The countries eventually succeeded, with the blessing of the Arab League, in passing a UN Security Council Resolution that permitted a coalition of France, USA and Great Britain to enforce a no-fly zone; however, there was obvious disagreement between some of the members of the Security Council over the use of force in this situation and several important players abstained from the vote. This included Germany, Russia, China, Brazil and India, all of which expressed serious doubt over the use of force and over such swift international military intervention into a civil conflict. While Russia and China have often opposed international intervention into civil conflict, over fears of similar future intervention into their own state affairs, Germany expressed serious worry over a potential for an escalation in violence and further civilian casualties.

Within the first days of the US and its allies’ military campaign, doubt over the intervention widened to include Arab League President Amr Moussa, who believed that the international coalition’s extensive military strikes went beyond the UN mandate. The Turkish government also stated its strong disapproval of the US’s bombardment of Libyan targets, which included buildings in Tripoli; as a member of NATO, it first opposed a widening of the campaign (although the Turkish Prime Minister recently indicated his support for the removal of Gaddafi). The Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin went so far as to compare the intervention to the ‘Crusades’. Although both Moussa and Turkey have backtracked on their critical statements, both are correct in believing there is cause for concern, particularly when the intervention somewhat reflects the largely controversial US invasion of Iraq. In fact, one could construe that Libya is Europe’s Iraq. There is a rather obvious hypocrisy that seems to permeate US-European policy in Libya. Intervention within an oil-rich country in which the national government has no real international allies was swift (Iraq and now Libya), while intervention in other countries where similar atrocities are being committed against innocent civilians, but where the government is pro-Western, has been non-existent (Yemen and Bahrain). It is difficult to miss such a fact and to therefore not conclude that Western intervention in Libya is driven more so by political and economic interests rather than humanitarian reasons.

And the NATO

What is NATO? Is NATO member of on the United Nations? Why is NATO taking the lead in bombarding a UN member? Has the UN given authorization to NATO to conduct military intervention in Libya on its behalf? Is NATO a member of the UN? These are some of the questions that could be asked today as

NATO is an organization (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) created on 1949 on the principle of collective defense, which says that “an attack against one or several of its members is considered as an attack against all”.  The enforcement of the no-fly zone and the arms embargo has been taken over by NATO command, NATO is now attacking or bombarding Libya and targeting Mouamar Gaddafi, compounds, residencies, and security forces killing civilians including Gaddafi’s son and grand children. NATO is shifting its role from defense of its members to now an attack forces with operations outside its geographic, fighting war in the soil of non-members countries that has not attacked any of its members. This has prompted a strong disagreement amongst members over whether NATO’s mission should include a ground invasion. Turkey especially has expressed staunch resistance to a NATO ground mission (all NATO activity must be approved through consensus).  Whatever resistance greater intervention has met thus far, ground support has already begun in the form of more strategic military support and resources. The US as well as its European allies has sent military advisors to assist Libyan rebels and material support continues to pour in.  NATO countries have recently also agreed to set up a fund for the opposition, which has formalized with the creation of the Transitional National Council (TNC).  Negotiations in Rome have resulted in the TNC’s road map for a transitional regime upon Gaddafi’s departure, but it remains unclear whether Gaddafi will leave willingly or Libya will experience a protracted civil conflict. The UN and NATO’s future role also remains questionable; the use of force is particularly controversial and suspicious especially after the recent UN and France intervention in Cote d’Ivoire. The UN resolution on Libya permits ‘all necessary means’ to ensure the safety of Libyan civilians, but exactly what that might entail has garnered various interpretations. Questions arise over whether the current commanding coalition and/or NATO will eventually depose Gaddafi’s regime, which is not part of the UN resolution. Will they claim legitimacy in doing so? The truth today is that Civilians in Libya are being killed by the rebels forces of the Transitional National Council and by NATO forces too; Libyan’s infrastructures are being destroyed, targeting and killing Gaddafi and his entourage is now one of their objective in removing Gaddafi from power and transferring the power to a Transitional National Council less hostile to European countries economic interests and activities in Africa in general.  It worth doing it today as NATO’s countries faces major economic and financial crisis. Guaranteeing access to Africa vast natural resources is crucial for their survival.

The Way Forward

While powerful nations continue to contemplate the fate of the Gaddafi regime and subsequently Libya, thousands of Libyans have crossed the border into Tunisia, and many more have been internally displaced. The humanitarian situation continues to worsen as Gaddafi forces pound rebel-controlled cities in the East and along the coast, including the major port of Misrata. Gaddafi remains steadfast in his assertion that he is in control and that his people support him unequivocally. It would seem that no amount of threats, pressure or rationale will deter Gaddafi from seeking to maintain his position. But his reality differs greatly from that which is true. It is unclear how long the international community, particularly European countries, will tolerate Gaddafi’s ongoing campaign especially with major economic interests at stake. However, the international community obviously lacks the legitimacy to intervene substantially on the ground militarily.

What is certain is that Libyans have a rare opportunity to establish an effective national government with institutions that embodies western democratic ideals. The active involvement of extremist elements threatens the possibility of democratic governance. To avoid the establishment of an Islamist, extremist regime, the international community will have to work cooperatively with the opposition movement, rewarding democratic action and bolstering moderate forces. Most importantly, establish strong independent, strong and well functioning justice system. The world has already bore witness to the previously unimaginable downfall of two rigid autocracies. People power has demonstrated its timeliness, its strength in fighting tyranny and its ability to organize themselves in a manner conducive to the development of representational and accountable government. Their success will be contingent upon ensuring that all factions created by the recent political upheaval work cooperatively to construct a new Libya, made of and for its people.  Can we get there by the current NATO’s bombardments in Libya?  Is it for the Northern Atlantic organization countries to impose to other people who should lead them?

May 2011 IIJD Newsletter Update

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

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

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

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

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

Other recent developments…

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

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

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

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