Stephen Zunes : Africa (sub-Saharan)
“Mandela was a great leader because he recognized that the movement had become a civil insurrection, a largely nonviolent struggle. A great leader is one who recognizes where the movement is and leads them accordingly, not one who says, ‘Do it my way!’”
The French-led military offensive in its former colony of Mali has pushed back radical Islamists and allied militias from some of the country’s northern cities, freeing the local population from repressive Taliban-style totalitarian rule. The United States has backed the French military effort by transporting French troops and equipment and providing reconnaissance through its satellites […]
A growing anti-government movement consisting of nonviolent demonstrations as well as scattered rioting is beginning to threaten the Sudanese dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, an indicted war criminal, who has ruled this large North African nation for twenty-three years. Beginning as protests against strict austerity measures imposed three weeks ago, the chants of the protesters have escalated to “the people want to overthrow the regime,” the line heard in recent uprisings in other Arab countries, including Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria.
In examining the political crises which have gripped Mali in recent months, it is important not to fall into simplistic analyses of dysfunctional or “failed” African states. Indeed, the Malian people have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to mobilize civil society and build stable democratic governance despite a history of enormous poverty, ethnic divisions, and foreign intervention.
I have worked with both Jenni Williams and Aminatou Haidar. They are both deserving of the RFK Prize, and they both deserve the support of the U.S. government as well. A test of a government’s sense of justice is whether it sees human rights as a universal principle or simply as a political tool to advance its foreign policy agenda. The Obama administration appears to have opted for the latter. It is easy to support human rights activists like the women of WOZA, since they are battling against a regime opposed by the United States. When it comes to human rights activists who challenge a U.S. ally, however, the Obama administration appears no different than previous administrations in tolerating their oppression.
The overthrow in August of what arguably constituted the most democratic government in the Arab world marks a serious setback in Africa as well as the Middle East.
The Bush administration has justifiably criticized the Zimbabwean regime of liberator-turned-dictator Robert Mugabe. It has joined a unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning the campaign of violence unleashed upon pro-democracy activists and calling for increased diplomatic sanctions in the face of yet another sham election. In addition, both the House and the Senate have passed strongly worded resolutions of solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe in support of their struggle for freedom and democracy….
The U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and subsequent U.S. air strikes and naval blockade against that east African country mark another dangerous chapter in the Bush administration’s war against Islamic nations. And, despite no authorization from Congress for the United States to become engaged in that country’s civil war and despite the failure of President Bush to consult with Congress as required by the War Powers Act, the new Democratic leadership in Congress apparently has no objections to this dangerous and illegal escalation.
This case-study by Stephen Zunes is written especially for War Resisters’ International, and is no. 2 in a series of articles preparing for the international conference “Globalising Nonviolence” in Germany, July 2006 http://globalisingnonviolence.org).
After much wrangling from the French, the UN Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1495 right on the July 31st deadline for the rollover of the MINURSO peacekeeping operation in Western Sahara. In the best diplomatic tradition, the resolution affirmed the commitment to provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, even while it seriously compromised on it by supporting a peace plan that would allow the Moroccan settlers in the territory to vote on independence in five years. As with Israeli settlers on the West Bank, these Moroccan colonists are there in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits countries from transfering their civilian population onto territories seized by military force.