In conjunction with Good Friday in 2 days time, I wish all my Christian friends a Truly Meaningful Good Friday and a Glorious Easter !!
Ancient Africa Practiced True Democracy
By Black T Bvumavaranda
Ancient System of Checks and Balances
African leaders have often been portrayed as unyielding and brainless people for whom remorse and morality are completely disjoined from power and authority. In the West, our leaders are often caricatured as clueless goofballs in suits but who are above the law and can commit the most embarrassing cases of common theft and abuse of poor and defenceless people with impunity.
This terrible stereotype has received unfortunate support from the behaviour of our post-colonial autocratic leaders who, barring some military coup or popular uprising, mysteriously prefer to die in power. These leaders often cite the ancient African political order in which a leader was only removed from power by death.
However, the traditional setup was totally different from what the post-colonial pretenders want us to believe. While the post-colonial African leadership deeply detests accountability and the rule of law, the traditional leadership structure had a complex mechanism for accountability and the counterbalance of power.
Mambo did not rule as an absolute king for one simple reason. The social order was subdivided into two separate but equally powerful areas; (i) the secular or political order and; (ii) the religious order. The king was the leader of the secular institutions of the social order. The priesthood, represented by the chief priest, was responsible for the religious institutions.
The king ensured food security, the maintenance of the rule of law, the fair application of the justice system without fear and favour, defending the state from its enemies, and making sure that all the members of the community acted for the benefit of society over and above individual gains. The king had the power and authority to act to save and serve the people.
For spiritual matters, the priesthood was in charge. Where secular laws and other codes of social conduct were not possible to enforce or simply ineffective, the priesthood offered the complimentary part. The priesthood led petitions made to the ancestors who, in turn, carried the petitions to Mwari.
The two branches were separate but equal. When presiding over secular functions, mambo wore the skin of a lion while the chief priest wore the skin of a leopard. This was to show that the office of mambo was, on such occasions, above that of the priesthood.
During state-related rituals, the chief priest was in charge. To acknowledge his subordinate role, mambo had to wear a leopard skin while the chief priest wore the skin of a lion. The king did not hold both offices. So, his power was kept in check, and vice versa for the priesthood.
There were two additional traditions that also strengthened the system of checks-and-balances of the traditional African social order.
Muzukuru, the nephew of the ruler through his sister, had the role of verbally restraining his uncle, and do so without fear of making the king angry. Muzukuru was actually designated as the pacifier of the king especially when the king was angry or deemed out of control. During disputes within the ruling family, muzukuru was responsibility for restoring order and harmony. There were other functions in which only muzukuru presided over, too.
This role of muzukuru was not confined to the court alone. It was a tradition that was practiced all the way down to the family level. The role of muzukuru has not changed even to this day. That is the third ancient mechanism of checks and balances
The fourth traditional mechanism of checks and balances was the accepted but unsaid contract between the elders and the young members of the community. The youths were expected to be respectful of their elders at all times. For their part, the elders honoured the compact by accepting that at a particular point in their lives, they had to begin the gradual handover, to the young members of the community, the power and authority to run the community.
Way back in antiquity, two proverbs were coined to remind the elders that they held power and authority only in trust, and for the benefit of the young members of the community and those yet to be born. The simplified proverb, kutonga madzoro, served to remind the elders that power and authority, the two levers of leadership, best benefitted the community when others, specifically the youths, were given their turn and opportunity to take over the leadership of the community.
To receive respect from the youths, a proverb, gudo/bvene guru peta muswe kuti vapwere vakuremekedze, was often used to admonish elders who were behaving in manners that made them look less respectable in the eyes of the youth. Our ancestors had observed that a leader of a troop of baboons that did not tuck its tail close to itself often found itself being used as a toy by baby baboons, which was the beginning of the diminishing of that baboon’s influence on the rest of the baboons.
So, our post-colonial leaders are not really following the ancient social arrangement. We have to be judged not by what is going on in our times but by what our forebears put in place. We had a well-defined and efficient system of checks and balances developed and refined over millennia. It worked for millennia, and that is how we survived all these thousands of years. We are familiar with governing and leading because we have been doing it for a long time, or we were until we were disrupted not too long ago.
Do we have a better system of checks and balances now that we have become “civilized” and have adopted alien models that we do not even seem to understand?
I report but you decide.
That is my belated Zimbabwan/African Factoid of The Day, I’m Bvumavaranda BTechno MuRozvi.
Africa’s Woes Triggered By Power-Hungry Presidents
By Tapiwa Kapurura
This piece is meant to corroborate Professor George Ayittey’s recent contribution on the problems bedeviling Africa. My thesis excavates the point that Africa has everything to re-establish herself as a dignified and self-sustaining continent but has been run down by selfish Fathers who are busy chasing power and wealth as the continent bleeds and suffers. In the face of inevitable failure, blame has been embarassingly apportioned to the erstwhile 1884 Scramble For Africa.
Africa’s current problems are linked to historical imbalances caused by Europe. Slavery, resource exploitation, segregation and land apportionment legislation unduly sidelined overpowered Africans in their own home. With independence, every African was supposed to enjoy economic and political independence, freedom and peace. Sadly besides flag independence, the majority of Africans remain poor, diseased and disgruntled. The leaders have even pushed citizens into the scary abyss. Social injustice, corruption, greed, government arbitrariness and use of force have driven Africans into sunken dark holes and anyone who raises the head is bashed to lie down by the evil hand of security forces. Besides calls for economic independence, the benefits have mainly been felt by a few as the majority raises endless questions in the ditches of poverty. In frustration, many continue to jump onto the refugee train because the future remains bleak at home as other continents present jobs, better healthcare and enticing infrastructure.
While economic imbalances remain an urgent issue, there is still need for re-grouping and getting organized in Africa. A redress of economic imbalances does not per se demand that a handful prosper as the majority suffers, neither does it mean that national assets and resources be channeled to Western markets as profits are diverted to offshore accounts for the benefit of a handful government leaders. Such public fraud, mismanagement of resources and corruption makes Africa poorer than ever because as the majority gets trinkets, the minority scoops real stuff and forcefully defend their gains in face of criticism and opposition. Despite her being the global basket of unique rich minerals, wildlife and other lucrative resources like oil, the majority of Africans continue to suffer and their infrastructure is now worse than during colonial days. Resultantly many have been forced to try other promising nations for jobs and social security.
As the leadership continues to blame century-old colonialism, the challenge still remains to see where the current leadership is heading and what they have done to demonstrate a sense of responsibility in resource management, good governance and public benefits. It makes a mockery of an oil or diamond-producing nation to have its environment damaged by marauding western companies swooping in to extract and leave without any sense of community giving back as African environmental activists risk being persecuted. It also defeats the cause for the African resources to be entrusted to exploitative foreign companies that extract and leave locals suffering as a handful stands to gain through foreign banked profits shared between mining companies and African leaders.
It also does not make any sense for Africa’s rich nations to continue begging for foreign aid like food and elections money yet they stand amid historical deposits of minerals on demand. A mineral-rich country should stand firm, feed its people and cater for their welfare. All profits should be publicly accounted for through a prudent fiscal policy implemented for the public good. Skilled human capital must be entrusted with the management of funds for the benefit of the nation at large. A self-help approach on national resources and assets simply works to expose how challenged, disorganized or backward we are as a continent. A clandestine management of national resources and entrusting of some foreign partners without public approval has seen some leaders becoming defensive, arbitrary and reckless in the pursuit of wealth. In some cases, blood has been spilt. The end result has been a blame game of critics labeled western apologists.
The world views Africa with admiration based on natural resources on her lands. Africa’s main issues have been the failure to organize the local and possible technical assistance to harness the resources for public benefit. The issues of private jets landing and taking off with heavy packages of unknown valuables for foreign markets speaks volumes of where Africa stands on resource management. The very people blaming the West are the champions of private deals and nocturnal arrangements for self-gain. If Africa managed her resources well, there could be an impressive Gross Happiness Index to usher peace, comfort and trust from among the citizenry. Sadly many are disgruntled due to joblessness,
poverty and hunger underlined by wanton use of force to silence them during bread riots or questionable public policies.
Despite failure to lead well, many African leaders have the appetite to hang on to power for life. Whoever expresses disgruntlement with certain policies in government becomes an enemy of the state. A challenge on rule of law and democracy simply means one is starting to align with the West. The West never tells any African leader to rape, kill or maim. Instead of buying food, many African governments would rather invest
in guns and tear smoke. The West never drags anyone by the collar to imprison local human rights activists; neither does it force Africa to have dilapidated infrastructure, more disease and arbitrariness. The problem lies with the selfish African leader who has forgotten about those under his chin.
Africans have been perceived as war mongers mainly because of poverty, hunger and anger. Disgruntlement has driven many to start questioning the legitimacy of their own governments. If all African leaders were considerate of their people’s wishes and welfare, there could be peace in Africa. To date the history of modern Africa is mired by dictators suppressing any voices of disgruntlement and changing the laws to strengthen
their reign. In all that arbitrariness, many of the African leaders have been hypocrites in that they denounce the West before the world media yet they partner with individual Western parties to find markets for African resources so as to promote a self-enrichment agenda.
Such a wanton pursuit of selfish interests, corruption and greed has killed Africa. History has always been the trump card for screaming expletives against Western ideologies. Whenever democracy has been questioned, the West has been heavily criticized as interfering with African
affairs. Many overlook the countless refugees fleeing independent Africa into Europe and America by the day as if a killer disease is about to wipe the continent. The West becomes concerned on some of the government practices due to shifted burdens on leadership responsibility. That carefree stance by African heads has triggered the West to set some conditions for Africa to follow. In any case the Bretton-Woods, World Bank and IMF have been run through the Western block and for there to be some co-ordination; there must be control measures established to guard against public fund abuse and profligacy. When such malfeasance has been challenged, our African Marjodomos have been quick to
scream abuse and told the West to mind their own business, lest colonialism is planted into the conversation.
Most African leaders need help and advice even from the young African minds. The resource abuse, defiance of the rule of law, absence of democracy, creation of military states, despotism and corruption have been concerning to the world yet our African leaders have remained impervious to advice and quick to point fingers. Ultimately we have continued to be labeled the “Dark Continent” because some of the deeds of our leaders are jaw-dropping in this modern day as manifested by genocides, internecine wars and tribal purging.
Independence meant African leaders taking personal responsibility to re-define their people’s needs. It also meant the establishment of new democratic institutions premised on majority rule and vibrant economies. Resource management and utilization demanded prudence. Poverty, disease and illiteracy would have to be eliminated. Justice and rule of law would have to prevail. Unfortunately, among the African
leadership, such values are as useless as used lasagna. Once one tastes power, he forgets about all forms of a civilized order. It is worse in that despite the existence of organizations like the Africa Union, ECOWAS, SADC and various others, their impact in resolving African issues has been as good as non-existent. Their focus has been on theories, workshops and conferencing as they have not yielded much milestones. To date the world is yet to experience one solid achievement especially from the Africa Union agenda.
Resultantly, concerned, hopeless and frustrated African citizens have wound up as refugees in other nations in search of peace and greener pastures. Unless African leaders reform to comport with the civilized global order, the world will still perceive Africa as a cauldron
of corruption, poverty, dictatorships and chaos. In any case it is the poor workman blaming his own tools. A peaceful, well-fed, comfortable and happy nation will never disobey or question an accountable and transparent government.
African leaders sign DR Congo peace deal
Leaders from Africa’s Great Lakes regional nations have signed a new peace deal aimed at bringing stability to the war-torn east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, witnessed the signing on Sunday at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The presidents of the DRC, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia either attended or delegated the power to sign the deal.
According to the UN, the “peace framework agreement” could lead to the creation of a special UN intervention brigade in eastern DRC to combat rebel groups and renew political efforts.
But after almost two decades of war, expectations are low.
“I think it would be wrong to have too great expectations because the situation here is very difficult,” Alex Queval, head of the UN mission in North Kivu, told Al Jazeera. “The conflict has been going on for at least 19 years, so it’s not going to be solved overnight, but I definitely think that this approach can be a new beginning.”
Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from the Mugunga camp for internally displaced persons outside Goma, said people there “really hope this [agreement] is the beginning of something.”
Mugunga is host to tens of thousands of Congolese people who had to flee their homes following violence in the east in November 2012.
Despite the signing on Sunday, problems remain with the peace process, she said.
“We still dont know what kind of powers a special UN envoy would have [and] whether those signing will have a mechanism overseeing whether they will abide by what they signed up for,” she said.
The DRC’s mineral-rich east has been ravaged by numerous armed groups, with new rebel movements spawned on a regular basis, some of them with backing from neighbouring countries.
The latest surge in violence was in 2012 and culminated in the rebel March 23 Movement (M23) force briefly seizing the key town of Goma last November.
M23, which was not invited to Sunday’s meeting, was founded by former fighters of an ethnic-Tutsi rebel group whose members were integrated into the regular army under a peace deal whose terms they claim were never fully delivered.
The group’s main demand now is the full implementation of a peace accord signed on March 23, 2009.
M23 controls part of the Rutshuru region, an unstable but fertile territory that lies in mineral-rich North Kivu province and borders on Rwanda and Uganda.
Several of its leaders have been hit by UN sanctions over alleged atrocities. The group has been accused of raping women and girls, using child soldiers and killing civilians.
Peace talks have been held in Uganda, but so far have made little headway.
MONUSCO, the peacekeeping mission already deployed in DRC, is one of the UN’s biggest.
It currently has about 17,000 troops and, under its Security Council mandate, is allowed to have up to 19,800.
The UN wants to toughen MONUSCO with the addition of a 2,500-strong intervention brigade to tackle the armed groups that have plagued the resource-rich region.
A first attempt to sign the agreement last month was called off over procedural concerns, not over the content of the agreement, the UN said.
Moshiri said civil society groups have complained that “they’re not involved in Sunday’s agreement, and that there is no concrete action plan to deal with the root causes of the conflict, which are mainly poverty and corruption”.
Fresh violence threatens DR Congo peace deal
Fighting erupts between Congolese troops and breakaway rebel group days after peace deal was signed by regional leaders.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2013 11:17
Less than a week after the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring African nations signed a peace accord to hold off hostilties, a fresh wave of violence has erupted in the central African nation.
Fighting erupted on Thursday between the Congolese troops and the rebel group Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) in Kitchanga, about 90km from Goma, Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reported.
It is not known if the latest fighting has resulted into casualties, but at least 3,000 civilians have sought refuge near a UN base in Kitchanga, according to Moshiri.
On Sunday, DR Congo signed an agreement with 10 other African nations including Rwanda and Uganda, which were accused in a UN report last year of aiding M23 rebels, who swept through eastern Congo and captured the key city of Goma in November. Both countries have denied the allegations.
Under Sunday’s agreement, Congo’s neighbours agreed not to tolerate or support armed groups.
The Congolese government pledged to prevent armed groups from destabilising neighboring countries, and agreed to fast-track security sector reform, particularly within its army and police, and to consolidate state authority in the east.
M23 leadership struggle
A looming leadership struggle also threatens to split the more prominent rebel group, M23, which some fear could lead to more waves of violence there.
An “internal fight” is going on between M23 rebels loyal to Bosco Ntaganda and his rival leader Sultani Makenga, according to Moshiri.
Ntaganda, who is in hiding, is a former Congolese general wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court at The Hague and publicly had very little to do with the group.
Makenga, on the other hand “is far more cautious type of leader” who wants to wait for a peace agreement currently being discussed in Kampala in Uganda.
“We are hearing credible reports that Ntaganda is trying to persuade M23 to take Goma again, and we understand he has the loyalty of several top commanders as well as some rebel troops,” Moshiri said.
A UN source also told Al Jazeera that he would not be surprised if a “shootout” erupts in the coming days.
“Things have got that bad,” Moshiri said.
Fighting in the area of Rutchuru on Sunday and Monday, among M23 factions, left at least eight people dead, she said.
Mineral-rich eastern Congo has been engulfed in fighting since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
The UN has more than 17,700 peacekeepers in Congo, assisted by more than 1,400 international police.
But they were unable to protect civilians from the M23 rebels whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from the Congolese armed forces.
With inputs from Nazanine Moshiri
Mayans and Tibetan Monks Join Forces in the Name of Peace, Harmony and Freedom
The 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter concluded activities in the environmentally friendly Hacienda Tres Ríos Resort, Spa & Nature Park
Cancún, Quintana Roo (PRWEB) September 27, 2012
In a call for peace, harmony and freedom for all people, the Tibetan Monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery as well as Mayan representatives concluded their participation in the 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter, held at Hacienda Tres Ríos Resort, Spa & Nature Park.
In the presence of a number of tourists, special guests and those who enjoy these two cultures, the Tibetan monks destroyed the Tara Blanca Mandala, which was crafted during the five days of the encounter. This action was carried out as the final activity of the encounter to symbolize the transitory nature of life.
Deputy Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Hacienda Tres Ríos, Daniel Arroyo emphasized that the encounter met with all expectations to transmit a message of peace and respect of nature that is so lacking in our world today.
Arroyo also disclosed that because of the success of the second edition of event, there will be a third bicultural encounter in September 2013. The program will include more conferences, meditations and teachings that are sure to fill participants with good vibes and positive thoughts.
From September 12 to 16, the 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter brought together a group of nine Tibetan monks, Mayan dancers and representatives, the founder of Casa Tibet, Tony Karam, as well as a number of researchers and speakers of both cultures, who spoke on the principle teachings and philosophies of these two incredible civilizations.
The encounter included a presentation of Sacred Mayan and Tibetan Music and Dance in the Teatro de Cancún, as well as a photo exhibit, rituals and healing and meditation ceremonies (both group and individual). There were also meditations involving positive energy and the search for peace and harmony through ancient techniques.
As part of the closing activities of the encounter, Tony Karam, founder of Casa Tibet, presented a conference on Buddhism which covered relaxation and meditation techniques, as well as the principle doctrines of this religion.
Daniel Arroyo thanked the Tibetan monks, Mary Coba of Producciones Arte Maya, as well as the hotel collaborators who helped make this event a total success, accomplishing the objective of sending a message of love and hope to all of humanity.
A refuge for Myanmar refugee kids
A group of 18-year-olds take on the responsibility of providing education for over 70 Myanmar refugee kids.
IT is way after midnight and college student Heidy Quah is hunched over her desk, her brows furrowed in concentration.
Instead of surfing the Net, watching her favourite drama series or rushing to finish up some last-minute assignments like most of her peers, Quah is busy drawing and cutting out caricatures of various shapes and sizes.
“Sometimes I stay up till 4am to prepare my teaching materials,” says Quah.
The Diploma in Business student at a local college is a committed volunteer teacher at a refugee school where she conducts art and craft lessons, among others.
At just 18, Quah is the founder of a registered non-government organisation, Persatuan Kebajikan Perlindungan Kanak-kanak Pelarian (Refuge For The Refugees), which aims to provide education for Myanmar refugee children.
As of October last year, 91,520 Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers who are hoping to build a better life for themselves in First World countries like Australia, Canada and the United States, are temporarily placed in Malaysia. The immigration process usually takes up to several years before they are finally resettled in their designated countries.
Meanwhile, precious time goes by as children of these refugees – at the height of their formative years – have no access to the local education system due to their refugee status. The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) has teamed up with various NGOs to set up learning centres for them but out of 13,800 children who are of school-going age, only 40% of them have access to education.
Chin Children’s Education Centre (CCEC) is one such school. Over 70 Myanmar refugee children from ages four to 16 fill the dilapidated community hall of a low-cost flat in Kuala Lumpur, for five hours every weekday. The learning environment is far from conducive as the classes, which are separated by sheets of cloth, are all held in the small hall.
Five teachers – two sponsored by UNHCR while three are hired – work tirelessly to help the children learn English, Mathematics and Science. Due to the overwhelming number of students, the teachers are often unable to step into every class, leaving many of them unattended.
Early last year, Quah had just finished secondary school and was waiting to start college. After hearing about a volunteer opportunity at a school camp, she roped in her friends Andrea Prisha, Chan Weili and Khoo Ghee Ken to volunteer as teachers at CCEC on a weekly basis.
As time went by, the youths established a bond with the refugee kids and were devastated when they heard that the school had to close down in a matter of months.
“CCEC was funded by UNHCR for two years under the Social Protection Fund. The contract expired in July 2012 and was not renewed,” explains Quah.
With college just around the corner, the group was faced with the difficult decision of whether they should continue helping the school.
Eventually, Quah and her friends made the bold choice of not only continuing to teach the students every week but to take on the school’s financial burden as well.
Refuge For The Refugees came into the picture when Quah realised that corporations were sceptical about providing funding to an unregistered NGO. Apart from a few phone calls from apprehensive officials of the Registrar of Societies, the application process went smoothly and before they knew it, RFTR was up and running.
Six months have passed since its inception and Quah confesses that running the NGO has not been easy. They need about RM1,200 a month to keep the school going. This sum covers the rental, utility bills and stationery for the kids.
Sponsorships are hard to come by at times.
“When we e-mail companies for sponsorships and they find out that we are a bunch of 18-year-olds, many people think that we are up to no good,” says Quah. Thankfully, some sponsors are willing to keep an open mind. Quah recalls a man who wanted to see the school for himself before making a donation.
Online volunteer portals Do Good. Volunteer. and Do Something Good have also served as effective avenues for them to get the word out, fetching sizeable donations from the public. In times of financial drought, they manage to get by, raising small sums through fundraisers like bake sales.
When it comes to ensuring quality education for every child, the youths have to work doubly hard as they are not formally trained teachers. They even come up with their own educational materials to supplement those provided by UNHCR.
Quah and her friends sure know how to make lessons fun for the kids. Sweets are used to help the younger kids learn how to count, while art and craft lessons provide an avenue for the students to develop their creativity.
“RFTR is compiling a proper syllabus for the year, so volunteers can start teaching immediately without having to prepare any material,” shares Quah.
“To get round the language barrier, we carry an English to Chin (dialect) dictionary,” Khoo adds.
The team volunteers for two hours on Wednesdays but every visit to CCEC takes a whopping three hours for the team to travel to and fro, as they rely on public transport. On top of that, they have to allocate time to plan for the day’s lesson besides finding ways to raise funds.
Andrea, a Foundation in Arts student at a local university, asserts that volunteering does not affect her studies.
“College is a priority for me, but these kids mean a lot to me as well. If I have assignments, I will finish them first to make time to volunteer; it is workable,” says Andrea.
Although Khoo, an A-Level student, is unable to teach during weekdays, he helps out with events on weekends, drafts proposals and letters, and updates their Facebook page.
Chan, an Australian Matriculation student, does not mind turning down movie outings and skipping teh tarik sessions with friends, just so she can find time for her volunteer work. “Sacrifices have to be made from time to time if I am to teach at the centre,” says Chan.
It helps that the parents of these dedicated and committed youths are supportive of their activities.
Quah and her team of enthusiastic volunteers dispel the common perception that young people just want to have fun and take little interest in the plight of the less fortunate. Khoo points out that many of his peers are not involved in volunteer work because the avenues just aren’t presented to them.
Quah believes parents play an important role in instilling compassion for the underprivileged, in their children. “My parents exposed me to people who were less fortunate from a very young age. We used to celebrate Chinese New Year in orphanages where we would play and sing songs with the kids,” she recalls.
“When I don’t see them for a week and they tell me they miss me, that makes me happy,” says Andrea.
Quah finds great satisfaction in charting the children’s progress. “There was this boy in my class who used to be very destructive. He would hit other kids for no apparent reason. I later learned that his dad is an alcoholic who physically abuses him. I decided to pay more attention to him and appointed him as class monitor. So instead of starting fights, he is now the one who stops fights,” says Quah, who is proud to note a change in the boy’s behaviour.
Indeed, it is positive changes like these which keep the youths going. Quah is driven by a vision to take RFTR to a new level and reach out to more refugee children so that they can also enjoy the gift of education.
To make a donation or find out more about volunteer opportunities at Refuge For The Refugees, call Heidy Quah (012-307 3714) or visit facebook.com/refugefortherefugees or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
2013 Annual Report on Global Trends for Human Rights Defenders Published
On 23 January 2013 Front Line Defenders released its fourth Annual Report on Global Challenges facing Human Rights Defenders around the World in 2012.
The report explores the situation on both the global and regional level including several countries examined in focus namely: Burundi, Vietnam, Guatemala Kazakhstan and Algeria. It highlights the ‘unabated’ targeting of human rights defenders for their work documenting abuses, exposing corruption, or pushing for reform.
“The attacks and killings highlighted in this report are only the tip of the iceberg. In many countries the government has either shut down the local media, subjected human rights organisations to campaigns of intimidation or tried to silence those brave enough to bring the facts to international attention” said Front Line Defenders Executive Director Mary Lawlor.
The report highlights:
-24 killings of HRDs in 2012
-Physical Attacks on HRDs reported in 28 countries across all regions:
-Attacks on LGBTI human rights defenders in Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, South Africa, Uganda, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.
-Restrictive legislation passed or under discussion in Algeria, Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Lithuania, Moldova, Russian Federation, and Ukraine
-Judicial harassment reported in nearly 40 countries
-Information technology laws used against those expressing dissent or circulating information on human rights abuses, in particular in Asia and the Middle East.
-Reprisals for cooperating with international human rights bodies were reported by HRDs in Bahrain, Belarus, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka
“The facts speak for themselves”, said Ms Lawlor “The sad reality is that while governments proclaim support for human rights and their respect for the work of human rights defenders in international fora, in practice, human rights defenders face a daily struggle for survival”, added Ms Lawlor.
This report shows how the safe space in which human rights defenders work is consistently shrinking, while their personal credibility is attacked through state sponsored defamation campaigns in which they are routinely portrayed as agents of western/foreign interests. The introduction of restrictive legislation which limits both their work and their ability to source international funding is increasingly used to hamper their work.
The Report highlights the alarmingly high number of killings of human rights defenders and the fact that Front Line Defenders alone has documented physical attacks on human rights defenders in 28 countries and 24 killings of human rights defenders. Conditions for human rights defenders in Africa, Asia and the Middle East continue to be worrying while the report finds that that in many countries in Europe and Central Asia the situation has actually deteriorated.
On the regional level many countries in Africa have seen a series of disturbing ongoing trends including physical violence, and impunity for perpetrators. As noted in the report the murder of two LGBTI rights defenders Thapelo Makhutle in South Africa and Maurice Mjomba in Tanzania illustrate these risks.
Such impunity is also commonly seen in the Americas alongside a common trend, the use, region-wide, of fabricated criminal charges such as those that have resulted in an 18-year prison sentence for Colombian human rights defender David Rabelo Crespo.
Asia has seen the continued usage of smear campaigns against human rights defenders branding them as ‘enemies of the state or as working for foreign interests’. One example of such a case can be seen in India with the branding of P.V. Rajagopal, Vice Chairman of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, as a ‘Maoist sympathiser’.
The situation in Europe and Central Asia is characterised by the increasing use in many countries of legislation to curb the activities of human rights defenders. This is particularly evident in the Russian Federation with a swathe of legislation being implemented including a law designating NGO’s in receipt of foreign funding as ‘foreign agents’.
Finally in the Middle East and North Africa region the report confirms the fears of ‘limited real change’ despite the events of the Arab Spring that ‘gave hope to thousands of people in virtually every country in the region’. In Bahrain in particular almost all of the most vocal human rights defenders were in detention at year’s end including former Front line Defenders staff member Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.
The Report is based on Front Line Defenders’ work in support of human rights defenders at risk. In 2012, Front Line Defenders issued 287 urgent appeals on 460 human rights defenders at risk in 69 countries; it provided 267 security grants and trained 358 human rights defenders. Overall, more than 1150 HRDs benefited from Front Line Defenders’ protection support in 2012.
Russian Federation: Violent attack of peaceful picket in defence of LGBTI rights
On 20 January 2013, a peaceful picket of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights defenders was attacked by counter-protesters in the city of Voronezh. The picket was was organised by local human rights defenders Messrs Andrey Nasonov, Evgeny Chunosov and Pavel Lebedyev against the proposed bill in the Russian Parliament which, if passed, would ban the “propaganda of homosexuality”.
On 17 January 2013, Andrey Nosonov and Pavel Lebedev wrote to the Centre for Combating Extremism, the offices of the local administration and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation regarding multiple death threats they had received from individuals through social media sites, who also threatened to disrupt the planned peaceful picket, for which permission had been sought from the city’s administration. Despite the fact that at least 15 authors of the threats were named individuals, police failed to react to the complaint.
As the picket began on 20 January 2013, more than two hundred counter-protesters had gathered at the scene, who had coordinated their attack through social media sites and many of whom were members of radical right wing and religious groups. The individuals proceeded to shout offensive remarks such as “Beat the faggots”, throw bottles at the protesters and imitate Nazi salutes. Despite police presence at the picket, at least 4 LGBTI rights defenders and their supporters were physically beaten by counter-protesters, while many others were verbally attacked. Police present did not intervene to protect the demonstrators.
Later the same day, LGBTI rights defenders and their supporters, returning from the picket, were confronted by approximately 30 people in a local café, and were threatened with physical violence. The conflict was resolved upon police arrival.
On 21 and 22 January 2013, Andrey Nosonov, Pavel Lebedev and Alexey Kozlov submitted written official complaints to the Investigative Committee regarding the above mentioned violent attack by counter-protesters against peaceful demonstrators, and the failure of police and of the city administration to fulfil their obligation to assure the safety of demonstrators. Front Line Defenders condemns this attack against peaceful protesters and expresses serious concern at the failure of police to react appropriately in order to ensure the security of the protesters.
Mexico’s Drug War: 50,000 Dead in 6 Years
Since Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón began an all-out assault on drug cartels in 2006, more than 50,000 people have lost their lives across the country in a nearly-continuous string of shootouts, bombings, and ever-bloodier murders. Just last weekend, 49 decapitated bodies were reportedly discovered on a highway in northern Mexico. The New York Times reports on an increasing numbness and apathy among Mexicans after years of worsening carnage, about which they’ve been able to do virtually nothing. Gathered here is a collection of recent photographs from Mexico’s drug war and the people so horribly affected by it.
Warning: All images in this entry are shown in full. There are many dead bodies; the photographs are graphic and stark. This is the reality of the situation in Mexico right now.