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UK Election Candidates and Lessons, by Gabriel C Banda

 

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UK Election Candidates and Lessons

By

Gabriel C Banda

THERE are some lessons the UK Elections of June 8, 2017 have for the conduct of elections and politics in other parts of the world.

We will now consider the leaders of the main political parties.  Prime Minister Theresa May, of the ruling Conservative Party, called for the elections after she got into office after taking over from her leader David Cameron, a fellow Conservative, who resigned after the negative result of the Brexit referendum.

David Cameron, who had expected a vote in favour of remaining in the European Union and called for the referendum, was disappointed with the “Leave” result. He could therefore not preside over the exit from Europe, an exit he opposed. Therefore, David Cameron resigned to give way for another ruler to deal with the exit.

                                                                 Brexit

Mama Theresa May is in a position of heading a government that must respond to the Brexit Referendum result requiring UK to leave the European Union. Of course, leaving Europe is very complex for Europe, UK, and others and will have effects that are likely to leave Britain worse off in various things.

After UK leaves the EU, it is almost certain that Scotland will leave the United Kingdom.  There will also be complications in Northern Ireland, administratively a part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland. We feel Brexit is more of a Break It.

But Theresa May is now prime minister and has, whether she likes Brexit or not, the task of following the referendum result that requires UK to leave UK. Because she must administer the exit required by the referendum, she has focussed on performing the task, whether she wants of not.

She has set her mind on doing some necessary task and role. She is making herself to flow with it. But we have to wait to find out if she will turn out like Cameron, calling for a poll and not winning it. But the elections she called are useful because they enable people, all citizens, to actually make a choice about who should be their prime minister at this time.

Of course, the elections will be more than just about Brexit.

                                                          Conservative for All?

Now, there are some issues that may be difficult for Theresa May because they are Conservative Party position and issues, not necessary that they are her limitations. It is interesting that Theresa May has, from the beginning of her rule, has called for a Britain and Conservative Party, often associated with positions of wealthy persons and the right wing striving for the exclusive, that works for prosperity for all people.

She wants to move the Conservative Party to be a party for people from all areas of life, rather than the wealthy and exclusive, so-called “elite.” She wants a Conservative Party and Britain for all.

Of course, sometimes Theresa May acts with a sincerity that can be considered naïve. At her meeting new USA president Donald Trump, one would have been careful about showing a shoulder-to-shoulder relationship with the Trump presidency.

Some people’s attitude towards her can be affected by their attitude towards Donald Trump. But Theresa May comes out as a person one may differ with over some issues but will respect for her listening to what others are saying and to her sincerity.

                                                               Jeremy Corbyn

In the elections also is my big man, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader. Just like my big man Bernie Sanders of the USA, Jeremy Corbyn is both sharply analytical and very courageous. He is fearless. And he is sincere as he speaks his message. His sincerity connects to the hearts and minds of many.

There were some persons, many from Labour in Parliament, who blamed him for what was not his fault – the “Yes” Brexit result.  They implied he did not do enough.

But Jeremy Corbyn could not do much about the result. Jeremy Corbyn did not cause the “Yes” Brexit result. Some persons, some of them Labour parliamentarians, also tried to stigmatise Jeremy Corbyn but, without much facts and basis, implying that he did not appeal to voters.

While those politicians within and outside Labour may not like Corbyn or his political positions, he actually has a lot of support with the public. The plotters of the coup plot may have envied, ignored, or underestimated Jeremy Corbyn’s widening appeal to the public.

If Corbyn’s Labour does not win the June 2017 elections, Corbyn, who was for Europe, will be saved from a very uncomfortable and complex Brexit UK delink process. If he then stays as Labour leader, he is very likely to win the next elections.

It seems Corbyn may currently be in a Win-Win situation. But, like in all elections, you do not speculate but just wait for the final announced results. In the UK, the elections are not held directly on the leaders of parties, but the leader of the party that gets the most parliamentary seats, or a coalition of parties with most seats, becomes prime minister. A victor may get the most seats but not necessarily the most votes nationwide.

                                                                   Lessons

In the June 2017 elections, there are also other contestant parties and candidates. For now, some of the key lessons are about the conduct of candidates during elections. The controversial, and cut-throat 2016 United States elections provided big contrast to the current UK elections.

The UK elections of June 2017 provide great lessons. The UK party leaders, like Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May, are generally, or relatively, polite. You do not hear outright insults and uncouth statements. They try to focus on policies and issues, and actually discuss those issues, even if they do not have the answers.

What I find striking is the sincerity of both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, in opposition. You may differ with some things they say, but theirs are not political gymnastics to please voters. They are sincere in their discussion. They lay out their positions on issues. They are persons who have missions they feel are important for the society, not just for their personal and group interests. Their sincerity is very notable.

                                                              David Cameron

Besides the examples of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, in UK there was also some good lessons from David Cameron. One of the greatest things Cameron did was to allow the decision of parliament about not striking Syria over accusations of chemical weapons.

David Cameron, who actually as a person comes out as a likeable person, respected the decision of parliament. In America, that provided Barack Obama a window to also not raid Syria.

Raiding Syria at that time could have made ISIS thrive earlier and brought about further difficulties for the Middle East, the Western World, and the whole. Syria would have become ISIS.

Earlier, David Cameron and Barack Obama had made the mistake of supporting, even if reluctantly for Obama, the war-lord Nicolas Sarkozy, in charge of France’s forces, to, despite caution and opposition from the African Union, raid Libya and murder and overthrow Muammar Gaddafi and regime, leading to instability that has greatly affected the world.

The 2017 lessons about sincerity of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn towards politics and governance can help others in many parts of the world. Politics would be more civilised, more cultured. UK June 2017 elections are better example in politics and governance than USA 2016. And, currently, we have not heard about some Russia conspiracy to hack into the UK Elections!

ginfinite@yahoo.com

The Author: Based in Lusaka, Zambia, Gabriel C Banda is involved in writing and the arts, social development, and observation of conflict and peace issues.

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– GCB, June 2017.   At Wednesday, June 7th 2017.

 

 

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The ICC and Us, by Gabriel C Banda, (a reproduction)

Three years ago, in October 2013, this writing was published on WordPress, some three years before the recent October 2016 moves by some governments of Africa, starting with South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia, to practically pull out of ICC. “The ICC and Us” was published on WordPress.com as Number 05 of “Gabriel Banda Peace Notes,” done on WordPress. I here reproduce it, exactly as it came out, to contribute to current, October 2016, discussion on ICC, Africa, and human justice.

Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 05: The ICC and Us,

October 12, 2013UncategorizedAfrica, Africa Union, Crime of Aggression, Crimes against Humanity, George W Bush Jr, ICC, International Criminal Court, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Tony Blair, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto Edit

The ICC and Us,

And How ICC Can Worsen Conflict

By

Gabriel C Banda

IT was eventually bound to come to this! This October at Addis Ababa, Ethipoia, Africa’s rulers gather, as the continental African Union grouping, to discuss whether their governments should continue to be part of the International Criminal Court, ICC.

The ICC has the task of helping humanity through the trial of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. While the ICC can be an important institution for the world, it has been considered partial, selective, in picking who to prosecute.

There is increasing concern that the ICC prosecution has targeted rulers from Africa while some possible offenders from other parts of the world, including the western world, have not been brought before international judicial platforms, including the ICC at The Hague.

The ICC has decided to put to trial Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, and his deputy, William Ruto, who has already been at The Hague for trial. Kenyatta and Ruto had been on opposite sides in the national elections of 2007. They were accused of organising violent attacks on each other’s supporters.

But in March 2013 elections, the two stood together as a pact for president and vice president, and emerged winners. There are accusations that some external forces had not wanted Uhuru to be president and thus moved the ICC charge to prevent him from standing for elections and winning.

From the Kenya case, there are practical issues. How will a country function when its president and vice president are not around because they are out of the country, and on trial?  The two are not convicts. How does ICC deal with sitting rulers?

The earlier reluctance of Africa’s rulers to support arrest and trial of Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir by ICC may have been more linked to potential effects of the trial on society, at a particular time, than shielding the ruler. There are many stability factors that Africa’s rulers may be considering.

Some persons consider ICC prosecutions as Made for Africa. Some persons in the West are considered, from their actions as government rulers, to have caused huge suffering of societies and humanity. They are not being touched.

While there is talk about details of crimes some persons of Africa are accused of, we hear no proper answer about why George W Bush Jr and Tony Blair have not been brought for trial before international crime platforms. George W Bush Jr, besides the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, has over him some warrants issued for torture. So far, he is not being touched.

If the USA is not part of ICC, the UK still is. There seem strong reasons to consider the trial of Tony Blair for crimes of aggression over Iraq, with the deep suffering and instability that followed.

There is also need to deal with crimes that may have been committed in Libya by external and local forces fighting the Muammar Gaddafi regime. There is need to investigate the targeted killings and harming of Black Libyans and Black Africa migrants during the Nicolas Sarkozy’s French forces 2011 campaign in support of some opponents fighting Gaddafi?

And in Libya, UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, over Libya, did not allow external governments to have troops on the ground. Yet anti-Gaddafi external coalition forces and troops from neighbours like Qatar and Sudan where on the ground fighting the Gaddafi forces. International systems should consider investigating crimes of aggression.

As in Libya and Syria, some consider the ICC as another front against some regimes targeted for change. The ICC, United Nations, and others cannot just sit by and say Africa’s governments have no reason to pull out from ICC.

And it is not enough to say Africa’s rulers are against ICC because they are thinking of escaping justice. To avoid being ignored and going into a cocoon and decline, there is urgent need to address concerns raised by critics of the ICC.

Fearing that membership of ICC has potential punishments, many may withdraw membership. Withdrawal may be a safety, protective, mechanism against possible arrest. And not all who will pull out have things to fear but may just believe the ICC has been unfair. Even clean rulers may leave the ICC.

Criticism of ICC is beyond Africa. Already, besides Rwanda in Africa, China, India, Israel, Syria, the United States, and many others do not cooperate with ICC.

Now, I believe issues are more than about ICC being partial and biased against Africa. Away from issues of leaving out non-African offenders, one believes we also must, worldwide, consider concepts of punishment and retribution and their effects.

In some situations, ICC may, unintentionally, act as an instrument fanning war, strife, and conflict. What are effects of ICC trials on conflicts and societies? And we must consider other factors like the timing of ICC action and how that affects societies.

The ICC can end up worsening a situation. The threat of ICC over members of Gaddafi’s Libya regime may have contributed to more vicious conflict. Similarly, threats of ICC charges against Syria regime members may actually harden the current armed conflict.

Whether guilty or not, there are times when some arrest, punishment or sanction, or their timing, end up causing many others to suffer, beyond the convicted persons. Many generations can be negatively affected.

In some cases, the primary objective is to stop atrocities and heal a society. Poorly applied punishment will create further problems, especially for fragile or divided societies. Instability may follow.

Yes, it is crucial to stop atrocities and their causes. But the ways of the ICC may not be the best to deal with conflict in some societies. While reigning in guilty actors, a harsh judicial retributive approach may actually worsen armed conflict. Thus the ICC may be contributing to continuation of wars, instability, and delay of ending armed conflict.

There is need to consider how proportional ICC processes and judgement are when related to various potential effects on a society. Poorly timed and executed, ICC action can lead to further suffering and disharmony.

Although not perfect, South Africa’s landmark Truth and Reconciliation process showed humankind possible ways of dealing with injustice and moving towards healing.

One’s argument is not that the ICC should not be there, but must be fair. ICC must be just. Its actions, focussed on punishment, must not cause the suffering of many others. Its concept of “justice” needs to be broader than just achieving some narrow accountability, punishment, and retribution.

The ICC can be an important international instrument for protection of basic human rights worldwide. It can help avoid biased local prosecution of opponents by those who control governments.

Those who conquer others and get into government may affect the fairness of local trials of their vanquished opponents. It is not easy for Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi to be tried in his native Libya. Thus, for fairness and basic human rights, there is need for international legal institutions beyond states.

It is important not to dismiss concerns raised about the ICC by persons from Africa and other places. It is important to answer the issues raised.

International and state systems must not be biased to prosecute or not prosecute some persons because of factors like colour, culture, religion, language, origin, citizenship, political link, social status, being male or female, and other conditions.

The international community needs to consider issues of selective prosecution, timing, and effects of ICC procedures on stability of societies. October 2013 is a turning point for Africa, the ICC, and all of us worldwide.

ginfinite@yahoo.com

Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing, social development, and peace issues.

–          GCB September, +Thursday, October 10, 2013, LUSAKA.

Abducted Nigeria Girls and the America Brand, (Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 12)

Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 12:

Abducted Nigeria Girls and the America Brand

by

Gabriel C Banda

THE recent abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls at Nigeria’s Chibok Girls Secondary School has deeply stirred worldwide concern, including demonstrations and high social media postings.

The abduction and other violent attacks, sabotage, massacres, and destruction before and after April 15, 2014 are of concern not just in Nigeria and Africa but the whole world. Captured girls are from backgrounds of Christianity and Islam.

The Chibok incident is touching our common humanity. Those who condemn the abduction and other violence by militants include Muslims.

It is important that responses to the abduction lead to the safety and freedom of the hostages. With relevant approaches and even some types of external support, it is possible for Nigeria’s authorities to swiftly make recovery of the captives.

Responses and approaches should minimise harm to the girls, their families, communities, and society. While there is a wider anti-terrorism and anti-banditry context, approaches used should not endanger the safety of the held school girls and other persons in other parts of Nigeria and beyond.

Some of us were worried when, with innocence, Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan said his government had made approaches to the United States to help in dealing with the hostage situation. Later, United State’s President Obama and John Kerry and Britain’s David Cameron said they would be involved in supporting Nigeria deal with the abduction.

And France was reported to be ready to get involved. It has also been reported that Israel’s government offered to help Nigeria in this Chibok issue. In the Middle East, the Israeli, Palestinian, and anti-Israel forces are some of world’s most skilled and efficient forces when it comes to fighting in non-regular warfare. Yet open involvement or suspected involvement of Israel and others may lead to negative effects.

Officials from governments of Nigeria, USA, Britain and others should have been careful about talking about the involvement of forces of external governments in the Chibok hostages mission. External interest may be well meaning but can contribute to deepened hostilities.

Already some officials from external governments have been quoted as discussing Nigeria officials and government’s unannounced and closed door responses and positions.

But openly asking for external military assistance in rescuing the hostages and combating bandits has many implications. Who comes in to assist will also affect direction of the rescue and the whole conflict.

Officials of Nigeria and external governments should avoid making pronouncements that can lead to negative effects on the held girls. They should also consider the effects of the announcements on relationships in the Nigerian society and the neighbours.

There may be some fear that external forces may take over control of the anti-insurgency work and people then begin giving the activities some American or other external branding. Branding may go together with marketing the brand through activities of “visibility.”

The entry of external forces may or may not be worrying to the captors. Captors might feel they have made some achievements by bringing into the conflict offshore troops from western governments. They may feel their status raised. Some bandits may welcome the USA and external involvement, seeing this as a new stage to proudly go to and take the conflict to another level.

Actions to free the Chibok girls and also protect the public from acts of sabotage need wide support. But open involvement of external forces may make persons who don’t support terrorism but are still critical of, or opposed to, the USA and other governments not to be supportive of the mission against the Chibok captors.

Currently, the primary task is to get the release of the school girl hostages. One has to be careful about not getting this to be overridden by other actions, attitudes, and policies towards terrorism. The general action against terrorism and banditry is important. Yet some policies and stances may affect recovery of the hostages.

For instance, Americans and others have official policy, generally inflexible, about not bargaining and negotiating with terrorists, captors, and hostage takers. Yet there may actually be instances where negotiation with bandits is a useful step to safety, conflict resolution, and deeper understanding. A hope is that policies and positions should not endanger the Chibok school girls.

With governments collaborating, it is easier to quickly deal with abductions and the conflicts behind them. But how they get involved is important. For some governments, some presence in the Chibok crisis is useful for the external governments’ own continuous training and preparedness.

It is possible for governments of the United States and others to be so involved in Chibok as part of their worldwide anti-terror programme that they may put their brand on the Nigeria situation. This may create difficulties for the held hostages. Anti-American feelings may rise when US and other forces openly get involved. Existing hostilities and conflict may escalate.

A risk is that the Chibok abductions may be considered by external forces to be part of their own worldwide fight against anti-western banditry and violence. They may view Chibok with their past and current lenses and incorporate it into “the fight against terror.”

Some governments have fairly advanced equipment and technology, but you need more than machines to solve human conflict. Some methods Americans and others have used in some parts of the world have worked well while some have led to responses of more violence and terrorism. Negotiators and those intervening must be sensitive to local knowledge and processes, otherwise they may create problems.

External involvement has potential of aggravating hostile attitudes and actions by bandits involved in abduction. Some people are already hostile to forces and peoples of the United States, Israel, and allies. External involvement may provide branding that may create further problems for the situation.

Some military presence, approach, and rescue attempts do not ensure success but may create big problems. Crucial is understanding of local environment, local social issues, and local negotiation dynamics. Insensitive external input may endanger our young sisters.

While banditry and terror occur in many parts of the world, there must be close focus on local conditions, approaches, and issues. Working on relationships and human approaches is what finally settles issues. External supporters must study local ways of doing things, settling conflict, and reaching agreements. Roots of grievances should be considered.

You need to involve those with some influence on abductors and government. This may include the use of elders, persons of religious and spiritual influence, and other persons in reaching the abductors and moving towards release, safety, and freedom of the young women.

In many parts of the world, there is abduction, enslavement, and abuse of women, boys, and other innocent civilians by militant combatants. There is use of non combatants as hostages and even human shields against attacks. The innocent are used for bargaining in grievances.

Militants seem to feel the result justifies the means. They believe the extremity in the use of the Chibok girls as bargaining factors against government forces will bring them desired results. In the captors’ view, the Chibok girls, attracting worldwide concern, are some huge bargaining chip.

Although assistance may be required from all angles as the Chibok event is a concern for the whole of humanity, there must be caution on how external support gets involved.
Priority of government, families, and many in the world should be to have the girls released, even if it means going against policies of external governments.

The key expectation of the families of the Chibok school girls and the wider society worldwide is safety and freedom from violence for the captives and other communities.

The announcements of external interests and involvement may delay or endanger the safe return of our young sisters. External support, even with goodwill and sincere intentions by providers, must be handled very carefully.

The Chibok event can provide chance to do something about abductions, enslavement, and human trafficking worldwide. It can be time for Nigeria to find effective solutions to insurgency.

While external support can be useful and some forms of it should be allowed, in this situation, to succeed effectively and sustainably, the Chibok girls rescue process must be locally rooted and not externally branded.

                                ginfinite@yahoo.com

Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing and the arts, social development, and peace issues. He holds an MA in Peace Studies, University of Bradford.

 

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GCB, May 2014, LUSAKA.

 

 

Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 10: Syria and Peace Talks Issues

Syria and Peace Talks Dynamics

By

Gabriel C Banda

SYRIA provides great lessons about issues affecting armed conflict and its resolution. After slowdown by conditionalities and problems from various involved parties, the January 2014 Geneva II talks are finally here. That it could have been possible to hold the talks earlier and avoid deaths and hardship is saddening.

Still, in Geneva II there is some window to prevent further suffering that can deeply affect generations in Syria, neighbours, and the whole world.

As many of us believed quite early and warned, neither the Bashar al-Assad government nor the rebel forces could through military victory expect to rule for long. Military conquest could only be temporary as significant sections of Syria’s society will not expect and accept to be ruled for long by those they strongly oppose.

The forces for both Assad and the rebels, both groups backed by internal and external support, are so significant that no side can by military conquest hope to rule Syria. As in other places, there can be no military conquest that will hold over Syria. Clearly, eventually, there could only be political settlement.

Sadly, the delay to talks dragged on because fighting parties and backers seem to believe that military gains will provide them strength to have their way in talks. Some rebels said they would only go to talks if they have more weapons to tilt military balance in their favour.

In many conflicts in the world, some only come to talks when they have been put under pressure by opponents.  They go to talks because of a military stalemate. Sometimes persons may not want talks to succeed.

Sadly, this is based on the military strength and prowess of the victor and not on what is the best way to settle a conflict.

Yet conflict resolution and agreement should not depend on military victory and the weakening of an opponent. Agreement arrived at through the military strength or weakness of some parties will not last long. Even if it takes generations, military balances of opponents may change and fighting will resume. Violence begets violence

It is important to face the issues in a conflict. As Nelson Mandela’s South Africa showed the world, it is important to have healing, reconciliation, and fairness for all if a society has to work and strengthen towards harmony.

Some delays to Geneva II arose from deciding who comes to the talks. This question affected both government and rebels. The rebels had differences amongst themselves. Some did not want the talks as those rebels’ aim is to remove the Assad administration or take over office to become the rulers. Some do not recognise Assad’s administration as government.

Then there was the problem of which rebels could claim to be representatives of the rebellion. The rebels were many fighting groups that did not necessarily have similar background, vision, and views. There has been much rebel on rebel violence.

And some rebels did not want President Assad to be involved in the talks. Many rebels wanted Geneva to be a surrender meeting for Assad and colleagues. Some rebels did not recognise Assad as ruler. This attitude contributed to prolonged fighting and suffering.

Assad, expected to be under great military pressure, was expected to yield, leave office, and go into the uncertainty that has characterised rulers who have been deposed by armed rebellions that later dominate rule. But, learning from examples of Iraq, Libya, and even Egypt, Assad was more prepared for survival.

On the part of the Assad administration, it did not want to deal with some of the rebels. This was, I believe, an error as agreement should be made by reaching out to all fighting parties and their forces. Thus both the Assad government and rebels prolonged the armed conflict by insisting on who should attend or insisting on working only with those they got on well with.

But reaching agreement to solve a conflict requires that you even deal with those you do not like. What is important is to reach agreement that is fair for the rights and safety of all in a society.

Another problem was which external forces should be involved. Because of their own relationship issues generally unrelated to the internal Syria conflict, the United States and others were opposed to Syria neighbour Iran being involved in the talks. The US has been at Cold War with Iran.

Yet, for conflict to be settled, involved internal and external forces must be engaged. If we seek long term conflict resolution, there is no logical reason why Iran’s government should not be at Geneva II.

Iran, whose situation is more than just about being backers of Syria but also has to consider its own existence if Shiite linked regimes fall in the region, is important for settling Syria’s conflict. So too are Iraq. And others like Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, and all neighbours.

Besides Turkey, rebel backers like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are important part of the Syria quiz and its solution. So too are rebel backers like United States, Britain, France, and other offshore rebel supporters. These must be involved, in various roles and ways, in settlement issues at Geneva II.

Other important forces are Russia and China’s governments, who although may, like the western governments, have interests in the region, are also concerned about the spread of religious based armed rebellions to their own countries.

Deciding to include or exclude some internal and external parties has contributed to continuation of the Syria war. Violence begets violence.

We should open up and accept that other persons who may vary from us are also truly citizens and members of society and are entitled to actively participate. Opening up our minds, we should learn to let go of our own narrow, inflexible, and limited inflexible stances and consider the health of all.

From the poor and avoidable examples of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt it is important that rulers of conflict countries be involved in designing transitions to provide environments of fair and good governance. When current rulers and opponents are involved, their local and external supporters will be more supportive of agreements made and systems designed.

It is important for all parties in a conflict to work together in designing and finding the constitutional, systems, structures, processes, elections, and governance practices that the renewal should have. Syria needs agreement as they go towards Assad’s presidential term end, scheduled to be in 2014.

Egypt’s poor management of the transition from Mubarak contributed to current problems and tension there.  A dispute is more likely to be solved if it involves all parties in a dispute. A conflict stands better chance of long term resolution if it covers persons in various situations, such as colour, ethnic link, language, culture, religious and spiritual path, geographical location, origin, political stance, and material and financial status.

The discussion must deal with the situations and interests of these persons and aim at fairly covering them. Talks and mediation must involve inside and outside forces closely related to a conflict.

The results of recent conflict places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt show that exclusion of some members of society has led to building of conflict, some of it armed, and disharmony that is affecting stability of societies. Syria cannot succeed without involvement of key internal and external players involved in the conflict.

Yes, there is significant support for both Bashir al-Assad’s government and rebellion forces. Assad represents much more than himself. This is a conflict which neither the government nor the rebels, with its various formations, can win on the military field and hope to rule over others.

We can only hope fighting parties do not use Geneva II as a window to pause, reorganise, and rearm for further armed action.

Both internal and external forces have contributed to deep problems for Syria. Even when a ceasefire decision arises from Geneva II, there are other rebellion forces, some not even present in Geneva, that will not accept ceasefire but are determined only in military conquest.

Those who are participants or backers should not vet who comes for peace talks. For Syria and Geneva II, the United Nations should be more active and in the forefront. Talks are better facilitated by the United Nations organisation, in league with other organisations, and not controlled by those who have taken sides and are belligerents.

A primary purpose of the United Nations is not only to stop war but to put an end to war. That is, put an end to the practice of war.

Parties to a fight do not have to reach huge arms arsenals in order to be involved in negotiation. Even without weapons, committed persons and parties can reach agreement.

                                                                                           *          GCB, Lusaka, January 2014.

                                                             ginfinite@yahoo.com

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Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing, social development, and peace issues.


 

 

 

 

 

Margaret Thatcher and Us, A View from Africa, by Gabriel C Banda

KKMaggie1979_ZIS_Edit II                                Mrs Betty Kaunda and Dennis Thatcher, Aug 1979, Lusaka_Edit I

 

 

 

. Dancing Partners: KK and Margaret Thatcher dance, August 1979, Lusaka, Zambia, while Mrs Betty Kaunda dances with Dennis Thatcher; Pictures courtesy ZIS/ZANIS. Rights Reserved.

SOME lives, whether liked or not, have great impact on many other lives, near and far, right now, and into other generations.

Whether one supports or resents “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher’s policies and actions, she greatly affected and transformed the lives of people in UK and beyond. Mrs Margaret Hilda Roberts Thatcher’s approaches firmly shook the direction and balance of economies and societies worldwide.

Britain’s first female prime minister and a three elections premier from May 1979 to November 1990, we are still living with the results of Margaret Thatcher’s government’s policies and work.

In UK, Africa, and elsewhere, there are both praises and insults towards her life. Some think she helped society through economic and social restructuring while others feel she caused long lasting problems. Visiting Britain in her reign in the 1980s, I found these positions. At her recent death, on April 8, 2013, worldwide there have still been strong positions about Mrs Thatcher’s rule.

Some from Africa regarded Margaret Thatcher as a tough person, fixed, uncompromising, and even bullying. Women who were firm and determined sometimes earned the pet name “Margaret Thatcher.”

In Britain, she was very active in drastically changing the economic, social, and welfare systems. She introduced heavy deregulation of the economy and sought to remove government from public enterprises and reduce people’s access to public welfare resources that supported and cushioned many.

She was for a “market forces” economy. Her crusade was labelled “Thatcherism,” just as Ronald Reagan, the United States president who was her counterpart and friend in purpose, had “Reaganomics,” for a similar right wing thrust in economic practice.

She fought trade unions, with unionist Arthur Scargill and his mine workers her great opponents who had in turn drawn battle lines and fought to reverse her policies and bring down her rule.

Her poll tax reminded Africa’s people of the unpopular “hut tax” colonial Britain forced on Africans.

But Thatcher and Reagan’s approaches became part of the template of 1980s and 1990s IMF and World Bank imposed programmes that have had long term effect on economies and capacities of Africa’s societies.

Thatcher is also remembered as war leader for the 1982 Falklands island ownership dispute involving Britain and Argentina.

For Africa, Thatcher came in at a time when Africa’s governments were asserting their independence and often, sometimes as the Organisation of African Unity, OAU, bloc, challenged governments of Britain, America, and some western government on their positions on Rhodesia and Southern Africa.

Britain’s former African colonies belonged to the Anglophone worldwide Commonwealth group but wanted a relationship of equals with the former colonial controller. Many were members of the Non Aligned Movement group of nations dedicated to be independent from the “Cold War” polarisation of the Eastern and Western blocs.

But in Rhodesia, later to be Zimbabwe, white settlers, led by Ian Douglas Smith, had in November 1965 forcibly taken over authority from the British crown by declaring Unilateral Declaration of Independence, UDI.

Africa’s governments felt Britain’s prime ministers had for decades not only been soft on Rhodesia and white ruled racist regimes in Southern Africa, but also directly or indirectly cooperated with the regimes to survive through evading various worldwide sanctions.

The Commonwealth conference of August 1979, held in Lusaka, Zambia, and chaired by Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda, “KK,” was decisive over Rhodesia. Margaret Thatcher had been British prime minister only some three months.

African governments were concerned that the British government would use the Lusaka meeting to push them to harsh IMF economic policies. And Africa’s governments were greatly concerned that Britain would again block efforts towards genuine resolution of the Rhodesia question.

There was anxiety as many people expected Thatcher, openly tough, to be unyielding to views and governments of the South.

To “break the ice” and strike some harmony, the Zambian team arranged for Kenneth Kaunda to dance with Mrs Thatcher at a dinner dance. Mrs Betty Kaunda danced with Denis Thatcher. Kenneth Kaunda has to this day called Margaret Thatcher “my dancing partner.” Born October 1925, Mrs Thatcher was almost about a contemporary of Kenneth Kaunda, born April 1924.

At Lusaka, agreement was finally reached for Britain to get back control of the territory of Rhodesia and arrange a transition to elections and globally recognised independence into “Zimbabwe.”

Margaret Thatcher invited Kenneth Kaunda to be at London’s Lancaster House conference that worked out practical details of the transition. Kenneth Kaunda was on standby to intercede in case there were problems in the negotiations. Agreement was made, leading to elections and Zimbabwe’s independence in April 1080.

For those of us who were young persons conscripted into Zambia’s military for defence from attacks of the Rhodesia and South Africa militaries, Zimbabwe’s independence marked our demobilisation. After Zimbabwe’s independence, Zambia stopped conscription of those who had completed school.

But the Lancaster House agreement had indicated that Zimbabwe’s land problem could only be dealt with after ten years. Kenneth Kaunda believes the British government, under Conservatives Thatcher and John Major, followed their part over Zimbabwe’s land programme until the Tony Blair Labour administration took over and raised issues. As the 21st Century began, the land issue became a source of great conflict and political, social, and economic imbalance in Zimbabwe.

Yes, the 1979 agreements of Thatcher, Kaunda, and others had been turning points in negotiation processes and the future Zimbabwe. Margaret Thatcher strongly had her positions but, in the Zimbabwe question, she did yield and work out things with others of another view.

Although Kenneth Kaunda and Margaret Thatcher were strong and influential personalities with different positions on Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, they, with others, were able to work together from various angles and achieve agreement that finally moved things forward.

It is possible to put aside personal emotions and interests and focus on reaching agreement and action fair to those involved. Yes, it is possible to reach out to those with a position that appears to oppose ours and understand their situation. In most cases, it is possible to reach agreement that fairly considers the situations of all involved.

But in May 1987, when Kenneth Kaunda’s government in Zambia broke away from the harsh IMF and World Bank “Structural Adjustment Programme,” SAP, some governments of the western world, including Britain’s, put in reprimand and sanctions to compel Zambia to get back to the programme.

At that time, even Kaunda’s natural friends like Norway’s Glo Bruntland, a left leaning Labour prime minister who was her country’s first female prime minister and also was on three terms like Thatcher, put pressure on Zambia.

After independence from European forces, Zambia and others had made great strides in improving basic needs access and national capacity in various sectors. But the imposed “market forces” programmes reversed gains made in basics like health, education, food access, and infrastructure. Life expectancy began to decline. Social cohesion and communal goodwill were shaken.

In Europe’s Nordic societies, the welfare and public support systems still operate for the common good. Even in the UK, Thatcher transformed the economic and social system but still she had limits as up to now, the basic welfare system still exists and supports about everyone.

Up to now, the IMF and World Bank template against public support for enterprise, even where both publicly owned and private owned ventures can be helpful, demonises those who think of enterprises with public support, whether government or cooperatives or local authorities and councils.

Yet in Norway, government owns the Statoil petroleum business, with tentacles in many countries and continents, that has helped to make Norway one of the richest nations and with the highest quality of life indicators in the world. In other parts of the western world, utilities like city trams and bus transportation are publicly owned. But Africa and others are forbidden to venture into some enterprises that can help greatly.

Many persons remember Margaret Thatcher for various things they link her to. In Africa, some remember Margaret Thatcher and British prime ministers being soft on worldwide economic and other sanctions against apartheid South Africa.

Many in the world wanted to have sanctions as a way of avoiding a violent approach to the conflict of apartheid. Had British governments religiously followed worldwide sanctions, it is likely that the release of Nelson Mandela and the eventual political changes in South Africa would have come earlier.

Now, we know that some persons dealing with feminist and gender discourses found it difficult to place categories around Margaret Thatcher and her work.

Yes, for years after being pushed out of office by fellow Conservative Party members in 1990, the world still greatly remembers Mrs Thatcher.

This was a person who was prime minister but yet very practical in her household. At her Downing Street residence, she personally prepared the feeding of her family members. She would also prepare food for cabinet ministers who came for meetings.

And some in Africa remember that Baroness Thatcher’s husband, Dennis, and son, Mark, have had business interests in Africa. The Thatcher name came up around the 2004 events linking Mark, South Africa based, to an armed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea.

And around the beginning of the 21st Century, I, as his Special Assistant, was with Dr Kenneth Kaunda, long after he had left presidential office, when he met Baroness Thatcher at London’s Heathrow Airport. We were in VIP lounges waiting for separate flights.

We were taken to her lounge. Kenneth Kaunda and Margaret Thatcher had a warm reflection of Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, and those events of the past.

I was somewhat taken aback to find that, in person, Margaret Thatcher was relaxed and showed great humour, cheerfulness, friendliness, and she let go of events of the past.

Yes, from various points of the world, we contribute to situations that will affect many others in other places and generations. Margaret Thatcher’s was example of strong determination and devotion for what one sets out to do. The result of such narrow pursuit can vary, from being productive or retrogressive, and having advantages or disadvantages when considered at different times. But all who seek to move and transform things can learn from Margaret Thatcher.

The Thatcher experience also shows the need for wide dialogue and consent in matters of the common good.  Yes, at her recent death, aged 87, from stroke, and through the funeral that followed, there were both cheers and jeers for Margaret Thatcher. For decades after her policies and actions, Mrs Margaret Thatcher is remembered, with fondness or bitterness, for contributions that shook the world.

In whatever situation we are in, in a family or as a government like Margaret Thatcher’s regime, what we do now has great effect on others, now and in future. Policies and actions in one place and one time will affect many others everywhere. Yes, we need to consider how our actions will affect economics, social balance, and development over generations.

Based in Lusaka, Zambia, Gabriel C Banda is involved in writing, social development, and peace issues.

Email: ginfinite@yahoo.com, Facebook: gabriel.c.banda@facebook.com