Tag Archives: Violence

Obama and a Syria Strike, by Gabriel C Banda

 

Obama and a Syria Strike

by

Gabriel C Banda

Yes, I believe, Obama’s 2013 position not to openly strike Syria with American forces was the appropriate one.

As outgoing President Barack Obama’s legacy assessment will continue for ever, we will consider one issue.

There are those who feel that if Barack Obama had in 2013 ordered an attack on Syria due to accusations around the Bashar al-Assad administration and chemical weapon use, the recent outcome in Aleppo and Syria would have been against Assad. The accusers almost blame Barack Obama’s non-striking as the cause of the situation they are unhappy with.

Their wish had been for a “swift” and “sharp” strike that would have disabled, and removed, the Assad administration.

Strike supporters included John McCain and, sadly, Hillary Clinton, and others such as “Professor” Bernard-Henri Levy, so-called “philosopher.”  Bernard-Henri Levy, consistent with his war-mongering, had been a strong supporter of the intervention in Libya and the removal of Muammar Gaddafi.

War Monger

Over abuse of force, Levy has been a war monger hiding, or excused, under the coats of academic freedom and free expression. Had it not been for the tags of “Professor,” “Philosopher,” and “intellectual” he is referred by others with, the unclothed position of Bernard-Henri Levy would be more clearly recognised as that of a thug.

Still unrepentant about the terrible and evil effects of his position, Bernard-Henri Levy greatly supported and continues to defend, when on BBC and other media, the 2011 invasion of Libya led by the war lord Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then France’s president.

Nicolas Sarkozy, with a guillotine trailed against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, used the machinery of the France government, and even twisting the United Nations system, to force a coalition of force that removed Libya’s Gaddafi and led to instability that has affected Libya, Africa, the Middle East, and the whole world, including innocent people in France and Britain, the USA, and ally nations assembled in the raid on Gaddafi and Libya.

Crossing Line

The proponents of a swift strike and knock-out of Assad and administration have used Barack Obama’s warning about not crossing some red line against him. They use it as an Obama weakness because Obama had given a warning and did not follow it up with action.

It does not seem to matter to them whether Obama’s action would be right or appropriate for the emerged situation but that he had said it and therefore should have proceeded to attack Syria. It seems not to matter to them that the issue of chemical weapons use was not easy to definitely assign.

It does not seem to matter to them that the reasons or excuses of Weapon of Mass Destruction or Crimes Against Humanity used by intervening governments have at sometimes come out false or snares.

It seemed not to matter that the position of a clean, swift, strike was an assumption that was based on a sense of supremacy of oneself over others considered easily conquerable. Why is there an assumption that military might will always defeat others?

In long gone times and recent times, some rulers have acted improperly and created long term difficulties for all of us. Many leaders and rulers, from George W Bush Jr to Tony Blair, have acted by poor egos and handled the arsenals of military and force with immaturity. Many leaders and rulers have not been mature enough to handle authority over force.

Angela  Merkel Maturity

However, not all rulers have the same immaturity over use of force. One who has been cautious about use of force has been German’s Angela Merkel, a person of greatness, and one of the most mature of rulers and leaders in modern times.

To some degree, especially for an American president, Barack Obama has on some critical times acted with great caution where others would have thrown in the military machine heavily. This, not acting to go in when one is not sure, has been faulted against him.

In my view, it is better to be cautious about the use and effect of force and violence than end up creating the results that George W Bush Jr did in Afghanistan and Iraq. Barack Obama’s caution is a more sustainable and just position than that of leaping and attacking first and then thinking later, with turmoil around you.

Some bully others because these bullies feel they have weapon arsenals and can always defeat others they consider lesser.  It has been said that some bully others because the bullies have weapons and want to try out the weapons or intimidate others. Without weapons, they will not bully others.

Duet

In 2013, there was pressure to have Barack Obama and Britain’s David Cameron to repeat a duet, as George W Bush Jr and Tony Blair did over Iraq, and attack Syria. What helped the situation was the British parliament, with much of the public behind them,  voting against the move to another open war.

To his credit, and democratic credentials, David Cameron readily and politely accepted not to proceed with the proposed open armed intervention. That helped Barack Obama’s position for, without ally Britain, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, America has been reluctant to attack alone.

What if Barack Obama had directly used America’s forces to intervene in Syria and remove Assad? The results might have included the following: If Assad had fallen, ISIS would have been stronger. If Assad had fallen, ISIS may have now been in control in Syria. ISIS may have become Syria or Syria would have become the ISIS state.

Then also, there would have been no guarantee that American strikes could have happened without injury on America and those intervening. In scriptures, the story of small David and big Goliath is a lesson for all times.

You should never underestimate your opponent. Already, without factual basis, many officials in the West had underestimated the resilience of the Assad administration and thought he would collapse in a short time, in months rather than years. The situation turned out differently.

Barack Obama had been reluctant to get in to support Nicolas Sarkozy in the removal of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Obama’s weakness was to yield to Sarkozy and reluctantly join in. It is not enough to say one did something wrong because another had insisted to be joined.

Within his administration, war monger Susan Rice pushed for the military intervention and even insulted Africa’s rulers for calling for caution because of the effects they feared would happen with intervention. The effects feared came to pass. Obama had allowed people like Susan Rice and Nicolas Sarkozy to work against his inner caution over Libya.

Spring

Another sin that Obama fell into was to agree to support the armed rebels fighting the Assad administration in the so-called “Arab Spring.”  Clearly, ISIS was, from the beginning, in the “Arab Spring.”

Yes, I believe, Obama’s position not to strike Syria was the appropriate one. Already, the position to support armed rebellion against Assad’s Syria in a conflict with religious undertones was not appropriate, with its consequences that led to the rise of ISIS as Syria government forces faced militias from many groups.

There have been times when rulers of America’s regimes, feeling and acting on the myth that their country is a superpower and can push around others to do what it wants, have gone on to take actions that have created immediate and long-term problems for others, the USA, and the world.

Over the decades, even just to take the decades following World War II, this has happened under various administrations, Republican and Democrats. There seems to be in the background a machinery that, with whatever party in office, tries to assert intervention in other parts of the world – even where the intervention will create difficulties for those intervened, others, and the United States itself.

In recent times, this has happened over the invasion of Afghanistan, occupation of Iraq, and, without lessons being learnt and applied, intervention in Libya. Another key burden of a US administration has been supporting the armed rebellion against Syria’s Assad administration. But Barack Obama’s avoiding of striking Syria in 2013 was, I believe, the appropriate one. That will be a pleasant memory of the Obama legacy.

ginfinite@yahoo.com

**Gabriel Banda has been on the MA Peace Studies Bradford University  programme.

Muhammad Ali and Us, a View from Africa, by Gabriel C Banda

 

Muhammad Ali and Us,
a View from Africa

By

Gabriel C Banda

IN Africa, from the 1960s, Muhammad Ali was widely respected and loved. People followed, and accepted, as the boxing champion changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. In newspapers, magazines, and broadcast, they keenly followed Muhammad Ali.

The 1960s were a period when many societies of Africa became independent states. But the United States of America was still struggling with some apartheid after passing through the sin and evil of slave trade. Persons like Martin Luther King Jr and Malcom X and millions of other persons were fighting organised racism in America from many angles.

People of African descent were focussed on developments in Africa, the United States, the Americas, and many places of the world. The projection of Muhammad Ali onto the world stage light affected the feelings of persons of African descent.

Straight from achieving independence through various experiences, it was time of courage. Many persons of African descent were asserting themselves as equal human beings of humanity, no lesser than others in the human family. None is inherently inferior or superior by nature of their birth grouping.

Ali was one key symbol of asserting humanity. Being born in January 1942, he was still young, but very assertive. Many people in Africa observed and accepted as Muhammad Ali changed from the Cassius Clay name, mentioning the unfair slavery circumstances from which the name had come about. And Africans of various religions accepted his choice to turn Muslim.

Throughout, Muhammad Ali, as persons in Africa against colonial and apartheid racism, was a very vocal critic of the apartheid in the United States.

And then Muhammad Ali refused to fight armed war for the USA in Vietnam. He said it was unfair to travel 10,000 miles to go and kill Vietnam citizens. In Africa, and other places, many persons were critical of the US war in Vietnam. They supported Muhammad Ali.

They further applauded when he sacrificed the boxing crown for his principle against the war. Of course, at those times, there were also many other Americans, like singer Joan Baez, another person of greatness, who were against the war in Vietnam. People were with Muhammad Ali when some years later he got back to boxing. And won. His following and support increased. New generations began to join the following and support.

So, persons in Africa admired Muhammad Ali and his courage. Ali became a heroic icon. And, more, he was to affect persons across colour, religious, culture, language, politics, location, economic situation, and other factors. United by a common person, the fans were from various backgrounds.

Many bonded with him. They loved Muhammad Ali. He was a friend. Muhammad Ali united humanity from many angles. He was an active child of the family of the whole of humanity.

Boxing has been called organised violence and is many times violent, and even brutal. But in Muhammad Ali, many did not consider brutality. He did not come out as brutal. He was friendly. His situation was that of a skilled person entertaining the audience with physical tact and verbal talk. In boxing, here was a master. He was showing what one in any sport should achieve.

Muhammad Ali had grace. He was alert. And calm. He had endurance and stamina. Clearly, any one that wants to attack must first learn to defend. Muhammad Ali could take punches and attacks to the body. And much of that he was doing while he was in control of the situation.

Ali was creative and strategic in his game. A quick reader of things, he was a careful observer of the forces affecting him. He tested and sized up the other contestant. He was careful, rarely careless.

Surprisingly amongst most persons in the heavyweight divisions, Muhammad Ali was swift in response. He was efficient with his size and weight. And he enjoyed playing with words, psyching his opponents in the match and outside. He spoke in very direct manner. He had spontaneous rhyme and poetry for persons, matches, and situations. He enjoyed working on others through words.

Unlike now, in the 1960s and 1970s, in Africa, just after independence, there were few persons with television sets. But when there were boxing matches involving Muhammad Ali, people, young and older, would go to watch at neighbours and relatives places. Many times, because of the time difference involving Africa and places like the USA, the boxing matches were in late night and very early morning.

In the morning, people would go over to work and school. Many who watched Muhammad Ali ordinarily did not like boxing. It was not fighting they were watching. They were watching Muhammad Ali the person, Muhammad Ali the big soul. Boxing was merely the means that allowed them to watch a big soul like Muhammad Ali.

The boxing was not an end. Ali was an inspiration touching other persons also be lifted and soar in their own fields. A master’s work inspires others in other fields. In a master of any field, the mind and spirit of the master has control over the results the body does. A skilled boxer, soccer player, or other sportsperson, will learn to use many limbs.

In addition, Muhammad Ali contributed a lot in time, money, mentoring, and friendship to those in need. His name and resources became means of supporting others. He interacted with persons from various backgrounds and reached with them the point of Human to Human, and perhaps Soul to Soul, communion.

People knew Muhammad Ali’s family history and who was who. They followed events in his family life. They knew the trainer Angelo Dundee (1921 – 2012). They knew about his cheer person Bundini Brown (1928 – 1987). When Muhammad Ali retired from boxing contests in 1981, his following did not fade. New generations joined the veneration.

Muhammad Ali met people from various fields all over the world. They felt their journeys were linked to his.

The condition of Parkinson’s disease greatly affected him. But his soul was still active and interacting with people. When he passed away recently, June 3, 2016, aged 74, great memories and appreciation came into hundreds of millions of persons all over the world.

As Muhammad Ali’s funeral was being organised in Louisville, Kentucky, for burial on Friday, June 10, 2016, it was clear that this was one rare moment where such a huge number of persons, from various backgrounds, and from all over the world, are united around a person.

Muhammad Ali touched and lifted up many persons. Millions and many generations appreciated Ali. As when he was boxing, in his death, Muhammad Ali has united humanity.

ginfinite@yahoo.com

Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the Author is involved in Writing and the Arts, Social Development, and observation of conflict and peace issues.

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GCB, June 2016, 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.


 

 

 

 

 

Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 01: Egypt and Morsi, Transition Lessons

Image

               Gabriel Banda

Egypt and Morsi, Transition Lessons

By

Gabriel C Banda

THE turmoil in Egypt has been of great concern but not unexpected. For the seeds of the heated conflict around President Mohamed Morsi’s administration, elected one year ago, were actually laid during protest action to overthrow the Hosni Mubarak and NDP party administration.

As around Mubarak in 2011, current protests have been over the economic situation, basic needs, and governance systems and practices.

Now, there are significant numbers and forces of those who are dissatisfied with Morsi just as the Muslim Brotherhood and others show great support for Morsi. If not effectively healed now, the conflict will lead to deep instability in Egypt and the region.

A major reason the current situation has risen is because the uprising that threw out President Mubarak in 2011 was not well managed. The faults and defects were imbedded in the transition, or lack of it. The way things were done, or not done, contributed to the current script being played out in Egypt.

The anti-Mubarak forces acted in hurry to remove Mubarak and take over without allowing society to put into place some agreed stable processes and systems. Both opposition and ruling party members needed to work together to find processes, systems, and practices that would enhance governance and participation. There was need to effectively work out a fair Constitution.

While Mubarak had offered talks to work out things, opposition showed no trust in Mubarak and pushed to have him leave early.  At regime change from Mubarak, critical governance issues had not been dealt with. It seems opposition concentrated on removing Mubarak and getting into government.

The Mubarak administration was late to reach out and respond to the issues of protestors and opponents, as President Dilma Rousseff has positively done in Brazil in recent days. However, Mubarak eventually offered opponents some talks and transition. He offered not to stand in the September 2011 elections. Opposition and protestors rejected his offers.

The opponents wanted Mubarak out right then and not to wait for the September 2011 elections. Even USA’s Obama administration, including CIA officials, began pushing Hosni Mubarak to immediately step down.

Thus major mistakes contributed to the current tense situation in 2013. Talks and agreement with Mubarak could have given chance for all involved to design relevant laws, processes, and systems to promote good governance and participation. Early 2011 to September 2011 was good time to work out things and prepare for elections, in which Mubarak had assured he would not stand.

What could have helped would have been the emergence of persons to represent various opposition groups in meeting Mubarak and regime members, with other non-partisan members of society, to work out, after considering various factors, the way forward for Egypt.

Sadly, although 2005 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Mohamed ElBaradei had great potential to take effective negotiator and mediator roles, he was more involved in his opposition role and calling upon Mubarak to leave office. Other persons could have been found to help mediate.

Opposition and protestors seemed to be in great hurry and anger, continuing to demand the immediate step down, and punishment, of Mubarak and regime. A culture of aggressive protests and forceful regime change was being built. And unresolved issues continued into the Morsi regime.

Morsi’s rule has passed through rigid and narrow decrees and actions opposition and protestors have been unhappy with. For many people, there are still issues around basic needs access and quality. Many in Egypt are frustrated. With a culture of aggressive regime change, there were efforts, supported by a petition of millions, to remove Morsi and regime.

Mohamed Morsi was rigid to accommodation. He may have been considering what happened to Hosni Mubarak, who has even been in court for charges that include attacks against protestors.  The fate of other rulers since the “Arab Spring” may have influenced Morsi’s responses to opponents. He did not heed warning signs and adjust to be inclusive.

On Wednesday July 3, 2013, following the warning of forty eight hours before, military and defence head Gen Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi announced the removal of Morsi and mentioned measures to bring reconciliation and stability.

Yet, with strong forces for and against the Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood rule, there will be many reactions and implications. If there is no learning from past weaknesses in transition, then Egypt, the region, and the wider world, may face deep instability.

Egypt’s current situation of conflict is one price for impatience and intolerance. Unlike in the rough Mubarak regime change, Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood members must be allowed to be in discussions with opposition, protestors, and the military. Local and external forces should not insist on exclusion of some parties.

Good mediators and negotiators can be found. After considering current weaknesses, challenges, and disputes, anti-Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood members must together find the best way forward. Egypt’s unfinished task is still to work out, and agree, effective governance processes, systems, and practices. The current crisis is another window to sort out Egypt’s governance issues.

In a society in great conflict, where there are strong groups with significant support, no group can effectively rule others through mere conquest, political or military, and without the consent of other groups.

The interim rulers need to handle the protests and situation of the Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood supporters with more sensitivity than the hard approach that followed. The current harsh, narrow, and unaccommodating show of determination by both General Al-Sisi and pro-Morsi teams will only lead to further violence, hardship, and instability.

As in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, aggression begets aggression. Rebellions are not necessarily revolutions leading to democracy and wide participation. Multiparty systems and elections are not by themselves democracy and good governance. There is need to build blocks of stability and effective inclusion.

The lessons for transition are wider than just Egypt and Mohamed Morsi.

          ginfinite@yahoo.com          gabriel.c.banda@facebook.com

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

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                                            GCB, Lusaka. June, July 2013.