Posts Tagged Libya
Our friend Joseph Kony totally overshadowed International Women’s Day yesterday — which is a horrible thing to do, add that one to the list. Also, a lot of people criticised me for being too negative about Kony because I was “trying to stop people to take action”. But more on that later. Anyway, I thought I would post a few items that would have been relevant yesterday while also making a few positive suggestions of campaigns that would help Africans more than wearing a Kony armband.
1. The “Girl Affect”
The crux of this is described in the following moving infographic:
Or much more eloquently by Nicholas Kristof in a recent New York Times Magazine article:
if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.
And it can be found on Facebook.
2. Holding Islamists to account
The downside to that Kristof piece was this:
Yet another reason to educate and empower women is that greater female involvement in society and the economy appears to undermine extremism and terrorism. It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country’s population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren’t fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys’ locker room. That’s in part why the Joint Chiefs of Staff and international security specialists are puzzling over how to increase girls’ education in countries like Afghanistan — and why generals have gotten briefings from Greg Mortenson, who wrote about building girls’ schools in his best seller, “Three Cups of Tea.” Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force.
This almost certainly confuses cause and effect. The “Islamic teachings about infidels or violence” are, by and large, the reason behind the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force. I particularly dislike calling these teachings “Islamic”; they are not Islamic, they are Islamist. I have spoken to plenty of Muslims who have explained to me in detail why there is nothing Islamic whatsoever about not educating women and slaying the infidels.
Moreover, the denial of Islamist discrimination is an example of a third-worldist well-meaning condescension. This leads to the kind of situation described yesterday by Isobel Coleman, Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at Council on Foreign Relations:
One theme is that women played an essential role in the Arab world’s uprisings, only to be marginalized once transitions began. Moushira Khattab, a former Egyptian ambassador to South Africa and minister of family and population, writes that women joined men in calling for freedom in Tahrir Square. Since then, though, “the train of change has not only left them behind, but has in fact turned against them…
Dormant conservative value systems are being manipulated by a religious discourse that denies women their rights.” Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist, says flatly that “the ‘Arab Spring’ is not an accurate description” of what has occurred. She notes that after Iran’s revolution, “a dictator fell from power, but a religious tyranny took the place of democracy.” The uprisings will only be fulfilled, she argues, “when women achieve their rights.” For many, the rise of traditional and religious-based politics is deeply harmful to women. Rola Dashti, a former member of the Kuwaiti parliament who lost her seat in the election last month (in which Islamists surged and no women were elected), says that “women’s presence and participation in public life–specifically in politics, decision-making positions, and state affairs–moved from marginalization during repressive regimes to rejection with Islamist regimes.” She pulls no punches when it comes to moderate Islamists: “the promotion of moderate Islamism by Islamists in power is nothing more than a hidden agenda of radical and extremist ideologies when it comes to social issues and citizens’ rights, especially as it concerns women.” Rend Al-Rahim, who served as the first ambassador to the United States in Iraq’s post-Saddam government and now runs the Iraq Foundation, says that “the retreat in women’s rights has more to do with the resurgence of patriarchal, narrowly conservative social mores embedded in ancient tribal customs than with religion. Sharia is only a convenient peg for the deeper instinct of male dominance.”
I’ll also throw these two videos in while we’re at it:
A little less international relations focussed for a second (well not really, but anyway), some interesting ideas came to light in this post on the Council on Foreign Relations site:
There’s a gap in the types of tasks women and men are assigned early in their careers. Intentionally or not, women tend to given more administrative or support work rather than policy or research work; path dependence takes over from there. I recall a prominent scholar regularly asking his female research assistant (RA) to pick up his dry cleaning and take his car to the shop—things he didn’t ask of male RAs.
There’s also a mentorship gap. Young women have trouble finding men willing to act in that capacity because there are few mechanisms to develop the rapport that underlies a good, productive mentoring relationship. Conversely, men may be concerned about how a mentoring relationship will be perceived and shy away as a result. But mentors are vital for opening doors and offering suggestions and feedback about career choices—efforts that are particularly valuable in the foreign policy world.
Last night I promised a post giving background information on Joseph Kony after I explained my doubts regarding the “Stop Kony” campaign. I have to say that I feel entirely vindicated. I am always amazed by people who seem to spend their whole lives not caring about suffering in the world at all suddenly go up in arms because of a 27 minute piece of propaganda, donate a lot of money to a very dubious cause and then go back to sleep. As I suspected, there is much more to the situation than the video let on.
1. The video was bullshit
The best critique of the video itself came from Michael Wilkerson, guest posting on Joshua Keating’s Foreign Policy blog:
Unfortunately, it looks like meddlesome details like where Kony actually is aren’t important enough for Invisible Children to make sure its audience understands. The video, narrated by Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, says its purpose is to intensify pressure on the U.S. government to make sure Kony is brought to justice this year, and as the message broadcast throughout says, what is important is simple: Stop Kony.
Among other emotive shots, the video features Russell’s attempt to explain the LRA to his toddler son, enthusiastic (and mostly white) volunteers putting up posters and wearing Kony 2012 bracelets, and some heart-wrenching footage of children who walked for miles to sleep in a safe place at the height of the LRA’s power in Northern Uganda. The latter comprised much of Invisible Children’s namesake first film and brought the organization to prominence.
But in the new film, Invisible Children has made virtually no effort to inform. Only once, at 15:01 in the movie, over an image of a red blob on a map leaving Northern Uganda and heading West, is the fact that the LRA is no longer in Uganda mentioned, and only in passing.
2. Kony is a useful scapegoat for Ugandan crimes
The video mentioned failed peace talks and blamed Kony for his duplicity in using the talks as cover while he rearmed. This may be true, but there is more to the talks than that. Max Fisher had this to say:
Since the late 1980s, the Ugandan government has tried several times to defeat the LRA or at least compel it to disarm. It even created a senior position dedicated to this cause; the Minister of State for Pacification of Northern Uganda. The first person to hold this office, Betty Bigombe, negotiated directly with Kony, deep-jungle meetings that many of her staffers refused to attend for fear that they would be maimed or killed. But President Museveni squashed Bigombe’s hopeful 1994 peace talks, and others since then. Museveni has good reason to want fighting to continue. He is still unpopular in the north, and the LRA gives him good reason to fill that once rebellious region with his troops. They’ve also given him an opportunity forcibly relocate a number of “vulnerable” northern Ugandans into displacement camps, where he said they might be more easily protected. The LRA’s bloody attacks also provide a rallying point for once-fractured Uganda, a common enemy that keeps everyone in line. Whatever Museveni’s brutalities, the LRA will always be worse.
3. Kony has already been stopped
Has he been captured and brought to justice? No. What the video forgot to mention, however, is that the 30-year long war in Northern Uganda is over and Kony lost. As Wilkerson was getting at, the “moved into other countries” that the video mentioned in passing would be more accurately described as “fled into other countries, with a coalition of African armies hot on his tail”. Kate Collins last October:
The U.S. troop deployment can make a decisive difference. Kony’s forces have been weakened in the past few years, in good part because of the $4.4 million in aid Kampala has received from the Obama administration. Kony now commands fewer than 300 fighters. Putting U.S. boots on the ground will likely lead to the complete collapse of the last remnants of his army.
4. What are you trying to achieve exactly?
Mark Kersten points out that, while military solutions have failed, raising awareness of Kony in the West would not achieve much and the people in his region are already well aware of who he is.
Kony 2012 is about making Joseph Kony, the leader of the notorious LRA, famous because, the line of reasoning goes, if everyone knew him, no one would be able to stand idly by as he waged his brutal campaign of terror against the people of East Africa.
I am actually stupefied that any analysis of the ‘LRA question’ results in the identification of the problem being that “Kony isn’t popular enough”. The reality is that few don’t know who Joseph Kony is in East Africa and the Great Lakes Region, making it all-too-apparent that this isn’t about them, their views or their experiences. But even more puzzling is that Joseph Kony is one of the best known alleged war criminals in the world – including in the United States. This is the case in large part because of the advocacy of Western NGOs, including Invisible Children and the Enough Project as well as the ICC arrest warrants issued against Kony and his senior command.
… In this context, it is worthwhile remembering that massive regional military solutions (Operations Iron Fist and Lightning Thunder most recently), with support from the US, have thus far failed to dismantle or “stop” the LRA. These failures have created serious and legitimate doubts that the ‘LRA question’ is one that can be resolved by military means.
Why have the military solutions failed? Well, according to Max Fisher, finding Kony is not actually all that easy:
Kony may be barking mad — he performs bizarre rituals and claims to fight for “the Ten Commandments” — but he has survived for two decades, outnumbered and outmatched by every metric, on little more than his ideology and his wits. “Kony is a brilliant tactician & knows the terrain better than anybody. He surrounds himself with scouts who have what amounts to an early warning system, which is how he’s eluded capture for so long,” Morehouse College assistant professor and Central Africa expert Laura Seay warned on twitter. “Kony also operates in some of the least-governed areas of the world’s weakest states. Many of these places have no roads, infrastructure. All of this adds up for a potential mess for US troops, who don’t know the terrain & can’t count on host government troops to be helpful or even to fight. This will not be easy for only 100 US forces to carry out, especially given language barriers.” Seay also points out that Kony uses children as human shield — and as much of his fighting force — making any direct action ethically and morally difficult.
5. Who is really threatening Ugandan children?
So Kony’s days were numbered before you even heard of him and any campaign to assuage your “white man’s burden” guilt by making a lot of noise about him would not change much. That said, there are far worse things happening to Ugandan children every day than living under the (largely abated) threat of the LRA. The people in northern Uganda are largely Acholi, who fought against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the Ugandan civil war and who, therefore, Museveni has a strong interest in controlling.
It took some digging to find, but here is what their own government was doing to the Acholi under the auspice of “protecting” them from Koni. Note: this article was from 2006.
The truth is that reports of indisputable atrocities of the LRA are being employed to mask more serious crimes by the government itself. To keep the eyes of the world averted, the government has carefully scripted a narrative in which the catastrophe in northern Uganda begins with the LRA and will only end with its demise. But, under the cover of the war against these outlaws, an entire society, the Acholi people, has been moved to concentration camps and is being systematically destroyed — physically, culturally, and economically. “Everything Acholi is dying,” declared Father Carlos Rodriguez, a Catholic missionary priest in the region. After his own visit, Ugandan journalist Elias Biryabarema wrote, “Not a single explanation on [E]arth can justify the sickening human catastrophe [of] the degradation, desolation, and the horrors killing off generation after generation.”
… The situation in northern Uganda rivals Darfur in terms of its duration, magnitude, and consequences. For more than a decade, government forces have kept a population of almost 2 million (from the Acholi, Lango, and Teso regions) in some 200 concentration camps, where they face squalor, disease, starvation, and death. Imagine 4,000 people sharing a latrine, women waiting in line for 12 hours to fill a jerrycan at a well, and up to 10 people packing themselves sardine-like into tiny huts.
Ninety-five percent of the Acholi population now resides in these camps. In January 2006, World Vision Uganda reported that 1,000 children are dying each week in the region, one of the worst mortality rates in the world. More recent estimates indicate that number may have climbed to 1,500 deaths a week. In March, a survey by a consortium of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that the death rates in the concentration camps are three times those of Darfur.
Angelo Izama had some thoughts on this as well:
To call the campaign a misrepresentation is an understatement. While it draws attention to the fact that Kony, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005, is still on the loose, it’s portrayal of his alleged crimes in Northern Uganda are from a bygone era. At the height of the war between especially 1999 and 2004, large hordes of children took refuge on the streets of Gulu town to escape the horrors of abduction and brutal conscription to the ranks of the LRA. Today most of these children are semi-adults. Many are still on the streets unemployed. Gulu has the highest numbers of child prostitutes in Uganda. It also has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.
The crux of it
For those of you that are still with me after about 17,000 words: Joseph Kony’s army, the LRA, is the product of ethnic tensions that still remain following the Ugandan civil war in the early 1980s. It was bolstered by support from the genocidal regime in Sudan, whose president is also wanted for war crimes.
The conflict has been perpetuated partly because Kony is a wiley and effective commander and partly because it suits the Ugandan president to keep the war going in the north as it gives him an excuse to crack down on the Acholi people, who pose a potential threat to his otherwise unchallenged rule.
That said, the height of Koney’s power was between 1994 and 2004. Since then, his army has been crushed and he has been forced to flee Uganda. As of today, he has only a few hundred soldiers left to his name and he is being chased around the Congo rainforest by a force of 4,000 troops from a coalition of African countries, which is supported by US intelligence and special forces instructors.
In short: Kony is no longer a problem. BUT Uganda has huge problems with poverty, AIDS, a government that wants to punish homosexuality by death and a president who has been in power for 28 years with no sign of giving this up any time soon. If you want to help Ugandans, forget Koney and do something about that!
A very powerful and provocative 30-minute video by an NGO called ‘Invisible Children’ seems to have become a huge viral sensation in a matter of hours. The hashtags #Kony and #Kony2012 are all over Twitter and my Facebook wall seems to be inundated with people talking about this.
I will admit at this stage that I do not know too much about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, about whom the film was made – although I intend to do so by this time tomorrow. In fact, I do not follow Uganda that closely; I am very much in favour of caring more about Africa, but I tend to pay more attention to Somalia, Sudan and South Africa. I can see a lot of appeal in the video – there is no doubt that Kony is a disgusting human being, and violence against children is always a good tearjerker. That said, everyone seems to have missed what is actually going on in the video. Let me spell it out for you:
They want America to invade central Africa.
The video calls for military intervention in central Africa, it celebrates the fact that Obama was compelled by their group to commit a small number of troops there already and it is calling for more action. It even seemed to be hinting at a potential targeted assassination.
This is a *bad* idea! military intervention into the middle of a foreign war zone is a tough call at the best of times and generally should only be entered into when there is a substantial threat to world peace (i.e. to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon) or in a situation like Libya or Kosovo where there is clear disproportionate warfare going on and hundreds of innocent people are being slaughtered by an enemy of the West.
Taking out Kony has no strategic value whatsoever; the man is a tyrant, but he is in good company in Africa and is far from the only game in town when it comes to recruiting child soldiers and other crimes against humanity. In fact, I bet that the Ugandan army itself is not exactly made-up of angels. This is not at all to say that we shouldn’t be trying to find a way to stop him, but we have to pick our wars and nothing about this one looks particularly appealing.
As I was writing this post, I was been referred to this site (currently censored on Facebook), which gives some more in-depth information:
Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.
It’s worth clicking through and reading the full piece.
Really though, I am quite amazed at the bloodlust that seems to have been going on in my social media. I never thought that I would see such a strong viral phenomenon calling for war.
Meanwhile, expect a post with a full breakdown on the situation regarding Kony to appear on this blog in the next 24 hours.
For a full briefing on Kony, see HERE.
Neologism from Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post: “The Libyan crossfire”:
You’ve got your Mexican standoff, your Russian roulette, your Chinese water torture. And now, your Libyan crossfire. That’s when a pistol is applied to the head and a bullet crosses from one temple to the other.
That’s apparently what happened to Moammar Gaddafi after he was captured by Libyan rebels — died in a “crossfire,” explains Libya’s new government. This has greatly agitated ACLU types, morally unemployed ever since a Democratic administration declared Guantanamo humane. The indignation has spread to human rights groups and Western governments, deeply concerned about the manner of Gaddafi’s demise.
I can definitely see myself using this.
Brookings’ Shadi Hamid has made a good point here – there was an Arab democratic upsurge in 2005, although it was quickly stifled as Islamist groups were elected into power.
In 2011, the Middle East witnessed the second ‘Arab Spring.’ The first—now somewhat forgotten—took place in 2005. President George W. Bush had announced in November 2003 a “forward strategy for freedom in the Middle East.” In a speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, he declared: “Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe—because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.”
The Bush administration cited democracy promotion among the reasons for its invading Iraq and toppling dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. As dubious, cynical and inconsistent as they may have been, Bush’s policies helped produce an otherwise unlikely outcome. The year 2005 saw the largest outpouring of pro-democracy activism the region had ever seen up until then. On January 31, 2005, Iraqis braved terrorist threats to cast meaningful ballots for the first time. In Bahrain, fifty thousand Bahrainis—one-eighth of the population—rallied for constitutional reform. And there was, of course, the Cedar Revolution, which led to a removal of Syrian troops from Lebanese territory. The Iraq war frightened Arab regimes into thinking that President Bush was serious about his democratizing mission.
However, after a succession of Islamist election victories in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, the United States backed off from its aggressive pro-democracy posture. With a deteriorating security situation in Iraq, a rising Iran, and a smoldering Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Arab democracy came to seem an unaffordable luxury. This was not a time for unsettling friendly Arab autocrats. Their Islamist competitors, known for their inflammatory anti-Americanism, were, at best, an unknown quantity. American policymakers shared an instinctive distrust of Islamists and made little effort to understand how they had changed. At worst, Americans feared, the Islamists would use their newfound power to roll back U.S. influence in the region.
So here’s a question: why is Libya so different from Iraq? Why is it ok for the US to intervene when Muammar Gaddafi is slaughtering his own people, but not when Saddam Hussein is doing it (which he had done many times, by the way)? Some peopled will talk about Arab League support, but surely intervening to save civilians from a despotic ruler isn’t reliant on assention from a group of other dictators, who would not hesitate to do the same to their own people if they deemed it necessary.
So again, did the Iraq war actually help the Middle East move toward democracy?
I did have one issue with what Hamid was saying:
There was no need to follow a sequence—economic reform first, democracy later—or meet a long list of prerequisites. Arabs, it turns out, did not have to wait for democracy. More importantly, they didn’t want to. The hundreds of millions of dollars in civil society aid had been rendered beside the point. America’s caution, hedging of bets, and fetish for gradualism—previously the hallmarks of hard-headed realpolitik—proved both foolhardy and naïve. Of course, Americans always said they knew this: freedom and democracy was not the province of one people or culture, but a universal right.
Everyone is getting way ahead if themselves here. Look at the lesson outlined above from 2005 – democracy requires more than overthrowing the dictators. As I’ve said before, the Arab states have a long way to go before they can be called “democratic”.
A friend of mine recently argued to me that Egypt showed that police power is not enough to prevent a revolution, therefore the Arab countries that have not yet seen widespread protests must be doing something right. Not so my friend – Egypt and Tunisia were very different cases to the rest of the region.
Tunisia is the most modern, and most secularised Arab country, with the highest level of economic development out of all of them. Egypt has a 6,000-year history as a proud nation and the Egyptian army is made of Egyptians, who are patriotic and love their country, their people and their nation. This is why Egypt’s military response to the protests was muted, despite Mubarak’s best efforts; even though he was a military leader originally, he did not have the sufficient influence over his army to make it brutal enough to stamp-out the unrest that his country was seeing.
Contrast this with Libya. Gaddafi was not a patriot and he was not about making his country great, he has always been concerned with power and power alone. He changed the flag and changed the army – relying less on Libyan recruits and more on imported mercenaries to make-up his military and his secret police. These are not loyal Libyans serving their country; they are career thugs, loyal only to the man who pays them. This is why they have few qualms about firing indiscriminately on “their” own people and why more is needed than just protests to take Gaddafi down.
It is obvious now that “people power” was not enough to depose Gaddafi, and those opposing him have realised this. Having taken a significant chunk of the Libyan coast, they have begun forming and training a militia in order to pose a challenge to Gaddafi’s private army.
Subtle details in the media’s language says everything in a story like this. Originally, the Libyans filling Benghazi’s centre were “anti-government protesters” or “demonstrators”, similar to Egypt and Tunisia, as well as Bahrain, Yemen and all of the other countries seeing unrest. One month on, the Egyptians and Tunisians are “revolutionaries” – having protested their governments down. In Libya, they are now “Libyan rebels”.
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Friday that he would appoint a special representative to Libya’s rebel leaders and that the Treasury Department had placed sanctions on nine more family members and friends of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in an effort to force the Libyan leader to resign.
What’s the significance of this? Revolutions have revolutionaries, and Libya is no longer seeing a revolution. Rebels belong to a different class of event: a civil war. The “demonstrators” have become a bona fide militia and are now battling Gaddafi’s forces for territory, taking the country city-by-city and struggling to hold on to what has been gained. Unfortunately, people power is not enough to overcome a true dictatorship – what has yet to be seen is whether or not the West needs to step-in and help drive Gaddafi’s forces out of Tripoli*.
*Or if you’re Paul McGeough, whether the Zio-Crusader Empire is going to occupy Libya like it did Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine…
Photos: from this awesome photoessay in The Atlantic.
Australian Muslim leader Keysar Trad was apparently going to give a peace prize to Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam. Apparently he “had them all fooled”. I guess Trad isn’t exactly a good judge of character…
As a side note, Saif al-Islam sponsored a Libyan flotilla to Gaza, which made him extremely popular in certain circles last year, the kind of circles that I would presume Trad moves in. I guess some supporters of the flotilla were not really humanitarians then? Well I never!
…”He was seen as a progressive; he had worked to improve relations with the West, but he had us all fooled,” Mr Trad told The Australian. “Honestly, we are all shocked. What he is doing in Libya is completely unacceptable.
By Sydney Morning Herald cartoonist Cathy Wilcox.
I don’t know what I like more about this; that it kind of compares the Keneally government to Qaddafi, the contrast between the fat Aussies on the couch with the brutalised Arab peoples or the way all of our problems with transport, water and power look next to people living in extreme poverty under a cleptocrat who is not above carpet-bombing his own citizens to stay in power.
That said, if you listen to 2GB in the morning you are likely to want to get out there and protest Keneally’s cleptocracy…
Yesterday, I wrote that:
I fully expect the UNSC to issue a particularly angry statement, calling for the killings to stop. I then expect absolutely nothing whatsoever to change.
Today, the UNSC (UN Security Council) released a statement.
The members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at the situation in Libya. They condemned the violence and use of force against civilians, deplored the repression against peaceful demonstrators, and expressed deep regret at the deaths of hundreds of civilians. They called for an immediate end to the violence and for steps to address the legitimate demands of the population, including through national dialogue.
The members of the Security Council called on the Government of Libya to meet its responsibility to protect its population. They called upon the Libyan authorities to act with restraint, to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, and to allow immediate access for international human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies.
I’ve said something like this before, but if this wasn’t so sad I’d be laughing…