Amid DRC atrocities, a ‘victory for civil society’

Civilians in eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo are being targeted by former Ugandan rebels, a new report reveals.

Communities interviewed by a British relief agency identified the Lord’s Resistance Army as the “main perpetrator of killings, torture, and abductions as well as of looting, destruction of crops and rape.”

“Some 30,000 civilians fled the LRA in the first three months of 2011, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area to 330,000,” the report notes.

A major Washington conference on the DRC earlier this week heard harrowing details of widespread atrocities against civilians and calls for the international community to remain engaged in supporting human rights and combating what one US lawmaker called “sexual terrorism.”

“We must make it clear that genocide and torture, two of the serious human rights violations that are a crime under US law, can include wartime sexual violence,” said Senator Dick Durbin

Congolese rights advocates secured a major advance recently with the passage of a law criminalizing torture as an independent offense. The law passed both Houses of Parliament and is due to be promulgated by President Joseph Kabila at the end of July.

“This is a victory for civil society,” said Me N’Sii Luanda Shandwe (left), a prominent lawyer and head of the Committee of Observers of Human Rights (CODHO). He singled out the National Endowment for Democracy for funding much of the advocacy and organizational efforts to secure the legislation, highlighting the work of NED’s Joshua Marks for his local engagement in supporting the project, and the contribution of Senator Polycarp Mungulu T’Apangane who endorsed the bill.

Civil society partnerships such as NED’s cooperation with CODHO, contribute to the consolidation of democracy in Central Africa, he said, anticipating that “other countries of the sub region will benefit from this positive experience.”

With the law on the statute books, say activists, the challenge now will be enforcement of a provision by a state which lacks authority across large swathes of its own territory. The recent prosecution of the killers of human rights advocate Floribert Chebeya was a welcome development, democracy advocates concede, but the DRC has a long way to go before rule of law can be said to protect civilians from the state and violent non-state actors like the LRA.

Amid DRC atrocities, a ‘victory for civil society’

Civilians in eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo are being targeted by former Ugandan rebels, a new report reveals.

Communities interviewed by a British relief agency identified the Lord’s Resistance Army as the “main perpetrator of killings, torture, and abductions as well as of looting, destruction of crops and rape.”

“Some 30,000 civilians fled the LRA in the first three months of 2011, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area to 330,000,” the report notes.

A major Washington conference on the DRC earlier this week heard harrowing details of widespread atrocities against civilians and calls for the international community to remain engaged in supporting human rights and combating what one US lawmaker called “sexual terrorism.”

“We must make it clear that genocide and torture, two of the serious human rights violations that are a crime under US law, can include wartime sexual violence,” said Senator Dick Durbin

Congolese rights advocates secured a major advance recently with the passage of a law criminalizing torture as an independent offense. The law passed both Houses of Parliament and is due to be promulgated by President Joseph Kabila at the end of July.

“This is a victory for civil society,” said Me N’Sii Luanda Shandwe (left), a prominent lawyer and head of the Committee of Observers of Human Rights (CODHO). He singled out the National Endowment for Democracy for funding much of the advocacy and organizational efforts to secure the legislation, highlighting the work of NED’s Joshua Marks for his local engagement in supporting the project, and the contribution of Senator Polycarp Mungulu T’Apangane who endorsed the bill.

Civil society partnerships such as NED’s cooperation with CODHO, contribute to the consolidation of democracy in Central Africa, he said, anticipating that “other countries of the sub region will benefit from this positive experience.”

With the law on the statute books, say activists, the challenge now will be enforcement of a provision by a state which lacks authority across large swathes of its own territory. The recent prosecution of the killers of human rights advocate Floribert Chebeya was a welcome development, democracy advocates concede, but the DRC has a long way to go before rule of law can be said to protect civilians from the state and violent non-state actors like the LRA.

Violence undermining Libya’s reconciliation and transition prospects, says former policy planning chief

Even prior to the killing of the head of Libya’s rebel forces, prospects for democratic transition were threatened by “a deepening of tribal divisions and ancient enmities” and “a cycle of radicalisation and entrenchment,” a former US State Department policy planning director warns.

Contrast the cases of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo with the relatively successful examples of East Timor and Kosovo, where fighting ended once basic objectives achieved, she suggests.

Continued conflict is undermining prospects for reconciliation and democratic transition, argues Princeton University’s Anne-Marie Slaughter. Contrast the cases of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo with the relatively successful examples of East Timor and Kosovo, where fighting ended once basic objectives achieved, she suggests.

While she shares “the genuine commitment of many in the NTC to create a liberal democratic Libya that protects and empowers all Libyans,” the violence is diminishing that prospect:

[I]t is time to rethink, because the longer the fighting continues, the longer it is likely to continue. This is counter-intuitive; both sides assume that each is wearing the other down and thus “victory” is just a matter of weeks or months. But in a conflict like this one, where for various reasons neither side has the ability to deliver a decisive blow, the fighting itself creates a cycle of radicalisation and entrenchment that makes it progressively harder rather than easier to reach a settlement.

“The longer the fighting continues, the more opposition members will have blood on their hands as well,” writes Slaughter, an early advocate of intervention. “Moreover, the destruction of ongoing warfare undermines the economic and social preconditions for any meaningful political order in Libya over the coming years.”

RTWT

Violence undermining Libya’s reconciliation and transition prospects, says former policy planning chief

Even prior to the killing of the head of Libya’s rebel forces, prospects for democratic transition were threatened by “a deepening of tribal divisions and ancient enmities” and “a cycle of radicalisation and entrenchment,” a former US State Department policy planning director warns.

Contrast the cases of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo with the relatively successful examples of East Timor and Kosovo, where fighting ended once basic objectives achieved, she suggests.

Continued conflict is undermining prospects for reconciliation and democratic transition, argues Princeton University’s Anne-Marie Slaughter. Contrast the cases of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo with the relatively successful examples of East Timor and Kosovo, where fighting ended once basic objectives achieved, she suggests.

While she shares “the genuine commitment of many in the NTC to create a liberal democratic Libya that protects and empowers all Libyans,” the violence is diminishing that prospect:

[I]t is time to rethink, because the longer the fighting continues, the longer it is likely to continue. This is counter-intuitive; both sides assume that each is wearing the other down and thus “victory” is just a matter of weeks or months. But in a conflict like this one, where for various reasons neither side has the ability to deliver a decisive blow, the fighting itself creates a cycle of radicalisation and entrenchment that makes it progressively harder rather than easier to reach a settlement.

“The longer the fighting continues, the more opposition members will have blood on their hands as well,” writes Slaughter, an early advocate of intervention. “Moreover, the destruction of ongoing warfare undermines the economic and social preconditions for any meaningful political order in Libya over the coming years.”

RTWT

Younes killing questions Libyan opposition’s credibility, transition prospects

A rebel faction known as the February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade was responsible for the killing of General Abdel Fatah Younes (left), the head of Libya’s rebel forces, reports suggest.

Younes and two aides – both colonels – were killed after being arrested by the Transitional National Council, prompting a violent reaction from his tribe – the Obeidi, one of the largest tribes in Libya’s east- and raising fears that the incident could spark internecine conflict within the rebels’ ranks.

The general was killed before arriving at an opposition judicial hearing, said the head of the TNC, and the head of an armed cell had been arrested.

”The killing is indicative of schisms that have been appearing within the [rebel leaders] over the last few months,” said Geoff Porter, of North Africa Risk Consulting, told reporters. ”We might be seeing the most egregious examples of the divisions between the former regime members and the original rebels.”

The opposition TNC has taken pains to stress “that its goal of a democratic Libya ruled by law transcended tribal bickering,” The Economist notes:

But as the prospect of negotiated settlement looms larger and with it the way in which the country’s resources, especially its oil, may be divvied up, the potential for tribal factionalism to rear its head is there. More immediately, with the onset of Ramadan next week, what does the removal of General Younes from the scene mean for the attempt to break the military stalemate in the east? Should the forces there begin to splinter, the outlook could quickly change for the worse……General Younes’s death is an ominous precedent.

“Paris or London or Washington are probably extremely anxious about this turn of events,” said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics. “They are counting on the rebels to put their house in order.”

The Obama administration was one of several governments to recognize the NTC as Libya’s legitimate government this week, but it is now reviewing plans to open an embassy in Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

“The eruption of tribal animosities within Benghazi is itself a blow to the rebels’ self-image as a movement bringing the whole country together behind the banner of freedom and democracy,” The New York Times reports.

“The specter of a violent tribal conflict within the rebel ranks touches on a central fear of the Western nations backing the Libyan insurrection: that the rebels’ democratic goals could give way to a tribal civil war over Libya’s oil resources,” it continues.

Yesterday’s killing has “called into question the rebels’ ability to transcend tribal divisions and their credibility to lead a democratic transition,” observers suggest. But some analysts have argued that tribal or sectarian tensions are less of a threat to developing an inclusive civil society in Libya than elsewhere in the region.

“Libya is an artificial colonial creation,” Oxford University’s Jason Pack has observed. “But unlike other colonial entities, it lacks the social fissures and historical grievances that have led to sectarian or ethnic violence in places like Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.”

France has been the most forceful supporter of the rebels, but a front-page editorial in Friday afternoon’s edition of Le Monde, warns that that Younes’ death “augurs ill for the future and highlights “The Worrying Fragility of the Libyan Opposition.”

The killing also raises doubts about the likelihood of a relatively peaceful post-conflict resolution as a precondition for a democratic transition.  

“We didn’t know much about him, except that he was the military chief of the Libyan rebellion,” the editorial read. “That he was one of the rare ones to have had the experience of power, who had authority, basically that he seemed to be one of those we could count on post-Gadhafi.”

The prospect of internal strife within the rebels’ ranks will be a welcome relief to Gadhafi. The opposition made significant gains this week seizing control of a strategically important border town, while Gadhafi has been running out of friends and options:

The rebels hold large chunks of territory in western and eastern Libya. The regime’s air defenses have been pulverized, and fuel supplies for the armed forces are low. Economic sanctions are biting.

Most important, the NTC is winning ever wider international recognition as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. ….In short, Col Gaddafi is running out of friends and running out of options to regain the initiative. Nato governments should keep a cool head and continue to apply relentless pressure on the regime.

“The noose is tightening around Gaddafi,” said Anthony Skinner, a regional analyst. “(But) the dynamic remains fluid… if a segment or fraction of the rebel movement was behind the assassination, then it underlines the fragility and complexity of relations and tribal divisions within the opposition… the toppling of Gaddafi requires union of purpose and endurance to stay the course.”