Growing fears for safety of Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, Cameroonian rights defender

Leading human rights and democracy advocates are expressing concern for the safety of a prominent Cameroonian activist. Maximilienne Ngo Mbe (right), who heads the network of human rights defenders in Central Africa (REDHAC), has received numerous threats to her life and the lives of her family.

Unidentified individuals attempted to kidnap her son on 5 April while he was at school, following several weeks of violent threats issued by phone and SMS, according to the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights, a joint program of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organization against Torture (OMCT).

The intimidation is not new, OMCT reports:

In September 2012, Ms. Ngo Mbe’s niece was kidnapped and raped by men wearing Cameroonian security and military attire after the assailants reportedly confused her with Ms. Ngo Mbe’s daughter. A subsequent complaint to police and national security remains unanswered. The threats intensified after Ms. Ngo Mbe demanded that suspected security forces should leave the inaugural meeting of the Pan-African human rights defenders hosted by REDHAC, a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, on 18-22 March.

A participant in the World Movement for Democracy, Ms. Ngo Mbe “received messages from the telephone number +237 76 10 05 79, both of which suggested that her life and the life of her children were in imminent danger,” Freedom House reports:

Ms. Ngo Mbe has reason to believe that these threats—as ones she has received before—are coming from the Cameroonian authorities. For more than twenty years, Ms. Ngo Mbe has worked tirelessly to protect human rights in Central Africa as executive director of the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network (Réseau des Défenseur des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale, REDHAC). During that time, she has been harassed, placed under near constant surveillance and subject to interference by Cameroonian authorities.

The Observatory requests that concerned parties write to the Cameroonian authorities asking them to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Ngo Mbe Maximilian and her family, as well as all defenders of human rights in Cameroon;

ii. Put an end to all forms of harassment against Maximilienne Ms. Ngo Mbe, and all defenders of human rights in Cameroon;

iii. Conduct a thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the events described above, to identify and prosecute those responsible;

iv. Comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, and more particularly: Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”; and Article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure that the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure, pressure or any other arbitrary action as part of the legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

v. More generally, comply with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international and regional instruments relating to human rights ratified by Cameroon.

Addresses: · Mr. Paul Biya, President of the Republic, President of the Republic, the Unity Palace, 1000 Yaoundé, Cameroon, Fax +237 222 August 70 ·

Mr. Philemon Yang, Prime Minister and Head of Government, Prime Minister of Cameroon, Fax: +237 22 23 57 35, email: spm@spm.gov.cm ·

Mr. Laurent Esso Minister of Justice, Attorney, Department of Justice, 1000 Yaoundé, Cameroon, Fax: + 237 223 00 05 ·

Mr. Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o, Minister Delegate at the Presidency of the Republic in charge of Defence B.P1000 Yaoundé, Cameroon, Fax +237 223 59 71 ·

Mr. Emmanuel Rene SADI Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, Fax: + 237 222 37 35 ·

Chairman of the National Commission of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (NCHRF), Tel: +237 222 61 17, Fax: +237 222 60 82 E-mail: cndhl@iccnet.cm ·

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cameroon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, 6 rue du Nant, 1207 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 736 21 65, Email: mission.cameroun @ bluewin.ch ·

Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon in Brussels, 131 BC. Brugmann, 1190 Forest, Belgium, Tel: + 32 2 345 18 70, Fax: + 32 2 344 57 35, Email: ambassade.cameroun @ skynet.be

Please also write to the embassies of Cameroon in your respective countries.

Cameroon is rated Not Free by Freedom in the World 2013 and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2013.

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Arab Transitions – Egypt’s Growing Political Crisis & Civil Society Under Siege

Egypt’s Growing Political Crisis and Civil Society Under Siege are the principal themes for the launch of the Middle East Institute’s Arab Transitions program, an initiative to provide in-depth analysis of the historic changes taking place in the Arab world in the wake of the 2011 uprisings.

Through scholarship and outreach, with an emphasis on highlighting diverse voices from the region, the Arab Transitions program seeks to increase understanding of the Arab world’s political, social and economic transformations in order to inform wise policy decisions both in the U.S. and internationally.

The Middle East Institute will mark the launch with a half-day conference on Egypt featuring Arab Transitions’ senior scholar, Dr. Khalil al-Anani, a leading authority on the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist movements, as well as other Egypt experts.

Arab Transitions  

Program Launch: 

Program Schedule: 9:00 am

Introduction to Arab Transitions

Amb. Wendy Chamberlin, President, Middle East Institute (MEI)

9:15 am – 11:00 am:

Egypt’s Growing Political Crisis

Khalil al-Anani, MEI, Durham University

Nathan Brown, George Washington University

Michael Hanna, Century Foundation

Samer Shehata, Georgetown University

Moderator: Mohamed Elmenshawy, MEI

Click HERE to register   11:00 am-11:15 am:  Coffee Break 11:15 am – 12:45 pm:

Egyptian Civil Society Under Siege

Adel Iskandar, Georgetown University

Amira Maaty, National Endowment for Democracy

Heba Shams, Legal Researcher

Samuel Tadros, Hudson Institute

Moderator: Charles Dunne, Freedom House, MEI

April 18, 2013

9:00 am – 12:45 pm

The National Press Club

529 14th St, NW

Washington, DC 20045

Click HERE to register. For the complete Arab Transitions program launch program, click here.

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Mark Palmer – advocate of freedom, ‘entrepreneur of democracy’

Described by the New York Times as “the most active Western booster for economic and political liberalization,” Mark Palmer “was more than an impassioned democracy advocate,” a Washington meeting heard today

“He was an unsurpassed entrepreneur of democracy – innovative in coming up with creative new ideas to advance the cause, savvy in seizing the right moment to act, and sophisticated in developing practical strategies to get things done,” writes Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, citing Palmer’s innovative role in launching the Community of Democracies and the NED itself:

Margaret Thatcher’s death this week should help us recall President Reagan’s historic Westminster Address, Gershman writes, which is remembered not just for its famous prediction that “the march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history,” but also for its call for “a global campaign for freedom” and for the establishment of a new organization “to foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.” 

The National Endowment for Democracy was launched by this speech, as was the whole idea of promoting democracy which today has become such an important dimension of the international engagement by the U.S. and other established democracies. 

When NED celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Westminster Address last June, I had an email exchange with Mark, who was in chemotherapy at the time, about the origin of the idea to create a publicly-funded yet independent institution to advance democracy.

Mike Samuels had asked me to find out how it was possible that someone in his position – Mark was a relatively junior Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department, not a White House speechwriter – got to write such an important presidential address.  Mike said that it was a stroke of great “luck” that Mark had been able to take on the job of writing the speech since “none of this” would otherwise have happened.  I told Mark that I suspected that it was more than luck.

Mark replied by reminding me that he and Mike had been part of a breakfast group, along with Lane Kirkland, Bill Brock and Chuck Manatt – there might have been others  – that developed the idea of a new organization to promote democracy.  Reagan’s speech at Westminster offered the ideal platform to launch this idea, and Mark said that he simply took the initiative to write the entire first draft, which included what became the heart of the speech – the idea that democracy was the future of the world and that we needed to support democrats everywhere through a new institution.  Other people subsequently contributed to the speech, including a principal White House speechwriter, he said. But the basic idea was his, and not everyone liked it. 

Mark told me the speechwriter hated the idea of incorporating into what he envisaged as a purely ideological anti-communist address a programmatic agenda looking toward the creation of an institution modeled on the West German political foundations, and he fought hard to eliminate it.  But he lost that battle and was not part of the official team that accompanied Reagan to Westminster.  According to Mark, the speechwriter nonetheless paid his own way to London and confronted him outside Westminster, waving his finger in Mark’s face and berating him for “ruining my speech.”

I wasn’t involved in any of this at the time – I was up in New York working for Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.  But Mark’s account rings entirely true to me because I’ve seen him do similar things in different contexts.  It was Mark, more than anyone, who developed the idea of the Community of Democracies, an international association of democratic countries that Madeleine Albright adopted and, with the help of Mort Halperin at State and the Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, launched in Warsaw in 2000.  And it was also Mark who then came up with key ideas to operationalize the Community.  One of them was the “Diplomat’s Handbook,” a manual for effective action by diplomats to advance democracy that was inspired by Mark’s own record as Ambassador to Hungary.  The Community now gives the Mark Palmer Prize to diplomats who actively advance the democratic principles contained in the Community’s founding Warsaw Declaration.  Mark also conceived a second handbook on the role of the military in supporting democracy and persuaded his friend Admiral Dennis Blair to write it.

Mark focused like a laser on the ultimate objective, which was to build a world in which all countries are democratic.  He understood, of course, how difficult it is to establish real democracy and how long it takes to do so.  But he also knew that removing the world’s remaining dictators was a necessary step in the process, and there are fewer dictators today than there were a decade ago when Mark wrote Breaking the Real Axis of Evil, a manifesto for ousting the world’s last dictators by 2025. 

Mark had many of the same attributes displayed by activists on the front lines of democratic struggle — a deep commitment to the principles of democratic governance and human freedom, an irrepressibly hopeful attitude toward life and politics, and most of all an amazing amount of sheer courage.  I saw this in the way he handled his illness – always positive, never discouraged, ever ready to try new treatments, and utterly fearless. 

Let us remember the ideals he cherished, the values he defended, and the way he lived.   And with the strength that we draw from remembering Mark, let us carry forward the work of helping all people achieve freedom and dignity.

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