This seems like a good idea.
A club for youth to exchange ideas on peace, to be established in all schools of secondary and above levels in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, was launched this weekend, the African Union-United Nations joint peacekeeping operation there (UNAMID) said today.
Over 100 new members attended the opening of the first UNAMID Peace Club, sponsored by UNAMID’s Community Outreach Unit, at the Model Secondary School for Girls in El Fasher – the headquarters city for the mission.
While skeptics might characterize this step as “fluffy” — and there’s no expectation that a “peace club” will end the violence in Darfur — the reality is that thousands of children have now grown up in sprawling displaced persons camps, relying on international humanitarian aid and unable to venture far out of the camps. And as the tumultuous case of the Kalma camp demonstrates, radicalism thrives where disillusioned and displaced young people have been clustered for years. So rather than nurse resentment, Darfuris now have an opportunity to talk about peace in an open way. It won’t quell the very real dangers that a reconstituted Darfuri society will face, but at least it’s a start.
And even though the club has been organized by UNAMID, it seems to me a little self-indulgent that the first meetings featured a quiz game “in which the students showed off their knowledge of UNAMID and its activities in Darfur.”
And it seems the recent slowdown in hijackings — buoyed (no pun intended) by international resolve in increasing the fleet of pirate-watchers in the area — has dampened the market for ransoms. While the pirates are still “counting the haul,” the magic number seems to have been somewhere around $3.2 million (presumably in new $100 bills). This is far under their original $20 million asking price, and still substantially less than the $8 million “bargain” that they were holding out for. According to a pirate spokesman, the $3.2 million is just a little “something to cover our expenses” — presumably, more than a few nights in a swanky hotel (as long as they can make it ashore, that is).
Meanwhile, Somalia roils, even as it enters a putatively “new era” (under a former president, that is, whom the Ethiopians who just left may have just returned happen to not particularly like very much.)
This is surprising news. Congolese Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda was apparently arrested by Rwandan troops on the Rwandan side of the DRC border yesterday. Jeffrey Gettleman has the story:
Gen. Laurent Nkunda, the fearsome Congolese rebel leader whose national ambitions and brutal tactics threatened to destabilize eastern Congo, was arrested Thursday night along the Congolese-Rwandan border, United Nations officials said on Friday.
According to the U.N. officials and statements made by the Congolese military, General Nkunda was trying to escape a joint Congolese-Rwandan military offensive that was intended to wipe out several rebel groups terrorizing eastern Congo.
He was captured at a small border town called Bunagana after trying to resist Rwandan troops. “He’s going to Kigali,” said Lt. Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich, a U.N. spokesman, referring to Rwanda’s capital.
On Thursday evening, hundreds of Rwandan troops converged on Bunagana, one of General Nkunda’s mountain strongholds. Congolese officials said he refused to be arrested and crossed over into Rwanda, where he was surrounded and taken into custody, apparently without violence.
What makes this all the more surprising is that last month a no-nonsense Security Council “panel of experts” report showed that Nkunda was essentially a front for Rwandan business interests in Eastern Congo. Now, it seems Kigali has turned against him–and rightfully so. Nkunda is quite possibly responsible for war crimes in eastern Congo, including, most recently events surrounding the sacking of Kiwanja.
Yet another interesting wrinkle is that earlier this week, Rwandan forces were invited into Eastern Congo by the Congolese government to join in a common offensive against Hutu militias known as the FDLR. It would seem they had another target in mind…
France 24 reporter Arnaud Zajtman has more.
Unfortunately, this is no joke. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the caterpillars — the suspects are African armyworms — are inching across norther Liberia in numbers so vast they can only be described as “hordes.” They are infecting precious food and water supplies, destroying the environment, and endangering health. Worse, they may spread into neighboring West African countries, igniting a kind of regional catastrophe not seen since (albeit very different from) Liberian warlord Charles Taylor enmeshed the region in war. With no solution yet apparent, the crisis calls to mind some sort of twisted horror movie.
The caterpillars, two to three centimetres in length and described by villagers as “black, creeping and hairy,” are advancing in the tens of millions, devouring all plants and food crops in their path and in some cases overrunning homes and buildings.
I think folks in the Netherlands, then, would rightly object if I suggest sending the worms to join Taylor in The Hague.
At her confirmation hearing yesterday, soon-to-be UN ambassador Susan Rice listed strengthening peacekeeping capacity as the first of four priority areas for the United States at the United Nations.
We have written extensively about the need for the United States to fully fund UN peacekeeping. And given the binary choice between doing nothing in failing states or sending in US troops, UN peacekeeping is quite a bargain–which Rice says amounts to about 12 cents on every dollar.
During the question and answer period, though, the conversation on peacekeeping ventured into interesting territory. Rice fielded a question on peacekeeping from (I believe) Senator Kerry and took her answer in an unexpected but welcome direction. Rice argued that part of the overall solution to strengthening UN peacekeeping has to be building up regional peacekeeping capacities–namely in Africa. She said that Africa was basically “tapped out” with its ability to field peacekeepers and that we need “a systematic strengthening of peacekeeping in Africa and elsewhere.”
There has been a tendency at the Security Council to invoke “African solutions to African problems,” as the saying goes, and then devolve responsibility for dealing with some of the continent’s thorniest issues to the African Union. There is nothing wrong with this sentiment in theory, but in practice it means that the African Union has been treated as something of a “first responders” to crises like Darfur and Somalia. The problem, though, is that the AU is a young and resource-scrapped institution that lacks the capacity to implement the kind of complex peacekeeping operations that these situations require; finding and funding troops is a particularly daunting task that often results in the delayed deployment of too few troops. Yet, member states of the Security Council have been content to pass the buck to the African Union under the mantra of “African solutions to African problems.”
Rice’s testimony seems to suggest that the United States will do more to help build the AU’s peacekeeping capacity. This would be a very welcome development and could very well save an untold number of lives as future crises are averted though rapid regional response.
(Photo of an AU patrol in Mogadishu, Somalia. From Flickr under a creative commons license)
Susan Benesch at Opinio Juris calls attention to an interesting case at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda:
Simon Bikindi, the Rwandan pop star whose two-year trial at the ICTR was apparently the first attempt to criminalize music in international law, was just convicted of incitement to genocide but not, after all, for his songs, even though Rwandan genocidaires sang them like anthems while hacking people to death. The ICTR did find, notably, that the songs “amplified” the genocide, but it missed an important chance to develop jurisprudence on incitement to genocide.
If the racist pronouncements broadcast far and wide over the infamous Radio Milles Collines throughout the genocide constituted incitement, then it seems logical that this acoustic jurisprudence would extend to inflammatory popular music. On the other hand, if a song just happened to be one that genocidaires liked to chant as they undertook their horrific acts, it would be difficult to prosecute the singer for incitement. But these songs were not the stuff you’d find Barney singing; and if the statement for which Bikindi was convicted is any indication, then Bikindi’s genocidal intentions should have been clear.
In late June 1994, when most of the genocide was already over, Bikindi drove along a road in his native Gisenyi, calling over a loudspeaker, “The majority population, it’s you, the Hutu I am talking to. You know the minority population is the Tutsi. Exterminate quickly the remaining ones.”
Unfortunately, in the murderous frenzy of the time in Rwanda, it’s no far stretch to imagine lyrics as ghastly as that statement.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.